Tuesday, September 22, 2015
I am not sure if adding my own comments would improve it or detract from it, so I will remain silent for now and add more only if I am sure it is of like quality.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Fighting Against What? And Why?
J. Mark Freckleton
We find it interesting that among the most vociferous critics of the Church are those who have left the Church. Giving up their membership seems to have left a spiritual void, and as nature abhors a vacuum, this emptiness fills quickly with bitterness. “Behold, ere he [or she] is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:38).
When the errant former member was born under the covenant – therefore selected before birth to participate in the building of the Kingdom of God on earth – such a fall from grace is tragic. One also wonders about the fall into antagonism of an erstwhile member who was never fully engaged in the gospel. But even a fall into bitterness, hatred and enmity of one who never held membership in the Church is sad.
It is sad because bitterness and hate always canker the soul. They erode away character and integrity; they sour joy. They are based on fear, as are all negative emotions. Fear is the antithesis of faith. Having lost faith, they now wallow in fear. They do not recognize this, of course, and would deny it loudly.
All these acerbic combatants against the Church have one primary commonality. In one regard they are all the same: they all at one time united with God against Lucifer when the Son of the Morning attempted to wrest the glory of God from his father.
Given the immensity of Lucifer’s fall from grace, we expect the resulting void to have filled with immense bitterness. Now he wants us to become miserable like unto himself. His hatred extends to all who contributed to his fall, that being all who did not follow him in rebellion, all who subsequently received a physical body and a second estate on earth. He especially resents the reality of a universal and eternal resurrection for humankind.
Now we see a supreme irony: people who in an earlier state stood by God and by truth against Lucifer have in mortality rejected God and have enrolled as agents for the father of lies in order to subvert truth. These souls, who once endangered themselves by resisting evil, supporting God and countering Lucifer, have now transformed themselves into enemies of God in service to Satan.
The vast majority of humankind will accept an existence of glory that we call terrestrial. These people are innocuous. In fact, the Lord refers to them as honorable. Their only shortfall is that they fail to be valiant in the testimony of Christ.
All the sons and daughters of God will have the opportunity to be valiant and most will not take it. Some few will take on the challenge and work, however imperfectly, to become valiant to the best of their ability. That suffices for them. A loving Heavenly Father will patiently work with them and bring them along until they grow to God-like effectiveness. They are valiant within their own weak capacity and become the just who are made perfect.
But more people – albeit many fewer than those who accept a terrestrial glory – will qualify for a telestial level of existence. We use the term, qualify, advisedly. To qualify for a Celestial glory, we must be valiant in the testimony of Christ. To inherit a Terrestrial glory, one need be merely a good person, not valiant, but also not wicked – these need only live according to social norms and the law of their society.
On the other hand, those who choose a Telestial realm must qualify pro-actively: they must live wickedly. To be worthy of a Telestial glory, one must do evil.
The revelation commonly called the “The Vision,” recorded as Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, describes these Telestial souls as “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whore mongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:103). They do not receive a testimony of Jesus, either in mortality or in the spirit world until they have suffered the torment of hell for at least the duration of Christ’s millennial reign as an unresurrected spirit, subject to the buffetings of Satan.
The common thread among these telestial souls is that in one way or another they fight against God. The evil they perpetrate harms other people. God’s declared work and glory is bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children. The work and glory of those in a telestial state hurts the children of God by violating a marriage vow, taking a life, taking another’s possessions or living in deceit. They may love certain people in their lives, they may do good and kind things to people, but they also abuse the well-being of others, they do ill, they damage the happiness of God’s children.
It may make no difference in the end result whether a person leading a telestial life knew of the Church or not; but we have to think that the buffetings of hell may be more sore, exquisite and hard to bear for those who fought against the Church – and this greatly magnified for one who was once a baptized member.
They have not sinned against the Holy Ghost, and for that they inherit a kingdom of glory. This they receive because what they did in their pre-mortal state. But all that makes their turn toward evil in mortality all the more inconceivable and, in the end, painful.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Mary had been there. She had heard the leaders clamor for Jesus’ blood. She had witnessed the Roman whip rip the skin off his back. She had winced as the thorns sliced his brow and wept at the weight of the cross.
In the Louvre there is a painting of the scene of the cross. In the painting the stars are dead and the world is wrapped in darkness. In the shadows there is a kneeling form. It is Mary. She is holding her hands and lips against the bleeding feet of the Christ.
