Friday, October 29, 2004

The Lord's Side

Remarks taken from "The Lord's Side" by Joseph B. Wirthlin (March 1993):

The Lord has left no doubt in defining His side and where the Saints should be in their thoughts, words, actions, and practices. We have His counsel in the scriptures and in the words of the prophets. To ancient Israel, the Lord said through Moses: "I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil." (Deut. 30:15.) The Lord counseled His prophet Jeremiah to instruct the people: "Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death." (Jer. 21: 8.) That is the contrast; that is the choice. Either we are on the Lord’s side of the line or on the side of the adversary. Nephi declared, [we] "are free to act for [ourselves]—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life." (2 Ne. 10:23.) Yes, "men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." (2 Ne. 2:27.)

The line between those who are on the Lord’s side and those who follow the adversary has been with us from the beginning. Even before the creation of this world, the children of God divided themselves into two groups with different loyalties. One-third of the host of heaven followed Lucifer, separating themselves from the presence of God and from the two-thirds who followed the Son of God. (See D&C 29:36-39.) This division has persisted throughout the history of mankind and will continue until the day of judgment when Jesus comes again in His glory. We read in Matthew that all nations will gather before Him, and He will "separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (See Matt. 25:32-34, 41.)

The Prophet Nephi tells us why many choose the wrong side of the line: "Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—-Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world." (3 Ne. 6:15.) The Lord has given us prophets to guide us and keep us from evil if we will accept and follow their instruction. The Lord would say to us today as He said to the ancient Israelites: "Be not afraid nor dismayed … for the battle is not yours, but God’s. The Lord will be with you. Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper." (2 Chr. 20:15, 17, 20; emphasis added.) In our conferences, we sustain the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. The Lord has appointed them as watchmen to warn the people (see Ezek. 2:1-8; Ezek. 33:6-7) and as the "servant[s] of all" (D&C 50:26). He said, "whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38.)

One latter-day prophet, President George Albert Smith, said: "The spirit of the adversary is the spirit of destruction. There are two influences in the world. The one is the influence of our Heavenly Father and the other is the influence of Satan. We can take our choice which territory we want to live in, that of our Heavenly Father or that of Satan." President Smith then said, quoting his grandfather: "'There is a line of demarcation, well defined. On one side of the line is the Lord’s territory. On the other side of the line is the devil’s territory. … If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line, you are perfectly safe, because the adversary of all righteousness can not cross that line.' What does that mean? It means to me that those who are living righteous lives, striving to keep all of the commandments of our Heavenly Father are perfectly safe, but not those who trifle with his advice and counsel." (In Conference Report, Oct. 1949, pp. 5-6.)

Other latter-day prophets have issued warnings, when inspired by the Lord, on such subjects as moral cleanliness, Sabbath observance, child and spouse abuse, homosexuality, abortion, and gambling. These statements are the word of the Lord through His prophets to help people avoid the pitfalls, sorrow, suffering, and misery of sin and error. The statements of the prophets are not given to compel, coerce, dictate, control, or infringe on any person’s right to choose.

Church leaders are guided by the Lord’s injunction in the Doctrine and Covenants: "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile." (D&C 121:41-42.) The prophets and other Church leaders never have misled the members on a principle of righteousness. Every principle is for our benefit. However, if we choose to ignore the prophets, we choose the consequences that follow. We have the God-given agency to either follow the prophets or not, but we cannot choose the consequences of exercising that agency. They will follow with absolute certainty. If we ignore the prophets, we become like the people the Savior chastised when he said, "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46.)

In addition to the scripture and the words of modern-day prophets, Latter-day Saints can discern clearly by the promptings of the Spirit the things they must do to be on the Lord’s side. To be on the Lord’s side, we need to learn that true principles will lead us to peace and happiness in this world, and to glory and exaltation in the world to come. We also need to learn that choosing the other side will only bring us problems, heartache, and sorrow. If we come too close to the line and tarry too long in the presence of evil, we are asking for trouble because we increase the likelihood that we might slip over the line into the territory of the adversary and become supporters of his cause instead of the Lord’s.

We must be cautious of seemingly small thoughts and actions that can lead to large consequences. Just a little anger, unkindness, or disobedience; a dishonest deed; a few unclean thoughts, or a little pornography; one experiment with drugs; a few lies, a little fraud; or a feeling of hate can lead us into the camp of the adversary. Giving just an inch here and there can put us close enough to the line that one slip will take us right over it. Young people who decide to experiment with only one cigarette, one dose of drugs, or one drink of alcohol—only one—often find themselves led into additional use, and in time they become addicted to a substance that controls them and that they can break only with great difficulty.

Now is the time to show which side of the line we are on. Alma said, "This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God." (Alma 34: 32.) We may need courage to take a stand. We may be unpopular. We may have some groups and associates who disregard our standards and even scoff at our ideals and beliefs. Isn’t it interesting that these groups consider it "freedom of expression" to profane the Lord’s name and use obscenities, but oppose prayer in public places. These groups combat public faith and prayer yet uphold the right of anyone to have an abortion. They openly oppose good and love evil.

Being on the Lord’s side means not only that we shun evil but that we seek and cultivate the good wherever it can be found, whether within or without the Church. In a recent conference address, President Howard W. Hunter said, "As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we seek to bring all truth together. We seek to enlarge the circle of love and understanding among all the people of the earth. Thus we strive to establish peace and happiness, not only within Christianity but among all mankind. In the message of the gospel, the entire human race is one family descended from a single God. Every person is a spiritual child of God. In this gospel view there is no room for a contracted, narrow, or prejudicial view. There is no underlying excuse for smugness, arrogance, or pride. We believe there is a spiritual influence that emanates from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space. (See D&C 88:12.) All men share an inheritance of divine light. God operates among his children in all nations, and those who seek God are entitled to further light and knowledge, regardless of their race, nationality, or cultural traditions. Elder Orson F. Whitney … explained that '[God] is using not only his covenant people, but other peoples as well, to consummate a work, stupendous, magnificent, and altogether too arduous for this little handful of Saints to accomplish by and of themselves.' (In Conference Report, Apr. 1921, pp. 32-33.)" (Ensign, Nov. 1991, pp. 18-19.)

Recognizing this broad view of who can do good, we must be cautious that we do not confuse our opposition to wrong-headed ideas or dangerous practices with opposition to sincere, good-hearted people. Many good and honest people of different faiths or of no faith at all are on the Lord’s side in seeking the betterment of their fellowmen and exerting a positive influence on society. As I come to the close of my remarks, I express my love for you and my earnest hope that you always will be on the Lord’s side, on the side of truth and righteousness. I admonish you to follow the prophets, to heed their counsel and give your attention to their warnings. All they say and do is for your benefit. Be grateful for the good that people do everywhere, whether to serve society generally or in behalf of the Church. Always be tolerant and considerate of the views and beliefs of others, recognizing each one as a son or daughter of God.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Mother Eve and the Choice in Eden

I have often recommended a great book Eve and the Choice Made in Eden by Beverly Campbell. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend you do. It was recommended to me by my wonderful Bishop. He explained that the book sheds Gospel light on the world's false notion that women should always have to be apologetic that they are women, and feel somehow less than worthy because Eve made "a big mistake" and committed "original sin"; when in fact, what she did was one of the most noble acts ever and absolutely necessary to our existence. I had heard some rumors of this in Sunday School classes, but no one really seemed to have much evidence of the truth. I want to share with you some of the quotes from the Prophets and other Church leaders which are in the book.

