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.