Thursday, November 4, 2010

Moroni - Chapter 10

31And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.
One of the great functions of The Book of Mormon is to awaken us and to set us enthusiastically on the course of righteousness.  Doing this we become different creatures.  Have you ever noticed the STPs in your Ward?
STP stands for Same Ten People.  These are the ones who show up early and stay late.  They are always there to serve and do whatever is asked of them.  They do their duty.  Odds are, they have read The Book of Mormon and have sought the confirmation of it's truth that Moroni admonishes in this chapter.  They are strengthening the stakes of Zion and are enlarging her borders.  You will also notice that they are not confounded in their pursuit of Zion.  Unlike those at the Tower of Babel, whose pursuit was selfish, these have faith, hope and charity.  They have experienced The Book of Mormon.  They didn't just read it, they applied the Atoning Blood of Christ and while far from perfect have come to know the One in whom they put their trust.  This most recent journey through the very best of all books has left me with that desire.  Maybe, you and I can make it the Same Thirteen People, or Twenty People or Thirty, or Thousand.  Maybe Zion will fully come when in each Ward STP stands for the Same Thousand People!

I loved going through The Book of Mormon with you.  I have a lot on my plate right now.  So I'm going to take a break on this particular project so I can focus on some other pressing demands.  I will not stop reading The Book of Mormon though, I hope you'll continue also.  I suspect I may resume on 1 January 2011, so check back then.  If you follow me at Live and Learn, I'll make an announcement there as well.  In the mean time:
32Yea, come 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.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Moroni - Chapter 9

"Because of their willfulness...."  This chapter is all about what happens when we seek life on our own terms.  Surely, at some point it became obvious that they were in the process of destroying themselves, not their enemies.  Yet so determined were they to have things their way, they wound up with no way at all.

Our world is not there yet, but it is evident that we are headed in that direction.  There become more and more of the willful among us.  The only fix for this is for us, individually, to choose humility over pride.  We may be early enough in the cycle of destruction that inevitably follows pride wherever it goes, that we will have the blessed opportunity to be humbled by affliction; but maybe not.  Wouldn't it be better if we willingly submitted our wills to that of the Father now, rather than later?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Moroni - Chapter 8

When our first daughter was born we were best friends with a couple next door.  They were Catholic.  They had expressed concern that we had not had her baptized.  When the baby was three weeks old they suggested we have a night out together while they babysat.  It sounded good to us.  We went out and had a great time relaxing.  Upon our arrival home we sensed some tension in the air.  We asked if anything was wrong and our friends guiltily confessed that they had sneaked our daughter down to the Priest and had her christened.  They were sure we'd be angry and were quite surprised that our reaction was one of love and understanding.

Certain that if our daughter died before baptism, she'd be going to Hell, and loving her almost as much as we do, they could bear taking the risk.  We thought that was such a kind, loving gesture.  We were also sad that though we had explained the beauty of the truth that little children are alive in Christ, this fine young couple had been so indoctrinated by such a horrifyingly false teaching that they feared for her eternal life.  How, corrupt and manipulative that false doctrine is.  How many parents have gone to the grave supposing their sweet children are lost for ever?  What a bitter pill to swallow.  What a joy, to know God is no respecter of persons.  That he would never condemn a child who through no fault of her own died without baptism.  Gratefully, the same is true of all those who never had opportunity for baptism, which constitutes the vast majority of those who've come to earth.  What hideous doctrine would that be.  It certainly would have to be called The Plan of Damnation, were it true, for the vast majority would certainly be lost.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Moroni - Chapter 7

It hadn't occurred to me before that there were at least a few who, like Mormon and Moroni, remained faithful, even until the destruction of the Nephites.  This chapter makes it appear that there were.  Then I realized that in the first Chapter of Moroni, he tells us that the Lamanites put to death all who will not deny the Christ.  Again, there must have been some, or saying that would have been irrelevant.  In light of this, Mormon's speech, as found in this chapter, would have been such a comfort to the gathered faithful.  Imagine how beleaguered they must have been in such an unsettled time.  Imagine how weary of war and evil.  And yet Mormon speaks of none of that, instead he tells them how they can lay hold on "every good thing."