"In life all must choose at times. Sometimes, two possibilites are good; neither is evil. Usually, however, one is of greater import than the other. When in doubt, each must choose that which concerns the good of others--the greater law--rather than that which chiefly benefits ourselves--the lesser law. The greater must be chosen whether it be law or thing. That was the choice made in Eden." --Elder John A. Widtsoe

"As there are no words to extol the greatness of the Ancient of Days unto whom thousands and thousands shall minister and before whom 'ten thousand times ten thousand' shall stand in a day of judgment, so there is no language that could do credit to our glorious mother Eve.... Eve--a daughter of God, one of the spirit offspring of the Almighty Elohim--was among the noble and great in preexistence. She ranked in spiritual stature, in faith and devotion, in conformity to external law with Michael....we cannot doubt that the greatest of all female spirits was the one then chosen and foreordained to be 'the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh [Mary]' (1 Nephi 11:18) Nor can we do other than suppose that Eve was by [Adam's] side, rejoicing in her own foreordination to be the first woman, the mother of men, the consort, companion, and friend of mighty Michael. Christ and Mary, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah and a host of might men and equally glorious women composed that group of 'the noble and great ones,' to whom the Lord Jesus Christ said: We will go down...and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell." --Elder Bruce R. McConkie ("Eve and the Fall")

"Then as His final creation, the crowning of His glorious work, He created woman. I like to regard Eve as His masterpiece after all that had gone before, the final work before He rested from His labors."
--President Gordon B. Hinckley

"So came Eve...the last created being in the creation of the world, without whom the whole creation of the world and all that was in the world would have been in vain and the purposes of God have come to naught."
--Elder J. Reuben Clark

"The Lord knew they would do this, and he had designed that they should."
--President Brigham Young (speaking on the foreordination of the Fall)

"Adam and Eve did the very thing the Lord intended them to do. If we had the original record we would see the purpose of the Fall clearly and its necessity explained." --President Joseph Fielding Smith

"[On the choice made in Eden]depended the whole Plan of the Great Council in Heaven, because those who kept their 'first estate' must have opportunity to come to earth, to obtain mortal bodies, that they might be proved in this 'second estate' 'to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them...and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever'(Abraham 3:25-26)."
--Elder J. Reuben Clark

"Adam, our father, and Eve, our mother, must obey. They must fall. They must become mortal. Death must enter the world. There is no other way. They must fall that man may be." --Elder Bruce R. McConkie

"When Adam and Eve received the first commandment, they were in a transitional state, no longer in the spirit world but with physical bodies not yet subject to death and not yet capable of procreation." --Elder Dallin H. Oaks

"Their bodies of flesh and bone were made in the express image of God's. In that state of innocence, they were not yet mortal. They could have no children, were not subject to death, and could have lived in Eden's garden forever. Thus we might speak of the Creation in terms of a paradisiacal creation. If that state had persisted, you and I would still be stranded among the heavenly host as unborn sons and daughters of God. The great plan...would have been frustrated.... Should they eat from the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil,' their bodies would change; mortality and eventual death would come upon them. But partaking of that fruit was prerequisite to their parenthood.... While I do not fully understand all the biochemistry involved, I do know that their physical bodies did change; blood began to circulate in their bodies. Adam and Eve thereby became mortal.... Accordingly, we could speak of the fall of Adam in terms of a mortal creation because 'Adam fell that men might be.'"
--Elder Russell M. Nelson

"The Fall came by transgression of a law, but there was no sin connnected with it. There is a difference between transgression and sin. Both always bring consequences. While it may not be sin to step off a roof, in doing so, you become subject to the law of gravity and consequences will follow.... The fall of man was made from the presence of God to this mortal life."
--Elder Boyd K. Packer

"For reasons that have not been revealed, this transgression, or 'fall,' could not happen without a transgression--an exercise of moral agency amountin to a willful breaking of a law (see Moses 6:59). This would be a planned offense, a formality to serve an eternal purpose.... Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin--inherently wrong--but a transgression--wrong because it was formally prohibited."
--Elder Dallin H. Oaks

"Adam did not commit sin in eating the fruits, for God had decreed that he should eat and fall." --The Prophet Joseph Smith

"The eternal power of choice was respected by the Lord himself.... It really converts the command into a warning, as much as to say, if you do this thing, you will bring upon yourself a certain punishment, but do it if you choose.... The Lord had warned Adam and Eve of the hard battle with earth conditions if they chose to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He would not subject his son and daughter to hardship and the death of their bodies unless it be of their own choice. They must choose for themselves. They chose wisely, in accord with the heavenly law of love for others." --Elder John A. Widtsoe

"Such was the problem before our first parents: to remain forever at selfish ease in the Garden of Eden, or to face unselfishly tribulation and death, in bringing to pass the purposes of the Lord for a host of waiting spirit children. They chose the latter. This they did with open eyes and minds as to consequences. The memory of their former estates may have been dimmed, but the gospel had been taught them during their sojourn in the Garden of Eden. They could not have been left in complete ignorance of the purpose of their creation." --Elder John A. Widtsoe

"The role of Satan in this drama is not difficult to understand. He seeks to overthrow the work of God. By inducing Adam and Eve to disobey the Lord, he thought to have them in his power. He forgot, or did not know, that by their very 'disobedience' the purposes of the Lord with respect to his spirit children would be accomplished. The temptations of Eve turned upon him to the defeat of his evil designs. This often is the fate of evil." --Elder John A. Widtsoe

"It is a thrilling thought that Adam and Eve were not coerced to being God's work on earth. They chose to do so, by the exercise of their free agency. It is the lesson for all their children: Seek the truth, choose wisely, and carry the responsibility for our acts." --Elder John A. Widtsoe

"[Eve] sees through Satan's disquise of clever hypocrisy, identifies him, and exposes him for what he is...[ever since Satan has] had it in for women."
--Hugh Nibley

One last quote, this time from Sister Patricia Holland, "If I were Satan and I wanted to destroy a society, I think I would stage a full-blown blitz on women."

OK, that's all you're getting from me! But trust me, there is sooo much more! In my humble opinion, every LDS--male or female--really needs to read this book.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Popularity and Principle

This talk from Neal A. Maxwell, entitled "Popularity and Principle" was in the August 1996 Liahona. It gave me some small comfort, knowing that I will not likely be very popular when my stand for the truth makes some people uncomfortable. My goal is not ever to make anyone uncomfortable, but just to simply be obedient to the Lord's directive to speak up for truth "at all times and in all places." Here are some choice parts of that marvelous talk:

There are real dangers—subtle and obvious—when members fall into lockstep with the world’s ways. In so many respects, the world’s ways head in opposite directions from gospel destinations. Moreover, as a covenant people, our behavioral loyalties are to be with the Lord, not with the Caesars of this world. But the tugs of the world are real and persistent. Besides, following the fashions of the world is merely to pursue eventual obsolescence, "for the fashion of this world passeth away" (1 Cor. 7:31). Typically, President Brigham Young spoke sternly concerning popularity and what can be its ruining acclaim: "I do not want 'Mormonism' to become popular … I would rather pass through all the misery and sorrow, the troubles and trials of the Saints, than to have the religion of Christ become popular with the world" (in Journal of Discourses, 10:297).

President N. Eldon Tanner cautioned, "This craving for praise and popularity too often controls actions, and as [people] succumb they find themselves bending their character when they think they are only taking a bow" (Ensign, November 1975, page 76). Furthermore, not only must we forgo erosive popularity, but we are to be unsurprised when "at that day shall he [Satan] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good" (2 Ne. 28:20). Church standards remain constant in a time when some actually call good evil and evil good! (see Isa. 5:20). No wonder the Latter-day Saints "must be kept where the finger of scorn can be pointed at them" (Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 12:272). Since there is not much chance that the fingers of scorn will be diverted, we should "“[heed] them not" (1 Ne. 8:33). Ironically, among those pointing fingers of scorn are a few that once grasped the iron rod. As Lehi envisioned, these defectors become ashamed, fall away, and become aligned with the popular taunting multitude in the great and spacious building (see 1 Ne. 8:27, 33).

