Friday, December 22, 2006

Jesus, The Miracle Worker

When contemplating the life and teachings of Jesus, there is no way to ignore the many miracles he performed – even if his death and resurrection are put aside. Each Sunday the Communion/Sacrament commemorates the glorious miracle of the Atonement in our faith. Perhaps because Jesus is already seen as the Savior not as much attention is paid to the miracles during his ministry. Yet, the gospel writers all included several illustrations of his power over Satan, Nature, and even Death long before his glorious act of salvation for the human race. They were included because the miracles demonstrated more than simple awe inspiring spiritual strength. Each of them pointed to his identity and mission.

His Reputation

Before the meaning of the miracles can be discussed, it is important to note that Jesus was perhaps best known as a miracle worker almost as much as a teacher. In fact, his first notable introduction as something special came during a family wedding party where he turned water into wine. His critics pointedly questioned when and to whom he did his miracles, without denying he did them. John, independent of the other Gospels, even implied that it was the miracle of raising Lazarus that angered the Jewish leadership enough to plot against his life. A contested reference to Jesus by Josephus includes the fact of his miracles even in a stripped down "non-Christianized" version:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Strength of Jesus

This is a post written April 15, 06 that I feel would be good to reprint during the Christmas season. It has to do with how we view Jesus compared to what the scriptures say about his character.

Many people picture Jesus Christ as sitting with lambs and doting over children. His message is filled with ideas about love and acceptance of strangers. These are not bad ideas and do represent the core of his teachings. Yet, there is part of Jesus that is often overlooked in today's "free love" and "politically correct" society. He was a tough guy who wasn't afraid to speak his mind or face danger.

Not much is known about his first thirty years. What is known is that he lived a hard life filled with much hard labor. The modern English says he was a carpenter. This means he would have worked with heavy materials without the help of mechanical tools. Some question the original Greek word used for the word "carpenter" and believe he was more like a general laborer. That still doesn't take away from the fact he would have lived a hard life. Physically he wouldn't be the thin waif often pictured in artwork through the centuries.

He could also be fearless and brash. Walking on water is used to express the idea of doing the impossible. Yet, an even greater miracle is the calming of the stormy sea during a fishing trip. The manly apostles worried that the ship was going to be swallowed up by the waves. Jesus, on the other hand, stood up to nature's rage. The waters and winds became calm and they were able to safely return to land.

Love might be his principle characteristic, but he could be mean when he felt justified. His mission was almost exclusively to the Jews, and he made that clear. One time he basically called the Gentiles "dogs" who were not worthy of his attention. A woman acknowledged the humble position of her Greek heritage in the scheme of Covenant history and begged mercy. Jesus took pity on the woman and healed one of her relatives from a distance. The lesson was to be tough, but be prepared to show compassion to those who are not offended by what you see as your mission in life. On the other hand, he showed no compassion for a small fig tree that didn't bear fruit. It was shrivled to nothing. Some, who see Jesus as simply a harmless kitten, believe this is uncharacteristic of Jesus and probably didn't happen. Yet, the lesson was clear. Israel of that generation as the fig tree was ready to be destroyed. Not a very nice and loving idea.

Among the strongest pictures of Jesus was his last days on Earth as a mortal. This was best portrayed in the movie "Passion of the Christ," even if it went beyond what it probably was like. Still, with even half of that as true it would have been nearly unbearable. He was tortured, mocked, and eventually nailed to a cross and hardly spoke. The two times he came off as "wimpy" was asking his Father for a different way and crying to his Father that he was abandoned. Yet, he let go of his doubts and finished the greatest sacrifice of time and eternity.
The sacrifice of the Atonment allowed Jesus the Christ to overcame Death and Hell; no tasks for the faint of heart. John's vision of the Heavely Jesus was hardly the feminine flower of a smiling man (Revelation 19:11-16):

11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

It might be hard to know what to do with such a picture in our day when peace, love, and acceptance are the only aspects of Jesus most people consider. What can be learned is that strength, courage, and boldness are as important as compassion and charity. At times they go hand in hand when faced with the cruelty and evil of the World around us. Lets remember the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ as a moment of strength and courage and not fear or weakness. Too often we act like our faith is more like a shrinking violet than a tall redwood.

The following are quotes of interest from comments made the last time this was published:

"You are so right. One reason why I have a hard time in RS, is because of what happened when I turned 18. One of my first RS lessons I went to in my homeward was this very discussion. I mentioned that meekness is not to be equated with weakness, and that he was a very strong individual, he just knew what battles to fight, what was really important, he was no pushover. It is the same thing in today's society, thinking that the opposite of war is peace, when in reality we have to be able to fight for freedom and peace, to do anything more is to give way to those that would take our freedoms from us."
-- Tigersue

"It is a fact that Jesus is not weak physically...Although most medieval art depicts otherwise.Seriously though imagine all the beatings and the eventual suffering at Calvary...remembing that his body was mortal at that time . . .

. . . Many people are shocked when they think of Christ using perhaps a synonym for quite literally "Damn you Pharisees!" as "Wo! Ye scribes..." Just to not shock everyone too much, it is important to note that Christ is the ONLY person who actually has the authority to say this word in this sense (or true prophets speaking for him), since Judgment is given into his hands."
-- Anonymous

Saturday, December 09, 2006

(t)Cross Talk

Over the years many have questioned the Christian nature of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with the many different beliefs it holds from more traditional sects of the religion. Those who are most against the concept of Mormons as Christians do so with the narrowest of theological terms. As Latter-day Saints argue, we have the name of Christ in our official designation, we worship him as Son of God and Savior, and etc. Probably the most recent attack has to do with symbols, particularly the lack of the Cross. It can be confusing to those who are used to the cross symbol as a "universal" sign of Christian Faith. Why don't we use Crosses? That is an easy one to answer today, but not an easy answer for the past.

I believe, from my research, that the absents of a Cross is an "accident" of history. Not that I don't think there were deliberate reasons - as the LDS Church has been using other symbols since almost the start. The Angel Moroni seemed to have replaced the Cross as a symbol because it represented many of the key teachings of the Church. It carries the Book of Mormon in one hand and a trumpet in another. This represents Restoration of the Gospel, calling of the Elect, Resurrection and Judgment, and etc. The Cross did not get added to the plethora of other symbols available for iconography. One blogger speculated on its lack of use:

I think that it never became part of our own tradition for purely historical reasons (our roots in thoroughly aniconic and anti-papist evangelical Protestantism) and that the reasons now given are mostly etiology

This is something I have been thinking for a long time. The reasons for a lack of a Cross was never explained until much later in the history of the Church when the question was forced upon Mormons from outside influences. Mainly I would like to know where I can find a history of the Cross (specifically as it relates to "aniconic" and "anti-papist evangelical Protestantism"). What I have found, or not found in this case, is a nearly silent record of the subject.

There is no talk of the physical use of a cross symbol in the early Church, at least what I have read so far. It seems no one particularly thought of mentioning the lack of use as important. There was no refuting, explaining, or even discussion of the issue. From the Mormon records the exclusion seems to have just happened. The LDS tradition of symbols has carried over to today from the Puritan disdain of outward symbols as idol worship. Chapels might have one large picture, if any at all, and no other art. Very few Temples have iconographic images on the outside, and contain simple and traditional religious paintings on the inside that are mostly decoration.

