Archive for February, 2010

As you may recall, Antionum is the land where the Zoramites settled. Immediately following the encounter with Korihor, we find Alma and his brethren amid a people with some peculiar worship techniques. We learn from Alma 31 that this people dissented from the Nephites and were not keeping the law of Moses. As I read from this chapter of the Book of Mormon, I have often paused to ponder the implications in our lives. Let me attempt to explain.

The Zoramites, we discover, built synagogues and had regularly scheduled services. This comes from Alma 31:12 and 23:

Now, when they had come into the land, behold, to their astonishment they found that the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord;”

 

“Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner.”

Once a week, this people would gather together on the day of the Lord, conduct their services and then return home. They would not speak of God until they returned to the synagogue the next week. Do we sometimes exhibit a similar behavior where we switch on our ‘Sunday’ mode, perform our rituals, and then switch off when we leave? I know I have operated in this manner in the past. 

How often do we ‘speak of God’ when we are away from our Sunday schedule? At times, I have felt uncomfortable when ‘Christians’ around me have talked of God and other spiritual topics in the conversations at work. I found myself rarely speaking of God in business interactions because I feared being labeled. How much should we wear our religion ‘on our sleeves?”

Once they gathered together on the day of the Lord, we find a description of their services in the following verses:

13 For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person.

  14 Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying:

  15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.

  16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.

  17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.

  18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.” 

As I read these verses, there are several items of note. While we live our lives, do we adopt some of the same attitudes found in these verses? Do we, in our testimonies, repeat the same tried and true statements? We express our testimony of the prophet, the church, and our family followed by another and another. As I pondered this point, I was reminded of the warning against vain repetitions we find in Matthew 6:7.

I now look at that endearing practice of hauling our young children to the front of the chapel and then coaching them to make statements of their ‘knowledge” in a different light. Are we teaching our children that bearing testimony is no more than the emotional regurgitation of these same worn phrases?

The verses of chapter 31 were written about 75 years before the birth of Christ. The Zoramites speak from the Rameumptum of the ‘foolish traditions of our brethren’ regarding future events, in this case the coming of Christ. It seems rare, in these days, that we hear anything from the pulpit regarding the anticipated coming of Christ and its associated signs. Have we, for example, relegated the signs of the second coming to the foolish traditions of our fathers? Do the recent events in Okinawa, Northern California, Haiti, and Chile have any relevance when the scriptures speak of ‘earthquakes in divers places?’

The Zoramites, in their testimony, speak of being His holy children and their position as the elect of God. The Jews suffered from this same affliction when they boasted of being the children of Abraham. I contrast that pride with the attitude of the people who were listening to King Benjamin in Mosiah 4:2 where ‘they viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth.’ Do we, as the bearers of the restoration show forth this same type of pride? How dangerous is it to lean upon our perceived pillar of lineage?

Pride seems to be a recurring theme in the discussion of the Zoramites as we read in the following verses:

 24 Now when Alma saw this his heart was grieved; for he saw that they were a wicked and a perverse people; yea, he saw that their hearts were set upon gold, and upon silver, and upon all manner of fine goods
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  25 Yea, and he also saw that their hearts were lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride.

  26 And he lifted up his voice to heaven, and cried, saying: O, how long, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that thy servants shall dwell here below in the flesh, to behold such gross wickedness among the children of men?

  27 Behold, O God, they cry unto thee, and yet their hearts are swallowed up in their pride. Behold, O God, they cry unto thee with their mouths, while they are puffed up, even to greatness, with the vain things of the world.

  28 Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish.

 

Alma saw that the Zoramites measured their success with the things of the world. He considered their materialism, pride and vanity as gross wickedness.  Can we measure the condition of the modern day church based on the material success of the members and on the gains of the corporate empire the church has been able to build? Is it not gross wickedness to display this same desire for the things of the world today?

Alma speaks of the costly apparel and the adornments that were highly prized by the  Zoramites. It appears from this statement that they used their one ‘day of the Lord’ event to display their fine attire and flaunt the wealth they had achieved. What should our attitude be towards the display of fine clothes and the adornments of the world in our Sunday services?  Should these be prioritized higher than the need for a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit?’

I was surprised by the discussion regarding the preparation for the Sacrament found in a recent issue of the Ensign taken from a talk by Dallin H. Oaks. Here are the first several points identified in the article:

            • We dress properly, including wearing appropriate shoes, to show that we understand the sacred nature of the ordinance.

            • We come to sacrament meeting with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

            • We are quietly seated well before the meeting begins.

            • We bring a spirit of prayer, meekness, and devotion.

• We engage in prayerful meditation, reflecting on the mission of the Savior and our worthiness to partake of the sacrament.