Popularity can overwhelm the individual’s inner sentinel, or conscience, which stands guard over his soul by sounding inconvenient and uninvited alarms. If becoming popular requires participating in the follies and the fashions of the world, it is too big a price to pay for fleeting approval…. Some things are popular precisely because they make no demands upon the individual and produce a false sense of freedom. Yet there is no real liberty in license and no real emancipation by avoiding personal responsibilities. The world’s intellectual pressures are relentless, too! Elder Albert E. Bowen of the Quorum of the Twelve observed how some, "to gain favor, to enhance [their] popularity, to avoid giving offense, … have adopted the theories of men and tried to integrate them with the teachings of the Son of God, and they will not mix" (in Conference Report, April 1952, page 66).

We cannot improve the world if we are conformed to the world (see Rom. 12:2). The gospel represents constancy amid change, not compliant adaptation to changing fashions and trends. Firm followers of Jesus, therefore, will not be mere chameleons—adapting their colors to match the ever-changing circumstances by simply blending in. Ours is a day when "every man walketh in his own way" (D&C 1:16). Thus, there is also a special need to consider how dangerous pleasing oneself can be; it may be the most dangerous form of preening, lulling us into the fatal illusion one commentator aptly described: "For if God is a socially conscious political being whose views invariably correspond to our own prejudices on every essential point of doctrine, he demands of us no more than our politics require. Besides, if God is finite, progressive, and Pure Love, we may as well skip church next Sunday and go to the movies. For if we have nothing to fear from this all-loving, all-forbearing, all-forgiving God, how would our worship of him constitute more than self-congratulation for our own moral standards? As an atheist, I like this God. It is good to see him every morning while I am shaving" (Eugene D. Genovese, "Pilgrim’s Progress," The New Republic, 11 May 1992, page 38).

Popularity detached from principle requires playing ever eagerly to the world’s gallery. One day, however, that currently popular place will be strangely empty, its occupants having departed to become part of that glorious but sober scene when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ! (see Philip. 2:10-11).

The Nature of Pride

Continuing my research into why we might choose to criticize our Church leaders, I reread the timeless talk from President Ezra Taft Benson, entitled "Beware of Pride" (May 1989). I remember this talk well, and it is just as relevant today. I tried to cut it a bit for length, but most of it is absolutely essential:

The central feature of pride is enmity—-enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means "hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition." It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. (See Hel. 12:6.) They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.

Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s. Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. (See Hel. 6:17; D&C 58:41.)

The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone." (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109-10.)

Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love "the praise of men more than the praise of God." (John 12:42-43.) Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest. Jesus said He did "always those things" that pleased God. (John 8:29.) Would we not do well to have the pleasing of God as our motive rather than to try to elevate ourselves above our brother and outdo another?

When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world and deliver our freedoms to the bondage of men’s judgment. The world shouts louder than the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. The reasoning of men overrides the revelations of God, and the proud let go of the iron rod. (See 1 Ne. 8:19-28; 1 Ne. 11:25; 1 Ne. 15:23-24.)

The scriptures testify that the proud are easily offended and hold grudges. (See 1 Ne. 16:1-3.) They withhold forgiveness to keep another in their debt and to justify their injured feelings. The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily. (See Prov. 15:10; Amos 5:10.) Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures. (See Matt. 3:9; John 6:30-59.)

The proud depend upon the world to tell them whether they have value or not. Their self-esteem is determined by where they are judged to be on the ladders of worldly success. They feel worthwhile as individuals if the numbers beneath them in achievement, talent, beauty, or intellect are large enough. Pride is ugly. It says, "If you succeed, I am a failure." Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression. (See Alma 12:10-11.) The proud are not easily taught. (See 1 Ne. 15:3, 7-11.) They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong.

God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble. Alma said, "Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble." (Alma 32:16.)

Let us choose to be humble.

My dear brethren and sisters, we must prepare to redeem Zion. It was essentially the sin of pride that kept us from establishing Zion in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was the same sin of pride that brought consecration to an end among the Nephites. (See 4 Ne. 1:24-25.)

Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.

We must cleanse the inner vessel by conquering pride. (See Alma 6:2-4; Matt. 23:25-26.)

We must yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” put off the prideful "natural man," become "a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord," and become "as a child, submissive, meek, humble." (Mosiah 3:19; see also Alma 13:28.)

That we may do so and go on to fulfill our divine destiny is my fervent prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

From Such Turn Away

Reading a talk from Elder Boyd K. Packer entitled "From Such Turn Away" (May 1985), I was struck by how pertinent his words are to the discussion of critizing our Church leaders, and would like to share a bit of it here:

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy of perilous times and apostasy to come in the last days. He listed the many evils that would be abroad in those perilous times, such things as false accusers, despisers of those that are good, and traitors, and he warned, "From such turn away." (2 Tim. 3:1-5.) "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them." (2 Tim. 3:13-14) That phrase, knowing of whom thou hast learned them, has great significance. Paul taught that a knowledge of the scriptures was our immunization against these evils.

Repeating what the Lord said: "Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except [one:] he be ordained by some one who has authority, and [two:] it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church." (D&C 42:11)

The very nature of the priesthood allows for a great variety in the gospel knowledge of members struggling to learn as they serve. A member, at any given time, may not understand one point of doctrine or another, may have a misconception, or even believe something is true that in fact is false. There is not much danger in that. That is an inevitable part of learning the gospel. No member of the Church should be embarrassed at the need to repent of a false notion he might have believed. Such ideas are corrected as one grows in light and knowledge.

It is not the belief in a false notion that is the problem, it is the teaching of it to others. In the Church we have the agency to believe whatever we want to believe about whatever we want to believe. But we are not authorized to teach it to others as truth. There is another area where caution means safety. There are some who, motivated by one influence or another, seek through writing and publishing criticisms and interpretations of doctrine to make the gospel more acceptable to the so-called thinking people of the world.

This is why, gentle readers, I do not often post my own ideas on this blog. Oh, I likely will, but with the firm disclaimer that it is only my own possibly erroneous thinking. But I do not apologize for quoting the Prophets or the scriptures, as they are given by the authority of God, and are the foundation of my faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Looking Beyond the Mark

My thoughts have gone to wondering why there is so much dissention in the ranks of the LDS section of the blogosphere, and I am reminded of the talks I have heard repeatedly of how we sometimes "look beyond the mark" (the mark being Jesus Christ). In searching through the words of the Church leaders I have found and share with you now some of the words of Elder Quentin L. Cook, from March 2003 Ensign in a talk entitled "Looking Beyond the Mark":

We live in a world where the latest story, the buzz, the hype, the "new thing" is much sought after and then publicized throughout the world. Movies, television, and other media often celebrate heroic gestures, dysfunctionality, conflict, and sexuality rather than the quiet, everyday acts of sacrifice, service, and love that are so much a part of the Savior’s message and example. The wild rush to find the new often tramples on what is true. Today there is a tendency among some of us to "look beyond the mark" rather than to maintain a testimony of gospel basics. We do this when we substitute the philosophies of men for gospel truths....

Some people seem to be embarrassed by the simplicity of the Savior’s message. They want to add complexity and even obscurity to the truth to make it more intellectually challenging or more compatible with current academic trends.... Some in their spiritual immaturity attempt to appear sophisticated and intellectual. Instead of accepting revelation, they want to dissect it and add dimensions and variations of meaning that distort its beautiful truths. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has pointed out, "The Jewish people … rejected the gospel, in part because it lacked adequate intellectual embroidery." We look beyond the mark when we refuse to accept simple gospel truths for what they are.

