Sunday, October 05, 2014

Familiarity, Wonderment, The Temple, and Christmas

As this session of conference was starting the video switched to a shot over the the edge of the roof of the Salt Lake Tabernacle and pointing toward the temple.  I had a brief hazy memory come over me of what it was like the first time or two that I saw Temple Square.  Having seen it for years only on video it was a wonder to actually be there.  Now I know my way around and I have context of where it is in the city and the state, I find it becoming common place, which breaks my heart a little.  I know my way around temple square, for the most part, and I am a lot more familiar with the city.  While familiarity has made it feel like home to me has this familiarity taken away more than the superficial mystery?

I have wondered the same thing in the temple.  I remember a little of the feelings I had the first time I went and those feelings hung on as I was not able to get to the temple very often due to distance.  Now I find the experience familiar.

We went to the Ogden temple for the first time since it was rededicated.  Even though I was lost trying to find my way around, I found the experience somewhat routine.

I need to find a way to recapture that feeling of wonderment while still having it be home.

I guess it could be compared to Christmas as a child and Christmas as an adult.

Pondering on this made me want to write down some thoughts on this.

In recent years I have thought about the more formal behaviors of generations past. Things like taking off a hat when you enter a building and standing when someone approaches to shake your hand or greet you.

I have thought much about if these are things of the past that put distance between people and are not necessary in a more enlightened age. But what if they are important things that a more prideful and self absorbed society has done away with?

Are their disadvantages to familiarity that makes us more casual? Is there too much casual in our society and not enough formal things of substance? If so which things have substance and which are idle traditions?

Casual Temple Behavior
In the temple I have notice casual behaviors of those around me as well as my own character. I find people talking above a whisper in the temple and people having casual conversations in the temple.

Sacred Historical Places
So to bring it back to the feelings I have had about Temple Square or even the temple itself, I still find myself having a reverence, but not an awe. Have I lost a bit of reverence in becoming familiar? Is there any level of reverence that can recapture the wonder of the unfamiliar?

Familiar Relationship With Spouses
What about our relationship with our spouse. We start out dating and having a sense of mystery and reverence. Then we hold hands. Then we kiss. Then we are engaged and then married and then intimate. If we do not keep that reverence alive and let routine take over, then we forget that what we have (our marriage) is something special and that who we have is someone special.

But again, even though with that reverence things are more celestial, it is hard to recapture the wonder.

Perhaps it comes down to preparation. Perhaps if we constantly are keeping the Spirit with us and let Him show us the great things we have in our spouse, the temple, and places we visit, the wonder will return. Perhaps old fashioned things help us keep the Spirit with us and make us less prideful and more able to receive the wonder of things.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Do We Ever Feel Like Elijah

1 Kings 19:10
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

Elijah felt very alone.  Most people around him were behaving against the truth and telling him he was wrong to believe what he did.

We may not live in the extreme circumstances that Elijah did, but we can also have situations that make us feel alone.

When we are in populations where Church members are sparse we can feel that we constantly have to defend our faith or at the very least constantly explain it.  We may feel that no one really understands us.

When we are in area where Church members are more prevalent we can also feel alone.  We may have family far from us and they may have large families that live close by.  It can be hard to get close to other Church members as they already have close ties and don’t have the need to reach beyond their families.

In any of these situations we can get a glimpse of the despair Elijah might have felt.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Home Sick

My family and I recently went back to the Midwest, where we are from, to visit.  I was out there for a just over a couple of weeks and my family a bit longer.

I found myself recalling what it was like to be surrounded by people that are not LDS.  In many ways people there is not a common experience or a common understanding of things.  I remembered how much as a youth and young adult I had longed to have more members of the Church around me.

I would constantly have the same criticisms of the Church come up and got tired of constantly defend doctrines or try to get recognition that I did believe in Christ.  These were among friends, coworkers, and girls's I dated.  There was often a something they had been taught in their church or something they had read about the Church or my beliefs that we couldn't agree on.  One could say, just don't talk about that stuff together, but it is so much about who I am that it always there and in reality it always should be.

When I started high school I was the only LDS person in the school and all through high school generally the only LDS person in any of my classes.  As I got older and younger members of the Church entered high school we would often find each other at lunch.