Why is it that what we wear should be listed before the condition of our heart? Is this a subtle indication that we suffer from some of the same problems that afflicted the Zoramites? 

There are things I believe we can learn from the description of the Zoramites. We should not let our worship degrade to rote recitals. We  should speak of God more than on just Sundays. We should not allow ourselves to be defined by what we wear. Pride and materialism are the elements of gross wickedness.  And finally, is anyone else concerned that we seem to have a recent uptick in earthquake activity throughout the world?

What think ye?

It was supposed to be the dream family vacation to Hawai’i. I had enough frequent flier miles to get the six of us to the islands and got up at 4am on the specific day to make sure we had the flights we wanted. I spent a lot of time acquiring lodging on three different islands and arranging transportation and the connecting flights for our ten day odyssey.

The first stop was a beautiful little beach front cottage on the north shore of the island of Oahu. We arrived after dark on the first day and the constant roar of the ocean could be heard behind the cottage.

The next morning the kids were ecstatic to discover the miles of fine sand beach and the roaring surf. We discovered that we were about 200 yards south of the famed Banzai Pipeline where there was a surfing championship scheduled for the next few days.

Our first activity was to acquire a couple of boogie boards about 4 feet long which the kids used to surf back to the beach from a safe distance. Being the adventurous type, I decided to try my hand on the boogie board and proceeded out into the surf.

Between our cottage and the Pipeline area was a line of volcanic rock that was placed out into the ocean as a surf break and also delineated the private beach area from the public area to the north. Also of note was the little patch of rock about 30 yards from the surf break. As I left the shore I struck out further south of these potential obstacles.

Being the naive Midwesterner, I decided to go a little further than the kids had ventured and before I realized it, I was out close to the area where the surfers congregated and much to my consternation was moving with the current north towards the surf break. One of the surfers asked if I needed help and I politely declined figuring I could fight my way back in.

As I was trying to work my way back, I was caught by a larger than expected wave and began my quick journey back to the beach. I wondrously managed to survive the first wave and found myself pushed onto the small rock feature I described earlier. Before I could get my wits and launch off the rock, a second wave pounded me into the rocks and then tossed me back into the shallow water leading to the beach. I struggled to bring myself back to the sand and discovered a long skin wound from the middle of my calf to just below my left knee. As I tried to stand, I found my left leg could not support me and my two sons helped me back to the cottage.

As I lay on the couch in pain, I saw the first dark bruises begin to appear around my knee. Upon seeing this, my dear wife called the local hospital and was told to bring me in for an examination the next morning.

Here I was, less than 24 hours into the vacation of our lives and found myself wracked with pain and confined to the couch. Needless to say, it was a downer for the entire clan.

The next morning, the doctor immediately ordered X-rays of my knee and was soon showing me images of the damage. I had the top third of my tibia broken off and separated from the rest of the bone with a fair amount of crushed bone fragments along the top and front of the break. He told me that this was a serious break and would need surgery to repair the damage. He added to the dismal news by telling me that the crushed fragments would likely lead to a life of pain and early arthritis in that joint.

We worked out a change in our return reservations for me and my oldest son who volunteered to accompany back home. I will not get into the details but, for those of you who have made the 8+ hour flight back from the islands should try it with a 40 pound temporary leg cast crammed under a coach seat. I didn’t think my sanity would survive the trip but somehow, we managed to make it back home.

As I pondered my fate, my first call was to my home teacher, Gordon, who came over and gave me a priesthood blessing. His words gave me some comfort at the time and I carried a prayer in my heart that I would be able to work through this and that my family would be protected in my absence.

My son drove me to my appointment with my orthopedist the next day and I entered the clinic with some level of dread. I have never had surgery before and didn’t want to start now. With a new set of X-rays came heartening news. The doctor said the bones had come back together in good fashion and that I would need only to wear a cast for 5 weeks. He did caution me that, due to the injury, my left knee would be susceptible to pain and potential complications. I gladly accepted my fate.

Back at work, on crutches, I put the following caption on the whiteboard in my office: My family went to Hawai’i and all I got was this X-ray…

So, why share this with you now nearly 15 years after the event? I learned some things from this event and was prompted to share them with you.

First, I was an idiot for putting myself in harm’s way by going too far out into the ocean ill prepared for the elements. I was even a larger idiot for turning away help from someone who could see the danger I was in when I could not. How many times does our pride lead us to incur more pain than is necessary? I can say to this day that if I had simply said “Yes, I need some help. I don’t know how to get back to shore,” I would be much better off. I have carried with me to this day the clear understanding that we are not a lesser person if we accept help from others. Especially those who have a better view of the difficulties we may be in.

