Saturday, October 18, 2014

On Being God's Chosen People

Throughout the history of the earth, there have been groups of people that are considered God's chosen people.  This may seem like an honor and this is true in that God does bestow marvelous blessings upon His people, but in other ways it can be a terrible burden.  The main problem with being God's chosen people is that those people often fall away from what has been given to them and become examples of what not to do.  They become an example of failure.  They become an example of how to disappoint God.

The scriptures show patterns that the chosen of God have followed in the past.  These patterns are there to help us see, learn, and understand so we can recognize them and avoid them when they happen in our day.

Pattern 1:  Failure to Rise Up and Receive all that is offered

Each new dispensation is another chance, another opportunity for a people to rise up and receive the blessings of God in their fullness.  When a new dispensation begins, a new dispensation head is sent.  Covenants are made.  New scripture is given and/or lost scriptures and knowledge is restored.  Invitations to come unto the Lord are extended.  Ordinances are instituted.  When a people fully rise up and receive that which is offered, signs of faith follow, gifts of the spirit are seen and are abundant, ministering angels are received, the people come unto their Savior, they personally receive their Savior, and they become like their Savior.  The people become of one heart and mind in unity and love.  There is no poor among them.   They are equal both temporally and spiritually.  Zion is established among them.

There have been a few cases in history and are recorded in the scriptures where this has happened.  Enoch's people established Zion.   Melchizedek's people repented, established Salem, and joined Zion.  The people in the Book of Mormon after Christ came were able to have a Zion like society for multiple generations.

The alternative is that the people do not rise up and receive what God is offering.  They reject the fullness and accept a only a part.  They do not fully repent and change.  They limit how far or how much they are willing to receive or do.  They may receive ordinances, but they do not see the symbols in the ordinances that represent realities in coming to Christ.  The ordinance is perceived as the end in and of itself rather than a symbol pointing to a greater reality that can actually occur in their lives if they will receive it.  Gifts of the Spirit had at first, start to disappear and are no longer manifest or are rarely manifest.  Revelation stops because they are not true to that which has already been given.  Instead of establishing a relationship with their Savior and instead of relying on the Holy Ghost to lead them, they adhere to a checklist mentality of items to achieve with a mindset of if I can do pretty good at keeping these commandments and endure to the end, that is and will be sufficient for my salvation.  They look to leaders to tell them how to live and put those leaders as a go between between them and the Lord.  Instead of establishing Zion and becoming one in heart and mind, there are envyings, strifes, jarrings, and contentions.  They do not become equal temporally and spiritually.

Pattern 2:  Blindness through Pride

Another pattern that can be seen with a people who believes they are the Lord's people is blindness through pride.  What are they blind to?  Usually, they are blind to that which happens in pattern 1.  The apostasy or patterns of apostasy described in pattern 1 go unnoticed.  The people are convinced and sure that they are in the right way despite their failure to rise up.  They will assure each other of this.  They will proudly stand and bear testimony of such. Their leaders will also assure them that they are in the right way and all is well.  Their leaders will claim infallibility in leading them astray and thus assuage any concern that something may be amiss.  They may focus on and see apostasy in single individuals but fail to see what is happening to the group as a whole.  They may see apostasy that has happened to peoples in the past, but they don't detect it in themselves.  They may be aware of shortcomings and ideals that are not happening, but they rationalize that as something to happen or come at a future date.  They become complacent with their way of being, confident that as a people, they are acceptable to God.  They can see other groups as being lost and not having the truth, but they cannot see their own condition.  They apply the warnings and censures in the scriptures to others who haven't accepted or become a part of the chosen group they believe they are a part of instead of seeing those warnings and censures as applying to themselves.  They rely on and wait for their leaders to raise them up with a view that someday their leaders will institute programs or directives that will then take them to the next level.  Zion is a distant reality, not something to strive for now.  A personal relationship with Christ is something to look forward to in the afterlife rather than something to seek for while living.

Pattern 3:  Worldliness and Idolatry

Another pattern seen among those who profess to be God's people is that they often will start to turn away from the Lord and replace him in their lives with other things.  They will adopt the world's traditions and customs.  They will trust in their own strength and means instead of recognizing God for their support.  They will seek and aspire to the world's definitions of greatness and success.  Again due to blindness and pride, they may be able to see the idolatry of past peoples but don't see it in themselves.  The justify and rationalize their worldliness as being acceptable because they see themselves as still a basically good people.  They attain unto prosperity and take it for a sign that they are approved of God.

