Monday, July 17, 2017

Just the Messenger

As an Elder I give a lot of blessings.   It seems to be something people come to me frequently for, several times a month at least, and on some occasions several times a day and sometimes back-to-back within my family.  It is one of my favorite and most cherished experiences and opportunities in mortality. 

One of the first things I came to realize as an Elder was that during giving blessings though is: you don't get to pick what to say.

And then on top of that, on some rare occasions, the Lord sends you out as a messenger to deliver messages via blessings that aren't what people want to hear or even expect.....

Then you find yourself in a position of displeasing the Lord by not giving it, or displeasing the person getting the blessing.

But if I can draw on the experience of the young rich man who asked Christ what he must do to inherit eternal life, the answer he was given - a blessing of counsel - was not an answer that he wanted.  He went away sorrowing. 

On one occasions I was told by the recipient of a blessing I gave that I wasn't correct, and she later told me that the stake president said I was wrong (she said, he said). This shook my faith in my priesthood so badly, and incidentally the church and the gospel, that I declined to give blessings for several years afterwards.

The woman they were given to it turns out was in serious transgression however, precisely as the blessing had said, and as it had warned her - but I didn't know this even though the priesthood blessing had said so.  Meanwhile I got told I was to blame and was exercising unrighteous dominion, but I was horrified to think I had done something wrong and no longer trusted myself or my priesthood or even the gospel for years! 

But fortunately this is not the majority of blessings.

In the end I've learned a few things about priesthood blessings:

Be worthy to give them.
Give them with faith and courage and care.
Leave the interpretation to the listeners / recipient.
Realize that they come from the Lord, and trust him to work them out.

I've learned that some blessings are given to help people grow into maturity.

I've also learned some people are not prepared to receive them even when they get them.

I've also learned that the Lord loves his children, even when he gives them difficult blessings.  Sometimes he leaves the sick unhealed, he calls other's home from mortality - both children and adults - jobs are lost, relationships end, we are called to repentance and told there are things we need to do better.

There have also been times I wasn't prepared to receive a blessing. 

I've heard people say that their patriarchal blessings are off and weren't accurate at all.  I can't speak to others' blessings.  I know mine is read regularly and frequently, completely at least once a month, always taken to the temple and read there when I'm there, and referenced every week as I try to live up to it.  And I know the counsel it gives is so true and such a comfort to my life. It is my most prized blessing.  It is because I use it and grow into it and I bring to pass the things that are in it - and it was true and conditional upon my faithfulness to begin with.  Were it not true, no effort on my part could make it true so clearly it was true. 

Ultimately, we are human having spiritual experiences meaning there's a lot of imperfection down here and we are just trying to do our best, both on the giving and the receiving end. 

But not all blessings are going to be "sunshine and lollipops" - some are going to foretell thing we may be very uncomfortable with and need to prepare for.  I have one in particular on my mission from my first mission companion that made me very very sad and that was very very painful, but that has come true on so many levels.  I have often remarked that of all the priesthood blessings I've been given, that one sadly seems to have been the most accurate. 

In the end, receiving blessings, like all aspects of our lives takes faith, courage, and a bit of introspection.  We need to understand the nature of our lives, of our mortal existence, as well as the nature of blessings in order to truly utilize them and receive them - but also to give them.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Covenant of Prosperity, A Covenant of Destruction

It is lamented today how the American Indian was destroyed by the westward expansion of the United States.

However, we know from the Book of Mormon that this was the covenant of the Lord, upon both the Nephites and upon the Lamanites.

Yet the covenant of the Book of Mormon upon the Nephites and Lamanites was actually carried over from the book of Deuteronomy:

7 For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;

8 A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey;

9 A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.

10 When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.
 ...19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.

20 As the nations which the Lord destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God(Deuteronomy 8).

Well.....the Nephites were destroyed. 

And the Lamanites were all but destroyed on the North American continent. 

The Israelites were occupied by the Romans. 

The Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis....with one Jew lamenting that Adolph Hitler was sadly the only who kept any of his promises to the Jews - to eradicate them.

And the Latter Day Saints had an extermination order against them to where they had to flee the actual country of the United States in order to survive....

The point being, one that the Lord hasn't forgotten his ancient covenants and warnings. 

But additionally, the covenants of the Fathers were carried forth in the Book of Mormon that any Jew who knows the scriptures could see the covenants of the Lord in them and be converted. 

For these purposes did Moroni and Mormon and Nephi and the rest of them write as they said: 

...Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations... (Book of Mormon, Title Page). 

As Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament, and the Savior of the New Testament, and the subject of Another Testament of Jesus Christ, he Book of Mormon truly is a powerful witness to the truth of the first testaments: 

40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved. (1 Nephi 13) 

The covenants of the Lord are, have, and will be fulfilled. 

Just a musing as I read the scriptures today.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Mormon Humor and Comedy Troupe: Studio C

I *LOVE*Studio C - the Mormon Comedy Troupe on BYU TV - formerly known as Divine Comedy.

Clean, original, creative, slaptstick, unique, fun - funny!   And a bit silly - but in today's world of satirical and inappropriate humor....this is so needed. Thanks Studio C for your work.

For instance this one:

And this one.....

And of course as a mental health counselor I love this one:

And their most popular video ever:

And this inspirational piece which makes fun of where I am from basically with the health food culture:

Anyways, I love Studio C, it's how I unwind from counseling and switch gears to family life after working in criminal mental health.

Just thought I'd share. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Thou Shalt Not Marry A Non-Member

In the Old Testament we read of some pretty heavy penalties for marrying outside the faith.

Namely death at some points.  For example in Numbers we read:

1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.

2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.

3 And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.

4 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.

5 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor.

6 And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

7 And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;

8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. (Numbers 25). 

Obviously they weren't being put to death simply for marrying outside the faith.

As was discussed in a previous entry, these were a people who had walked across dry ground on the Red Sea, they and their children, and had been delivered out of a nation that held them as slaves with a show of force and power that had never been seen before, been fed bread from heaven, seen a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day on the Ark of the Covenant, as well as witnessed the initial sacrifice at the dedication of their temple consumed by fire from heaven.

And marriage back then carried more obligations with it than it does today, and would often include worshiping the gods of your wife's family as a part of your allegiance to them in return for receiving their daughters.

The marriage covenant is where Father's children are given bodies and raised in his gospel so they can return to him to be like him.

And instead, these people are very much fulfilling a satanic rebellion right in the sight of God with the end goal to raise up seed to false Gods as was threatened by Lucifer in the Garden of Eden

In the wrangling of the ancient day for power and pride, doubtless there were discussions and plans to overthrow Israel by such covenants and trample on the God of Israel who had made Himself manifest so plainly and as we know....God will not be mocked. 

Are things different now in regards to marrying outside the faith? 

Yes and no.

The penalty for marrying outside the faith is no longer death as the people today generally haven't seen such blessings and stood in the presence of God such that they are so accountable before him nor can they rebel with such a covenant as these people did and were doing.

But the loss of blessings is very much the same for raising your children and marrying outside the covenant.

And that carries a heavy and weighty responsibility....

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ten Commandments of Mercy and Peace

Many have criticized the Ten Commandments because the very first commandment is that you don't get to pick your own god.

But they are missing a few things in their criticisms.

The very first thing the Lord says in the first commandment is that it was he who delivered them from their masters in Egypt - i.e. "I helped you escape and you're no longer slaves because of me."

6 I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me. (Deuteronomy 5). 

If something brings you out with such signs and wonders, even parting the ocean so you can walk on dry ground and then buries an army behind you so you can be safe, why would you want another God?   Seems like a good thing. 

He did something they couldn't ever do or even repay.  And all he asks is that they remember him and know that he's the one who did it?  

Seems fair to me.  Sensible even.  Why not? 

And then critics will take aim at the second commandment not to make statues of beasts etc. to worship.  It's not very openminded and we have statues all over the place today! What's the harm? (Um, also look around at the issues our society has today we got all sorts of things wrong today).

But again they miss that these people weren't delivered by golden calves or stone heads, there's no wisdom there and no life eternally or otherwise, and these people even ended up worshipping a golden calf while Moses was up speaking to the Lord and descended into an orgiastic frenzy in his absence.

Graven images were apparently a grave temptation for them that led to all sorts of spiritual destruction and eventually the bondage like they had in Egypt. Nowadays our gods have taken on more of an electronic or mechanical form, but still the commandment remains. 

Again, the second commandment is one of protection and keeps people focused on the God who gave them life. 

The third commandment to not take the Lord's name in vain - vanity - pride - priestcrafts - also protected against returning to the idolatry of Egypt, complete with human sacrifices. 

Yet another commandment of  mercy. 

The fourth is to remember our creation.  A weekly birthday of sorts.  The creation of the world and all we could not do in creating us but that the Lord did, and a day of rest.  

Yet another commandment of mercy. 