Some who are not authorized want to speak for the Brethren and imply that their message contains the "meat" the Brethren would teach if they were not constrained to teach only the "milk." Others want to counsel the Brethren and are critical of all teachings that do not comply with their version of what should be taught. The Lord said regarding important doctrine, "Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me" (D&C 10:68) and "That which is more or less than this cometh of evil" (D&C 124:120). We are looking beyond the mark when we elevate any one principle, no matter how worthwhile it may be, to a prominence that lessens our commitment to other equally important principles or when we take a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Brethren.

In many areas we are guided only by doctrines and principles rather than rules. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, "I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves." We are responsible to the Lord for how we respond in such situations. Those who are committed to following rules without reference to doctrine and principle are particularly susceptible to looking beyond the mark. Equally dangerous are those who get mired in rules and are thus less willing to accept change resulting from continuous revelation.

The "Mark" Is Christ
When we look beyond the mark, we are looking beyond Christ, the only name under heaven whereby we might be saved. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "Jacob saw that the Jews would look 'beyond the mark' and stumble in their search for the Holy One of Israel, this literal Son of God to be known as Jesus Christ: 'By the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation.'"

One of the great challenges of this life is to accept Christ for who He is: the resurrected Savior of the world, our Redeemer, our Lord and Master, our Advocate with the Father. When He is the foundation for all that we do and are, we avoid the theological blindness that results from looking beyond the mark, and we reap the glorious blessings He has promised us. "Come unto me, ye blessed," He tells those who follow Him; "there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father" (Enos 1:27).

Ebenezer's Orthodoxy: Criticizing and Disobeying Leadership

I cannot say how delighted I was to find Ebenezer Orthodoxy! And the topic of Criticizing and Disobeying Leadership: Analyzing the Subtext of the Bloggernacle’s favorite argument was particularly intriguing to me, because as a new blogger, I was astonished by some of the LDS blogs out there.

My favorite parts of this piece are:

"In reading and rereading the arguments of those that worry about unrighteous dominion among local leaders, however, it is evident that appeal to higher authority is nearly completely absent from their reasoning...In example after example they present real or hypothetical cases of episcopal unrighteous dominion that would almost certainly be corrected by an appeal to higher church authority. But that process seems to be purposefully ignored in favor of disobedience...Why this predilection for disobedience? I suspect that this curious avoidance of appeal to higher authority reveals an underlying subtext that is conveniently masked by the debate's focus on local leaders...With that in mind, avoiding appeal to higher church authority and advocating, instead, disobedience to local leaders appears to be a way to mask this disagreement with, or at least lack of faith in, the general authorities of the Church...Ultimately, the real issue is that of prophetic authority and revelation. Is the church guided by well meaning old men who do their best with infrequent flickers of hard-to-interpret inspiration? Or is it guided by prophets of God who receive clear communications from the Lord and guide the church with power and authority from Him?"

Amen, Brother! It does my heart good to hear the Spirit of Truth in your words, thank you so very much!!

Unity, Part 2

I wanted to give greater emphasis to a talk by Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency, from May 1983, entitled "Unity":

Today we are the Church of Christ, and the Lord expects us to come to this same unity. He has said to us: "Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine." (D&C 38:27.) Some members assume that one can be in full harmony with the spirit of the gospel, enjoy full fellowship in the Church, and at the same time be out of harmony with the leaders of the Church and the counsel and direction they give. Such a position is wholly inconsistent, because the guidance of this Church comes not alone from the written word but also from continuous revelation, and the Lord gives that revelation to the Church through his chosen prophet. It follows, therefore, that those who profess to accept the gospel and who at the same time criticize and refuse to follow the counsel of the prophet are assuming an indefensible position. Such a spirit leads to apostasy. It is not new. It was prevalent in the days of Jesus and in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

It is good to remember the great lesson the Savior taught the Nephites on this subject as he began his ministry among them. Said he: "There shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another." (3 Ne. 11:28-29.)There is but one way that we can be united, and that way is to seek the Lord and his righteousness. (See 3 Ne. 13:33.) Unity comes by following the light from above. It does not come out of the confusions below. While men depend upon their own wisdom and walk in their own way, without the guidance of the Lord they cannot live in unity. Neither can they come to unity by following uninspired men. The way to unity is for us to learn the will of the Lord and then to do it. Until this basic principle is understood and observed, there will be no unity and peace on the earth.

The power of the Church for good in the world depends upon the extent to which we, the members thereof, observe this principle. The major reason for the world’s troubles today is that men are not seeking to know the will of the Lord and then to do it. Rather do they seek to solve their problems in their own wisdom and in their own way. The Lord, in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which he revealed as the preface to the book of his commandments, pointed this out and marked it as one of the causes of the calamities which he foresaw coming upon the inhabitants of the earth. Listen to this ringing declaration: "They have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant; They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way." (D&C 1:15-16.) Brethren and sisters, do not rely upon the counsel of men nor trust in the arm of flesh (see D&C 1:19), but seek the Lord to establish his righteousness (see D&C 1:16).

We of this Church can come to a unity and a oneness which will give us strength beyond anything we have yet enjoyed if we will obtain a sounder understanding of the principles of the gospel and come to a unity in our interpretations of present world conditions and trends. This we can do by prayerful study of the Lord’s word, including that given to us through the living prophet. This is the way to come to a unity. If we will study the word of the Lord as it comes to us through the standard works and through the instructions of the living prophet and not harden our hearts, but humble ourselves and develop a real desire to understand its application to us in our own peculiar circumstances, and then ask the Lord in faith, believing that we shall receive (see D&C 18:18), all the while being diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord, surely the path we should follow will be made known unto us, and we will be able to face the world as a solid unit.

Surely we need this unity and this strength in this day in which we live. We have a great opportunity, the opportunity to rise heavenward, to gain the spirit of the gospel as we have never enjoyed it before. This we can do by developing among us that unity required by the laws of the celestial kingdom. If, in the expediency of the moment, we set God aside to follow the teachings of men, we disown him.Only a united people, keeping God’s commands, can expect the protection which he alone can give when the floods come, and the rains descend, and the winds blow, and beat upon our house. (See Matt. 7:25.) It is my conviction that, since we are engaged in the Lord’s work, we can accomplish everything he requires us to do if we will but be united. That we may so be, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Unity: If ye are not one, ye are not mine

I noticed a remark on an LDS blog that expressed dismay over the fact that the great majority of Latter-day Saints tend to cluster in the same political party. I thought about that. It seems to me that if we all believe the same thing, why would it be a surprise if most of us came to the same conclusion about political affiliation? I then went in search of what the Prophets and other church leaders have said about it.

Here are some tidbits:

Unity in a ward is not just a desirable state; it is a commandment of God and is one of the observable fruits of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord said, "If ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27). Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (1915–1985) stated: "Unity within the Church and among the saints is the goal of the gospel. There is no place in the Church for division, for disagreement on doctrine, for cults and cliques. … Among the faithful saints there is only one mind and one judgment and these are the Lord’s." From H. Aldridge Gillespie, "Be Ye One," Ensign, June 2004

I should like to talk about the building of Zion through sacrifice and consecration. For many years we have been taught that one important end result of our labors, hopes, and aspirations is the building of a Latter-day Zion, a Zion characterized by love, harmony, and peace—a Zion in which the Lord’s children are as one. "Behold, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with many who are in the church at Kirtland: For they do not forsake their sins, and their wicked ways, the pride of their hearts, and their covetousness, and all their detestable things, and observe the words of wisdom and eternal life which I have given unto them." (D&C 98:19-20.) It is incumbent upon us to put away selfishness in our families, our business and professional pursuits, and our Church affairs. Second, we must cooperate completely and work in harmony one with the other. There must be unanimity in our decisions and unity in our actions. After pleading with the Saints to "let every man esteem his brother as himself" (D&C 38:24), the Lord concludes his instructions on cooperation to a conference of the membership in these powerful words: "Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine." (D&C 38:27.) Let us unite and pray with all the energy of heart, that we may be sealed by this bond of charity; that we may build up this latter-day Zion, that the kingdom of God may go forth, so that the kingdom of heaven may come. From Spencer W. Kimball, "Becoming the Pure in Heart," Ensign, Mar. 1985