When I entered the workforce I was generally always the only LDS person where I worked.  Once when I moved to a bigger city I worked with another LDS person.  There were certain things we understood about each other before even talking much.

When we moved to Utah it wasn't exactly how I thought it would be, since there were many more inactive members of the Church or people who we not members of the Church than I had imagined.  Even members of the Church had quirks I did not enjoy.

After going home I realized even though there are a lot of members who are not active or have left the Church and there are still some nonmembers, I didn't feel like I was the one on the outside.  There were enough members that when something needed to be explained there was generally someone else who understood to help me explain, even among members who were not attending church.  I didn't feel compelled to have to justify my beliefs.

Even though there are quirks among the members in Utah, we still had a common center.  Although I still wish members would be on time and finalize plans for activities more than one day or several hours before the activity is to start, so that my family can plan our days.

I have never been home sick for the Midwest since living in Utah, but after a few days in the Midwest I was home sick for Utah.  Even just driving to the Midwest, on the way when we would stop it was different.

People at church here in Utah talk about what it is like in "the mission field" as if there is no missionary work to do here and there is some distance down I-80 that you get and you enter "the mission field".  I think that is a shortsighted saying, since Utah is below fifty percent active member as compared to people who are not members and members who are not active in the Church.  Nonetheless, there is a different feel, perhaps even a loneliness out there as our numbers become thinner out away from Utah and other parts of the West.

It kind of got me thinking about times that I am homesick for the gospel even though it is all around me in Utah.  I spend a lot of time at work and engaged in things that are not part of the gospel.  This is not by choice, but a necessity of life.  But, how many things to do we surround ourselves with voluntarily that make us home sick for the gospel and are there ways at work we could make ourselves less home sick for the gospel?

As much as I felt drained being alone away from members of the Church, I spend a lot of time making myself alone when I fill my day with only small amounts of the gospel and replace it with other things.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Arguments Against Praying About the Book of Mormon

I read a post by Matt Slick on his website arguing against praying to know if the Book of Mormon is true.  I have heard this argument before.

It is mind-boggling to me to see how many of the critics of the Church preach that people should not pray about the Book of Mormon.  How do they come to this conclusion?  Where has the Bible ever told us to not pray?

I will detail Matt Slick's points from his web site on the subject here and give my thoughts on his assessment.

Ask If Is Not True?  Ha Ha Ha.
He first attacks and sneers at Moroni 10:4
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

He states,
"It is not asking to see if these things ARE true.  So, when a Mormon prays about the Book Mormon to see if it is 'not' true and he receives a confirmation, then has it not been established that the book Mormon is not true?"

Is God some magic genie who, if you do not word your question just right, will give you something you didn't want?

A person can pray and ask whatever question they want in whatever way they want.  Both they and God know what they are asking and what He is answering.

Matt Slick is just using word games to ridicule the idea of praying about the Book of Mormon by trying to make it seem like the Mormons are trying to ask you to do something silly or ignorant.  This part of his post is aimed to shame someone for even considering praying about The Book of Mormon, does not present anything of substance or any proof to support his mocking.

The Bible Never Tells Us to Pray About Spiritual Truth?
He next proposes that the Bible never tells to pray to know truth.  

The first example I will cite is the Bible to show this is not true is a verse that Slick goes on later to disregard, James 1:5

5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

If you lack wisdom or do not know if something is true or false, then pray about it or in other words ask God.

Is it the word of God that teaches us to not pray?  What or who is it that teaches man to not pray?

Except Matthew 7:7-8 tells us to "Ask and it shall be given" and “For every one that asketh receiveth;”.

Why would one want to not go to God and instead go to a preacher or words on a page alone to tell them what is true?

Is It a Sin to Ask God When We Need to Know If Something Is True?
Matt Slick appears to be proposing that it is sin to do so and if you do ask God such a question the devil will answer you.

He says, “If God has told us to look at his word for truth (2 Tim. 3:16) and someone prays about the Book of Mormon in contradiction to that verse, then is he not violating the word of God?”

