Monday, October 16, 2017

Our Father's love, justice and mercy. Doing the best we can with what we have been given.

“…the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.” (Alma 29:8)

“We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you; our God and your God are one and the same” (29:46) “We have assigned a law and a path to each of you [Muslims, Jews, and Christians]. If God had so willed, He would have made you one community, but He wanted to test you through that which He has given you, so race to do good: you will all return to God and He will make clear to you the matters you differed about” (Qur'an  5:48)

“But while one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes “His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” He holds the reins of judgment in His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, “according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil,” or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India. He will judge them, “not according to what they have not, but according to what they have,” those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will be judged by that law. We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family; and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 218)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Great and abominable What? 1st Nephi 13:6-9

 “group”, “organization”, “assembly”, “church”, “cohort”, “network”, “support group”, “circle”, “band”, “clique”, “opinion leaders”, “insiders”, “movers and shakers” .... whatever term is used...their designation as “great and abominable” is manifested in their desires and motivations, conscious or unconscious:

“And the angel spake unto me saying [these] are the desires of this great and abominable...”

expensive fashion, 
objectification of others, 
sexual pleasure,
a deep emotional appetite for praise that overrules any sense of compassion

Sobering.  Very sobering.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

“Church” in the New Testament

In the New Testament there are two words that early translators encountered that have an interesting history.  The two words are kuriakos and ecclesia.  The vast majority of those encounters were with  the word “ecclesia”.  A handful of other times, it was the word “kuriakos” or “kuriakon”.

The two words in Greek have different meanings.

 The meaning of "Ku-ri-a-kos" is understood by its root: "Ku- ri-os," which means "lord." Thus, "kuriakos"  means "pertaining to the lord." It refers to something that pertains to, or belongs to, a lord. The Greek "kuriakos" eventually came to be used in Old English form as "cirice" , then "churche" (kerke), and eventually "church" in its traditional pronunciation.

You can see that etymological history in this common this etymological notation:
Church [Old English cirice, circe; Middle English chereche, chiriche, chirche; whence churche, cherche, etc.: -Greek Kuriakon...]

However, “kuriakos” only turns up twice in the New Testament.
1 Corinthians 11:20
Revelation 1:10

In both cases it is translated as “the Lord’s”

The vast majority of times that the word “church” shows up in the New Testament, the Greek word translated is not “kuriakos”,the word that developed into our modern English “church”, it’s “ecclesia”.  For example, when Jesus told Peter “upon this rock I will build my church”, the word used was “ecclesia”.

"Ecclesia" appears in the New Testament approximately 115 times. That's just in this one grammatical form. It appears also in other forms. And in every instance, except three, it is translated as "church” in the King James Version. Those three exceptions are found in Acts 19:32, 39, 41. In these instances the translators rendered it "assembly" instead of "church." But, the Greek word there is exactly the same as the other 112 entries where it was translated as "church”.

It turns out that the Acts 19 translation is closest to the actual Greek meaning.  It means a civil body or other organized group of what, in public affairs parlience, is called “opinion leaders”; people whose personal convictions sway that of others.

In Acts 19, "ecclesia" is a rather like a mondern town council: a civil body in Ephesus. Thus, the translators chose to use the word “assembly”.  However, the other 112 times they translated this word, that means “an assembly of people with convictions and power to change people’s opinions and decisions” they translated it as  "church."

Interestingly, The Greek word "ecclesia" is when disected is defined as: "The called-out (ones)" [ECC = out; KALEO = call]. Thus, you can see how this word was used to indicate a civil body of select (called) people.  And could also be used to indicate a group of believers “called” to the work and organized and meeting to do so.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
In the New Testament, "ecclesia" (signifying convocation) is the only single word used for church. It (ecclesia) was the name given to the governmental assembly of the city of Athens,duly convoked (called out) by proper officers and possessing all political power including even juridical functions.

Quoting from the Oxford Universal English Dictionary on the word "ecclesia":
Ecclesia [mediaeval Latin, and Greek - from : SUMMONED] -A regularly convoked assembly, especially the general assembly of Athenians. Later, the regular word for church.