In order to knit our hearts in Christ’s perfect unity and love, it stands to reason that we must, in essence, "break" our old and perhaps imperfect hearts first. We must become humble. The scriptures repeatedly affirm that humility is the prerequisite for faith, hope, and then for charity. In addition to repentance, humility helps perfect and purify our unity and love and thus helps make us one with Christ. Without humility, our fondness for and loyalty to each other could, in many circumstances, lead us away from the influence of the Spirit. Without humility, our unity could become restrictive and haughty, perhaps even directing us up the steps of a latter-day Rameumptom instead of into the footsteps of the Master. One of Satan’s counterfeits for hearts being knit together in unity and love is proud hearts seeking other proud hearts in order to fulfill selfish desires. From Sandra Rogers, “Knitting a Worldwide Church Together,” Ensign, Sept. 1998

There are some commandments which, when broken, destroy unity. Some have to do with what we say and some with how we react to what others say. We must speak no ill of anyone. We must see the good in each other and speak well of each other whenever we can (see David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Oct. 1967, 4-11). At the same time, we must stand against those who speak contemptuously of sacred things, because the certain effect of that offense is to offend the Spirit and so create contention and confusion. President Spencer W. Kimball showed the way to stand without being contentious as he lay on a hospital gurney and asked an attendant who, in a moment of frustration, took the name of the Lord in vain: "'Please! Please! That is my Lord whose names you revile.' There was a deathly silence, then a subdued voice whispered: 'I am sorry'"(The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 198). An inspired, loving rebuke can be an invitation to unity. Failure to give it when moved upon by the Holy Ghost will lead to discord. From Henry B. Eyring, “That We May Be One,” Ensign, May 1998

I know of no stronger weapons in the hands of the adversary against any group of men or women in this church than the weapons of divisiveness, faultfinding, and antagonism. In a difficult period of the Church’s history, the Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of the opposition which can hinder the Church when we are not filled with the spirit of support and helpfulness. From Howard W. Hunter, "That We May Be One," Ensign, May 1976

The question of whether there is a unifying force powerful enough to overcome the divisive elements of diversity is answered with a resounding yes! Inspired and energetic leaders are required. Where there is vision, the people respond. The doctrine is in place. Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Church, and all who join are "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God." (Eph. 2:19.) The prophet of God gives us a single authoritative voice on matters of doctrine and practice. Priesthood authority granted to men gives them the right to baptize, bestow the Holy Ghost, and bless our congregations with unity without robbing us of our diversity. Authoritative scriptures contain the word of God to guide us. Basic gospel ordinances, weekly sacrament meetings, temple blessings, and a universal priesthood and Relief Society are available. The gospel is centered in homes, and the work of spreading the gospel through missionary service and temple service for our deceased ancestors keeps all members involved, providing a dynamic, action-filled life for the Saints. Undergirding everything, the Holy Ghost unifies all who live worthily to receive and magnify its gifts. From John K. Carmack, "Unity in Diversity," Ensign, Mar. 1991

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Gentle Bloggers, and others...

I am a big fan of Orson Scott Card's writings, and spend considerable time at his websites (Hatrack and Ornery American). As I followed his occasional links to exceptional blog articles, I found myself intrigued by the world of blogs. I also discovered Meridian Magazine, an online LDS magazine, and followed their lovely linkage all over the internet, and before I knew it, the blogosphere had become part of my world.

But there are many blogs out there that are um, well, harsh. Crude. You know.
I have been fortunate to find many really good ones, that I know will not be offensive to the Spirit. I want to thank all of them, for being able to be both gentle and courageous, in speaking up for truth (and for touching my heart).

The Commons at Paulie World
Warm 'n Fuzzy Conserva-Puppies
Conservative and Right
Strengthen the Good
North Western Winds
Iraq the Model
La Shawn Barber's Corner
Diary of an Anti-Chomskyite

I can pretty much guarantee those above will not ever be crude. Do I stick to only them? Nope. I dash into some other places, and put up with a bit more harshness, to find pearls of wisdom from other gifted writers. These include (no guarantees here):

Mark Steyn
Dissecting Leftism
Michelle Malkin

I read lots of Canadian Blogs (note my Newfoundlander hubby) and the best of those I've found besides North Western Winds I mentioned above are:
News Junkie Canada
Ravishing Light

Some of the best, but not guaranteed to be gentle, Foreign Blogs are:
No Pasaran
The Dissident Frogman
An Englishman's Castle
Davids Medienkritik

(BTW: Thanks for your patience as I am learning how to create this blog!)

More from Mother Theresa

A few days ago, I posted some remarks by President Faust referring to a statement by Mother Theresa that the violence in society today can be traced to abortion. (Here.)

The pearls of wisdom about the importance of family that Mother Theresa gave us in that 1979 speech are even more urgently needed today. She spoke of how we put our older family members away in senior care homes, and how when our children come home from school, who is there for them? The parents are working, and the grandparents have been farmed one is home to teach the children, and so they get into trouble. But let me share with you her inspired words:

I never forget an opportunity I had in visiting a home where they had all these old parents of sons and daughters who had just put them in an institution and forgotten maybe. And I went there, and I saw in that home they had everything, beautiful things, but everybody was looking towards the door. And I did not see a single one with their smile on their face. And I turned to the Sister and I asked: How is that? How is it that the people they have everything here, why are they all looking towards the door, why are they not smiling? I am so used to see the smile on our people, even the dying one smile, and she said: This is nearly every day, they are expecting, they are hoping that a son or daughter will come to visit them. They are hurt because they are forgotten, and see - this is where love comes. That poverty comes right there in our own home, even neglect to love. Maybe in our own family we have somebody who is feeling lonely, who is feeling sick, who is feeling worried, and these are difficult days for everybody. Are we there, are we there to receive them, is the mother there to receive the child?

I was surprised in the West to see so many young boys and girls given into drugs, and I tried to find out why - why is it like that, and the answer was: Because there is no one in the family to receive them. Father and mother are so busy they have no time. Young parents are in some institution and the child takes back to the street and gets involved in something. We are talking of peace. These are things that break peace, but I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing - direct murder by the mother herself. And we read in the Scripture, for God says very clearly: Even if a mother could forget her child - I will not forget you - I have carved you in the palm of my hand. We are carved in the palm of His hand, so close to Him that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God. And that is what strikes me most, the beginning of that sentence, that even if a mother could forget something impossible - but even if she could forget - I will not forget you. And today the greatest means - the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion. And we who are standing here - our parents wanted us. We would not be here if our parents would do that to us. Our children, we want them, we love them, but what of the millions. Many people are very, very concerned with the children in India, with the children in Africa where quite a number die, maybe of malnutrition, of hunger and so on, but millions are dying deliberately by the will of the mother. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child - what is left for me to kill you and you kill me - there is nothing between. And this I appeal in India, I appeal everywhere: Let us bring the child back, and this year being the child's year: What have we done for the child? At the beginning of the year I told, I spoke everywhere and I said: Let us make this year that we make every single child born, and unborn, wanted. And today is the end of the year, have we really made the children wanted? I will give you something terrifying. We are fighting abortion by adoption, we have saved thousands of lives, we have sent words to all the clinics, to the hospitals, police stations - please don't destroy the child, we will take the child. So every hour of the day and night it is always somebody, we have quite a number of unwedded mothers - tell them come, we will take care of you, we will take the child from you, and we will get a home for the child. And we have a tremendous demand from families who have no children, that is the blessing of God for us.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Warn the Wicked

From Ezra Taft Benson, "Watchman, Warn the Wicked," Ensign, July 1973:

The prophet Ezekiel declared: "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul." (Ezek. 3:17-19.)