It isn't that Joseph Smith didn't understand the power of the Cross, both religiously and as a sign of the Atonement. He might not have had it incorporated into the Church, but he did mention it at least once as part of the architecture of Heaven:

While we ask peace and protection for the Saints, wherever they may be, we also solicit the charity and benevolence of all the worthy of the earth, to purchase the righteous a holy home, a place of rest, and a land of peace; believing that no man who knows he has a soul will keep back his mite, but cast it in for the benefit of Zion; thus, when time is no longer, he, with all the ransomed of the Lord, may stand in the fullness of joy, and view the grand pillar of heaven, which was built by the faith and charity of the Saints, beginning at Adam, with his motto in the base, "Repent and live," surrounded with a beautiful circle sign, supported by a cross about midway up its lofty column, staring the world in letters of blood, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand;" and finished with a plain top towering up in the midst of the celestial world-around which is written by the finger of Jehovah, "Eternal Life is the greatest gift of God."

-History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Edited by B. H. Roberts. 2d ed., rev. Vol. 2, Ch. 8, pg. 133. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-51.

Other instances of the mention of the Cross were more about observing traditions of others. There wasn't a condemnation as such as much as curiosity. In a visit to Greece as part of his trip to Palistine, Lorenzo Snow mentioned:

It is customary to make the sign of the cross in the following manner: Uniting the tips of the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand, and touching alternately the forehead, navel, right breast and left breast, three times in rapid succession, whenever passing a church, seeing the cross, or hearing the name of the Savior spoken. They have a singular form for burying the dead. I witnessed the ceremony of burying two persons, who apparently had occupied respectable positions in society. The processions were preceded by boys ii, white robes, carrying a crucifix and other ecclesiastic insignia of considerable splendor, followed by priests, chanting in a low, monotonous, melancholy tone, while all hats were off and every hand was making the sign of the cross, as the solemn train was passing along the crowded thoroughfare; the corpse, with ghastly features exposed to full view in an open coffin, covered with white cloth, variously decorated; the lid of the coffin, painted with a large cross, was carried along in the procession, in an upright position. The corpse was dressed in the clothing customarily worn while living; the head partially elevated, and the hands folded in front of a picture of the Virgin, placed an his breast.

-Athens Greece description. Smith, Eliza R. Snow. Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Company, 570.

Probably the first time the question of a lack of Cross use was widely recognized was from Joseph Fielding Smith. Again, there isn't a blanket condemnation of the Cross iconography. There is a forceful rejection of its use for LDS members:

Answer: While we have never questioned the sincerity of Catholics and Protestants for wearing the cross, or felt that they were doing something which was wrong, it is a custom that has never appealed to members of the Church. The motive for such a custom by those who are of other churches, we must conclude, is a most sincere and sacred gesture. To them the cross does not represent an emblem of torture but evidently carried the impression of sacrifice and suffering endured by the Son of God. However, to bow down before a cross or to look upon it as an emblem to be revered because of the fact that our Savior died upon a cross is repugnant to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . .

. . . To many, like the writer, such a custom is repugnant and contrary to the true worship of our Redeemer. Why should we bow down before a cross or use it as a symbol? Because our Savior died on the cross, the wearing of crosses is to most Latter-day Saints in very poor taste and inconsistent to our worship. Of all the ways ever invented for taking life and the execution of individuals, among the most cruel is likely the cross. This was a favorite method among the Romans who excelled in torture. We may be definitely sure that if our Lord had been killed with a dagger or with a sword, it would have been very strange indeed if religious people of this day would have graced such a weapon by wearing it and adoring it because it was by such a means that our Lord was put to death.

-Smith, Joseph Fielding. Answers to Gospel Questions. vol. 4. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957-1966.

The current LDS Pressident, Gordon B. Hinkley, has been the most vocal in his explanation of why the Cross iconography is not used. He gave a talk on the subject when he was an Elder and then repeated the message in the Ensign when he was Prophet of the Church. The message is clear; The Cross shouldn't be an outside symbol, but an inward one:

I responded: “I do not wish to give offense to any of my Christian brethren who use the cross on the steeples of their cathedrals and at the altars of their chapels, who wear it on their vestments, and imprint it on their books and other literature. But for us, the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ.”

He then asked: “If you do not use the cross, what is the symbol of your religion?”

I replied that the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship.

-Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Symbol of Christ,” Ensign, May 1975, 92 and “The Symbol of Our Faith,” Ensign, Apr. 2005, 3

Elder Marvin J. Ashton expressed exactly how Mormons are to use the symbol of the Cross as part of their lives. He stated:

Over the centuries, in the minds of millions of people, the cross has been recognized as a symbol of Christianity. But rather than displaying the cross, we prefer to try carrying our crosses.

The Lord’s message to us is “Take up your cross.” Take yourself the way you are, and lift yourself in the direction of the better. Regardless of where you have been, what you have done, or what you haven’t done, trust God. Believe in him. Worship him as you carry your cross with dignity and determination.

As we read in Matthew, we save our lives by losing them for the Lord’s sake. As we lose ourselves, we will find God. That is his promise, and I declare that it is true.

But what kind of cross do we each bear? What is its shape, weight, size, or dimension? The crosses we may carry are many: the cross of loneliness, the cross of physical limitations—loss of a leg, an arm, hearing, seeing, or mobility. These are obvious crosses. We see people with these crosses, and we admire their strength in carrying them with dignity. Poor health can be a cross, as can transgression, success, temptation, beauty, fame, or wealth. Financial burdens can be a cross. So can criticism or peer rejection.

-Marvin J. Ashton, “Carry Your Cross,” Ensign, Feb. 1988, 69.

Finally, if Mormons don't use the Cross as the physical symbol of Jesus and the Atonment, what do they use? Of course, baptism is the earliest symbol of the death and resurrection as it represents a new birth as members of the Church. Besides that, the most visible symbol is the Sacrement (or Communion) taken each week during Sunday services. In fact, it is the one outward symbol of Christ that there is no question Jesus initiated. Elder David B. Haight said:

Usually once a week, for a little more than an hour, we have the opportunity to attend sacrament meeting and reflect on the life of our Savior; to recall with deep gratitude and reverence His life of purity, kindness, and love; to reflect upon the great atoning sacrifice; and to partake of the broken bread, symbolic of His torn flesh, and drink of the cup, symbolic of His blood that was shed on the cross.

The Savior taught the Nephites that “I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

“And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; … that I might draw all men unto me.” (3 Ne. 27:13–14.)

As we partake of the sacrament and reflect upon His sacrifice for each of us, we make a solemn commitment to keep the commandments which He has given us, that by so doing we might always have His spirit to be with us. . .

- David B. Haight, “The Sacrament,” Ensign, May 1983, 12.

It isn't that Mormons are fearful of the Cross or should be against anyone who uses it for religious devotion. Obviously, some LDS leaders have expressed serious reservations as to its iconographic meaning. What has happened is that the leadership of the Church have tried to internalize the Cross as a personal approach to the struggles of life. Historically there isn't a view of the physical Cross either positive or negative, so much as simply a lack of attention to that particular "logo" with so many other choices. That means that, not taking into account cultural norms, a Cross isn't against LDS belief or possible expression. Still, there are serious statements of concern over what it represents or how other symbols might be better reminders of faith. As with other things, even CTR rings, we must be careful drawing the line between symbol and idol.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The New Jesus for Mormons

Many years ago before my mission, as a teenager contemplating going, I read four "The Missionary Reference Library" books. Although they increased my understanding and spiritual maturity, only one of them had a concrete lasting impact as a text. That would be "Jesus The Christ" by James E. Talmage. I latched on to what he was doing as much as what he was saying. His work forever changed the way I studied Jesus Christ and his life and teachings.

