Monday, November 15, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
You may have read this heading and said, “Now, hold on. What does knowing God’s nature have to do with our salvation?” The answer to your question is, “Everything.” Jesus Christ defined eternal life―salvation―just before He suffered in Gethsemane and on Calvary: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3. God has promised eternal life to the faithful. That is, He has promised to reveal them His nature, His attributes, His character, His face, and even Himself. If we don’t know who He is, we will never live forever in His presence. And ultimately, we will never know him until He parts the veil that separates Him from us, shows us His face, and speaks with us as one friend speaks to another.
And God, to a modern prophet, revealed how we can know Him: “This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law.” D&C 132:24. So by receiving God’s law, we will know Him.
How will we know Him? You’ve heard the saying, or something similar, “If you want to know a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” By keeping the Law, we walk in God’s footsteps, we walk in His shoes. That’s because each commandment is an expression of Divine Nature:
And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature [those who disobey the Law], or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; . . .
Alma 41:10-11. Therefore, those who live contrary to the Law live contrary to God’s nature. So God’s nature is the Law. Thus, God doesn’t worship idols. He doesn’t use profanity. He honors the Sabbath day. God does not murder. Nor does He violate the laws of chastity. He doesn’t steal. He doesn’t lie. And He doesn’t covet. He obeys the law of sacrifice. He loves all His children. He is just. And He is merciful. He is Perfect.
And Jesus Christ demonstrated that it is God’s nature to obey the Law. Although He was tempted in all things, Jesus never violated the Law. Hebrews 4:15. He even kept the commandments that would not serve Him. The perfect example of this is Jesus’ decision to be baptized. Baptism is for the remission of sins, and those who are “whole need no physician.” Moroni 8:8. Yet even though He had no sins, the Whole submitted His will to the will of the Father to “fulfill all righteousness.” Matt. 3:15; 2 Ne. 31:5-6. Jesus was baptized because God had commanded that every accountable person must be baptized. That was enough for Him. He didn’t ask, “Why?” He didn’t say, “I don’t need baptism. I’m perfect.” Rather, He said, “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Matt. 3:15.
And Jesus’ righteousness both pleased God and revealed God’s nature to us. In all that He did, Jesus showed us the Father. John 14:9-12. If God the Father had been in Jerusalem and Galilee instead of Jesus Christ, nothing would have changed. He would have healed the sick, raised the dead, caused the lame to walk, given sight to the blind, rebuked sin, forgiven sinners, blessed the children, suffered for our sins, died, and been resurrected. He would have fulfilled all righteousness by observing and obeying the Law.
So if we want to know God―want to have eternal life―we need to obey the Law. All of it! Even the commandments that we don’t like and those we think will not serve us. It’s the only way to know Him.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Love is the perfect motivator. Not only does it dictate our ends, it also tempers our means. This was never more evident than it was with our Savior. His constant call was, "Come, follow me. I know the way to joy and peace. Do what I'm doing, and you'll get there." During life's battles, He was always on the front lines. And He never asked anyone to do anything He wasn't willing to do Himself.
And it was love that motivated Jesus' atoning sacrifice. Never had man or woman suffered, nor will man or woman ever suffer pain to the degree that Jesus suffered in Gethsamane and on Golgotha's cross. In an incomprehensible way, Jesus shrunk beneath the aggregate of mankind's sins, but glory be to the Father, Jesus partook of the bitter cup because He so loved the world and His Father, our Father, so loved the world.
How stunning to think that as the Roman soldiers scourged Jesus, spat on Jesus, mocked Jesus, and drove nails through Jesus' hands and feet, He suffered it "because of his loving kindness and his long suffering towards the children of men." 1 Nephi 19:9.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the greatest manifestation of God's love for us and the greatest gift of all the gifts we have received from God. We have received more gifts than we can number from God, and all of them are to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. Moses 1:39.
As hard as we may try, there is no way we will ever be able to repay our Father and Savior for their gifts to us. But what do they ask of us to say thank you? They ask us to keep the commandments. Mosiah 2:22.