We don’t know if Mary did that, but we know she could have. She was there. She was there to hold her arm around the shoulder of Mary the mother of Jesus. She was there to close his eyes. She was there.
So it’s not surprising that she wants to be there again.
In the early morning mist she arises from her mat, takes her spices and aloes, and leaves her house, past the Gate of Gennath and up to the hillside. She anticipates a somber task. By now the body will be swollen. His face will be white. Death’s odor will be pungent.
A gray sky gives way to gold as she walks up the narrow trail. As she rounds the final bend, she gasps. The rock in front of the grave is pushed back.
“Someone took the body.” She runs to awaken Peter and John. They rush to see for themselves. She tries to keep up with them but can’t.
Peter comes out of the tomb bewildered and John comes out believing, but Mary just sits in front of it weeping. The two men go home and leave her alone with her grief.
But something tells her she is not alone. Maybe she hears a noise. Maybe she hears a whisper. Or maybe she just hears her own heart tell her to take a look for herself.
Whatever the reason, she does. She stoops down, sticks her head into the hewn entrance, and waits for her eyes to adjust to the dark.
“Why are you crying?” She sees what looks to be a man, but he’s white—radiantly white. He is one of two lights on either end of the vacant slab. Two candles blazing on an altar.
“Why are you crying?” An uncommon question to be asked in a cemetery. In fact, the question is rude. That is, unless the questioner knows something the questionee doesn’t.
“They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.”
She still calls him “my Lord.” As far as she knows his lips were silent. As far as she knows, his corpse had been carted off by grave robbers. But in spite of it all, he is still her Lord.
Such devotion moves Jesus. It moves him closer to her. So close she hears him breathing. She turns and there he stands. She thinks he is the gardener.
Now, Jesus could have revealed himself at this point. He could have called for an angel to present him or a band to announce his presence. But he didn’t.
“Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (John 20:1-18 NIV).
He doesn’t leave her wondering long, just long enough to remind us that he loves to surprise us. He waits for us to despair of human strength and then intervenes with heavenly. God waits for us to give up and then—surprise!
And listen to the surprise as Mary’s name is spoken by a man she loved—a man she had buried.
God appearing at the strangest of places. Doing the strangest of things. Stretching smiles where there had hung only frowns. Placing twinkles where there were only tears. Hanging a bright star in a dark sky. Arching rainbows in the midst of thunderclouds. Calling names in a cemetery.
“Miriam,” he said softly, “surprise!”
Mary was shocked. It’s not often you hear your name spoken by an eternal tongue. But when she did, she recognized it. And when she did, she responded correctly. She worshiped him.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Qualities of an Abundant Life
We should work and pray to gain:
Gratitude for life and for the opportunity of living with all that pertains to life.
Hope that life will continue to improve and rise to a higher level.
Strength to cope with the burdens and challenges that life inflicts.
Direction for life that it holds its course toward a clearly defined end.
Vision of who I am and what I am as offspring of an almighty God.
Healing of the wounds of the soul through the atonement.
Knowledge of correct and eternal principles.
Power to live in compliance with those eternal principles.
Security that comes from knowing safety in our Father’s care.
Might to overcome the temptations peculiar to each individual that will beset and plague each.
Purpose that accords completely with the purpose that our Father has for us.
Endurance to stay the course and continue to progress toward our purpose.
Virtue so that one’s soul remains pure and in tune with the Spirit.
Truth, in that one abides by true principles and speaks only truth.
Meaning for life that becomes ever higher into eternity.
Light of truth, that there be no darkness in us.
Love without condition for God and all He has created.
Faith, the greatest power in the universe, that one can create the life one desires.
Glory emanating from the Lord that lifts us in His grace.
Change of heart, that one’s heart will accord perfectly with the Father’s.
Brightness of being, that one might serve as a beacon and light to the world.
Eternal life, in which one shares in one’s Father’s work, to bring to pass immortality and eternal life to all people.
Joy without end with our Father, Lord and God, worlds without end.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
It is not at all unusual that fellow Christians criticize Mormons for not being Christians. One point they make, albeit minor, is the lack of the cross in Mormon iconography. Perhaps our lack of focus on the cross indicates a greater concentration of thought on something that greatly transcends the symbolism of the cross.
It is very true that the cross represents an important element of Christ’s mission and sacrifice for us. However, crucifixion was not unique. He was crucified between two thieves, after all. A simple viewing of the final few minutes of the movie, “Spartacus” shows that this was not new technology. The practice seems to go back to the sixth century, B.C. and was known among the Persians and the Greeks. It was a common means of death in the ancient world.