One of the important things he did was research both the theological and historical narrative of Jesus' mission. The book is specifically a theological treatise exploring the traditional LDS Scriptures and religious implications. Beyond that he adds information about 1st Century history and culture. This helps bring Jesus into context instead of allowing for a completely de-centralized amorphous figure. Of course, there were two major problems with his integration. Much of the sources used were already outdated even during his time. Those that he did use were of a particular viewpoint that didn't engage in other studies (even ones that wouldn't be harmful to his own thesis). Still, no other major LDS work on Jesus before or after the book followed his example. Even the multi-volume Bruce R. McConkie tome was a wordy re-hash more than imitation.

What I did learn was to go beyond the mere text of the Bible (gospels in particular) and explore other avenues of research. This might sound counter-intuitive from the purpose of "Jesus The Christ," but I became interested in the Jesus of history. What I found was that, outside of the LDS Church, there were many people who were equally interested. The problem was that most of them didn't believe in the Jesus of Faith. It became frustrating for me to discover so many new ways of understanding the life of the Savior, only to have those same writers dismiss things I find most dear and important. A part of me wanted to glean what I could from them and then fill in my religious understandings where they departed. Strangly enough, I found that I could.

Another blog discusses Timothy Johnson's book The Real Jesus, and the line between faith and history. There is a quote that Dave presents as a question:

Christians direct their faith not to this historical figure of Jesus but to the living Lord Jesus. Yes, they assert continuity between that Jesus and this. But their faith is confirmed, not by the establishment of facts about the past, but by the reality of Christ's power in the present. Christian faith is not directed to a human construction about the past; that would be a form of idolatry. Authentic Christian faith is a response to the living God, whom Christians declare is powerfully at work among them through the resurrected Jesus. (p. 142-43)

Despite my agreement with Johnson's critique of "Historical Jesus" researchers, I have serious issues with his final opinion. To me this is equally problematic if taken to its logical conclusion. Even if it is true that our Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is ultimately beyond time and history, it still has much of its roots in history. As was paraphrased, "On this view, history becomes the written record we make (selective, based on available evidence rather than an omnipotent knowledge of all past events), not the underlying events themselves." Knowing this, all Scripture is related to history and you must understand that history in order to interpret the text as intended. Perhaps this is what Joseph Smith meant when he said he believed the Bible as written by the original authors. Not that the authentic autograph text was best, but that the intended meanings of the authors was closest to the truth. And that is tied to the cultural and historical backgrounds behind their words.

The first post I did, before getting completely involved writing on the blog, was a critique of a book criticism. It still represents my feelings on the issue:

Deep down I suppose that the biography of Jesus Christ I have been wanting to write -- or at least read about -- is a believer's version of the several anti-divinity histor-biographies. The only person of that kind I have been able to find is [N.T. Wright] who looks at the Divine Christ with an understanding of the historical periods. Instead I am stuck with having to read doubters who have studied Jewish/Christian connections, or believers who reject the whole idea of the connection between them.

With some surprise, I am finding small lists of people are taking this position seriously inside the LDS community. There are a select few authors now introducing years of worthwhile reading to Scripture study. Similar to myself, they aren't caught up in the so-called dichotomy of faith and history as inseperable. Rather, they find it more illuminating than scandalous. The work of Talmage is starting to come full circle once again; returning and even going beyond what his classic book started.

There is still, however, a concern that the history will take over the theology. At least one reviewer seemed happy that there was less quotes from General Authorities (can't remember where I found it). Going that direction would be a disaster and make what I consider a positive step rather pointless. Of all the Christian denominations, Mormonism is most able to accept the possibility that history and faith can work together. There are several reasons for this, but that would be separate discussions.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Famous Writer in "Ensign"

My wife called me in the room where she was reading and pointed to an article in the Ensign where a byline was showing a familiar name. Sure enough there was "Stephenie Meyer" plastered on the page. I checked the spelling and found there wasn't any discrepancy. I even read "Hero at the Grocery Store" about a woman who helps an elderly lady pay for some groceries. It really is a touching article. None of the scant details proved it wasn't who the name implies.

For those who don't know, Stephenie Meyer is an author of Young Adult books. Her first printed and successful book is "Twilight," about a girl who falls in love with a vampire. She is also a Latter-day Saint who graduated from Brigham Young University. From her official website bio page:

She lives with her husband and three young sons in Phoenix, Arizona. After the publication of her first novel, Twilight, booksellers chose Stephenie Meyer as one of the "most promising new authors of 2005" (Publishers Weekly) . . .

. . . Right now, I'm deeply involved in the editing for book two (more about that in "Other Novels"), getting ready for my first book tour, dealing with five separate drop-off and pick-up times for my kids' schools, and working with a nice personal trainer named Steve in a doomed attempt to erase the evidence that my body has carried three large children to term.

My favorite authors/biggest influences are (in no particular order) Orson Scott Card, Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Maeve Binchy, Charlotte Bronte, Daphne DuMaurier, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Eva Ibbotson, William Goldman, Douglas Adams, Janet Evanovich... the list goes on, but I think I hit the highlights.

Her newest book is "New Moon," a sequal to her first vampire love story. She is also working on a novel "The Host" for an adult audience. It is about an alien invasion where the aliens have taken over human bodies. One of the humans doesn't completely go away, and the alien has to deal with all the thoughts and emotions of its host. Keeping with the author's theme of romance, the human in question clings to thoughts of a lover hiding somewhere from the invasion.

I am not going to review "Twilight" at this time, although I have read it. My local library has "New Moon" and I am waiting on a list of those who want to check it out. what I do want to say is that, for a YA and romance writer, she is among the best I have read in some time.

There was nothing on the LDS Church's website or her own to indicate if she wrote the Ensign article. I cannot be certain as she doesn't take e-mail questions. The name might only be a coincidence. Hopefully, out of curiosity, someone can clear this up.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanksgiving and the Day of the Lord

Reading up on giving thanks in the Scriptures, I came across D&C 59 that sounded very fitting for the Holiday celebration. Originally it discusses proper Lord's Day observances. It could be talking just as much about Thanksgiving and what it can mean to us as a religious observance. Ponder the following exhortation:

13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
14 Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.
15 And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Real-istic Jospeh Smith Please Stand UP

This is a copy of a post I wrote for "Blogger of Jared."

Not too long ago Richard Dutcher planned on making a movie about Joseph Smith Jr. with rumors of Val Kilmer as the lead. It didn’t take long for those rumors to be unfounded. There was news that he rejected the part for other movie roles. It seems that Bro. Dutcher has also gone a different direction and made other films. His personal homepage doesn’t offer any new information that he still has a biopic in the works. Other films have, more or less, taken up the slack.

There is an abundance of Joseph Smith roles to look at if interested in how he has been portrayed, both in and outside of LDS Church circles. The first major inclusion of Joseph Smith Jr was the Brigham Young movie of 1940, with Vincent Price taking up the part. Of all the ones I have seen so far, he seemed to represent him the best. It was too bad he played such a small role in that one. On the other hand, the book it was partly based on, "Children of God" by Vardis Fisher, was not a flattering portrait. There was another movie called Brigham with Richard Moll (of Night Court fame) playing Joseph Smith when he was tarred and feathered. Not sure if there was a martyrdom scene. He was problematic because the acting was stiff and he wasn’t the "hunk" that the historical records indicate for the real person. At least one other semi-portrayal was in "Angels in America," originally a stage play, and negative. Films done by Latter-day Saints have not fared better.

The Roles We Play

This is a copy of a post I wrote for "Blogger of Jared."

There are many roles available for people to pick and choose to define themselves and others. Sometimes there is more than one role we are actively playing at a time. There are even circumstances when one role is in direct contradiction to others. It can often become confusing.