And the remaining commandments all have to do with how we treat our fellow man, creating a society of felicity and peace: honoring your parents, not murdering, not stealing, not adulterating, not lying, not coveting....all leading to peace one with another.

Such conduct was never had among any of the kingdoms the Israelites overthrew or ever were delivered from.   Such a peaceful society was never had. 

Even the sacrifices of the law were only to be animals to turn their minds and hearts to be aware of the only human sacrifice to ever be commanded of God and that He Himself would perform. 

The God of the Old Testament wasn't vengeful, as was pointed out in an earlier post.  He was working to keep them from being led away right back to where and what they had just come from with human sacrifice and slavery and magic by people who had stood in his presence and seen his miracles like never before. 

Anyways, just musing about the Ten Commandments as I read my scriptures today.

Monday, June 19, 2017

It Is Better That One Man Should Perish...

As I've read the Old Testament, I've wondered why the Lord dealt so...harshly....with so many.

Gathering sticks on the Sabbath?


Marrying outside of Israel?


Not giving an offering right in the temple?


Demanding the priesthood?

Eaten by bears.  Swallowed up in an earthquake.  (death).

So, I went a searching through the scriptures to find out the reasons why God seemed so much more harsh back then.

A few things are different then from us now.

One, these people were directly blessed by the God Jehovah and there was no denying it.  From the mannah from heaven, to walking across the Red Sea, to the consumption of the sacrifices on the altar in the tabernacle, to the pillar of fire and cloud on the Ark of the Covenant....these people were living directly in the presence of God and had witnesses beyond anything most of us have seen today and there was no doubt their God and their Prophet were what and who they said they were.

All this in mind, these people who did these things were in open rebellion right in the sight of the Lord and in front of an entire nation the Lord was trying to save and deliver.

What would happen if they were permitted to persist in rebellion right in front of everyone this way?

Well...they would have set themselves above the God of Israel, and would destroy the faith not just of the people there, but of the trillions of descendants who came and are yet to come through the house of Israel. 

Nephi and Lehi would never have happened as a nation would have self-destructed in faithlesness well before them because of open rebellion.

Nephi said it best when he wrote what the spirit said to him: 
12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;

13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief. (1 Nephi 4). 

Well...I do know this.  The Lord would rather people keep his commandments and inherit eternal life.  But if you're going to engage in a rebellion that's basically on the scale of Lucifer in the pre-mortal war, and do it down here in the midst of a nation that walks in the presence of God and knows He is, or you can't figure it out after all that...well, I might summarize Nephi's words: maybe you need to be eliminated. 

Because while the Lord encourages us to leave the ninety-and-nine to find the one, if one will destroy the ninety-and-nine, the Lord can't very well justify keeping the one around.  He would be a poor steward to leave them around to set up and destroy others with such light, especially given what havoc it would wreak over millenia.

But as death is but a transition from mortal to immortal, the necessity and mercifulness of ending life to save other lives...? From spiritual death?....absolutely. 

And yet there's a bit of a spiritual parallel there alongside the atonement with the guilty dead, whose blood was shed, so that others might live and not suffer what they were going to if they could not be redeemed

Just musing.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Womanly Influence in the Restorations

We tend to think of the current dispensation to be the restoration.  But in fact, there have been seven (major) restorations, or dispensations. 

Joseph Smith

I think we tend to think of the priesthood, naturally, leading these dispensations - perhaps exclusively.   But I've found at least two places where women played a role in establishing the laws of the restoration in which they lived. 

The first that I've read of was the daughters of Zelophehad realized that their father's inheritance had no sons to pass their father's lands on to.  (Numbers 27).  But they inquired of the prophet asking for land to live on that they might keep his inheritance, and he came back and reported that the Lord said they were correct.  They were to be given their inheritance as if they were sons, and the laws of inheritances of lands among family members in the patriarchal order - an entire tenet of the Law of Moses - was given because of their inquiry.

The second that comes to mind is Emma Smith's complaint to her husband, the prophet, about the men spitting tobacco on the floor of the places they were gathered together, and the subsequent revelation that became Doctrine and Covenants section 89, now a major part of Mormonism known as the Word of Wisdom.

I think we'd be overlooking Eve in her choice to bring about the fall of man, and then persuading her husband, the prophet, who decided to fall that men might be, as another womanly influence (none of us would even be here without those events). 

At any rate.  Given the amount of records that have been kept during the dispensations, the records we have are very scant, but I just found it interesting that without woman's influence and inquiry in the gospel, there is much we wouldn't have - and some we couldn't have - were it not for their influence.  Were it not for women none of us would even be alive.