"If ye love me, keep my commandments," Jesus pleaded. John 14:15. Additionally, Jesus summed all the commandments into the two Great Commandments: Love God and Love Your Neighbor. Matthew 22:37-40. Thus, to love is a commandment.
Like it or not, love and the commandments are inseparable.
And it is precisely because God loves us that He has given us commandments, some of which may seem excessively restrictive. But consider this: If there were no commandments, there would be no sin, and if there were no sin, there would be no condemnation. Without condemnation, there would be no need for a Savior.
Jesus didn't have to go through the agony of Gethsemane or the horrors of Golgotha. The easy way, the painless way, would've been to withhold the law, commandments which God knew we would break anyway.
As evidenced by God's willingness to give us commandments that we would not always follow and His willingness to send His Son to satisfy the demands of the broken commandments, there is more to the commandments that the restriction of our "freedom."
Commandments are an invitation to become like Christ and our Heavenly Father. They possess a fullness of joy. They know true happiness. And obedience to each commandment tempers our characters and natures until we become like Them, "purified as [they] are pure." Moroni 7:48; 1 John 3:3.
What we do not recognize when we sin is that by so doing, we are acting in a manner contrary to the nature of God and contrary to the nature of happiness. Alma 41:11.
With each commandment, God is pleading with us to be happy!
Additionally illustrative of God's love is His treatment of the sinner. Regardless of our religious denomination, we often receive the counsel to hate the sin but love the sinner. And Jesus showed us how in John 8:1-11:
While at the temple, the Pharisees brought before Him a woman caught in adultery, only murder and denying the Holy Ghost are worse sins. See Alma 39:5. "The law says," they quoted, "such shall be stoned. What sayest thou?"
Jesus, paying little attention to them said, "Let he among you his without sin cast the first stone at her."
Convicted by their consciences, the mob dispersed, and Jesus was alone with the sinner.
"Has no man condemned thee?" Jesus asked.
"No man, Lord."
"Neither do I condemn thee; Go and sin no more."
The time for final judgement was not yet, and there was still hope for this woman, a daughter of God, caught in sin's snare. But her hope and future happiness hinged on sinning no more, for if she continued in sin, Jesus would have no choice but to condemn her on the day of judgment.
But I suspect Christ's love for her in not condemning her while unequivocally condemning her sin wrought so powerfully upon her that she went and sinned no more. And she began living in accord with the nature of happiness.
In the Americas, after Jesus' ascension and resurrection, He commanded the leaders of His Church to forbid the unworthy from participating in the ordinances of the Gospel, but instructed them, "ye shall not cast [the unworthy] out from among you, but ye shall minister unto [them] and shall pray for [them] unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that [they] repent and [are] baptized in my name, then shall ye receive [them], and shall minister unto [them the ordinances of my Gospel]." 3 Nephi 18:30.
When we recognize that the commandments are a manifestation of God's love for us and are calculated to bring us joy, it becomes much easier to obey. And it becomes easier for us to follow the example of Jesus as we deal with those who are caught in sin.
Sunday, August 08, 2010
Sunday, August 01, 2010
Eventually, every spirit that is in the Spirit World, whether righteous or wicked, will be reunited with its physical body, never more to be separated by death. The resurrection is a free gift made possible through Jesus Christ, and even the most wicked people who ever lived will be resurrected. We’ll talk about why everyone will be resurrected a little later on, but what we need to remember today is that the resurrection is a manifestation of God’s love for us and His desire to bless all of His children.
But even though all will be resurrected, not everyone will receive the same reward. After we are resurrected, we will all stand before the throne of God to be judged (2 Nephi 2:15–22; Helaman 14:17–18). As is common among many religions, there are many Latter-day Saints who feel that God is looking for any excuse to thrust them to Hell. But the opposite is true. Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want to give us everything They possibly can for our final rewards. J. Reuben Clark, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and member of the First Presidency said:
I believe that [God’s] juridical concept of his dealings with his children could be expressed in this way: I believe that in his justice and mercy, he will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that he can give, and in the reverse, I believe that he will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose.