Despite all of the various ways to define a person, there is always the chance we could label with too broad a brush. The worst scenario is stereotyping; where expectations are imagined without considering all other possibilities. This can stifle any chance of getting to know a person beyond what has already been decided. Jesus was a master at looking at a person who already had a particular "reputation" and seeing if there was something more:

7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.

8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)

9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Post-Mortem Republicans

For years the only power that the Conservative Republicans really had was the presidential cabinet. Then in 1992 the Liberal Democrats took over the U.S. House, Senate, and White House. Some say in that year that a short guy with a collection of charts lost the election for the Republicans.

For me it seemed that the end of the world was fast approaching. With mostly godless Liberals ruling a nation that had a blessing and a cursing, the return of a Divinity would be a welcome relief. It was obvious that the rest of the world wasn't repenting. They were either losing faith or becoming murderous fanatics.

A Miracle happened in 1994 and a Conservative Republican revolution had started. There was hope that the years of banal attacks against honest faith, family, and righteousness were about to be halted. Finally, in 2000 the Conservative Republicans took all three U.S. Houses. Slowly more conservative measures were getting enacted. A President and others were standing up against unrighteous laws and evil dictators. For a time it seemed things were changing for the better.

Then, something horrible intervened. The Liberal Democrats once again took over the reigns of government. The only thing standing between them and faith, family, and decency is a veto. The worst of this is that Conservatives helped them achieve this victory.


It is hard to say if Conservatives really made this change possible. There are many centrists and Independent voters with influence. What is known is that there were Conservatives who said they would vote Democrat this year. Of course, the two issues they said determined that was so-called corruption and the Iraq War. Perhaps it is simply a sign of licking wounds, but prominent Conservative Republicans are almost glad this happened. Glen Beck, Conservative radio personality and CNN Commentator had this to say:

Now, as we’re all painfully aware, yesterday was Election Day. Thank you that it`s over. Thank you. For the first time in 12 years, the Democrats are about to control the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. But here’s the real story: It’s not so much that the Democrats won, but that the Republicans lost. . .

. . . Well, you know what? Here’s the other real story. I mostly agree with them. See, what happened -- hear me out -- the Democrats didn’t win yesterday with their classically liberal agenda, but the more conservative- minded, Blue Dog Democrats or independent-thinkers, like Joe Lieberman, were appealing to voters . . .

. . . Besides voting for candidates, voters also turned out yesterday to weigh in on the issues in the form of ballot initiatives. The people have spoken and, with very few exceptions, they have come out overwhelmingly in favor of English as the official language, strict immigration reform, and a ban against gay marriage. Now, how on Earth did the Democrats win when the majority of Americans seem in favor of classically Republican points of view? . . .

He isn't the only one talking this way who is fully Conservative and Republican. Others include the likes of Dick Armey, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and even the unabashed Rush Limbaugh getting into the act. This all sounds nice and hopeful, but the truth is not as pleasant.

Facing Reality

All this talk of the American people voting for smaller government, more accountability, and locally still voting conservative on issues should be a sign of good things ahead. The problem for Conservatives is that these are minor developments on the road to major setbacks. Those Democrats in power are not going to be the centrist Democrats they think were put into leadership. The ones that hold the most important positions are actually very Liberal. It becomes possible to see this in the words of the new Speaker of the HouseNancy Pelosi, one of the most Liberal people in one of the most Liberal districts:

. . . Democrats are charting a New Direction, one that unites our country and addresses the real priorities of all the American people. By raising the minimum wage, increasing access to health care, making higher education more affordable, achieving energy independence, enhancing retirement security, and providing real security at home and overseas, Democrats will provide opportunity, security, and prosperity for all, not just the privileged few.

Democrats will make our economy more fair by giving a raise to the nearly 7 million hard-working Americans earning the minimum wage . . .

. . . Democrats will reverse the $12 billion raid on student aid enacted by the Republican Congress in order to help finance tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans . . .

. . . Calling for real investments in alternative fuels and tapping into America’s vast resources and ingenuity, we will send our dollars to the Midwest, not the Middle East, and achieve energy independence within ten years.

We will guarantee a dignified retirement by continuing to fight the privatization of Social Security and protecting pensions . . .

. . . The war in Iraq is not making our country safer; it is not making our military stronger; and it is not making our world more stable. Democrats want the Iraqis to take responsibility for their country and want the phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq to begin in 2006 . . .

She isn't the only one who has a more Liberal, rather than centrist or conservative, idea about government. The House will shift Left in the coming years. It will be the usual big government programs, class warfare, and partisan politics that the Conservatives who voted Democrat thought they were fighting against. When the worst fears of Conservatives are realized, don't think the Liberal Democrats will give up power. It might be another 30 years before another chance for Conservatives to govern comes along.

I had warned my fellow Conservatives that they were throwing away everything for pretending their enemies were friends. Some listened, but too many either voted Democrat or didn't vote at all. The best thing to have done was clean house amongst ourselves rather than invite the clawed cat to clear out the rats. Now everything we had worked for will be torn to shreds.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween for Good or Evil

One of my favorite holidays is "Halloween" when imagination is let loose with no shame. People young and old get to dress up in silly costumes and eat lots of sweet candy. For some, scary movies and haunted houses add to the celebration. Yet, what exactly are we celebrating? For most of us there isn't any significants other than the fun times.

The holiday goes back, like so many holiday traditons, to pagan celebrations:

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

Like Christmas, the Catholics tried to incorporate non-Christian practices into a religiously respectable form. They decided to use the celebrations as a time to remember Saints and martyrs instead of pagan gods:

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas. (See The History Channel:The History of Halloween )

Not everyone likes the idea of Halloween, and some refuse to participate. Those who are most concerned are traditionalist Protestant Christians who see the holiday as incompatable to their beliefs. Some even condemn it as a Satanic conspiracy, Harry Potter like, to recruit followers of the occult:

Many . . . Christians . . . consider Halloween as incompatible and even conflicting with the Christian faith, due to its preoccupation with the occult in symbols, masks and costumes, its origin as pagan festival of the dead, and its celebration by satanists. They argue that Halloween is also a prime recruiting season for satanists and therefore poses a considerable harm to children. Others are concerned about vandalism and destructive behavior after a church had become a victim of destructive "shock rituals" by satanists leading to targeted monitoring of these gatherings by the police. Another argument brought forward is that according to occult Wicca practices “Halloween is one of the four major Sabbats celebrated by the modern Witch, and it is by far the most popular and important of the eight that are observed. . . Witches regard Halloween as their New Year’s Eve, celebrating it with sacred rituals. . . (Dunwich, Gerina. The Pagan Book of Halloween, p. 120). The opinion which rejects Halloween because it trivialises the realities of 'evil' and 'the occult’ is shared by some Christians across all denominations. Some Evangelical and Protestant Churches, and some Jews and Muslims, strongly object to the tradition and refuse to allow their children to participate, pointing out to its pagan origins as well as what they consider its satanic imagery.(see Halloween from Wikipedia )

For the most part, Mormons haven't had any opinions of it as a group. There are, however, differences of approach. For many Latter-day Saints the season continues to be about having fun with their children. They get them dressed up and go visit family and neighbors who give them candy and otherwise enjoy themselves. Over the years there has been a development that, although not unique, does seem to have caught hold almost as a Church wide tradition. Trunk or Treat might not have been started by Mormons, but it has definantly been adopted by Latter-day Saints as their own special tradition. Considering the breakdown of neighborhood safety and the strong beliefs about community in the faith, it shouldn't be surprising. It is a way to have both safety and still retain the sense of community. In some ways Halloween has become a sweet tooth communion of family and friends.