2 Timothy 3:16 says:
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

It does not say that you do not pray to understand scripture.  It also does not define what scripture is.  I am at a loss as to how one can conclude fromt hat verse that it is a violation of God’s commandments to pray to know if something is true.

Where does it say that God has included everything he said to man or everything he was ever going to say to man?  The Bible is a collection of books of God’s word to Israel and later just to Judah.  What about the other tribes of Israel?  They are the chosen people too.  Is it out of the realm of possibility that God spoke to them as well?  If he did would not that be scripture as well?

The Bible that we have now was whittled down from a much larger collection of potentially prophetic and apostolic writing.  Who authorized the whittling?  What gives man the right to tell God the boundaries of His word?

James tells us God gives us knowledge and does not scold us for asking.  Archaeology is finding many ancient writings.  Are we to count them out because they aren’t in the pages of our current canon of scripture?  One would hope that when the books of the Bible were being selected for inclusion in the canon that those making the call would’ve prayed and asked which books were true and should be included as scripture.

Men’s Own Agendas
While it is true that you can convince yourself you received any answer or even have your heart set on evil when you ask and get the wrong answer.  If you are just going through the motions of asking God when your mind and heart are already set, then you can be deceived.  Going through the motions is not really prayer though, is it?

James did say in James 4:3
3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

It appears that the people were praying for things with a lustful heart and to have things they shouldn’t have.

One who is sincerely wanting to know God’s will is trying to put God’s will before their own.  Wanting to know God’s will is not a sin.  Even if the thing you are asking about is not God’s will, He will tell you if you are sincere.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
In everything we are to prayer to God.  We thankfully and sincerely make our request and he keeps our hearts and minds with Him, thus he overcomes our deceitful hearts.

Matthew 21:22
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

No matter what you ask if you sincerely believe God and sincerely want His will, you will receive it.  If you do not know if something is of God or not, no matter what it is, if you are sincerely wanting to know if it is of God, he will tell you.

Reading the Scriptures to Know Truth
The basic Sunday school answers that the Church teaches over and over is that the way one receives revelation or answers is to study the scriptures and pray.  Every day.

It is true that sometimes scripture study leads us to pray and sometimes prayer leads us back to the word of God.  Sometimes it leads us back when we haven’t picked up the scriptures in a while.  Nonetheless, the two of them together are how we receive revelation from God.

Abusing James 1:5
Matt Slick concludes with dissecting James 1:5 and scolds the idea of Joseph Smith being inspired by it to pray to God for an answer to a very confusing question and a question that many have asked which I paraphrase, "Since so many Churches teach so many different things and interpret the doctrines in the Bible so many different ways, which is God's Church and what is His true doctrine?'

He has another post where he mentions praying about The Book of Mormon and how James 1:5 does not apply.  I will pull ideas from that post as well.

He starts the conclusion describing how James 1 is written to early Jewish believers and not to us.  He states, "The context is about gaining wisdom through difficult trials and the testing of one's faith, not about praying to see if a book is true."

Is not being confused about which church to join a trial?  Is not being presented with a book that is not the Bible that they say is scripture a trial?  What if you had been taught that the Bible is all of God’s word and you started to wonder about the lost 10 tribes that were not at Jerusalem?  What if you began to wonder if the lost ten tribes had been given direction from God that he commanded them to write as scripture and if something someone had given you was some of that scripture?  Would that not be a trial of what you had been taught?  Should you not ask God what is true and what His will is?

None of the books of the Bible say that he had forgotten the lost tribes.  There are verses in Deuteronomy and Revelation that caution against man adding to the books.  Do we disregard everything written after Deuteronomy as not scripture?  What about Revelation?  The Bible was compiled well after The Revelation of John was written.  Additionally, books of the Bible were written after John finished writing Revelation.  Even John himself wrote books of the Bible after he closed Revelation.  Of course, at the time none of those books, Revelation, or anything else were in the Bible that was created centuries later.

I wonder how much of the Bible Matt Slick would see as needing to be discarded as he does with James 1, since they were initially written to someone else.

Would we throw out the Revelation of John since it was written to the seven churches?  Would we throw out the Old Testament, since it was written to the pre-Christian Jews?  All of the epistles because they were written to specific churches at specific times?