(Quoted by Thomas S. Monson, "Mercy—The Divine Gift," Ensign, May 1995).
Christ will judge us according to what we did with the light and knowledge that we have received and according to the desires of our hearts. Ultimately, He will either reward us with an inheritance in one of three degrees of glory or damn us to an eternity in Outer Darkness (Hell).
The Degrees of Glory and Outer Darkness
The three degrees of glory are The Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, or the Telestial Kingdom. (Consider 1 Corinthians 15:40–41; 2 Corinthians 2:12). And all of them are Heaven, the glory and beauty of each excelling that of the Earth. Outer Darkness is not a degree of glory and is reserved only for the most wicked.
The knowledge of these kingdoms was restored in our day to the prophet Joseph Smith. In 1832, while studying and clarifying certain passages of the Bible, Joseph and his companions read John 5:29. The power of the Holy Ghost descended upon them, and a vision opened before Joseph and his scribe, Sidney Rigdon. The other men in the room did not see the vision but felt the power of God filling the room. Occasionally, Joseph would say, "What do I see?" and then he would describe what he was seeing. Sidney would then reply, "I see it, too." Occasionally, Sidney would say, "What do I see?" and then he would describe what he was seeing. Joseph would then reply, "I see it, too."
After the vision closed, Joseph and Sidney wrote down the vision as best they could, and we have it today as section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
The Celestial Kingdom (D&C 76:50–70).
The Celestial Kingdom is the highest degree of glory and the habitation of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. All those who attain this kingdom receive all that Heavenly Father promised He would give us. If we are worthy of the Celestial Kingdom, we will become like our Heavenly Father: perfect, possessing a fullness of joy. And by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, our families during our lives on Earth will be with us eternally; husbands, wives, and children will be united forever!
Those who attain this Kingdom will also experience eternal progression. That is, they will have no end as they participate in the salvation of souls for all eternity.
To attain this Kingdom, we must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, have faith in Him, repent of
our sins, be baptized by one having the proper authority of the Priesthood, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and keep the commandments so that Jesus Christ can save us from our sins (see Alma 42:13; Helaman 5:11). Mercifully, those who did not receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ while living on the Earth but who would have received it with all their hearts had they had the opportunity will also be saved in the Celestial Kingdom. For this purpose, Latter-day Saints build temples and perform ordinances for those who have passed away who did not receive the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
And all those who were not accountable for their actions—children who died before they reached the age of accountability and those who are like children—will also receive a place in the Celestial Kingdom (Mosiah 3:16). But because they were never accountable for their sins, they do not need to receive the ordinance of baptism (Moroni 8:10–12).
Terrestrial Kingdom (D&C 76:71–80)
The Terrestrial Kingdom is the second highest Kingdom of Heaven. Those who attain this Kingdom will not live in the presence of Heavenly Father, but Jesus Christ and other who attain the Celestial Kingdom will administer to them throughout eternity. This glory of this Kingdom differs from the glory of the Celestial Kingdom as the glory of the moon differs from the glory of the sun.
Those who attain this Kingdom are the just men and women of the Earth who would not receive the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because all religions contain Truth, all those who lived according to the Truth they received will not be thrust down to Hell. Thus, men and women who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will not suffer eternal damnation. Rather, they will rejoice with their Savior through all eternity if they live according to their religions while upon the Earth.
The Telestial Kingdom (D&C 76:81–86)
The lowest Kingdom of Heaven is the Telestial Kingdom. Those who attain this Kingdom will be blessed with the visitation of the Holy Ghost. The glory of this Kingdom differs from the glory of the Terrestrial Kingdom as glory of the stars differs from the glory of the moon. This Kingdom’s beauty, although the lowest Kingdom of Heaven, far exceeds the beauty of the Earth. It is a place of rest and peace.