Other Latter-day Saints, perhaps a small minority or silent majority, are more critical of the seasons implications. The more vocal individuals condemn it for much the same reasons as others who are not of the same faith. The biggest reason is not fear of pagan influence or satanic recruitment. It is more about allowing evil and wickedness a time to be celebrated. The less vocal Latter-day Saints who object to the holiday simply don't like the blood, fear, and lack of a spiritual enlightenment. They see no reason to have it, and a few reasons to reject it.

That brings it back to myself. You might say that my house is split on the subject. I love to get dressed up, watch spooky (not bloody) shows, and generally eat lots of candy. My wife, on the other hand, simply doesn't want to get involved. She has no problem passing out and eating candy. It's the rest of it she doesn't like. I imagine this isn't an unusual situtation.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Book of Mormon Addendum

I would like to thank all the contributors to the Book of Mormon Symposium. The experience was spiritually and intellectually gratifying. Hopefully, those reading these posts have and will continue to look a little closer at these ancient and yet modern Scriptures. Here is an Index if there is anything missed or want to review:

The Keystone of My Faith

Resurrection and Restoration

How Nephi Uses Isaiah

Little Known Omni

The Tree of the Atonement

The Law of Witnesses

The Wisdom of Experience

Famous Last Words

Third Nephi as Type for Second Coming

The Organic Restoration

Gadianton Mercy

The Spiritual Aspect of Political Freedom

There are also many other blog posts that talk about the Book of Mormon teachings and text. A few of interest are:

2 Nephi 28 - On Christian Churches

New Quiz on Jacob 5

Natural Man

Nephi Upstaged

Book of Mormon Tidbits from Margaret Barker

The Demands of Justice

The Weakness of the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon Inspection This is a blog more than a post. Maybe it will get through the complete book. So far it has been rather good.

Remember How Great Things the Lord Has Done

Three Key Book of Mormon Themes

Some thoughts from General Authorities:

Flooding the Earth With the Book of Mormon by President Ezra Taft Benson

O Be Wise by Elder M. Russell Ballard

The Great Plan of Happiness by Elder Marcus B. Nash

Blessings Resulting from Reading the Book of Mormon
by Elder L. Tom Perry

The Book of Mormon, the Instrument to Gather Scattered Israel by Elder C. Scott Grow

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ—Plain and Precious Things
by President Boyd K. Packer

And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever. Amen. - Mormon to his son Moroni. (Moroni 9:26)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Spiritual Aspect of Political Freedom

By Kevin B. of "The Title of Liberty"

I have always been intrigued by the prevalence of warfare and political content in the Book of Mormon, despite it's claim to being a spiritual rather than a historical record. When one considers the perspective of the record's primary compiler, Mormon, as a military commander, this content is not altogether surprising. However, we are told repeatedly throughout the text that the intended audience of the record is the people of our day. Further, we know that engraving space on the metal record was limited and that the contributors to the records compiled by Mormon were commanded to only write that which pertained to spiritual matters. We can therefore conclude that the warfare and political content of the Book of Mormon have specific spiritual importance to our time.

Political Structure as a Spiritual Issue

When I first conceived the topic, I had in mind was to show how political freedom had an important role on the the spirituality of citizens. However, after re-examining the lessons taught by the text, it became clear that I had it exactly opposite: The spirituality of individuals and a nation as a whole has an important role in their political freedom. Their political structure tends to be directly or indirectly determined by their spiritual integrity. In preparation for this article, I skimmed the Book of Mormon for political content. Skimming for spiritual and political content made the correlation more obvious to me than previous times I have read the book.

Readers of the Book of Mormon will be well acquainted with the oft-repeated promise of prosperity and liberty to those who keep the commandments of God, and the promise of destruction to those who do not. This promise applies specifically to the Americas, which I explore further below. We see this concept early in 1st Nephi and throughout the text. Mormon frequently interjected his own commentary ("And thus we see that...") within the record he was abridging to reinforce this message.

Time after time, we see individuals who first rebel against the church and gospel of Christ, then second rebel against the socio-political order. They either seek to overthrow the government to their own advantage, or by joining the Lamanite nation and inciting them to war against the Nephite nation. Always, it was the spiritual rebellion (whether on the part of a group of dissenters or a leader already in a position of power) that proceeded the political rebellion and oppression.

Characteristics of Righteous Leadership

There are many examples of good political leadership offered by the Book of Mormon, listed below:

- Servants of the people

The first King Mosiah, followed by King Benjamin and his son the second King Mosiah gives us a good example of "servant leadership."All 3 of these kings relied on their own efforts to provide for their living, not by taxation. They served as moral examples. They consulted "men of God" in political and military matters. They served on the front lines of battle when war was necessary.

- Religious liberty

Under the Reign of the Judges in the books of Mosiah, Alma, and Helaman, we see a repeated insistence of the law that there should be no religious persecution. Men cannot be judged by the law based on his beliefs, except where his beliefs threaten the liberty of the people. We also see among the Lamanites, following the conversion to Christianity of Lamoni's father, the established decree of religious liberty (and prohibition of religious persecution) to all Lamanites.

- Taxation

In contrast to the excellent example of King Benjamin, we have the example of King Noah, who taxes his people one fifth (20%) of all they produce to support himself, his wives, concubines and priests. He also builds up elegant buildings and thrones for himself and priests. This is noted in context of the description of Noah as a wicked king. We also have the example of the people of Limhi, who return to the original land of Lehi-Nephi and request whether the Lamanites will give them land to occupy. As a trap, the king of the Lamanites vacate some land for Limhi's people. The Lamanites impose a tax of half of all they produce, or take their lives: “a tax which is grievous to be borne . . . And is not this, our affliction great? Now behold, how great reason we have to mourn.”

(For perspective, a comparison to the current American tax system: “Tax Freedom Day,” the day of the year in which American’s earnings are their own after taxes, is April 26 for 2006, or 31.6% average tax burden, based on Federal and State income tax only. This does not include sales-based taxes, gasoline taxes, so-called "vice taxes" on cigarettes, alcohol, etc. , or government administered lotteries-- which I consider to be voluntary taxation for the stupid.)

- Slavery

Mentioned specifically as being against the law under the Reign of the Judges, and under the 200 years of peace and equality following the visitation of Christ to the Americas.

- Power and War

There are many shining examples of appropriate use of power and war (Captain Moroni, wielder of the Title of Liberty comes to mind) but I find it best expressed by Pahoran, the Chief Judge of Captain Moroni's time:

I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in which God hath made us free.

And now, behold, we will resist wickedness even unto bloodshed. We would not shed the blood of the Lamanites if they would stay in their own land.

We would not shed the blood of our brethren if they would not rise in rebellion and take the sword against us . . . therefore . . . let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God. (Alma 61: 9-14)

- Representative Government

Described as ideal in a world where “just men” (righteous kings after Christ’s model of servant leadership) cannot be guaranteed. This was hinted upon when the original Nephi was reluctant to become king ("...I was desirous that they should have no king,” 2 Nephi 5:18) and was reiterated by the second Mosiah, having learned from the example of King Noah:

* “Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you. (Mosiah 29:13)

* “Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you.”(Mosiah 29:16)

* “And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood.” (Mosiah 29:21)

* “For behold, he has his friends in iniquity, and he keepeth his guards about him; and he teareth up the laws of those who have reigned in righteousness before him; and he trampleth under his feet the commandments of God;” (Mosiah 29:22)

* “And he enacteth laws, and sendeth them forth among his people, yea, laws after the manner of his own wickedness; and whosoever doth not obey his laws he causeth to be destroyed; and whosoever doth rebel against him he will send his armies against them to war, and if he can he will destroy them; and thus an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness.”