Pattern 4:  Changed Ordinances and Diminished Knowledge

God's chosen people often find themselves at odds with the rest of the world.  The ways of the world are usually contrary to the ways of God.  As a people seeks to become more accepted of the world, they will institute changes to those parts that they have received from God that are found most offensive or difficult.  Ordinances will be changed.  Explanations will be given for the changes and even attributed to God's will or revelation.  Doctrines and beliefs will become more in-line with what is viewed as acceptable by society.  Doctrines that are difficult for the people will be made simpler so as not to offend.  The curriculum will be simplified and watered down.  The ordinances will be watered down.  Seeking for mysteries and the deeper things of God will be discouraged.

Pattern 5:  Priestcrafts

Another pattern is the development of a professional class of clergy.  A priestly class starts to appear.  Instead of a flat communities where the people of God are equal.  A hierarchy will form and grow into multiple levels.  Control from a central body will increase.  Over time, this new class of priests will start to be supported by the people.  The monies meant for building Zion and for taking care of the poor will start to be used by the professional class for themselves or their own purposes.  Instead of seeking Zion, they will set themselves up as a light to the world.  Instead of pointing and directing the people to establish a personal relationship with Christ, they will insert themselves as an intermediary between God and the people.  They will claim all authority and keys.  The people will seek their approval.  The people will revere them, look to them, and reverence them with titles, celebrations in their honor, standing in their presence, and defer questions of doctrine to them; seeing them as authorities in all things related to God.  The people will switch from taking their questions and concerns to God to taking their questions and concerns to their leaders and respecting their answers and teaching as authoritative.  A new type of idolatry in which the people idolize their leaders begins to creep in.

Pattern 6:  Messengers from God

God is a loving father who cares for and about his children.  He respects their agency and right to choose.  Apostasy of his chosen people happens precisely because of this.  God has to allow apostasy to happen in order to respect and preserve agency.  God's chosen people are not forced to obey, rise up, or come to him, but the invitation is always extended.  As the Lord sees his people dwindling in unbelief and increasing in idolatry, as the Lord sees evil increasing and the people knowingly or unknowingly supporting the very things they have been warned about in scripture; the Lord will then seek to bring the people to repentance through messengers sent to get the people back on track.  These messengers can come from without the professional clergy or authoritative hierarchy that has been established.  The pattern of someone from outside the credentialed hierarchy has occurred multiple times.  True messengers will not point to themselves but will seek to point the people back to God and to establishing a personal relationship with Christ.  Their message will be about how to turn back, how to come back, what has gone amiss, and in general one of repentance.

Often, messengers not only come with a message of repentance but also with a message of warning.  The warning is usually that if the chosen people of God will not change and repent, then they will be destroyed - usually through some combination of disease or plague, wars, captivity, famine, and natural disasters.

These messengers are often not well received.  The chosen people often harden their hearts against such messengers and such messages.  The people often become angry.  Due to pride and believing they are already in the right way, they do not accept the idea that they could be in apostasy.  They believe their priestly class instead.  The priestly class will teach that they are right and admonish the people to stay with them.  Stay with the group.  The people will cling to their current traditions and beliefs and close their minds.  In many cases, the messengers sent from God make the people or their leaders so angry that they will seek the messenger's physical harm in order to shut them up.  Many a messenger from God has been killed by the chosen people of God after they were rejected by the people.

Pattern 7:  Casting out of the believers and exodus

Not all of the people will reject the message from God's messenger.   Some will hear it, recognize it as the voice of the Lord, and will seek to repent and turn back.  They may even start to bear testimony and witness that the messenger and the message is true.  Because it goes against the current traditions, teachings, and system that has evolved; these believers in the message will be seen as a threat -especially by the professional priestly class. They will be seen as going astray or being lost.  As such, the believers are often labeled heretics or apostates and are cast out from the body of "God's chosen people."  The people who are certain they are already in the right way regard them with suspicion and fear.  They will shun them from the institutions in existence and socially in their community as well.  In some cases, the believers are also physically harmed and/or killed by those upset by the message.

In other cases, the believers of the messengers sent from God will be led away by God out of the midst of the others.  The Lord will warn them to flee or depart.  In some cases, a new community is started, a new dispensation is begun.  The Lord will seek to separate the wheat from the tares before the final phase of the pattern occurs.  The Lord will seek means to preserve the believers and those who are willing to repent before the warnings of destruction occur.  Sometimes, due to agency, the Lord allows the believers to be killed by the people who were once the chosen people of God.