This Kingdom, unlike the Celestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms, is reserved for those who must pay for their own sins because they would not let Jesus pay for them. These are robbers, murderers, thieves, rapists, kidnappers, and all the wicked men and women who lived upon the face of the Earth. Because of their wickedness, they are thrust to Hell (Outer Darkness) prior to being resurrected. While in Hell, they must suffer even as Jesus suffered (D&C 19:4–20). But after their debt is paid, they will be resurrected and will inherit salvation in the Telestial Kingdom.
Outer Darkness/Hell (D&C 76:30–49)
Outer Darkness is the Mormon term for Hell. The torment of those in Hell is "as a lake of fire and brimstone whose flames are unquenchable, and whose smoke ascendeth up forever and ever. . . ." (Mosiah 3:27). These are they who are cut off from the presence of God. But not all those who go to Hell will remain there forever. Once their debt is paid, they will be released.
But there are those whose debt can never be repaid. These are the devil and his angels and the sons of perdition. To become a son of perdition, a man must first be exceptionally good then turn against Christ "[h]aving denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame" (D&C 76:35). Although there may be more, the scriptures identify only two sons of perdition: Cain and Judas Iscariot.
But even though their debt cannot be repaid, even the sons of perdition will be resurrected. Thus, is the mercy of our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Our life on Earth ends, of course, with death. Sooner or later each of us must let our tabernacle of clay return to the dust. But death is not the end of our existence, just the end of mortality. Our spirits, everything except our physical bodies, will live on in a place of waiting called the Spirit World.
In the Spirit World, the dead await the resurrection, which is possible through Jesus Christ. There are two divisions in the Spirit World: Paradise and Outer Darkness, also called Spirit Prison or Hell. When we die, we will be judged according to what we did with the light and knowledge which we received on the Earth. If we were righteous, we will go to Paradise (Alma 40:11–12). If we were not, we will go to Spirit Prison (1 Peter 3:19). These assignments are temporary and last only until our bodies and spirits reunite in the resurrection. Further, these divisions have more to do with our relationship with God than they do with geographical locations. Everyone who lived a righteous life, even if they did not receive the fullness of the Gospel, are entitled to some portion of God’s Spirit. Those who lived a wicked life are not and will be cut off from His presence. The separation from God’s presence, as we’ll discuss at length later, is truly Hell.
What few recognize, though, is that the Spirit World is really an extension of mortality. Those there have the opportunity to be taught, to exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to repent, to be baptized, to receive the remission of their sins, to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and to receive Temple Ordinances and Covenants. But even though they can learn of Jesus Christ, exercise faith in Him, and repent in the Spirit World, they cannot receive the Ordinances and Covenants of the Gospel without help.
The Ordinances and Covenants of the Gospel pertain solely to mortality. We cannot receive them unless we have physical bodies. For example, we can’t be baptized without being immersed in water. And that creates a problem for the billions of people who lived on Earth who never had the opportunity to receive the fullness of the Gospel. But God is just and will not punish someone simply because she was born in a place where the fullness of the Gospel was not available. So God allows members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to receive the Covenants and Ordinances of the Gospel for them vicariously in Holy Temples. Members research names of the dead and submit them to Temples. Then they receive the Covenants and Ordinances of the Gospel in their place. The dead then have the choice of whether or not to accept the work that has been done for them.
Lest you wonder how the dead can receive Covenants and Ordinances vicariously, remember that Jesus Christ suffered for our sins vicariously. So if Jesus Christ can suffer in our place, there is no reason to doubt that we can receive Covenants and Ordinances in the place of those who have died.
After everyone in the Spirit World has the opportunity to accept or reject the fullness of the Gospel, everyone will be resurrected. That is, our spirits and our physical bodies will be united, never again to be separated.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
[C]ome unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
Jesus is both the way and the means to eternal joy!
And Jesus often uses others to help us become happy. For example, He used Alma the younger to help Corianton, Alma's youngest son. While serving as a missionary with his father and older brother, Corianton visited a prostitute named Isabel. (Alma 39:1-3). His actions were not only self-destructive but became the excuse for many to disbelieve the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Alma 39:11). Alma sat Corianton down and unequivocally denounced Corianton's sexual promiscuity as an abomination. (Alma 39:5). And for four chapters Alma reproves and counsels his son about eternal justice and the mercy that comes only through Christ. (See Alma 39-42). Finally, Alma said,
O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility.
