Tuesday, November 29, 2016

3 Nephi 20:8

John chapter 4 is the chapter were Jesus tells the woman at the well
Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again:
But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.

John, chapter 6 is the chapter where Jesus tells his followers
He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him.
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live forever.

And those statements in chapter 6 sounded so unusual that many people thought he was just too weird, and 
From that time on, many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him.…

So what is this never being thirsty or this receiving enough sustenance to be able to live by eating and drinking him?

3 Nephi 20:8
And he said unto them: He that eateth of this bread [he had just administered bread and wine to them in sacramental form] eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.

I think that the message is this:

That it is the spiritual hunger of the soul that He fills and satisfies.

That the living of the laws he taught may make your life better and your sense of accomplishment increase.  They may cause you to do more good in the world and be more dedicated to good causes.  They may help keep you out of trouble and make you more energized and help you feel more enlightened and on track.  They may keep you busily occupied all your life long.

But that living those laws. though extremely worthy and important and good, will not eliminate spiritual hunger.  Only when we make Him part of ourselves, taking into our very souls who and what he is and what he taught, do our souls cease their sense of insufficency and, instead, begin to feel brim-full.

Or, as he said later, at the passover supper:

I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect (complete and whole) in one.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Doctrine and Covenants 105. After slogging your way to Missouri.

Today our Sunday school class spent some time in Doctrine and Covenants 105.  It was recorded in 1834, after the Zion's Camp group had trudged the long, difficult journey to Missouri and, in spite of their efforts, were completely unable to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the problem of bigotry and violent expulsion of people from Jackson County.

Before He lays out the instructions as to how they should proceed (stay a while and see if you can help, but do not resort to violence) the Lord explains why their efforts to effectuate political redress or righteous action on the part of governing officials have not been successful.

I was struck by how it may well apply to us today as well and perhaps even why some do not see how they may have contributed to where we find ourselves now, or the fallout in the near future.

"They [members of the church in general] have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;

"And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;

"And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law if the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.

"And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience [to celestial law], if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer....

"Behold [they say that God] will deliver [the poor and the afflicted] in time if trouble, [so] we will not go up into Zion, and will keep our moneys.

"Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine leaders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion, that they themselves may be prepared, and that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly their duty, and the things which I require at their hands."

Larry Barkdull has an interesting article on what "the law of the celestial kingdom" means HERE.  In a nutshell it is love of God and fellow men, a belief that all things belong to God and that we are stewards thereof, a willingness to create unity by esteeming others as ourselves, exercising agency wisely, setting aside selfishness and seeking equality according to wants, needs and family situations, being accountable to God for the responsibilities to which he has entrusted us, exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of our sins, embracing the teachings of Jesus, seeking to end poverty in our communities, and the use of priesthood power to bless and assist those who are physically or mentally or emotionally ill or in need.  (The last one is what they were counseled specifically as a first step to while they spent the last bit of time in Missouri).

So, as my country heads into a political situation where my people, including many of those who profess to know Christ, find themselves faced with (and in many cases actually having voted for) newly appointed or elected politicians who apparently do not listen and are not interested in listening to or responding to the afflictions of people who are victims of violence and bigotry ( in the 1834 situation, one of them was my great, great grandmother, along with her parents and siblings, and another was Lewis's great, great grandfather, with his wife and their two little children--now it is others), I see parallels.

Though there are many, many leaders and members of my faith who do understand what living a celestial law means, I think that by and large there are far, far too many of us who "have not learned to be obedient to the things which [He has] required" of us, that many of us harden our hearts to imparting of our substance to the poor and afflicted as becometh saints. And we are certainly not united in a Celestial manner, but are constantly having to be reminded over the pulpit to stop judging or resenting each other and be more charitably inclined and to step up our wise use of priesthood power to bless and help others, and consecrate our lives more fully to a celestial law level.  And so, it seems we are in for some chastening, learning things the hard way "by the things which we suffer".