So, it seems, there is a broader meaning to the word “church” when it is found in the New Testament.  It does not just mean an organized, christian religion, or the building in which they meet, or a particular denomination or organanized group of Christian believers.  It means a group of people with a common purpose, any common purpose, that meets to discuss and works to further that purpose.  An “ecclesia”.

Try using that definition when you find that word in the New Testament.  I think you will find it enlightening and sensible.
“Upon this rock I will build my people who are gathered together with a common purpose.”  Matthew 16
“And great fear fell upon all the assembled people at that gathering, and upon as many as heard these things.”  Acts 5
“He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the assembly of people called and gathered together.”  1 Corinthians 14
Etc. Etc.

The Book of Mormon uses the word “church” as well.  It is generally used the same way there.   And if you understand it there the way it is understood above in the New Testament, it also elucidates the nature of “the great and abominable church” that is discussed in 1 Nephi 13.  With this understanding, this phrase is not restricted to meaning a religious organization, but to any organization or assembly of people who are united in a common focus.   Which actually makes more sense.

(Side note: in the first half of the 19th century, the word “organization” did not yet carry the definition of “a group of people organized to do something”. — see Websters Dictionsary 1828 edition.  That came much later.  Therefore the English words used for such in the Book of Mormon translated in that era are “church”, “band”, "assembly", “combination” etc.)

The above is interesting to me (which of course, is why I wrote what I had learned), and perhaps a bit of additional support to the generally accepted notion that   when we restrict our definition of “the great and abominable church" to entities or people gathered within a religious structure we are missing quite a bit of the whole.

Friday, October 06, 2017

1 Nephi 12 War really IS hell

”And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the people of my seed gathered together in multitudes against the seed of my brethren; and they were gathered together in battle.  And the angel spake unto me, saying, ‘Behold the fountain of filthy water which thy father saw; yea, even the river of which he spake; and the depths thereof are hell.”  (vs. 15-16)

The battles he saw in vision were nearly 1000 years in the future.   And like every war before and since, they met the description of  “the seed of one brother gathered against the seed of another brother”,  “filthy water”, and the depths thereof were hellish.  Every. Single. Tragic one.  

Why does that description fit?  Because we are all brothers and sisters.  Children of God.   And because warring requires “hard hearts”, which are created when we succumb to “the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men...” (vs. 17).  The devil deals in distrust coupled with fear that hardens hearts, which hearts, because of that distrust and fear, become prone to lash out in hatred or violence in words as well as deeds.

As Dieter Uchtorf said, when he described a study made of  two different combinations of groups of people in conflict, “They discovered that “each side felt their own group [was] motivated by love more than hate, but when asked why their rival group [was] involved in the conflict, [they] pointed to hate as [the other] group’s motivating factor. *

“In other words, each group thought of themselves as the “good guys”—fair, kind, and truthful. By contrast, they saw their rivals as the “bad guys”—uninformed, dishonest, even evil.  They silenced those they did not like. They shamed and demonized them. They considered them inferior—even less than human. Once you degrade a group of people, you are more likely to justify words and acts of violence against them.“ **

So, I must be watchful of my heart, to turn it to the Lord and to charity, and not to overpowering fear, nor hate, nor worry, nor anxiety, nor indulgence in disdain or disregard for “the seed of my brother” no matter how horribly he is behaving, both in my daily interactions as well as in large scale conflicts in society.  Turning to charity and the Lord frees me to act wisely, and taste the fruit, and share it, and not drown in hellish depths.  Hopefully even when they swirl around me.

“...and the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.”
~ Exodus 14:21-22

Towering waters on either side, and yet passing to safety on dry land.