On to the selection of leaders and laws by the people:

* “Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore, this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction…” (Mosiah 29:26-27)

Book of Mormon Perspective on American Liberty

We know from repeated instances in the Book of Mormon that the Americas are declared by God to be a "land of promise."

We know from Nephi’s vision (1 Nephi 13) some 2000 plus years before the Declaration of Independence, that America in our time was specifically discovered and established by God-- we learn that the spirit of God wrought upon Columbus and other gentiles; “and they went forth out of captivity.” (1 Nephi 13:13)

16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity [American colonists] did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.

17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles [England] were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them [the War of Independence].

18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.

19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.

We see these concepts came to be echoed later in America's founding documents-- such as the proclamation that God, not government, is the source of our "inalienable rights."

Lehi prophesies the New World to be a land of liberty (2 Nephi 1:6-11) – Keeping in mind Nephi's encouragement to "liken the scriptures unto us," does this not apply equally to the current inhabitants (us) as it did to the descendants of Lehi?

6 Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.

7 Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.

8 And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.

9 Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves.And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever.

10 But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them.

11 Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten." (emphasis mine)

Secular Humanism and Political Freedom

In chapter 30 of the book of Alma, we are introduced to an Anti-Christ named Korihor. The interesting thing to me about the encounter with Korihor is the parallels between his rhetoric and the arguments made by secular humanists. At this time, the coming of Christ had been prophesied but had not taken place.

-In Alma 30: 13 & 15, Korihor argues for Impiricism, stating that prophets could not know of anything which is to come, and that one cannot know of things they cannot see.

-In verse 14, he dismisses belief in the coming Messiah as "foolish traditions of your fathers."

-In verse 16, he characterizes religion as a crutch for the mentally weak ("it is the effect of a frenzied mind")

-In verse 17, Korihor argues for a "might makes right" system (essentially social Darwinism) which leads neatly into situational ethics: "whatsoever a man did was no crime"

-In verse 18, he promotes hedonism, rationalizing that immoral acts had no consequence, as he claimed there is nothing after death.

-Further, in verse 23, he claims that religion is a mechanism to keep the people in ignorance and usurp power and authority over them. He follows this in verse 24 with the claim that religion is a form of bondage, that keeps people from free thought.

The people rejected his rhetoric and turned him over to the law. When presented to Alma, the Chief Judge of the time, he attempted to argue that this integration of church and state was a form of oppression on the people. Alma rebutted to Korihor with the reminder that both the judges and the priests earned their own livings, independently of their church or civil service. Korihor's rhetoric would be echoed later by others who conspired to overthrow the government. Again, the interesting thing to me about this encounter is how closely the rhetoric of Korihor the Anti-Christ matches the rhetoric of today's rabidly vocal minority, the secular humanist left.

Secret Combinations Then and Now

Political, religious, and economic conspiracies are referred to in the Book of Mormon as "secret combinations," and is the forth most frequent topic in the text; behind only the topics of Christ, missionary work, and warfare. This should be an indicator of the importance of being aware of them and keeping them out of our society.

We learn in Mormon chapter 8 that the Book of Mormon would come in a time “when there shall be great [spiritual] pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day. . . Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.” (Mormon 8:31,32)

Moroni has our time shown unto him and “knows [our] doing;” he condemns those who “build up . . . secret abominations to get gain” warns that “the sword of vengeance hangs over you.” (Mormon 8:35, 40, 41)

Moroni, speaking directly to our time, warns us again in Ether 8:

...[W]hatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.

Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.

Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.

For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people. (Ether 8: 22-25)

The Remedy for Political Malady

Thus far we have established, according to the lessons of the Books of Mormon, that political freedom is tied to the spiritual integrity of the peoples of a nation and their leaders. We have seen some qualities of good political leadership. We have explored the divine preparation for the establishment of American independence and the spiritual conditions required for the preservation of liberty. We have seen the introduction of secular humanist thought which produces dissent from righteous leadership and threatens liberty. We have seen the dangerous influence of political, economic, and religious conspiracy and the direct warnings to watch out for and avoid them in our time; at the risk of our own destruction.

Seeing the parallels to all of these issues in our own time, one then might ask what can be done to offset these dangerous influences? The Chief Judge Alma faced this same dilemma in Alma 31, when faced with the imminent dissent of the people calling themselves Zoramites. Alma feared they would join with the Lamanite nation and incite them to war against the Nephite nation again.

His resolution? Missionary work: "And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God."

Is it really that simple? Unjust political conflict resolved by a little preaching? Obviously, it can't always work. There are cases where evil men simply refuse to conform to the principles of peace and liberty because those principles prevent them from obtaining the power they seek. We see repeated instances later in the book of Alma where Captain Moroni would force captured enemy combatants to choose between taking an oath to preserve peace and liberty, or death (This solution is obviously only workable under righteous leadership).

While we may not be able to offset all evil by "the preaching of the word," it should be apparent that any hope of maintaining our political liberties is fruitless unless we can maintain a standard of spiritual integrity throughout the people in general. Our Founding Fathers recognized the Source of human liberty-- it should follow that a nation will cease to honor that liberty if it ceases to recognize that Source.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gadianton Mercy

By Keryn of "Ponder It"

During our recent reading of 3 Nephi, a particular part of the pride cycle raised some interesting political and spiritual questions for me. In 3 Nephi chapter 4, the Nephite nation has just overcome and destroyed the Gadianton robbers, at great cost. In 3 Nephi 5:1, we learn
And now behold, there was not a living soul among all the people of the Nephites who did doubt in the least the words of all the holy prophets who had spoken; for they knew that it must needs be that they must be fulfilled.
And then in verse three we learn:
Therefore they did forsake all their sins, and their abominations, and their whoredoms, and did serve God with all diligence day and night.
So it would seem that these people are pretty righteous right now. They take all the robbers prisoner, and, as we learn in verse four:
…they did cast their prisoners into prison, and did cause the word of God to be preached unto them; and as many as would repent of their sins and enter into a covenant that they would murder no more were set at liberty.
I have always been amazed by this manner of dealing with criminals, and a little envious. What would be to live in a world where your word is truly your bond, and conversion to the gospel can create a trustworthy person from a former robber?

I still believe that it would be wonderful if this could be so, and I believe that the Nephites did what they thought was best. But…as we continued reading, we learned that this righteousness and peace are short-lived. Just eight years later:
And thus, in the commencement of the thirtieth year—the people having been delivered up for the space of a long time to be carried about by the temptations of the devil whithersoever he desired to carry them, and to do whatsoever iniquity he desired they should—and thus in the commencement of this, the thirtieth year, they were in a state of awful wickedness. (3 Nephi 6:17)

…but in this same year, yea, the thirtieth year, they did destroy upon the judgment-seat, yea, did murder the chief judge of the land.(3 Nephi 7:1)
Just eight short years later these same righteous Nephites have turned completely back to evilness. And for the first time, I made a possible connection between the quick return to wickedness and the influence of the Gadiantons. Is it possible that some of the robbers released after their conversion returned to their evil ways? Could that be what hastened the downfall of the Nephites at this time? Is it possible that the Nephites were too merciful for their own good? I have no idea if it is even possible to answer these questions, but it has certainly changed the way I think about this part of the story.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Organic Restoration

by Christian Y. Cardall of "The Spinozist Mormon"

It seems that, especially through the lens of authorized hindsight, the Restoration ends up conceptualized as a pristine system of doctrine and authority bestowed in almost prefab perfection through Joseph Smith. The immaculate textual recovery of lost “plain and precious things” suggested in 1 Nephi 13, for instance, seems to foster this paradigm. But I think Jacob 5 may be a more realistic touchstone, both in terms of how the Restoration proceeds and what exactly it is that is being restored. It also has implications for what the stance of a believer should be.