Pattern 8:  Destruction

As the people who have been blinded by pride or taken by the cares of the world harden their hearts and fail to receive the message and the warnings from God's messengers and as they then cast out the believers and cling tightly to their ways.   There comes a time in which the warnings of destruction must then come to pass.  The wickedness that has been stayed is no longer prevented.  The signs and portents of destruction often loom in front of the people in a way that is visible before it actually happens.  However, the people will often turn a blind eye to it and deny that it could or would happen to them.  The people who would not heed the warnings and refused to see are then destroyed.  Sometimes this is to make way for another dispensation and a new opportunity once again for the people to rise up, come to Christ and establish Zion.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Avoiding common pitfalls when seeking truth - fear

To continue this discussion regarding the seeking of truth, I would like to discuss some of the common pitfalls that will keep you in the dark.  This post is about fear.

2 Timothy 1

7.   For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Fear does not come from God.  Fear comes from the adversary.  The adversary will use fear to keep you in the dark and from discovering truth and light.

This is a continuation of the last post.  Fear of being deceived is often one of the first obstacles to be overcome.  Yes, we can all be deceived.  However, I don't think God wants us to cower in the corner afraid.  If we are to learn and grow, part of that should include our ability to discern.  If we are to become like God, we need the ability to discern truth from error.  This doesn't just happen by avoiding anything we fear may disagree with our current understanding.

Much of the darkness or unbelief we have within us has likely come from the traditions of our fathers.  It is inherited.  We are born into it.  Identifying and letting go of unbelief requires search for the light which displaces it.  If someone in your current sphere is using scare tactics to keep you from investigating something, studying something, learning and praying about something; you may want to question their motives.  Are they truly trying to protect you, protect themselves, or keep you from discovering the truth?  If someone is telling you to "doubt your doubts" you may want to ask yourself why if something inside of you has questions, or concerns, you are being told to ignore them and blindly accept their version of the truth instead.  Some doubts are valid, some doubts are sown by Satan.  Again, it takes discernment to distinguish between the two.  If you just cast all doubts aside without consideration of their source, you are stopping yourself from growing.

If you take the Holy Spirit as your guide, it can lead you to discover the light that displaces the errors in your current belief system.  Trust the inner voice.  If the inner voice is telling you to search a topic or learn something, trust that - even if it goes against what the outer voices may be telling you.  In all cases, proceed with prayer.

An important part of learning discernment, is learning to distinguish thoughts coming from evil spirits vs. thoughts that are coming from you.  Evil spirits try to masquerade the thoughts and ideas they give you as your own.  They will try to lead you toward more darkness, not light.  How much access they have to you is directly related to what types of media, voices, music, shows, etc you allow into your daily life.  Fill your life with the good, the light, and wholesome in life and you will be more able to perceive and identify that which is dark.  Fill your life with things that are dark and invite darkness and it all blends together, thus making it harder for you to discern the thoughts coming from evil spirits.  Just realizing that the evil spirits can be there and can be whispering lies to you is a big part of the battle.  As Nephi told us, one of the tricks of the devil is to tell us that he doesn't even exist.

2 Nephi 28
22.   And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none--and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.

The Holy Spirit is also there to lead us and guide us.  Learning to discern when the voice of the Spirit is talking to you is the most sure way to find the correct path to truth.  

Finally, it is helpful to understand that our all truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it.

Section 93
30.   All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
As we grow, we become capable of receiving new truths.  Here is a blog post from a friend that discusses this concept.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Discerning Truth

Once we have decided to open our hearts, once we have decided that we would be willing to consider new things so that God can teach us and give us more, how do we proceed in a way so that we don't end up being deceived by that which comes our way?

There are some keys given in the scriptures to help us, but it is also likely that we may make mistakes.  Doing so is part of the process for our growth.  So we need not fear that it is possible we will make mistakes as much as we are open to the idea that it is a possibility.  This will keep us from settling too stridently on something and can help keep us open to correction.  Part of the process is trusting that if we do make mistakes, the Lord will guide us and correct us and help us learn from them.  Part of the process is trusting that the Lord will guide us back on the path as needed.

By their fruits

Moroni, in Moroni 7, taught us that when considering whether something is true, one question we can ask is what are the fruits?

 For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.
 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
 For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
 For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
 And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.
 10 Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.
 11 For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.
When a messenger comes who says he from God and that he has brought a message from God, what are the fruits of giving heed to that message?  What are the fruits of others who have given heed to that message?  If you try an experiment on the word, what are the fruits within you?  Are positive changes brought about?  Do you become more Christ-like?  Do you become a better person when you apply the message?