And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them. And may God grant unto you even according to my words.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Thankfully, we don’t have to face the difficulty of life alone. To help us return home to Him, Heavenly Father has called prophets, apostles, and even His Son to teach us what we must do to live with Him some day. They have taught us that Jesus Christ has fulfilled the mission He was sent to do on the Earth. He has paid for our sins, but our ability to receive the benefit of His sacrifice depends on whether we do all He has asked us to do.
And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; . . . [And He said to Enoch:] Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood; . . .
But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?
(Moses 7: 28-37).
It is not God's will that motivates the horrors that mankind afflicts on each other.
How could God judge us if He didn't allow us to act? We would all be spotless because He never allowed us to sin. And if He sent us to Hell, it would be unjust because we never did anything wrong.
But I don't think we recognize the gift that God has given us in our agency. None of us like being forced to do something. And that is exactly what He will not do. He loves us enough to let us do what we will. Yet He longs for us to choose Him, to love Him, to serve Him, and that mean loving and serving our fellow man.
That is what life is about: learning to choose God.
My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; . . .
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
(D&C 121:7-8; 122:5-8).
Life is hard. And even harder is that usually the only way through a trial is through it! But there is good in our suffering. And I have learned that during and after a trial I am closer to God than before.
I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.
I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.
(Quoted in James E. Faust, "The Refiner’s Fire," Ensign, May 1979, 53).
The price of knowing God is to pass through the trials of life. But know that God is with us. There are unseen forces helping us. And They will continue to help us, if we let them.
Sunday, July 04, 2010
God's Plan for us began before He created the world. We are our God’s spirit sons and daughters and lived with Him before we came to Earth. He is our Heavenly Father. And more than anything else, our He wants us to come home to Him
While we lived with our Heavenly Father, life was similar to what we experience here: We had friendships; we learned; we progressed, and, although we cannot remember, we developed a very personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. In fact, Ezra Taft Benson, a Prophet and Apostle of Jesus Christ, said, "Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar His face is to us" (Ensign, Dec. 1988).
Our proximity to our Heavenly Father also taught us that we were not like Him. He possessed a perfect, immortal, physical body (D&C 130:22), but we were spirits. He had a fulness of joy and glory that we did not. And He was perfect in every way, unlike us.
But as our children have the capacity to become like us, Heavenly Father knew that we had the capacity to become like Him: perfect. (Consider Psalm 82:1,6; Matthew 5:48; Romans 8: 16–17; Doctrine and Covenants 84:36–38). And He wanted us to receive the fulness of joy that He had. So Father called a council and outlined His Plan, the Plan of Salvation, through which we could become like Him. We would come to Earth for a body and to be given agency—the power to choose (see 2 Nephi 2:27; Helaman 14:30)—whereby we would be tested if we would choose to follow God (see Abraham 3:24-26).
The power to choose for ourselves was central to this Plan. We could not become like God at once. We would need to learn from our choices to be obedient (Hebrews 5:8). Only by obeying could we progress until we became who our Father knew we could be. Without agency, no growth or progress would be possible.
Heavenly Father also told us of obstacles that would impede our progress. Although He would create a paradisiacal Earth free of sickness, suffering, sin, and death, He taught that its first inhabitants would be given a choice to either remain in paradise or pass through mortality, and if they chose mortality, mankind would be lost unless He sent a Savior, "[His] Beloved and Chosen from the beginning" (Moses 4:2), Jehovah, who would be known in the flesh as Jesus Christ. Furthermore, because we would have the power to choose, at times we would choose to sin. Our sins would also cut us off forever from the presence of our Heavenly Father. And without Jesus, we had no hope to overcome them.
Our Heavenly Father’s Plan hinged on the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ which would overcome death and sin. Father testified that "there [would] be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation [could] come unto [us], only in and through the name of Christ, . . ." (see Mosiah 3:17).
