Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Obedience brings what?

So what do the scriptures say are, in reality, the anticipated results of obedience to the commandments of God?

It’s interesting how catchy sentences are so easy to remember.  But there is one problem with catchy phrases in the gospel.  They can oversimplify things.  

I have been thinking about this sentence that was put together by a young missionary several years ago.  So I went to the scriptures to find out what the scriptures really say can be the blessings that come from obedience.

Of course, none of us are perfect in obeying commandments of God, but happily, He does not require perfection before we start seeing some of the results. He freely gives to his children who are trying to do good.  And I think you are. 

Here are a few things I found:

Obedience is sometimes referred to as being “faithful and diligent”. (Doctrine and Covenants 59:3)

Obedience (being faithful and diligent) to God’s commandments helps us
to know whether or not the commandments are from God (John 7:17)
to abide in Jesus’ love (John 15:10)
to love our brothers and sisters with true charity (1st Peter 1:22)
to become worthy to enter heaven (Matthew 7:21)
to be unshakeable in times of trouble (Mathew 7:24-25)
to be prepared for celestial glory (Doctrine and Covenants 88)
to experience "blessedness" (the happiness that comes to those who find their purpose and fulfillment in God. (Luke 11:28)
to receive the good things of the earth, good harvest, blessings from above, and more commandments and revelations (Doctrine and Covenants 59:3-4)

That’s an interesting list of specific blessings to consider.

So, being obedient, if it’s done wisely, doesn’t necessarily result in you getting what you want, or being “successful” in your current work.  Instead, it can result in some different distinct blessings that are pretty amazing.

Something to consider: As we look at that list, do we recognize some of those blessings and results unfolding in our lives as we are faithful and diligent? Or are we so focused on other blessings that we want, and that we think we can “earn” with obedience, that we miss the blessings that he so freely gives?

They are amazing.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Where the couplet "Obedience brings success; exact obedience brings miracles" came from

According to Tanner Skousen, the phrase in question was spoken at an MTC talk given by Wendy Watson Nelson (not Elder) in May of 2011.

Elder Nelson’s use of the same phrase shows up in a talk there four months later and then again in an MTC talk given in 2013.

But it seems that the phrase did not originate with them.

Sister Nelson used it a second time in a Boulder Colorado Stake Fireside on Feb. 3, 2013. 

According to an article written about that talk Sister Nelson said that the phrase came out of a conversation between a mission president and a missionary. And it was the young missionary who coined the couplet.

So why is this couplet still being bandied about in regards to the gospel?

I think this is another case of a catchy phrase being picked up because it’s catchy and arresting and then getting out of hand.

Moral of the story: think very carefully before you use a catchy phrase in a talk.

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.