A Leap of Faith

Related to the idea of fruits, is the idea of exercising faith.  Many times it requires action on our part in order to be able to test the word and test its fruits.  Just hearing a message is often not sufficient for knowing whether or not it is true.

This process of testing the words and exercising faith is described in Alma 32:

26 Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
 27 But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
 28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.
29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.
 30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
 31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
 32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.
 33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.
 34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
 35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
 36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.
 37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
 38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
 39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

Using the Light of Christ

Every man who comes into the world is given the light of Christ, or in other words, a conscience.  This gift is given that we may be able to discern good from evil.  Moroni also explains that the light of Christ can be used to help us discern truth.

12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
 13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
 14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
 15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
 16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
 17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
 18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
Does it Edify?

In the early days of the LDS church, there were many who were deceived by false spirits who sought to deceive those seeking to come closer to God.  We can read about this in D&C 50:

Hearken, O ye elders of my church, and give ear to the voice of the living God; and attend to the words of wisdom which shall be given unto you, according as ye have asked and are agreed as touching the church, and the spirits which have gone abroad in the earth.
 Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world.
 And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.
There were also many who were deceived by their fellow men who were acting as deceivers and hypocrites:

Behold, verily I say unto you, there are hypocrites among you, who have deceived some, which has given the adversary power; but behold such shall be reclaimed;
 But the hypocrites shall be detected and shall be cut off, either in life or in death, even as I will; and wo unto them who are cut off from my church, for the same are overcome of the world.
 Wherefore, let every man beware lest he do that which is not in truth and righteousness before me.
The Lord then goes on to explain another way of discerning whether a message is of God:

17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
 18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God.
 19 And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
 20 If it be some other way it is not of God.
 21 Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
 22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.
 23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
 24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, andcontinueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

The Holy Ghost

At the end of the Book of Mormon is a promise:

 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

While this verses apply directly to coming to know if the words in the Book of Mormon are true, they show a general pattern that can be used to know the truth of all things:  In particular, the truth of all things can be known by the power of the Holy Ghost.

So how do we identify the Holy Ghost?  Joseph Smith taught that the Holy Ghost enlightens our understanding.  The Holy Ghost delivers intelligence or sudden insight.

As we try to understand what the Holy Ghost is like, it is also important to consider these verses from the Book of Mormon in 1 Nephi 16:

And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of speaking to my brethren, behold they said unto me: Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.
 And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.
 And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us.

The reason it is important to keep this scripture in mind is related to the my last post on receiving truth.  Sometimes, due to false traditions that we have inherited, the truth is not always easy to receive.  Often, the truth requires that we repent and let go of falsehoods and unbelief.  This process may not always be easy. The truth does not always re-assure us.  If we have erroneous beliefs, the truth may shake us at first and require us to soften our hearts in order to receive it.  It may not always make us "feel good" but it will always edify, enlighten, and increase our understanding.

Sometimes the LDS people reject that which is good because it may not make them feel good about themselves.  Here is a post from another LDS blogger which I think describes this phenomenon well.

Truth will invite us to do good.  Truth will invite us to increase our faith and reliance on God and bring forth good fruit.  Truth is light.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Opening our Hearts to Receiving Truth

The scriptures often speak of pride and its manifestation a bit differently than the way we do in our modern vernacular. Ezra Taft Benson defined pride as emnity between man and God.  We pit our will against His as if to say we know better.  In the scriptures, terms such as blindness, hard heartedness, and being stiff necked are associated with pride.

Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, taught that we should liken the scriptures unto us. Pride keeps us from doing so. We, in our pride, convinced we are already in God's graces, read them and see them as being addressed to others, not to ourselves. So we often miss messages that are meant for us because we in our pride apply it to someone else.

If we really want to receive the message in the scriptures, it becomes necessary to see ourselves in them.

Joseph Smith wrote the following:

There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [a piece of corn bread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [a wooden mallet]. Even the Saints are slow to understand.
I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all.
What was it that caused the people to fly to pieces like glass? What was it that stopped the people so they could not receive more of what Joseph wished to give them? It was their traditions. If they met anything contrary to traditions they already held as inviolate, they would close their minds and stop receiving the things of God.