The inspired Book of Mormon prophets saw our day and warned us of the strategy of the adversary. Hear their words: "For behold, at that day shall he [the devil] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good. And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security...wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God." (2 Ne. 28:20-21, 26.) As watchmen on the tower of Zion, it is our obligation and right as leaders to speak out against current evils—evils that strike at the very foundation of all we hold dear as the true church of Christ and as members of Christian nations. As one of these watchmen, with a love for humanity, I accept humbly this obligation and challenge and gratefully strive to do my duty without fear. In times as serious as these, we must not permit fear of criticism to keep us from doing our duty, even at the risk of our counsel being tabbed as political, as government becomes more and more entwined in our daily lives.

In the crisis through which we are now passing, we have been fully warned. This has brought forth some criticism. There are some of us who do not want to hear the message. It embarrasses us. The things which are threatening our lives, our welfare, our freedoms are the very things some of us have been condoning. Many do not want to be disturbed as they continue to enjoy their comfortable complacency. The Church is founded on eternal truth. We do not compromise principle. We do not surrender our standards regardless of current trends or pressures. Our allegiance to truth as a church is unwavering. Speaking out against immoral or unjust actions has been the burden of prophets and disciples of God from time immemorial. It was for this very reason that many of them were persecuted. Nevertheless, it was their God-given task, as watchmen on the tower, to warn the people.

We live in an age of appeasement—the sacrificing of principle. Appeasement is not the answer. It is never the right answer.

One of these modern Church watchmen has given this sound warning: "A milk-and-water allegiance kills; while a passionate devotion gives life and soul to any cause and its adherents. The troubles of the world may largely be laid at the doors of those who are neither hot nor cold; who always follow the line of least resistance; whose timid hearts flutter at taking sides for truth. As in the great Council in the heavens, so in the Church of Christ on earth, there can be no neutrality. We are, or we are not, on the side of the Lord. An unrelenting faith, contemptuous of all compromise, will lead the Church and every member of it, to triumph and the achievement of our high destiny. The final conquerors of the world will be the men and women, few or many matters not, who fearlessly and unflinchingly cling to truth, and who are able to say no, as well as yes, on whose lofty banner is inscribed: No compromise with error. Tolerance is not conformity to the world’s view and practices. We must not surrender our beliefs to get along with people, however beloved or influential they may be. Too high a price may be paid for social standing or even for harmony. The Gospel rests upon eternal truth; and truth can never be deserted safely." (John A. Widtsoe, Conference Report, April 1941, pp. 117, 116.)

It has been well said that "our greatest national problem is erosion. Not erosion of the soil, but erosion of the national morality." The United States of America has been great because it has been free. It has been free because it has trusted in God and was founded upon the principles of freedom set forth in the word of God. This nation has a spiritual foundation. To me, this land has a prophetic history. In the year 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French historian, came to our country at the request of the French government to study our penal institutions. He also made a close study of our political and social institutions. In less than ten years, de Tocqueville had become world-famous, as the result of the four-volume work that he wrote, entitled Democracy in America.

Here is his own stirring explanation of the greatness of America: "I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." (Prophets, Principles and National Survival, compiled by Jerreld L. Newquist [Salt Lake City, Publishers Press, 1964], p. 60.)

How strong is our will to remain free—to be good? False thinking and false ideologies, dressed in the most pleasing forms, quietly—-almost without our knowing it—-seek to reduce our moral defenses and to captivate our minds. They entice with bright promises of security, cradle-to-grave guarantees of many kinds. They masquerade under various names, but all may be recognized by one thing—one thing they all have in common: to erode away character and man’s freedom to think and act for himself. Effort will be made to lull us away into a false security. Proposals will be and are being offered and programs sponsored that have wide appeal. Attractive labels are usually attached to the most dangerous programs, often in the name of public welfare and personal security. Again, let us not be misled. Freedom can be killed by neglect as well as by direct attack. Too long have too many Americans, and people of the free world generally, stood by as silent accessories to the crimes of assault against freedom—-assault against basic economic and spiritual principles and traditions that have made nations strong. Let us strive for progress down the road of goodness and freedom. With the help and blessings of the Lord, the free people of the United States and the free world can and will face tomorrow without fear, without doubt, and with full confidence. We do not fear the phony population explosion, nor do we fear a shortage of food, if we can be free and good. The Lord has declared, "...the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare." (D&C 104:17.) We can accept this promise with confidence.

As a free people, we are following very closely in many respects the pattern which led to the downfall of the great Roman Empire. A group of well-known historians has summarized those conditions leading to the downfall of Rome in these words: "Rome had known a pioneer beginning not unlike our own pioneer heritage, and then entered into two centuries of greatness, reaching its pinnacle in the second of those centuries, going into the decline and collapse in the third. Yet, the sins of decay were becoming apparent in the latter years of that second century. It is written that there were vast increases in the number of the idle rich, and the idle poor. The latter (the idle poor) were put on a permanent dole, a welfare system not unlike our own. As this system became permanent, the recipients of public largesse (welfare) increased in number. They organized into a political block with sizable power. They were not hesitant about making their demands known. Nor was the government hesitant about agreeing to their demands...and with ever-increasing frequency. Would-be emperors catered to them. The great, solid middle class—Rome’s strength then as ours is today—was taxed more and more to support a bureaucracy that kept growing larger, and even more powerful. Surtaxes were imposed upon incomes to meet emergencies. ...Military service was an obligation highly honored by the Romans. Indeed, a foreigner could win Roman citizenship simply by volunteering for service in the legions of Rome. But, with increasing affluence and opulence, the young men of Rome began avoiding this service, finding excuses to remain in the soft and sordid life of the city. They took to using cosmetics and wearing feminine-like hairdo’s and garments, until it became difficult, the historians tell us, to tell the sexes apart. Among the teachers and scholars was a group called the Cynics whose number let their hair and beards grow, and who wore slovenly clothes, and professed indifference to worldly goods as they heaped scorn on what they called 'middle class values.' The morals declined. It became unsafe to walk in the countryside or the city streets. Rioting was commonplace and sometimes whole sections of towns and cities were burned. And, all the time, the twin diseases of confiscatory taxation and creeping inflation were waiting to deliver the death blow. Then finally, all these forces overcame the energy and ambition of the middle class."
"Rome fell."
"We are now approaching the end of our second century."
(Address by Governor Ronald Reagan of California at Eisenhower College, New York, 1969.)

As American citizens, as citizens of the nations of the free world, we need to rouse ourselves to the problems which confront us as great Christian nations. We must recognize that these fundamental, basic principles-—moral and spiritual-—lay at the very foundation of our past achievements. To continue to enjoy present blessings, we must return to these basic and fundamental principles. Economics and morals are both part of one inseparable body of truth. They must be in harmony. We need to square our actions with these eternal verities. God help us, as free men, to recognize the source of our blessings, the threat to our freedom and our moral and spiritual standards, and the need for humble, yet courageous, action to preserve these priceless, time-tested blessings.

Foundations of Righteousness

Spencer W. Kimball spoke on "The Foundations of Righteousness" (Ensign, Nov. 1977):

Important as it is, building stronger homes is not enough in the fight against rising permissiveness. We therefore urge Church members as citizens to lift their voices, to join others in unceasingly combatting, in their communities and beyond, the inroads of pornography and the general flaunting of permissiveness. Let us vigorously oppose the shocking developments which encourage the old sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and which defile the human body as the temple of God. To our beloved brethren and sisters everywhere, as well as to all peoples of the world who love the Lord and desire to live in harmony with the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we say no people can remain strong and happy who condone these loose standards of morality.