I hope we believers,  learn quickly as we are "taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly [our] duty, and the things which [God] require[s] at [our] hands".  If I were a church leader, having figuratively slogged my way to Missouri with my very human cohorts, and feeling the intransigence of those members who refused to leave their comfort zone and help, I certainly would feel my patience being tried as I "wait for a season...that [I] may be prepared".  I suspect that many of them do.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Alabastar box of very precious ointment Matthew 26:7-8

Thriftiness is often good.  It's even emotionally satisfying.  There's something very gratifying about having made do with less, or creating something good with little financial outlay, or finding a great deal, or wearing a piece of clothing you like and that you found for a song at a second hand shop.  But it is not always what is best.  Sometimes spending more is worthwhile.  Which thing I had not thought about much

"Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon, the leper, There came unto Him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on His head, as He was eating {at food {meat}}. But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, He said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? For she hath wrought a good work upon MeFor ye have the poor always with you; but Me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on My body, she did it for My burial. Verily I say unto you, Wherever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."

This verse has often given me pause, because I recognize myself  in the disciples' response.  This time through I looked at the situation more closely.

The scenario:

Jesus knows he will be betrayed and crucified.  His disciples have been told, but they desperately hope it is not true, except for one who has decided to act treacherously anyway.  He is living with what he knows is imminent and, rather than seeking reassurance or empathy or emotional support from others, he spends that time giving of himself; washing feet, offering the first sacrament, teaching what they will need to know to be able to carry on without him.  They see him as their teacher and Savior. They are in the student and follower mode.  They are receiver mode.  They see what he does for them and respect and love him for it, they try to be good stewards, but they do not minister to him in return.

But she does.  

She does not do so thriftily, counting the cost and trying to spend as little as possible, but she kindly and abundantly gives as she ministers to him.

Amidst all of the difficult anticipation of what was coming and the giving of himself that he was doing in spite of that, what a solace that gift of ministry may well have been to him.

What I learn:  That thrift is a good practice, but it is not always the best virtue. It is not an independent measure of our rightness. We must also be freely willing to give and spend according to and beyond what is thrifty when it is good to do so.  "Good measure, pressed downshaken together and running over" is the way Christ describes some of the giving from our Father in Heaven.  (Luke 6:38)  We must learn to feel free to do that kind of giving as well when it is needed and we have the means.

The disciples' response is indignation.  "To what purpose is this waste?  For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor." 

Thrift is good.  Giving to the poor is good.  But they are not to be used as an excuse for scrimping on ministering when it is needed here and now and I am not to judge or find fault with others who feel called to spend abundantly as they minister.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Plans for the future

“My plans for the future are to serve more and better, to worry less about the things that are unimportant, to let my wife and children know how much I love them, to openly support whatever I can see is good, to appreciate and to encourage everyone in the best way possible, and, in short, to do more of what makes life meaningful.” 
― Norris B. FinlaysonTree Farm Days

Friday, November 11, 2016

When light-hearted laughter actually makes things worse.

Our branch builders here are, as far as I can tell, really good about treating the culture here with respect. I am grateful for that.

 A recent day spent with some people from away reminded me how much I do not like conversations or even brief comments that discuss things in a culture that are different from mine and that involve laughter, even if it is just cheerful laughter due to surprise.  I REALLY, REALLY  don’t like those.  They create separation between “us” and “them”.  They reduce comprehension to differences in the outward appearance instead of appreciation for the values and ingenuity or good principles that are behind them.  They alienate people from that culture who overhear you.  I think I not only don’t like those kinds of conversation, I despise them.  They are destructive in subtle ways that are not seen, but are potent.

I understand that they are often an  unconscious and spontaneous response and that those who respond that way generally have no clue about the effect that they have and usually would consider themselves people of goodwill, but I still really, really don't like those laughing conversations and comments.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Election results (pun intended)

I have long believed that, in the scriptures, "the elect" refers to people who have been taught light and truth; who have been blessed to hear it and have, at least in form, declared that they embrace it.   I know and deeply love so many of them.

This morning I woke up with these phrases from Jesus' words and Isaiah's warnings ringing through my mind:  "even the very elect shall be deceived" and "woe unto those who call good evil and evil good, who put darkness for light and light for darkness".  I will be studying these passages.

I believe that this is happening now in ways that far too many of "the elect", are tragically blind to. I believe that Jesus understood that it would happen, many, many times in the centuries that would follow, and knowing that he knew, I will turn to his counsel as I navigate this time.

I mourn, but I do not abandon hope in Christ.  I will continue to stand firm in what he has taught, continue to be a voice for it, support those who comprehend it, and pray to be able to ever fight against hate, fear, disdain, dismissiveness or pride that may threaten to invade my own heart and mind as I do so.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

And whosoever: Anger, Raca and Fool, Matthew 5

I woke up this morning thinking about the state of discourse in my own country, both in the realm of politics and in the realm of religious and social dialogue, with these verses ultimately ringing through my head:

But I say to you, That whoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment: and whoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: and whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

“Raca.—As far as the dictionary sense of the word goes, it is the same as that of the “vain fellows” of Judges 9:4, Jdg_11:3; Proverbs 12:11; but all words of abuse depend for their full force on popular association, and raca, like words of kindred meaning among ourselves, was in common use as expressing not anger only but insolent contempt. The temper condemned is that in which anger has so far gained the mastery that we no longer recognize a ‘brother’ in the man who has offended us, but look on him with malignant scorn.” -- Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905)

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has ought against you Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.;

“Because men are very apt to fall into rash anger, and to express their anger by contemptuous speeches and abusive names, fancying that there is no sin in these things, or but little, and that the compensation may easily be made for them by acts of devotion, Jesus declares that atonement is not to be made for these offenses by any offerings, how costly soever, and therefore prescribes immediate repentance and reparation as the only remedies of them. He insisted particularly on reparation, assuring us that, unless it be made, God will not accept the worship of such offenders, being infinitely better pleased with repentance than with sacrifices, or external worship of any kind, how specious soever those duties may appear in the eye of vulgar understandings. Vain, therefore, is their presumption, who fancy they can make amends for yet more gross acts of injustice, by acts of devotion.” —  Rev James MacKnight DD (1721-1800)

Have we, as individuals,  indulged in the sin of dismissive speech and scorn?  Are we, as a nation, involved in this sin that Jesus so fully condemns?  Absolutely: in the realm of politics, in the realm of civil discourse, in the realm of social and moral discussion and debate, in our media and in our conversations in our homes, with our neighbors, in our workplaces, in our schools and even, heaven help us, in our Sunday School classes.  And so we must honestly answer the question; in what ways have we also embraced and excused this sin in ourselves, for we cannot escape being lulled into complacent acceptance of hell-worthy thinking and speaking when we are so fully immersed in it in our society.  We easily recognize it in the people with whose ideas we fully disagree.  But we excuse it in ourselves.

Some versions of the Bible add the phrase “without a cause” to this injunction against being scornful or dismissive of another.  However, the  earliest extant manuscripts of these verses do not include this phrase, neither does the version (JST) I often refer to.  (See also 3 Ne. 12)  Perhaps they were added to manuscripts  later as a thoughtful individual contemplated the very human response of righteous indignation.  But in its earliest form of these verses  Jesus condemns scorn for, or the angry dismissing as foolishness of, the ideas and actions of others, period, no excuses.   It is a call to each of us, me, you, all of us, to  repentance of even our own most self-justified sins of scorn and self-righteous dismissiveness of others with whom we disagree.

Only when we are able to make those changes in ourselves, speaking and thinking of others with whom we passionately disagree with human dignity regardless of how completely or thoroughly we disagree with them, and regardless of whether or not they make those changes in themselves, will we have any logical hope to be able to move towards iterations of  the various lasting changes in our society that we each, variously,  so desperately want and then make them last.