Heavenly Father gave each of us the choice to accept His plan for us. And to accept the Plan of Salvation required faith in our Father’s promises and in the ability of Jehovah, Jesus Christ, to effect the Atonement.
Lucifer, one of our spirit brothers who was in authority among the hosts of heaven (D&C 76:25), offered a variation to the Plan: He would take away our agency to prevent us from sinning so that none of us would be cut off. But he wasn’t interested in helping us to progress until we became like God with a fulness of joy. In fact, the only one he cared about was himself (see Moses 4:1-3). Lucifer’s plan enticed some to follow him even though it would not allow us to become like our Heavenly Father.
And war erupted, polarizing the hosts of heaven (Revelation 12:7-12).
The war that ensued wasn’t fought with sword and shield but with words. And even though Heavenly Father had gathered us together in the Great Pre-mortal Council to present the Plan of Salvation, I do not believe that it was first time that we had heard it; nor do I believe that it was a surprise that He presented His Firstborn, Jehovah, to be our Savior. I am certain that there were those among us who were already exercising great faith in Jesus Christ and who took every opportunity to learn the exalting doctrines of the Plan of Salvation, among whom were you and I. And when we heard Lucifer attack God’s plan and His Anointed, we stood and testified that Jehovah would do the Father’s will as He had promised. We were victorious, and Revelation 12:10-11 teaches that "[we] overcame [Lucifer and his legions] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of [our] testimony [of the Atonement of Jesus Christ]. . . ."
Many feel that those who chose to follow Lucifer did so because they doubted their ability to follow the Plan to become like our Heavenly Father. Certainly, Lucifer must have cited our weakness to discourage us, but I do not believe that it was his most potent weapon. We need to remember that without the Atonement, the "corruption [of mortality brought on by the future fall] could not put on incorruption . . . [and our] flesh must [lie] down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more. . . . And we [would] become devils, . . . to be shut out from the presence of our God, . . . in misery, . . ." (2 Nephi 9:7-9).
If the Savior failed, all would be lost, and Lucifer did everything he could to destroy faith in Jesus Christ. Ultimately, those who had faith in Christ followed God’s Plan, and those who did not were cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14:12; Revelation 12:7-10).
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Jesus Is the Father Because He Has Submitted Himself Completely to the Will of Heavenly Father and They Are of One Heart and Mind
Throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, He constantly submitted His will to the will of His Father: "I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent me;" (John 6:38); "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me;" (John 5:30); "When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him." (John 8:28-29).
In that sense Jesus did not come to improve God’s view of man nearly so much as He came to improve man’s view of God and to plead with them to love their Heavenly Father as He has always and will always love them. The plan of God, the power of God, the holiness of God, yes, even the anger and the judgment of God they had occasion to understand. But the love of God, the profound depth of His devotion to His children, they still did not fully know—until Christ came.
So feeding the hungry, healing the sick, rebuking hypocrisy, pleading for faith—this was Christ showing us the way of the Father, He who is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, long-suffering and full of goodness.” In His life and especially in His death, Christ was declaring, “This is God’s compassion I am showing you, as well as that of my own.” In the perfect Son’s manifestation of the perfect Father’s care, in Their mutual suffering and shared sorrow for the sins and heartaches of the rest of us, we see ultimate meaning in the declaration: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
Therefore, Jesus is the Father because His will has been swallowed up in the will of the Father. They possess the same attributes and characteristics perfectly. And the only real difference between Them is that They are separate personages.
Through Jesus Christ's Atoning Sacrifice, He Is the Father of All Those Who Repent and Receive Him
Jesus' transcendent Atonement not only united His will perfectly with the will of the Father, it also made Him the Father of all those who believe. Jesus taught, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3).
No child can be born without a father.
And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.
And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.
While all men and women are spirit sons and daughters of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ is the spiritual Father only of those who are born again. And unless Christ becomes our Father, we cannot be saved. We must literally take upon ourselves the name of Christ as His spiritually begotten sons and daughters.