What the Savior suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, however, was unique. Consider this: two of the evangelists who describe this night, Matthew and Mark, in describing how Jesus entered the garden, both mention that the Lord felt “sorrowful and very heavy” – or as Mark puts it, “sore amazed and very heavy,” which words translate Greek terms meaning respectively “amazed, awestruck, astonished” and depressed, dejected, in anguish” (Mark 14:33.) In fact, the Lord’s own words were: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:37-38
We can easily understand His sorrow and heaviness. The Savior was feeling the weight of all the collective sins of every person who had ever lived or ever would live in mortality. The magnitude of this burden is beyond our power to grasp. On the other hand, the thought of the God who created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them being amazed is puzzling at first glance. Not only did He create us, but He gives light to the world and all its inhabitants. How could anything amaze or surprise Him, to say nothing of terrify Him?
The Source of Amazement
To understand this, we must first remember that He had lived without sin. He had never in His existence experienced the pain and sorrow of sin. Now he was feeling the excruciating agony of the wages of sin for the first time. As the Apostle Paul described in writing to the Hebrews, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched withy the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, italics added.) Being without sin, this was a new experience for Him.
As the Apostle, Neal A. Maxwell observed: “Imagine Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, ‘astonished’! Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fullness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen him!”
“The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement. The anguished Jesus not only pled with the Father that the hour and cup might pass from Him, but with this relevant citation. ‘And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.’ (Mark 14:35-36.) (“Willing to Submit,” Ensign, May 1985, 70.)
Experiencing this pain and terror for the first time, He was asking for any suitable alternative – that this cup might removed. This is understandable. Yet had He not gone forward with His mission, that inaction would have resulted in unmitigated disaster for all our Heavenly Father’s children. Instead, Jesus submitted His will to the Father’s – meaning it was His own will to do this:”Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39.) As the Prophet, Abinadi, described it, this was a manifestation of “the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.” (Mosiah 15:7)
As we read in the 93rd section of the Doctrine and Covenants, Jesus in His mortal life received and continued from grace to grace until He received a fullness. We can therefore only darkly imagine how it must have been to have the fullness withdrawn. He tells in the latter days “[I have] trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:106.) Who can truly comprehend His agony on the cross when “about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46.)
Not only did he completely subjugate himself to the will of His Father, He did it without the spiritual strength of His Father within Him – He had to bear all our sins and infirmities alone!
Now the question of this Easter season. Can we do likewise? When the resurrected Lord challenged the Nephites: Therefore, what man of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Nephi 27:27), do we apply that to ourselves? The record is very clear that it was written for us in the latter days; it is only appropriate that we take this very seriously. Again, citing Abinadi, the will of the Son was swallowed up in the will of the Father. Our will, as our Father’s children, must also be swallowed up in His will. Otherwise His atonement has no efficacy for us.
This is the warning given by the Savior in the 19th section of the Doctrine and Covenants when he describes how His “suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink – nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18-19.)
In that context He gives this warning: “Therefore I command you to repent – repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore – how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:15.) (The adjective, exquisite, is interesting in this passage: generally it refers to intricacy and beauty of design or execution, even flawless, but it also refers to intense or keen, in the sense of exquisite pain; this is clearly not your garden variety, normal pain – it is much more).
We should note here that the Lord is speaking metaphorically when he refers to such things as smiting by the rod of his mouth, His wrath and His anger, He takes no enjoyment from our pain, and He does not seek opportunity to cause sufferings. In fact, so great is His love for us that He is willing to take responsibility for these sufferings, even though they are the natural consequences of our actions as natural men. There is no hint of vindictiveness in the words of the Lord, but instead a gentle pleading that we will accept the sacrifice He offers us in order to avoid the pain and the suffering. There can be no mistaking the love involved in His own pain and suffering, all undertaken for us. After all, for His own salvation, having never sinned, He had no need of the atonement. He and the Father were already at one.
On the other hand, if we do not accept His sacrifice, with its power to cleanse us, then we must pay the price for our sins on our own. It is this restitution that he describes as sore, exquisite and hard to bear. Rejecting this gift, freely given, would have to be the most foolish action any of us could ever take.
Born out of this love, Christ chose to become a man so we can become like God. Through His experience in the garden, He understood the ways of man so He could direct man to God. He drank the bitter cup empty for our sakes.