We must be aware that one of the most powerful forces Satan uses to destroy our purity of life is the deceit of conspiring men. We have come far in material progress in this century, but the sins of the ancients increasingly afflict the hearts of men today. Can we not learn by the experiences of others? Must we also defile our bodies, corrupt our souls, and reap destruction as have peoples and nations before us?

We hear more and more each day about the sins of adultery, homosexuality, and lesbianism. Homosexuality is an ugly sin, but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved with it, it must be brought into the open. It is the sin of the ages. It was present in Israel’s wandering as well as after and before. It was tolerated by the Greeks. It was prevalent in decaying Rome. The ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are symbols of wretched wickedness more especially related to this perversion, as the incident of Lot’s visitors indicates.

There is today a strong clamor to make such practices legal by passing legislation. Some would also legislate to legalize prostitution. They have legalized abortion, seeking to remove from this heinous crime the stigma of sin. We do not hesitate to tell the world that the cure for these evils is not in surrender.

"But let us emphasize that right and wrong, righteousness and sin, are not dependent upon man’s interpretations, conventions and attitudes. Social acceptance does not change the status of an act, making wrong into right. If all the people in the world were to accept homosexuality, … the practice would still be a deep, dark sin." (The Miracle of Forgiveness, Bookcraft)

As we think back upon the experiences of Nineveh, Babylon, Sodom and Gomorrah, we wonder—will history repeat itself? What of our world today? Are we forgetting in our great nations the high and lofty principles which can preserve the nations? And now...there are among us those same vices which we have seen wreck empires, and we see them becoming flagrant in all nations. Shall we, like Belshazzar, sow the wind and reap the whirlwind? Shall we permit the home to deteriorate and marriage to become a mockery? Shall we continue to curse God, hate our enemies, and defile our bodies in adulterous and sensuous practices? And when the patience of the Lord with us is exhausted, shall we stand trembling while destruction comes upon us? Or shall we wisely see the handwriting on the wall and profit by the sad experience of the past and return unto the Lord and serve him? I testify that Jesus is the Christ, this is his program; he is the God of this world, and I know that we can achieve our destiny and build enduring peace only upon the foundations of righteousness.

No Time for Contention

Excerpt from Marvin J. Ashton, "No Time for Contention," Ensign, May 1978:

There never has been a time when it is more important for us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to take a stand, remain firm in our convictions, and conduct ourselves wisely under all circumstances. We must not be manipulated or enraged by those who subtly foster contention over issues of the day.
As we take a stand against the evils of the day, such as abortion, homosexuality, immorality, alcohol, drugs, dishonesty, intolerance, etc., can we express our beliefs without clenching our fists, raising our voices, and promoting contention?
There is no time for contention. We must have the will and discipline in our daily lives to fight contention. I promise the valiant God’s help in their efforts to conquer this horrendous foe. Let us "Cease to contend one with another; cease to speak evil one of another." (D&C 136:23.) We only have time to be about our Father’s business

The Pursuit of Truth

Our beloved President Gordon B. Hinckley, in a talk entitled "The Continuing Pursuit of Truth" from the April 1986 Ensign, Apr. 1986 said:

There is incumbent upon each of us as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the responsibility to observe the commandment to study and to learn. Said the Lord: "Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith." (D&C 88:118.)
He further made it clear that our search for truth must be broad, that we are to learn "of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms." (D&C 88:79.)
Ours ought to be a ceaseless quest for truth. That truth must include spiritual and religious truth as well as secular. As we go forward with our lives and our search for truth, let us look for the good, the beautiful, the positive.
The things of God are understood by the Spirit of God. That Spirit is real. To those who have experienced its workings, the knowledge so gained is as real as that which is acquired through the operation of the five senses. I testify of this. And I am confident that most members of the Church can so testify. I urge each of us to continue to cultivate a heart in tune with the Spirit. If we will do so, our lives will be enriched. We will feel a kinship with God our Eternal Father. We will taste a sweetness of joy that can be had in no other way.
Let us not be trapped by the sophistry of the world, which for the most part is negative and which so often bears sour fruit. Let us walk with faith in the future, speaking affirmatively and cultivating an attitude of confidence. As we do so, our strength will give strength to others.

Oh Say, What is Truth?

The title of this blog begs a question: What is Truth?

J. Richard Clarke spoke on "The Practice of Truth" in the May 1984 Ensign, where he quoted William George Jordan:

Truth … as loyalty to the right as we see it; it is courageous living of our lives in harmony with our ideals; it is always—power.
Truth … defies full definition. Like electricity it can only be explained by noting its manifestation. It is the compass of the soul, the guardian of conscience, the final touchstone of right. Truth is the revelation of the ideal; but it is also an inspiration to realize that ideal, a constant impulse to live it.
[One] who makes Truth his watchword is careful in his words, he seeks to be accurate, neither understating nor over-coloring. … What he says has the ring of sincerity, the hallmark of pure gold. … His promise counts for something, you accept it as being as good as his bond, you know that no matter how much it may cost him to verify and fulfil his word by his deed, he will do it.
(Power of Truth, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1935.)

Saturday, October 16, 2004

War and Peace

Choice tidbits from Gordon B. Hinckley, “War and Peace,” Ensign, May 2003:

…[M]odern revelation states that we are to “renounce war and proclaim peace” (D&C 98:16). In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation. When war raged between the Nephites and the Lamanites, the record states that “the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for … power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church. “And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God” (Alma 43:45-46). The Lord counseled them, “Defend your families even unto bloodshed” (Alma 43:47).

And Moroni “rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole. “And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren” (Alma 46:12-13).

It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression. When all is said and done, we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace. But even He said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy. I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do. It may even be that He will hold us responsible if we try to impede or hedge up the way of those who are involved in a contest with forces of evil and repression.

Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil

From James E. Faust’s talk “Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil” (November 1995):

President Brigham Young said that it is important to '“study … evil, and its consequences.” Since Satan is the author of all evil in the world, it would therefore be essential to realize that he is the influence behind the opposition to the work of God…. In the October 1987 general conference, I made this statement: “I think we will witness increasing evidence of Satan’s power as the kingdom of God grows stronger. I believe Satan’s ever-expanding efforts are some proof of the truthfulness of this work. In the future the opposition will be both more subtle and more open. It will be masked in greater sophistication and cunning, but it will also be more blatant. We will need greater spirituality to perceive all of the forms of evil and greater strength to resist it.”

Abortion is one evil practice that has become socially accepted in the United States and, indeed, in much of the world. Many of today’s politicians claim not to favor abortion but oppose government intervention in a woman’s right to choose an abortion. During a prayer breakfast in Washington, D.C., on 3 February 1994, Mother Teresa gave the most honest and powerful proclamation of truth on this subject I have ever heard…. Mother Teresa delivered a message that cut to the very heart and soul of the social ills afflicting America, which traditionally has given generously to the peoples of the earth but now has become selfish. She stated that the greatest proof of that selfishness is abortion. Mother Teresa … tied abortion to growing violence and murder in the streets by saying, “If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill each other? … Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.” Then she alluded to the concern that has been shown for orphan children in India and elsewhere in the world, for which she expressed gratitude. But she continued: “These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions who are being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today—abortion, which brings people to such blindness.” Commenting on this powerful message, columnist Cal Thomas asked: “Why should people or nations regard human life as noble or dignified if abortion flourishes? Why agonize about indiscriminate death in Bosnia when babies are being killed far more efficiently and out of the sight of television cameras?” In conclusion Mother Teresa pled for pregnant women who don’t want their children to give them to her. She said, “I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child.” What consummate spiritual courage this remarkable aged woman demonstrated! How the devil must have been offended! Her remarkable declaration, however, was not generally picked up by the press or the editorial writers. Perhaps they felt more comfortable being politically or socially correct. After all, they can justify their stance by asserting that everyone does it or that it is legal. Fortunately the scriptures and the message of the prophets cannot be so revised.