Jesus Christ Is the Literal Son of God
Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. Mary was his earthly mother, but Joseph the Carpenter was not his father. In some miraculous way yet unknown to us, a Virgin conceived and brought forth a Son. (Isaiah 7:14). After all, the angels had good reason to sing that first Christmas night. In a vision explaining his father’s dream of the tree of life, Nephi saw the "most beautiful and fair [of] all virgins" holding the Son of God. (1 Nephi 11:15-22). Instantly, Nephi recognized that the tree of life symbolized Christ and knew that the baby born in Bethlehem was the embodiment of God’s love for His children; "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Granted, there are few scriptures that teach of God’s physical appearance, but myriad teach of His character. We learn that He is powerful and created the heavens and the earth. Nature obeys Him. He is loving and happy. He is patient, compassionate, and longsuffering. God is just and merciful. He’s all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnipresent. He sees and knows the end from the beginning. He’s wise.
He’s our Heavenly Father. Romans 8:16
Sunday, June 13, 2010
You can know that there is a God. The Bible teaches that from the time of Adam and Eve, there has been a True and Living God who communes with the children of man, His children. And we learn that this God loved us so much that He sent His Only Begotten Son to save us from our sins. (John 3:16).
If we live according to these scriptures, we will know that there is a God, that He loves us, and that He speaks today!
And, as I said before, there is a way that we can test whether or not the scriptures truly teach the will of God. An ancient Book of Mormon prophet named Alma proposed an experiment to a group of people who wanted to know whether there is a God. He likened the word of God to a seed. And if the people had merely a desire to believe, they should plant that seed in their heart and nourish it. That is, they should begin living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If it was a good seed, it would begin to grow:
Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
And God will manifest Himself to you, but you have to plant the seed. You have to keep the commandments. It’s only after you’ve planted the seed and nourished it through obedience that it will begin to grow. But it will grow.
Sunday, June 06, 2010
Today, I continue to pray to God. And I frequently feel that He hears me and that He loves me. I feel it now as I write this to you.
And I testify that all of us can know that there is a God.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Because we come from such varying backgrounds, I’ll assume that you and I have no common beliefs (I’m sure we do, but we won’t know until we get going.). So let’s get going!
Before we begin our discussion about the Redemption and Resurrection made possible through Jesus Christ, there are a few things we need to talk about as prerequisites. Just as a building needs a solid foundation to stand, the doctrine of the Redemption and Resurrection cannot be understood fully unless we first lay a strong groundwork of foundational doctrine.
As I’ve thought about it, I recognized that there are five foundational doctrines underlying the doctrine of the Redemption and the Resurrection: (1) There is a God. (2) He has a plan for us. (3) He has established laws as part of his plan. (4) He has granted us our free will―what I’ll call agency. And (5) He covenants with those who accept Him as their God.
The house that I hope to build as I write will collapse if I don’t first sink these footings. For some of you, these discussions will be review, for others, introductory. But I hope that they’ll sink deep into your heart and that they’ll edify all of us.
Throughout our discussion, I’ll refer to various books and writings including, The Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, The Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, (the links will take you to a brief description of each book) and the teachings of men whom I accept as living Prophets and Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.
PREREQUISITE 1: THERE IS A GOD
God’s Physical Nature
Millions have debated the physical nature of God. Counsels have formed. Faithful have fought. And it seems that we’re farther than ever from reaching a consensus. This, despite one of the first passages in the Bible: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Gen. 1:27. So if we want to know what God looks like, we need only look in the mirror.
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to "ask of God," concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.
Joseph Smith-History 1:12-13.
But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
Joseph Smith-History 1:15-17.
His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, . . .
D&C 110:2-3. But Joseph was not the only Prophet who was permitted to see Jesus. Daniel of the Old Testament also saw him:
His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.
Daniel 10:5-6. So did John the Revelator:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: . . .
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; . . .”
So to really know God’s physical nature, all we need to do is read the Scriptures. He has revealed it and restored our knowledge of it many times. Because we know the Jesus is in the express likeness of the Father, we know what both of them look like. And one day, all of us will stand before God, and we will see His face and, hopefully, feel His arms clasp us in His loving embrace.