Boston College, “Study Finds Intractable Conflicts Stem from Misunderstanding of Motivation,” ScienceDaily, Nov. 4, 2014,
** Dieter Uchtdorf, “Three Sisters”, October 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Heart hurts

One of the very difficult things:

When someone you love immensely is in pain and needs love and reassurance and to be scooped up and loved, and you are on the other side of the world.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Berating ourselves. Finding fault with others

Berating ourselves over our failures or constantly stressing over our imperfections may stir us to increase our efforts to improve, but they do so at a great cost, not only to our anxiety levels, but also to our relationships with others.
Learning to be at peace with our imperfections and failings (understanding the ongoing nature of repentance or the limits of our physical lives) along our journey to become wiser and better is key to our ability to avoid being judgmental or annoyed at the imperfections and failings of those around us who are basically trying to do good. That peace with self allows us to work with them with appreciation for their efforts rather than distress at their failures and imperfections; their inability to rise to our hoped for standard of behavior.
Certainly there are some people whose judgmentalism is founded in arrogance. But most of us who hope to become good and kind but who instead, are judgmental, are so not due to a sense of superiority, but from a habit that started with mentally berating and harshly judging ourselves.
I believe that one key to discipleship and avoiding the sin and distress of judgmentalism is gentleness towards both yourself and others as you seek to do good.
"Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, ...By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned..". 2 Corinthians 6:4,6

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


From a letter to Elder V. after a conversation about grace.  He asked me to write and send to him my memories of what that conversation entailed.  I didn't remember all of it.  But the conversation caused me to spend some time researching grace in the scriptures in order to understand grace better.  And that is what I ended up writing.

It's here to help me remember what I learned.

Dear Elder V,
Thanks for the good question on Saturday. It has caused me to spend some more time in the scriptures and I have learned from that study.
The first thing I should correct is my statement that grace could be defined as the power of God. Actually, 2 Nephi 11:5 indicates that it is not “the power of God”, but something unique in itself.
So, the first question is, what is it? And the second is, how does it play out in your life?

Grace it seems, is an attribute of God's very nature.
Genesis 33:5 and Exodus 34:8-9 and Ruth 2:1-3... it is an attitude of being kindly disposed towards someone, welcoming and desiring to help that person when they need help.
So God the Father and His Son, Jesus, are full of grace. They are kindly disposed towards us, have a full desire to welcome us, and assist us.
And, Ephesians 4:7, James 4:6-10, and 1 Peter 5:5.....God's grace, his kindly disposition towards us and his desire to assist, is not earned. It is a gift.
So we don't earn it. It is almost always offered. (There is one time in the Book of Mormon when the people have been so horribly awful that God tells them that the time of grace is passed for them and he's not going to get them out of the horrible situation that they created...they are just too far in and they will have to deal with the awful consequences themselves).
The question is, do we recognize this grace on the part of God? Do we receive the help that he graciously offers? Or do we fail to notice that he is offering it and try to do everything on our own?

Next question: What are these things that God does or offers to us because he is full of grace? Any person can be “gracious” if they wish to. You can be full of grace towards the people you encounter every day, being kindly disposed, welcoming and assisting. But when a being as amazing as God is gracious, that grace, combined with his knowledge, wisdom and power can result in some amazing things.
Here's a list of things that have been listed in the scriptures as being the sorts of divine assistance that God wants to give us because he has this divine attribute of grace. Some of these are HUGE.
I think you might enjoy looking up these scriptures sometime.
  • Reassurance in times of trouble 1 Samuel 1:17-18
  • Escape from oppression, a place that feels like home, enlightenment, reprieve Ezra 9:7-9
  • Rest, love, loving kindness, restoration Jeremiah 31:1-17
  • Salvation from death and sin Acts 15:1
  • Assistance in our efforts to be believing Acts 18:25-27
  • Ability to rejoice with hope and gain eternal perspective Romans 5
  • Finding and speaking inspired words Romans 15:14-17
  • Enabling you to do the work specifically He calls you to do and to abound in good works generally 1 Corinthians 3:10, 2 Corinthians 9:8-15 Doctrine and Covenants 18: 30-31
  • Renewing your spirit, giving you much to be thankful for 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
  • Receiving redemption and divine forgiveness, and developing patience, prudence, divine understanding Epehesians 1:6-8
  • Everlasting consolation and hope 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17,
  • Moral and spiritual strength 2 Timothy 2:1
  • Teaching you to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and instead live soberly, righteously, a godly life, looking forward with hope and anticipating Christ's return Titus 2:11-13
  • The Atonement of Jesus Christ Hebrews 2:9
  • Help in time of need Hebrews 4:14-16
  • Help for you to become “perfect” (complete, able to love as God loves), established, strengthened and settled 1 Peter 5:1-11
  • Avoiding getting taken advantage of by mocking individuals Ether 12:26-27
  • Ability to rejoice in hope, bear tribulations and feel the love of God “shed abroad in our hearts” Romans 5:1-5
  • Opportunity, when needed, to receive angelic visitations Testimony of the three witnesses
  • Sanctification (being made holy) Moroni 10:33
  • Callings to serve as His servants Doctrine and Covenants 20:1-4
  • Divine help while serving in those callings Doctrine and Covenants102:4
  • Resurrection Doctrine and Covenants 138:150