D&C 93

37 Light and truth forsake that evil one.
38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.

Here, we see two things that block us from receiving light and truth. The first is disobedience. If we fill our lives with darkness or that which does not edify, it makes it more difficult for us to perceive and receive light and truth. The second is the traditions of our fathers. Here again, we see that traditions block us from receiving more from God unless we are willing to reconsider that which we have inherited through our fathers. It is worth noting here that the language used is not “the traditions of men” but rather, the traditions of our fathers. This is referring to family. It is very personal. Again, this is something we can and should apply to ourselves, not to others as being the only ones we consider to have inherited incorrect traditions from their fathers.

It is only when we are open to reconsidering our beliefs that didn't come to us directly from God that we open the way for God to teach us something that we may have received from others that is in error. Even if we are completely sure that that which we have received did come to us from God, we should keep our hearts open to receive more. God gives us knowledge line upon line and precept on precept and what we may have understood as truth with certainty at one stage of our development may appear different at a later stage as we grow and increase in understanding. However, if we close our minds because something appears to contradict our currently held beliefs, we are potentially stopping our own progression. It is often through what appears to be a contradiction and the resolution of that contradiction that God is able to expand our awareness and understanding and move our progression forward.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Gathering - Times of the Gentiles - Jerusalem

As the Lord sets His hand a second time, one may ask, how is this to happen?  What are the characteristics of the gathering?  In particular, what may we see in our times?

Part of arriving at an answer depends on understanding where we are in relation to the prophecies in the scriptures.  When Christ came to earth, there was a switch which occurred in which the gospel, which had been among the Jews was then dispensed and sent forth among the Gentiles.  In the scriptures, this is referred to as the times of the Gentiles.

One of the first mentions in the New Testament of the times of the Gentiles occurs in Luke 21:

20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
 21 Then let them which are in Jud├Ža flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
 22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
 23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
 24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
Here, Christ was speaking to His disciples about what to watch for in relation to the Jewish people.  Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies.  Many would flee to the mountains. It was to be a day of wrath and distress. The Jews would be killed and scattered among all nations.

The state of Jerusalem here appears to be linked to the times of the Gentiles.  First, Christ tells of the siege of Jerusalem.  After the death of Christ, there was a siege in AD 37 and another one in AD 70.  In AD 70, the temple was destroyed.  Since then, Jerusalem has been down trodden by the Gentiles and continues to be until this day.  It will continue to be so until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Isaiah, in his prophecies of Zion coming forth in the latter days, speaks of this latter state of Jerusalem.  It is a time in which the city is no longer trodden down by the Gentiles.  A time in which it will become a holy city.

Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
In 2 Nephi chapter 25, Nephi also discussed what would happen to the Jewish people:

14 And behold it shall come to pass that after the Messiah hath risen from the dead, and hath manifested himself unto his people, unto as many as will believe on his name, behold, Jerusalem shall be destroyed again; for wo unto them that fight against God and the people of his church.
 15 Wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered among all nations; yea, and also Babylon shall be destroyed; wherefore, the Jews shall be scattered by other nations.
 16 And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.
 17 And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore, he will proceed to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men.
According to Nephi's prophecy, there will be a time in which the Jewish people will believe in Christ.  It is here that we also find a reference to the Lord setting his hand again, a second time, to restore his people from their lost and fallen state.  It is here that there is a reference to the Lord doing a marvelous work and wonder among the children of men.

So what is the time frame of the items in verse 17?  Was it in Joseph Smith's day?  Is the second time related to the gathering of the Jewish people and the fulfilling of the times of the Gentiles?  Who are "his" people that are referred to at this point?  Will this be in our day?  What can we watch for from these scriptures to identify that the prophecies are being fulfilled?

Why blog?

I have felt the need to start blogging.  There are many who are already writing blogs about the things I wish to blog about.  I want to add my witness to these things as well.  I feel that the Lord is about to bring some great things to pass which will be to the fulfillment of scriptures and prophecy.  I believe He is about to set His hand a second time to gather His people together.  This blog will be dedicated to discussing observations and sharing my witness of these events and the scriptures around them.

I chose the name Servants in the Vineyard because I believe we are in the times from the allegory of the vineyard by Zenos and taught through Jacob in the Book of Mormon (Jacob 5) where the Lord is readying the final pruning and work of the vineyard.  While I do not see myself as one of these servants, I do feel that I know and am acquainted with others who are working to help the Lord in the pruning of the Vineyard for the last time.

Jacob 5

61 Wherefore, go to, and call servants, that we may labor diligently with our might in the vineyard, that we may prepare the way, that I may bring forth again the natural fruit, which natural fruit is good and the most precious above all other fruit.
 62 Wherefore, let us go to and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth nigh, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard.