Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cut to the Heart

"And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come."

-Doctrine and Covenants 93:24

The Book of Mormon tells of an ancient kingdom founded by a king named Zeniff. Zeniff loved the Lord, and in the strength of the Lord, he and his people were delivered from their enemies. Zeniff grew old and conferred his kingdom upon his son, Noah.
Noah did not love the Lord and was a wicked man. He visited prostitutes, had many wives without Divine authorization (see Polygamy), was a drunkard, set his heart upon riches, placed heavy taxes on his people, removed the righteous Priests from their offices and appointed wicked men in their stead, allowed his priests to teach lies and wickedness to his people, and led his people to commit sin. Mosiah 11:1-15.
In other words, things in Noah's city were a lot like things in our modern civilization.
But God, because He loves His children, even those who don't follow Him, sent a prophet, Abinadi, to call them to repentance. Abinadi warned Noah's people that they needed to return to the Lord or they would be brought into captivity. Mosiah 11:20-25. Instead of listening to Abinadi, they tried to kill him, but Abinadi escaped. Mosiah 11:26-29.
Two years later, Abinadi returned in disguise to tell them that because they did not repent, Noah's people would be brought into captivity. Mosiah 12:1-7. Noah's people tied Abinadi up and brought him before Noah and his wicked priests because, after all, they hadn't done anything wrong. Mosiah 12:9-17.
As Abinadi stood before Noah and his priests, Noah's priests sought to justify their sinful behavior. They claimed that they understood the scriptures and lived the law of Moses. And to prove their point, they cited Isaiah:

And it came to pass that one of them said unto him: What meaneth the words which are written, and which have been taught by our fathers, saying:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth;

Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion;

Break forth into joy; sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem;

The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God? Mosiah 12:20-24.

Noah's priests were just like we are today. When confronted with our wickedness, we take the scriptures, or in a secular sense the United States Constitution, and twist, contort, and wrest them until we believe they say something that they really don't to prove there's nothing wrong with what we're doing.
They seemed to be saying to Abinadi, "What are you doing preaching bondage and destruction? The scriptures tell us to publish peace because He's done His work. He's done His thing, so now we can do ours. We can do anything we want as long as we acknowledge He's the Lord. So there's nothing wrong with what we're doing."
Abinadi quickly corrected Noah's priests and taught them the true meaning of Isaiah's words. Isaiah was teaching about the peace that comes through Jesus Christ, His sacrifice, and taking His yoke upon us, that is keeping the commandments and serving others. He taught them that salvation brings peace and that salvation comes only in and through Jesus Christ.
He taught them that their wickedness would never bring them true peace.
Today, many religions tend to focus on "peace, love, and tolerance" without remembering the words of Jesus Himself:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 10:34-39.
The sword that Jesus sent throughout the earth is the sword of Truth. Truth cuts deeper and cleaner than anything else. It divides joints and marrow. Those who do not accept the Truth fight against those who do because they "take the Truth to be hard, for it cuts them to the center," even to their hearts. 1 Ne. 16:2; Mosiah 13:7. Even members of the same family have been and will be divided by the Truth.
Is it any wonder then that the priests of Noah fought against Abinadi? And like children they warned Abinadi to "take it back or else." But Abinadi answered, "I say unto you, I will not recall the words which I have spoken unto you concerning this people, for they are true." Mosiah 17:9.
So Noah and his priests burned Abinadi at the stake. Mosiah 17:13.
By the way, Noah was killed and his people were taken into bondage soon thereafter. See Mosiah 19.
Oh say, what is truth?
'Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce,
An priceless the value of truth will be when
The proud monarch's costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse.
Yes, say, what is truth?
'Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire.
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies,
Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies:
'Tis an aim for the noblest desire.
The sceptre may fall from the despot's grasp
When with winds of stern justice he copes.
But the pillar of truth will endure to the last,
And its firm-rooted bulwarks out stand the rude blast
And the wreck of the fell tyrant's hopes.
Then say, what is truth?
'Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o'er.
Tho the heavens depart and the earth's fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.
-"Oh Say, What Is Truth?" by John Jaques
Further Reading: Mosiah Chapters 9-22.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.
-Abraham Lincoln

After this world passes away and we have access to the Book of Life, we will see that those who wielded the most influence for good in the world were not kings or queens, presidents, magistrates, dictators, emperors, legislators, judges, lords, or ladies but Mothers. Sadly, our society downplays the importance of Motherhood. It has become ancillary to the pursuit of a career; children have become a waste of time and are left to daycare operators and schools to be raised, rather than being taught by loving Mothers.

On this day dedicated to Mothers, let’s remember the centrality of Mothers in God’s plan for us.

Within the Gospel, although the roles of each are different, the rights, powers, and responsibilities of Motherhood are equal to the rights, powers, and responsibilities of Priesthood. See The Family: A Proclamation to the World. I saw this first hand growing up. Mom and Dad worked together to bring my siblings and me to the Lord. Dad presided in our home, loved us, provided for us, and protected us while Mom nurtured us, loved us, and taught us.

Even though my parents had eleven children, Mom stayed home to take care of us while Dad worked long hours as the manager of a Church Welfare Farm. Dad made good money which would have allowed a smaller family to live quite comfortably.

But we weren’t a smaller family.
Most of my clothes were hand-me-downs except for the two shirts, one pair of pants, and one pair of shoes I got at the beginning of each school year and the random clothing I got for Christmas. And it was worse for my older siblings. Some years, they didn’t have enough for Christmas, and there were times when all they had to eat were potatoes.
The temptation for Mom to get a job must have been great. With the money she would’ve earned, she could’ve provided the luxuries of life for her children. But she never went to work, and I thank God every day that she didn’t because she gave me riches far greater than new clothes, fancy toys, cars, electronics, and the other wants of life.

You see, Mom gave me a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My earliest memories are of Mom telling me the stories of Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego and the Fiery Furnace, Nephi, and Jesus with the little children of Jerusalem and Bountiful. The seed of faith Mom planted within my heart took root, sprouted, grew, and has begun to bring forth fruit. It is a seed I hope to plant within my children.

When I got older, I often had trouble sleeping. Mom would stay up with me, and we would talk until I could finally sleep.
I knew Mom loved me by the way she treated me. And by loving me, Mom made me want to live the Gospel. When I disobeyed as a teenager, she didn’t need to scold me because I could see how deeply disappointed she was with my behavior. I don’t think she did it intentionally, but her feelings would bleed through to her face. And because I loved her, all I wanted to do was not to disappoint her.
And my mother was not the first woman to have a lasting influence on her son. For example, the Book of Mormon teaches of two thousand young men who left to fight a war in place of their fathers who had covenanted with the Lord they would not go to war. When faced with fighting a foe who greatly outnumbered them, even though they had never fought before, they remembered the words of their mothers, "that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. . . . [And they did] not doubt [their] mothers knew it." (Alma 56:47-48).
The young men fought several battles, and while many of their allies and enemies died, not one of the young men perished. (Alma 56:56; 57:25). All because their Mothers took the time to teach them Faith in God.
If more mothers would teach their children like these two thousand young men’s mothers, the number of casualties to sin would be significantly lower, and whole cities and societies could escape the destruction and plagues caused by immorality and crime.

My beloved wife, Misty, although her capacity, intellect, and ability far exceed my own, has elected to stay home with our children. Of the two of us, her job is far more difficult than mine. And considering my own capacity, intellect, and ability, I know I would fail miserably to teach and nurture our children in the ways of the Lord in the same way she does.
I love to watch her with our children and to listen to her love-filled voice as she speaks to them. And even though I get jealous, I love it that our children prefer Mommy over Daddy because I do too. Who can blame them for wanting to be with the most loving, beautiful, kind, and caring person there is?
God be thanked for Mothers everywhere who love their children more than money, careers, and prestige and who teach them to walk in the ways of the Lord!

And to all those Mothers, especially mine and the Mother of my children, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!