Rather than an instant, ‘just add water,’ fully-formed Restoration, Zenos’ allegory of the olive tree paints the more interesting and messy picture of an unfolding organic process in which the bad is only taken away gradually as the grafting-in of the natural branches begins to take effect. Recall, however, that at the time of the lord of the vineyard’s momentous last visit it is not only the main tree that is encumbered with all manner of evil fruit, but also the natural branches severed from the main tree and distantly planted throughout the vineyard in a prior visit.

The interesting thing to notice about this decayed pre-graft state of the natural branches is that, for those inclined to get agitated about such things, it provides a way to increase patience with certain features endemic to the Restoration that some find even worse than the surrounding worldly culture: folk magic, polygamy, patriarchy, the curse of Cain, and so on. The restored gospel is expected eventually to be the only cure for the fallen world’s ills, but because even these natural branches have gone wild before being grafted back into the trunk, they may at first contribute their own varieties of strange fruit before the good stuff begins to grow—perhaps even to the extent that, like the treatment of acne with Accutane, some things seem to get worse before they get better.

Another nice thing about thinking about the Restoration in terms of Jacob 5 is that it shifts focus away from the pursuit of correct but disembodied doctrine as the primary goal to the real prize, represented by the good and precious fruit—which, taking a cue from Lehi and Nephi’s vision of the tree of life, seems to represent a community of individuals with the love of God in their hearts. (’Having the love of God’ may of course be read in at least two ways—feeling love towards God, and exhibiting a love towards one’s fellows akin to what we imagine to be God’s self-sacrificing parental devotion to his children. It seems most fruitful to focus on the latter as a manifestation of the former, since the self-assured possession of the former with inadequate regard for the latter has led historically to much blood and horror on this earth.)

While a modicum of narrative and at least a skeletal doctrinal framework are necessary to the identity, coherence, and motivation of any group, I suspect the success of such a community depends less on getting the fine points of history, doctrine, and metaphysics right than is often supposed. There are all manner of irrelevant idiosyncrasies on display in (especially ancient) scripture, over whose emulation or explanation we obsess; there are also all manner of cosmic questions on which the scriptures are silent, which we itch to answer with our vain speculations. Perhaps such conceptual minutiae are too often mistaken for the substance of the Restoration, deflecting focus from what is really being restored: the ideal of a prophetically-led covenant community of loving individuals. The possibly varying specifics of implementation of such from age to age may simply not be worthy of sustained attention.

While ‘the facts’ may not matter as much as is sometimes supposed, authority may nevertheless matter a great deal, since the community is established and maintained through covenants that rely on authority for their administration. And this is at least partly why I can be sensitive about activist attitudes in the Church: I read our scripture and history as making a central claim that a top-down prophetic structure is essential to the establishment of a worldwide Zion. It is advertised, after all, as a kingdom of God, with the Savior as king and the Saints as subjects. The believing posture towards Mormon prophetic authority that would make sense to me is how Jim F. approaches the canon: asking questions of it not by way of confrontation or challenge, but as an occasion for its authority to speak to him, if it wishes.

To borrow a phrase from liberal Mormon hero Hugh B. Brown, it is God who is the gardener here. One can, I suspect, be a deep thinker with liberal thoughts and suspicions without feeling a need to force and fit and reconcile and be a public and active agent for change. There can be an awareness of one’s place in the top-down structure. To temporarily switch from a familiar horticultural allegory to an equally familiar agricultural parable, there can be a recognition that even if one is right and the authorities are temporarily wrong about something, pulling up the tares vigilante-style can harm a community more than it helps.

Nevertheless, there may be times when the powers that be have the facts so wrong, and the fruits are so bitter, that something must be done. In such circumstances some may be tempted to equate the pruning and digging and dunging spoken of in Jacob 5 with bottom-up grassroots reform. But that these activities are undertaken by the lord of the vineyard and those under his explicit instruction suggests instead that such husbandry is more properly identified with the ministering and course corrections performed by the legitimate authorities. No, when things are too far gone in a top-down organization, the answer suggested by Zenos’ allegory is not reform, but a new restoration, and the casting of the old into the fire. And we also see from the lord of the vineyard’s anguished deliberations that deciding between this, and sparing it a little longer, can be agonizing—for it is grievous indeed to lose a tree that represents a lifetime of investment.

Christian requested that the comments be closed. Please direct any responses to his blog.Thanks.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Third Nephi as Type for Second Coming

By Noelie of "Refugees of the War in Heaven"

I have often made my sister Tigersue of Tigersue's Jungle laugh with my prediction of just when the last day will be here. Actually fellow Saints and Believers do not fear. I haven't ever said a day I expect our Lord to return. What I have commented on is all of the predictions that people make with sundry dates for the end of the world that, for some reason, manage to find their way into serious news.

I have usually shrugged my shoulders, make one quick check that the Prophet hasn't said anything and then say, "well I think it is safe to assume that isn't going to be the day."

All facetiousness aside, while we don't know the exact day, I have long felt that we have had the type of His return in our hands since the Prophet Joseph Smith translated the miraculous and beautiful Book of Mormon. How many times have we been told of one of its magnificent purposes is to prepare a people to meet their God and not fully appreciated this aspect of that statement; the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Earth? Yes, there are many ways it can prepare a people, up to a final judgment aspect. But, the one I want to focus on is the Last Days and Christ's Return.

I have also had a strange fascination with Hollywood and their twisting of the more evangelical beliefs of the Second Coming. These are of course based on the very image-laden Book of Revelation by John the Beloved. But the images are difficult and sometimes hard to understand. An example of the difficulty is the day that the husband-wife team of Jehovah's Witnesses and I had a conversation at my work.

The husband had a revolving group of wallpapers for his laptop computer that he would bring to play that usually had some very nice music. The theme for these wallpapers was the Book of Revelation. It included traditional definitions for those scenes that John, with his artist brush of words, paints for us. One was a rather gruesome picture of the woman and the beast tearing her apart. As a supervisor, I felt I had to mention that perhaps this one picture might be disturbing to others having to work around him. It was that gory. He turned to me, the heretic Mormon, and said, " Well you have to understand she is a very bad woman." His tone was very condescending. He was proud for the fact that he and his group (there were five of them) all read their scriptures out in the open. Some BYU students might bring their scripture to work for classes to try and get school work done. Most of us find work a distracting place to try and study our scriptures and just don't in general bring them there.

I was a little shocked at his inability to understand the LDS that he had been working around for a very long time. I could no longer resist and said, "You know she is a very bad woman, but the real problem is that you are so caught up in the imagery you are going to fully miss who that woman
really is." He was a little surprised, because in general we had been very quiet during his rather more preachy moments. He was well aware of our majority position in the community of Provo and Orem.

Like Hollywood and our traditional Protestant or Charismatic co-religionists, sometimes it is difficult for Mormons to understand ancient imagery. We want to understand the graphic words of the prophets such as Isaiah and John to help prepare for the Second Coming. what will we see at that time? What will it be like?

I say we are fully in those days now. I can't say when, or exactly what at each time, but I am certain life will look very much as it always has. If we aren't paying attention, we will miss the signs.See, for instance3 Nephi 7.

13 And so speedy was their march that it could not be impeded until they had gone forth out of the reach of the people. And thus ended the thirtieth year; and thus were the affairs of the people of Nephi.