(All of the above are things, and more that are not listed here, are things that we could not do nearly as well on our own or absolutely not even start...which is why God's grace is often cited as “ being divine power to do be able to do things we cannot do on our own”. But it is not the grace is the power. Grace is the attribute that God has that makes him want to do those incredible, gracious acts and helps.

The apostle Paul, in many of his letters, says the phrase “grace be unto you” or a similar phrase. It means, open your mind and heart to understand how much love God has for you and how much He wants to help, and open yourself to receive that help.
So, the next question is, how do we receive the the gifts that God offers us because of his amazing grace; the above sorts of help that are so AMAZINGLY helpful in this life and that God the Father and the Son offer us because they are full of grace?
Just as grace is an attribute, so we should seek and pray to be able to develop not only graciousness, but also other divine attributes in our own lives that will, by their nature, strengthen our ability to recognize and receive the divine help that the Father and the Son graciously offer us.
The following are things that the scriptures teach will help us to be able to recognize and receive their gracious help..
  • Faith in God and seeing the gospel as more than just a bunch of commandments to obey Romans 4 and 5
  • Respecting the God's grace as it plays out in the life of your spouse 1 Peter 3:7
  • Developing charity and hospitality, ministering to others and treating them with as your equals, and working with God 1 Peter 4:8-11
  • Believing in Christ and being reconciled with God 2 Nephi 22-24
  • Recognizing our weaknesses and seeking His grace in order to be able do good works Jacob 4:6-10
  • Never persecuting others, always treating others as equals, avoiding pride and haughtiness, esteeming your neighbor as yourself an laboring for your own economic support (unless you are physically unable or otherwise prevented) Mosiah 27:3-5
  • Never using the blessings that come to you or others by grace in order to entice others to do or excuse wickedness Jude1:4-5
  • Acting towards others with grace (“grace for grace”) Helaman 12:23-24
  • Knowing our weaknesses and humbling ourselves before the Lord Ether 12:27
  • Coming unto Christ, denying yourself all ungodliness, loving God with all your might, mind and strength Moroni 10:32
  • Teaching truth diligently (not carelessly) Doctrine and Covenants 88:78
  • Following the personal divine direction we receive Doctrine and Covenants 17

So, in a nutshell:
Grace is a divine attribute of God the Father and Jesus Christ. It is their kindly disposition towards us, and their desire to help and welcome us.
Because their power to help and bless is divine, that loving help that they give us because they are full of grace, which help includes salvation, is manifested in AMAZING ways. (Which is why grace is often called “amazing”) I mean really, what could be more amazing than the blessings and helps on that first list?
The divine help that can come to us because of God's grace is something we can choose to receive at any time on our path through life (unless we are so very horrible that we hate the idea of it) and it is a gift that will help us become far, far, far better than we could ever become by ourselves and do far more good than we could ever do by ourselves and understand far more than we could ever understand by ourselves.
There are divine attributes and gospel principles that, if we incorporate them into our lives, help us to recognize and choose to receive that divine, gracious help. Because that gracious help is a gift, we should never assume that we must earn it. The key is not to earn it, it is to turn our hearts and lives towards Him so that we can recognize and receive it.
Thanks for asking the question. I learned quite a bit.