Matt Slick tries to dismiss James 1:5 for people in our day by stating that it was written to people in the past.  People who were already Christians.  Thus, he proposes, it should not be applied to people seeking to become Christians or understand what a Christian is or what church God would have them join.

The fact of the matter is, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God..." is good counsel.  It does not matter who you are or where you are from or when you lived.

Never Did Any Passage of Scripture
Mr. Slick then picks about Joseph Smith's words.  He accuses Joseph of boasting because he said, "Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine."  Clearly being in the 1800s Joseph did not have knowledge of everyone on the planet at all times and in all places.  Neither do we have that knowledge, but we do use hyperbole in our language today to express what an intense experience we had, even if our words are not literal.

Again, ridicule is being used to attempt to make Joseph Smith look like liar, when evidence is severely lacking.

A Feeling in His Heart
He then talks about Joseph Smith having a feeling in his heart as "not based on scripture".  Luke 24:32 describes the heart testifying of truth as the Lord walked and talked with them.
 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

Matt Slick includes his testimony on his web site.  He talks about how he came to Christ, that he prayed to know truth.  He says, “So, I quickly addressed a prayer to God (not knowing if He was there) and said, ‘God, if you're there, then I'll try and be sincere and accept you. If you're not there, it won't cost me anything.’”

He did not say that he found all the answers he need to answer his question in the Bible.  He says he prayed.  If he read the Bible before hand, it did not answer his question as to if God was real.

He then talks in several places about his heart.  He says, “I tried to manifest a sincere and honest heart.”  Even though he says in his post about praying about the Book of Mormon that, “the Bible tells us that our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and that we are to be very cautious about trusting it -- which is why praying about truth and getting a feeling is so dangerous.”

How could he have presented a sincere and honest heart, since it is desperately wicked and deceitful?  Yes, it says he only tried to present a sincere and honest heart, but based on Mr. Slick’s reasoning with regard to praying about The Book of Mormon, it was not possible for him to present a sincere and honest heart, so there was a good chance he was deceived.

He also states in his testimony, “This person was making Himself known to me in my heart.  I somehow knew it was God.  It was the Holy Spirit.”

How could he trust his “desperately wicked and deceitful” heart?  How was he able to trust his heart, but those looking into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint should not pray to know truth and should not trust their hearts?

He says more, “He permeated my heart, mind, and soul.”  “ It was wonderful and I felt my heart enveloped and lifted by Him.”  “Then, while I was kneeling there, utterly absorbed and drifting in the experience of His presence, He moved. He moved toward me and gently entered my heart.”  “My heart was overflowing with excitement, love, hope, intensity, and great joy.”

How does he know that it was God?  It could’ve been his “deceitful” heart.

He scoffs that anyone could or should have a similar experience with The Book of Mormon or other aspects of the church. Because he has judged it to not be of God, no one should attempt to find out for themselves.

As I stated, he talked of trying to have a sincere heart when talking to God.  That is exactly what the scripture in The Book of Mormon is telling people to do.  Be sincere and ask.  James then confirms that God will not scold you, if you are sincere.  He will not be mad at you for asking, but he will tell you the truth.

Not Being Able to Figure Out Which Church From the Bible
Matt Slick reads evil into Joseph Smith consulting the Bible for James 1:5 and then not feeling he had a good answer from the Bible about which church to join.  Joseph Smith was 14 years old.  He relied on religious leaders to guide him in what the Bible was saying.  Since many churches interpreted the Bible so differently and many preachers in his town were preaching that other preachers and churches in the town were not Christian churches, because of how they interpreted the Bible, he determined to ask God directly.

Joseph read the Bible a lot.  He did find the answer to his question in the Bible.  He found the answer on how to know which church was true in James 1:5.  Be sincere and ask God.

As Mr. Slick points out, much of the Bible was written at a different time to a different people.  Because of this, how could it answer such a question, as to what church to join for a boy in the 1800s or even people today, other than to tell us to ask God?

Additional Resources
Jeff Lindsay had some interesting things to say on the topic of critics teaching people to not pray about The Book of Mormon in the following posts:

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Ye Are the Temple of God

I heard a guy on a Christian radio station talk about the scripture in first Corinthians stating "ye are the temple of God".