14 And it came to pass in the *thirty and first year that they were divided into tribes, every man according to his family, kindred and friends; nevertheless they had come to an agreement that they would not go to war one with another; but they were not united as to their laws, and their manner of government, for they were established according to the minds of those who were their chiefs and their leaders. But they did establish very strict laws that one tribe should not trespass against another, insomuch that in some degree they had peace in the land; nevertheless, their hearts were turned from the Lord their God, and they did stone the prophets and did cast them out from among them.

15 And it came to pass that Nephi—having been visited by angels and also the voice of the Lord, therefore having seen angels, and being eye-witness, and having had power given unto him that he might know concerning the ministry of Christ, and also being eye-witness to their quick return from righteousness unto their wickedness and abominations;

16 Therefore, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds—went forth among them in that same year, and began to testify, boldly, repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.

17 And he did minister many things unto them; and all of them cannot be written, and a part of them would not suffice, therefore they are not written in this book. And Nephi did minister with power and with great authority.

18 And it came to pass that they were angry with him, even because he had greater power than they, for it were not possible that they could disbelieve his words, for so great was his faith on the Lord Jesus Christ that angels did minister unto him daily.

19 And in the name of Jesus did he cast out devils and unclean spirits; and even his brother did he raise from the dead, after he had been stoned and suffered death by the people.

20 And the people saw it, and did witness of it, and were angry with him because of his power; and he did also do many more miracles, in the sight of the people, in the name of Jesus.

21 And it came to pass that the thirty and first year did pass away, and there were but few who were converted unto the Lord; but as many as were converted did truly signify unto the people that they had been visited by the power and Spirit of God, which was in Jesus Christ, in whom they believed.

22 And as many as had devils cast out from them, and were healed of their sicknesses and their infirmities, did truly manifest unto the people that they had been wrought upon by the Spirit of God, and had been healed; and they did show forth signs also and did do some miracles among the people.

23 Thus passed away the *thirty and second year also. And Nephi did cry unto the people in the commencement of the thirty and third year; and he did preach unto them repentance and remission of sins.

24 Now I would have you to remember also, that there were none who were brought unto repentance who were not baptized with water.

25 Therefore, there were ordained of Nephi, men unto this ministry, that all such as should come unto them should be baptized with water, and this as a witness and a testimony before God, and unto the people, that they had repented and received a remission of their sins.

26 And there were many in the commencement of this year that were baptized unto repentance; and thus the more part of the year did pass away.

If you look at the preceding chapters of Third Nephi, it was only a great deal more of the same. People kept going on about their business. There were some hard things, some difficult things. Some were hard enough on the people that they repented; several times in what was a very short time frame. Still, life went on each day, even for the believers that were counting the days from the "day and a night and a day" experience.

It is so hard not to give into the thinking of the literal mark of 666, when instead John is attempting to tell us of the corruption of the true power of God as a symbol. It has been so easy for our more artistic friends to further corrupt what is ancient verbal imagery into a scene Satan likes a great deal better; the one where he is born to a woman gaining the body he is still railing that he will never have. It is easy at time for us as Saints to forget that often things happen while the rest of the world looks as it always has. Take for instance birth of Christ or the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The world was told (given signs of both by prophets) they would happen. Yet, when they did, the miracles were of such everyday wonder much of the world still has never found it! Imagine, even in hindsight, looking at the deeply spiritual is still lacking for most of the world.

It is for this very purpose that we are to feast on the Scripture's words. Only by study, faith and prayers will we actually be able to discern events that will still look like business as usual for most of us. We have a great gift of the prophetic Book of Mormon and rejoicing should be ours.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Famous Last Words

By Eric N. of "Small and Simple"

I have always liked 2nd Nephi Chapter 2. Mainly this is because it is jammed packed with all kinds of important doctrine. I have long thought it was the greatest chapter in all scripture. I have thought that if I could only have access to one chapter, this would be it. Why do I like it so much? Why does it seem so complete in and of itself? I think it is because of the circumstances under which the spirit was working.

This chapter contains the words of an old and dying father and prophet Lehi, to his faithful and young (but mature) son Jacob. As I consider these circumstances, I can see why something so special came out. What would you tell your faithful child if you knew you were dying, and that this conversation might be the last one you have. This powerful backdrop forms the setting for just such a conversation, which became one of the best chapters in all of scripture. I would like to try to put myself 'in character' of such a father as I provide some comments on this chapter. I invite the reader to do the same thing. Please feel free to share some of your thoughts as you go through the same exercise.

1 And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.

2 Nevertheless, Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.

3 Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men.

4 And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.

These first verses are the most personal of the chapter. Lehi acknowledges that Jacob has had a difficult life, partly because of the difficulties of the circumstances of his birth, and partly because of the rudeness of some of his brothers. But immediately Lehi acknowledges that because of the spiritual maturity and knowledge that Jacob has, his very affliction will be a benefit. Lehi praises his young son. He gives what has the feel of a patriachal blessing regarding the redemption of Jacob. How proud Lehi must feel for having such a son, who has beheld the glory of the Lord in his youth! Particularly given the rudeness of some of his other children.

5 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.

6 Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.

7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

9 Wherefore, he is the first fruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.

10 And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement . . .

These next verses are much more general. Lehi transitions from his prophesies regarding Jacob and his redemption, to teaching him some of the details of the atonement. How important for a father to teach these principles to his children! We gain an understanding about salvation and exaltation from these verses. Lehi goes from saying that salvation is free, to saying that all men will stand in the presence of God to be judged. He goes on to say that the results of this atonement is the inflicting of punishment or happiness, thus answering the ends of the atonement. Lehi appears to want Jacob to know that no flesh can dwell in the presence of God, without the grace of the Holy Messiah. But also that we will be judged on our own merits as well. Lehi goes on -

11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.

13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.

Lehi now provides Jacob with the understanding that there must be opposition in all things. He goes so far as to say that if there were not opposition, that there would be no God. In fact no anything. Good and evil simply exist. Even in spite of God. This is a necessary condition. I believe there is something quite powerful here, beyond what I understand. Beyond what I can express. In a way I feel that if you believe in good and evil, then you must also believe there is a God. And if you do not believe in God, then you must ultimately say there is nothing that is good, nor evil. I believe Lehi and Jacob understood this better than I. And the spirit that inspired this knows better than we all.

14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

15 And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.

16 Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. Lehi now appears to turn his attention to other sons in addition to Jacob. He now introduces the agency of man in the midst of good and evil. Man is free to act, and to be enticed by either good or evil.

17 And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.

18 And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.

Lehi here explains Satan as one who chose evil and in so doing became miserable. He then sought to entice others to choose evil, that they may be miserable like himself.

19 And after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth.

20 And they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth.

21 And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

23 And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.

25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

The doctrine of the fall is now expressed to the sons of Lehi. Because of the fall, Adam and Eve, and their posterity, were cut off from the presence of God and were lost due to this transgression. This is why all must rely on the merits, mercy and grace of Christ. But this transgression was necessary for the purposes of God to be accomplished. Mankind must be enticed by good and evil in order to have the opportunity of having joy and doing good. This is why we are.

26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;

29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.

30 I have spoken these few words unto you all, my sons, in the last days of my probation; and I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet. And I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls. Amen.

Lehi wraps up by expressing that because we are redeemed from the fall we are now free to choose liberty and eternal life or captivity and death.

Lehi has packed an awful lot into a short space. In thirty short verses he has given a solid argument for the existence of God, an explanation of good and evil, the doctrine of salvation and eternal life, the atonement, Satan, the fall, and agency. This might be the most thorough yet efficient sermons in the history of the world. He explained it all to Jacob, and apparently other sons, as some of his last words prior to his death. I am thankful for these words, and the help they give to me in explaining these important things to my sons. I hope they understand them before I die. These are the most important things a father can teach.