The Church’s stand on homosexual relations provides another arena where we offend the devil. I expect that the statement of the First Presidency and the Twelve against homosexual marriages will continue to be assaulted. Satan is only interested in our misery, which he promotes by trying to persuade men and women to act contrary to God’s plan. One way he does this is by encouraging the inappropriate use of sacred creative powers. A bona fide marriage is one between a man and a woman solemnized by the proper legal or ecclesiastical authority. Only sexual relations between husband and wife within the bonds of marriage are acceptable before the Lord. There is some widely accepted theory extant that homosexuality is inherited. How can this be? No scientific evidence demonstrates absolutely that this is so. Besides, if it were so, it would frustrate the whole plan of mortal happiness. Our designation as men or women began before this world was. In contrast to the socially accepted doctrine that homosexuality is inborn, a number of respectable authorities contend that homosexuality is not acquired by birth. The false belief of inborn homosexual orientation denies to repentant souls the opportunity to change and will ultimately lead to discouragement, disappointment, and despair. Alternatives to the legal and loving marriage between a man and a woman are helping to unravel the fabric of human society. I am sure this is pleasing to the devil. The fabric I refer to is the family. These so-called alternative life-styles must not be accepted as right, because they frustrate God’s commandment for a life-giving union of male and female within a legal marriage as stated in Genesis. If practiced by all adults, these life-styles would mean the end of the human family.

We please the devil if we argue that all roads lead to heaven and therefore it does not matter which road we take, for we will all end up in God’s presence. And we also please the devil if we contend that since we are all God’s children, it makes no difference to which church a person belongs, for we are all working for the same place. Elder Delbert L. Stapley said: “This man-made philosophy—for such it is—sounds good, but the scriptures do not support it. I assure each of you that the road to God’s presence is not that easy.” It is straight and narrow. “I feel certain that the devil chuckles whenever this false opinion is expressed, for it pleases him that the minds of men have been so blinded to revealed truth by his cunning craftiness and deceit that they will believe any religion to be acceptable to God regardless of its tenets and ordinances or how or by whom those ordinances are administered,” he said.

We need not become paralyzed with fear of Satan’s power. He can have no power over us unless we permit it. He is really a coward, and if we stand firm, he will retreat. The Apostle James counseled: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Satan has had great success with this gullible generation. As a consequence, literally hosts of people have been victimized by him and his angels. There is, however, an ample shield against the power of Lucifer and his hosts. This protection lies in the spirit of discernment through the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift comes undeviatingly by personal revelation to those who strive to obey the commandments of the Lord and to follow the counsel of the living prophets. This personal revelation will surely come to all whose eyes are single to the glory of God, for it is promised that their bodies will be “filled with light, and there shall be no darkness” in them. Satan’s efforts can be thwarted by all who come unto Christ by obedience to the covenants and ordinances of the gospel. The humble followers of the divine Master need not be deceived by the devil. Satan does not sustain and uplift and bless. He leaves those he has grasped in shame and misery. The Spirit of God is a sustaining and uplifting influence.

I emphasize that fasting and prayer are great ways to receive the moral strength and spiritual strength to resist the temptations of Satan. But you may say this is hard and unpleasant. I commend to you the example of the Savior. He went into the desert, where he fasted and prayed to prepare himself spiritually for his ministry. His temptation by the devil was great, but through the purification of his spirit he was able to triumph over all evil. Work is another deterrent to evil. The symbol of Utah is the beehive. Our forefathers fostered industry and work. Elder John Longden, an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, quoted Herndon as saying, “Satan selects his disciples when they are idle; Jesus selected his when they were busy at their work either mending their nets or casting them into the sea.” I testify that there are forces which will save us from the ever-increasing lying, disorder, violence, chaos, destruction, misery, and deceit that are upon the earth. Those saving forces are the everlasting principles, covenants, and ordinances of the eternal gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The War in Heaven Continues Here on Earth

Why is there so much evil in the world today?
The book of Revelation speaks of “a War in Heaven” (Revelation 12:7).
We won that battle; Jehovah (Christ) and those of us who chose to follow Him.
Lucifer (Satan) and his followers, one-third of the host of Heaven, were cast out.
They were cast out to this Earth. They remain here still.
And the War continues. It is a war of thoughts, ideas, words and principles, as well as actions.

I offer the words of Durrel A. Woolsey (emphasis mine) :

The war is for the souls of men. The battle lines have been drawn since Adam: evil versus righteousness. In [the last days], the forces of evil have intensified and united under the powerful influences of Satan. On the opposite side of the line, the kingdom of God is clearly sounding the trumpet of righteousness…. Isaiah prophesied of our time…when he said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20.) Satan offers a strange mixture of just enough good to disguise the evil along his downward path to destruction.... Satan…rage[s] in the hearts of some. Many he will lull away into carnal security; others he flattereth, or he says there is no hell. He has lured and enlisted many followers with enticements of fame, riches, and power…. He has confused many people, even nations and leaders, to the point of an immoral approach to moral issues.

Let me mention just three examples of voices that are ungodly and powerful among Satan’s many proclamations. First, he says individual agency is justification for the destruction of a human life through abortion; second, same-gender intimate associations and even marriages are acceptable; and third, chastity and fidelity are old-fashioned and narrow-minded— to be sexually active with free expression is acceptable. At this very moment, international heroes in sports, music, and movies not only live immoral lives but teach that immorality around the world through the powerful influence of the media. They are idolized and accepted by millions worldwide. The world in general seems to have lapsed into a coma of unrighteousness, leaving God-given and time-honored moral values and principles behind.

How will we fight this battle as it continues? We must hold fast to forceful proclamations from God regarding the sanctity of life, His eternal and never-ending instruction to be chaste and pure. His loving counsel that families are ordained of God with a father, mother, and children to live together forever was not intended to be the exception, but the rule. A return to Christ by an individual will bring peace of mind in place of turmoil, tranquillity to replace strife, courage and optimism in place of fear.
We must be involved in a good and a righteous cause. We must see through the glass clearly, with an objective look at ourselves and families so as not to be caught in the second great calamitous worldwide flood that is even now all around us. It has been prophesied that the faithful will win this great war…. The prescription for this victory includes daily individual and family prayers.... You may say, “I don’t have time.” Brothers and sisters, you simply cannot afford not to take the time. It is amazing how much time suddenly becomes available with the television off. This prescription continues the same as it has always been—keep the commandments…; read, understand, and even ponder the scriptures.
(“A Strategy for War,” Ensign, Nov. 1995)

In Opposition to Evil

Gordon B. Hinckley’s September 2004 First Presidency message, “In Opposition to Evil” struck a resonant chord in my heart. In case you missed it, here are a few highlights:

He speaks of “a weakening rot seeping into the very fiber of society.” He suggests that “the tide [of evil], high and menacing as it is, can be turned back if enough [good people] will add their strength to the strength of the few who are now effectively working.” He continues by saying “I believe the challenge to oppose this evil is one from which members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as citizens, cannot shrink.” Further, he adds: “The building of public sentiment begins with a few earnest voices,” and “We are not likely to get that which we do not speak up for.” He advocates, “Let our voices be heard. I hope they will not be shrill voices, but I hope we shall speak with such conviction that those to whom we speak shall know of the strength of our feeling and the sincerity of our effort.” He continues on to say: “I think the Lord would say to us, ‘Rise, and stand upon thy feet, and speak up for truth and goodness and decency and virtue.’”

And thus this weblog was born. I have only been following the blogosphere for about a month now, so this will definitely be a learning experience for me, and I would ask your patience with me as I make the likely missteps of a neo-blogger in my attempts to Speak Up for Truth.
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