How This Affects Us
Though Christ were born a thousand times, but no in us, we are lost. His tremendous sacrifice and the resulting atonement are there for us if we but take it. If we accept Christ and turn our lives over to Him, His sacrifice atones us to God the Father – makes us at one. The infinite atonement will make us clean every whit, and spotless before God.
As part of God’s plan, our Father has promised us all that He has. (Doctrine and Covenants 84:38). All the immense universe that our Father created for us is ours, along with all power, knowledge, wisdom and abundance, if we will only receive him. All He asks of us is our heart. Already, at this point, all we have comes from Him – belongs to Him. Our sole possession is our agency. Anything else that we could offer Him is already His. To repeat, the only thing we can possibly give that is truly ours to give is our agency.
The Power of His Deed
We stand amazed at the power of the atonement of Christ. As He submitted completely and without reservation to His Father’s will in order to pay for our sins and ensure the possibility of our exaltation in the Kingdom of His Father, so we can benefit from His deed and accept His love in action.
To give a sum to the power of the atonement, consider the following from our personal friend, Elder Lawrence Corbridge, of the First Quorum of Seventy: “Jesus Christ is the Way. He is Light and Life, Bread and Water, the Beginning and the End, the Resurrection and the Life, the Savior of the world, the Truth, and the Way.
He is the Resurrection and the Life. He said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”Either we learn of Him and have life more abundantly, or we don’t and foolishly remain dead still.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
A spiteful or hateful action directed toward another person merely mirrors our own feelings about ourselves. No one tries to hurt another when feeling good about his or her own self. Such actions stem from feelings of frustration, anger, or distress, whether recognized or not. All such negatives result from fear, manifest as low self esteem, low self respect and low self love.
The love we feel for ourselves determines and limits the amount of love we can feel for others. One person cannot love another to a greater degree than the person loves his or her self.
If we wish to live with love, we must recognize love when we see it and recognize what is not love: that is, evil. Learn to recognize evil in all its manifestations, that you might counter it with its antithesis, which is love, because the cause of evil is an absence of love.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
The Burden of Worry
I have often quoted the Dutch anti-Nazi resistance worker, Corrie ten Boom, in saying “Worry doesn’t relieve tomorrow of its sorrow, but empties today of its strength.” (In reality, there are sources that attribute this statement to other people, but because of my admiration of this woman, I choose to attach her name to it). With that in mind, I wrote the following back on 26 September 2004:
People generally recognize the negative impact of worry – with its increase of stress levels and anxiety, but many still engage in it. At times it seems almost like a familiar comfort for the worrier.
In reality, of course, worry is simply paying in advance for something we don’t even want. If we don’t want it, why pay for it, and why pre-pay? But there is another fault with worry that causes it to border on self-indulgence.
Worry is indeed a very selfish thing. When a person engages in worry, where is that person’s focus? Is focus directed toward the betterment of other people? No! In fact, the worrier’s attention is all self-directed. The worry centers on the feelings of the worrier. True, it may at times involve a person that the worrier cares about and the worrier’s desire that nothing bad happens to that person, but it still applies primarily to the worrier’s feelings.
Let us contrast this to a higher plane of life. Does a righteous God feel worry? Did Jesus suffer the effects of worry? No! Not even in His mortality, while looking through His own glass relatively darkly did he display worry. He showed love, genuine caring, real concern, but never worry. In fact, he chides Martha for her worrying about Mary’s lack of help in the kitchen: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things (Luke 10:41 – note that “careful” at the time of the King James translation carried the meaning that “worry” later assumed).
As the Apostle Paul explains, “the greatest of these is charity” or love (I Corinthians, 13:13). Mormon demonstrates that love is a power akin to faith. These three remain: faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7). Love implies pro-active action; concern is focused outward toward some other entity. The locus of control remains internal, but the attention directs itself away from the self.
Worry, however, remains self-directed, focused inwardly. As such, it acts as a parasite, feeding upon and cankering the soul. The word “worry” originally had the meaning ‘to strangle.’ Our indulgence in worry may be momentarily satisfying, but like many self-indulgent acts, worry is, in reality, self-destructive. We simply strangle ourselves.
Cigarettes provide temporary physical pleasure but cause hideous physical harm. Worry likewise provides temporary spiritual/emotional pleasure, but creates long-lasting damage to the spirit. That makes it an act of self-loathing. Given that we cannot love another any more than we love ourselves, it is supremely selfish – counter to the love of God.
Divesting ourselves of worry makes us happier and more God-like.