1 Corinthians 3:16-17
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

It sounded to me that he was using that as a reason that he thought temples were no longer necessary. It is similar to the thought some have that we no longer have prophets because the Lord gave the Holy Ghost.

If the temple building itself is not important then why was Christ so adamant about running the money changers out of it and calling it His Father's house?

John 2:13-16
13 ¶And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

Many teachings in the scriptures are done through referring to things that the people already knew. It did not mean that the thing they were teaching about replaced the thing they used as a symbol.

Without understanding how important and sacred the temple is, one cannot grasp what it means to be the temple of God.

One would not decorate the temple of God in a flashy way or in an immodest way.  One does not speak coarsely in the temple.  One treats the temple with reverence and respect.  If we do not have temples in our lives how do we know what our standard is for the temple of God and how to be like it?

If we just relate it to the temples of the Old Testament, we cannot understand what the temple meant to those people.  Consequently, we will have no idea how to relate it to ourselves.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Why Would Anyone Join the Mormon Church? by Brad V Base

I recently finished the book "Why Would Anyone Join the Mormon Church?"

The book had very good information for those wanting to explain doctrines of the Church to those that are not members of the Church.  Some of the conclusions the author made were not explained well enough for me to recommend the book to directly those who are not members of the Church.  I think that this is a very good resource for Church members wanting to gain scriptural resources as they try to talk to others about our beliefs.

I have often found that in my life when I have been confronted with criticisms of Church doctrines I have often gotten defensive and not opened a good dialog.  I was not prepared with scripture references and other authoritative resources to use as a point of reverent discussion.

Over the years I have taken many notes from the scriptures and read many books like "Why Would Anyone Join the Mormon Church?" to better understand how to articulate our beliefs and also to better show where those beliefs were taught by the Savior, the ancient Apostles, and other ancient Christians.

Behaving Like We Think A Bishop Should

The prophet receives God's will for the Church in general.  A stake president receives God's will for the stake he presides over.  A bishop receives God's will for the ward he presides over.  A father receives God's will for the home he presides over.

In this example I am going to use a bishop, since they are the Church authority closest to us and we likely have the most contact with.

Often members of the Church see their bishop or a bishop with all of the faults of a man.  They expect a higher standard of him because he is a bishop and is to receive revelation from God on how to lead the ward.

We aren't doing ourselves any favors by dwelling on his flaws, but it could productive to place ourselves up against the standard we have set in our minds for bishops. We are to receive revelations for our lives, which means that if there is a requirement for receiving revelation for a ward, then those standards likely apply to being able to receive revelation in our personal lives.

I think if we try to live up to the standard we have set for our bishop, we will likely appreciate and understand him more and will likely find ways to make ourselves closer to God.

Baptism Unto Repentance

Baptism Unto Repentance
Mosiah 26:22
  22 For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive.

Acts 19:1-6
 1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
  2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
  3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.
  4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
  5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
  6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

Except in extreme circumstances we are only baptized once, nonetheless we need to repent every day.  We are told frequently in the scriptures to repent and be baptized. Why are we not told to repent and be baptized and repent, since we are to repent more than just when we are baptized by water. I believe this is because repentance and baptism are always together, even though we are only baptized by water once.

Some want that experience of being baptized again to wash away their sins.  When we are baptized we are baptized by water.  Then we have had hands laid upon our heads and are instructed to receive the Holy Ghost.  Receiving the Holy Ghost is often referred to as a baptism of fire.

While water baptism generally happens only once, the baptism of fire or of the Holy Ghost is to happen daily as a matter of our daily repentance.

The call to “repent and be baptized” is a daily event.  We repent and then are baptized again by the Holy Ghost and the Holy Ghost works within us to testify of our repentance.  This process is the cleansing us of our sins through repentance and baptism of the Holy Ghost, to give us access to the atonement of Jesus Christ.

It is true that when one wants to be baptized they repent before hand and then they punctuate that repentance with a covenant and the ordinance of baptism.  We will likely sin after our baptism, so we also should repent daily and be baptized by the Holy Ghost daily and make our covenant again when we take the sacrament, thus becoming clean again.