Collectively, ours is not such a bad time.  Individually, though, some of us may be having struggles that are just as difficult and fearful.  In the face of such difficulty, perhaps we need to remember to lay hold upon every good thing and hope that through faith we might have miracles of our own to comfort, assure and sustain us.  Clearly, for Mormon, the mortal outcome, though tragic, was not nearly to serious as the Eternal one.  One of the key phrases that stood out in Mormon's words, for me, was this:

19Wherefore, beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be child of Christ.
Could we do that today?  Could we search for appropriate candidates to vote for "in the light of Christ?"  Could we search for ways to raise our children, do our shopping, help our neighbors,  or solve a million other problems "in the light of Christ?"  Of course we can and what amazing things we'll discover in that marvelous light.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Moroni - Chapter 6

4And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost...
All my life I have been taught, and have thought that I was cleansed by the water of baptism.  This verse seems to indicate otherwise.  Here it seems that we are cleansed by the Holy Ghost after baptism.  In light of our discussion about the Sacrament for the past two days, this makes more sense to me.  We don't improve, grow or even approach goodness without the companionship of the Spirit.  Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve put it this way:
"If you have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost during this day, or even this evening, you may take it as evidence that the Atonement is working in your life.  For that reason would do well to put yourself in places and in tasks that invite the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  Feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost... cleanses us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ."  (Eyring, "Gifts of the Spirit for Hard Times," 4)
...relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.
How long and often I have relied upon my own merits, rather than those of Christ.  It is obvious that self reliance failed me.  I was 55 years old before I made this realization.  I had read this verse on repeated occasions over the years and still was trying to rely upon myself and my own power.  I can't imagine how I missed it.  As I was emerging from the bondage of addiction I read a book called He Did Deliver Me From Bondage by Colleen Harrison.  The book examined the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous in the light of The Book of Mormon.  I skipped the chapter on the Second Step:  Come to believe Jesus Christ can restore you to complete spiritual health.  I already believed that.  Later, when the 12 Steps seemed to have failed me, I went back and read that chapter.  In it Colleen described how she had, when reading the AA Big Book, skipped the chapter on step two as well.  It is entitled, to the agnostic.  I read both chapters and came to admit that I was indeed an agnostic.  I did not believe that the merits of Christ could save me.  I had been, therefore, attempting to save myself, having accepted no other recourse.  In fact there is no other recourse than to accept His merciful Atonement.  There is no other way.  He is the way!

Now quite often when I mention this to other members of the Church, I get resistance.  They take my claim to reliance upon the merits and mercy of Christ to mean that I no longer have to keep the commandments or serve in the church.  This is nonsense.  I still try with all my heart to keep His commandments because I love Him.  I know that the better I do that the happier I'll be; the more like Him I'll be.  I just understand that no matter how well I keep the commandments, it is not that effort that saves me.  Only Christ can do that.  Which takes me back to the first quote from verse four.  Keeping the commandments more perfectly involves the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  He will tell me all things that I should do.  Those, most personal and specific commandments, given of a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis are part of the process by which the Spirit works upon us and cleanses us.  The better I do that the more progress I make to emulating my Savior. I couldn't even begin such a process without the influence and meaning, the depth and scope, of His atoning sacrifice.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Moroni - Chapter 5

I grew up in the Church, thinking God expected me to be perfect.  I would go to Sacrament Meeting every week and examine myself for perfection.  If I considered myself not perfect I would refrain from partaking.  Now, my idea of perfection was pretty shallow.  Perfection meant not swearing, drinking coffee tea or alcohol, and not using tobacco.  Perfection meant paying a full tithe and keeping the Sabbath day holy.  And it mean not telling lies and not having sex out of wedlock.  That was about it.  Even that narrow view of perfection living kept me from partaking of the emblems of the Atonement many a Sunday.

How did it go right over my head that the very fact that the Sacrament was presented to me on a weekly basis for my entirely life meant that I would need to renew my Baptismal covenant for, yes, my entire life.  The Sacrament is the strongest indicator of all that we are not perfect and that we are not expected to attain perfection in our lifetimes.  It is also a prime indicator that we will not attain to perfection on our own.  We require the companionship of the Holy Ghost to gain access to the Atonement and only through continued repentance and repeated renewal of our covenants is that accomplished.

So, who is worthy to partake of the Sacrament?  I believe it is he who desires to keep the commandments, but fails and needs a way, through repentance, to carry on and continue to try.  The person who is unworthy to partake, is he who would have God rescind the commandments so he can live as he pleases.  He and those who've, by church action, have been denied the privilege.