Second, the reason this event was brought to mind as I was going down the stairs in my home is the memory of the doctor’s warning of my possible problems in the future. Yes, I do have a bad knee, but it is not the knee I injured in Hawai’i. After all these years, my knee that sustained a significant injury, the knee that appeared in need of surgery, the knee that had been crushed is, today, my good knee.

I attribute my good fortune to the priesthood blessing I received that evening over a decade ago. A blessing of faith given to me that not only restored my knee to working condition but, somehow, elevated its performance above the other knee these years later.

I have been blessed with several miracles in my life that help me to remember on whom I rely for my very breath and well being.

I believe we are presented opportunities to learn lessons in this life. These opportunities are often repeated until we learn the intended lesson.This is one lesson I hope never to repeat.

What think ye?

The Book of Mormon teaches us that the restoration of the gospel in the latter days would be given to the Gentiles. As we read, after many generations, ‘then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles and from the gentiles unto the remnant of our seed.’ (1 Nephi 15:13)

Shortly after the arrival of Christ among the Nephites following his resurrection, He reinforced the idea that the restoration would occur through us Gentiles. Speaking of those who will write the book, He said:

“…that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer.” (3 Nephi 16:4)

Let me suggest here that being a ‘believing Gentile’ isn’t so bad, at least to start. Continuing on in this same chapter 16 we read in verse 6:

And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.

Here we read that we, Gentiles, at the time of the restoration, would be blessed because of our faith in Christ. This testimony would be given by the witness of the Holy Ghost. Who else but the membership of the restored church could this apply to?

Following in verse 7 we read:

Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them.

We, in the latter days, as Gentiles, will be given the fulness of the gospel. The truth will be given to us. This again reinforces the idea that the restoration occurred among the Gentiles and that those who joined the early restored church were Gentiles.

Of course, if you have ‘believing Gentiles.’ There would logically be ‘unbelieving Gentiles’ and we find them described in verse 8:

But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles—for notwithstanding they have come forth upon the face of this land, and have scattered my people who are of the house of Israel; and my people who are of the house of Israel have been cast out from among them, and have been trodden under feet by them;

Those who played a large role in the scattering of the house of Israel here in what was to become the United States were also Gentiles. The inference here is that at least a portion of the native American tribes were the house of Israel and that the influx of Gentiles into this land caused severe distress on the natives.

So, in these several verses in chapter 16 of 3 Nephi, we have both believing Gentiles and unbelieving Gentiles. But after talking of these two groups within the Gentiles, the Lord, in the next verses, talks of the Gentiles which includes both the believing and unbelieving of the Gentiles.

10 And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.

11 And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them.

We find here the prophecy that the Gentiles, collectively, will sin against the gospel of Jesus Christ and will reject the fulness of the gospel. I believe that this again applies to the collective Gentiles, both believing and unbelieving. The Lord states here that, not if, but when we reject the gospel. It is not a conditional prophecy – it is a clear warning that the restoration of the gospel in these latter day to the Gentiles will not simply carry forward to the establishment of Zion. We, Gentiles, will reject the fulness of the gospel.

What does it mean to reject the fulness of the gospel? I have, in past posts, attempted to convey my belief that a key part of the restored gospel is the clear understanding of the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. I believe that the church collectively today has, indeed, rejected the necessity of this second baptism. We hear from General Authorities that this event is an imperceptible change over a long period of living a Christ-like life. The redefinition of this critical ordinance of the gospel is the same as the rejection of the same.

Continuing in these verses, we find that the Gentiles, both believing and unbelieving, will also exhibit the following traits:

  • Lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations
  • Filled with all manner of lyings, deceits, hypocrisy, murder, priestcrafts, whoredoms, secret abominations

These acts are attributed to all Gentiles. Do we, in the church and in the nation, have a problem with pride? I think the answer is an emphatic ‘yes.’ Are we, in the church and in the nation, party to the other evils listed here such as deceit and hypocrisy, murder and whoredoms? I fear that this is true also.

Because of the rejection of the gospel and the evils that have invaded our society, we will have the fulness of the gospel taken from us. I believe that this could be recognized as the loss of the fruits that go with the fulness of the gospel. We no longer have the miracles found among us that once graced the members. Does this possibly mean that the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost will not be available to us as individuals? If my earlier premise regarding the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost is correct, removing the fulness of the gospel could indeed result in this blessing no longer being available to us as a Gentile participant of the restoration.

All is not lost, however, as the Lord has provided a way to reclaim this sacred opportunity. As we note earlier in verse 11, the Lord will bring the gospel to His people of the house of Israel. In verse 13, He then offers us Gentiles an opportunity:

But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.

For us to once again have blessings of the fulness of the gospel, we must repent and return to Him. I believe this applies to us, as Gentiles, who once rejected the gospel. How can one ‘repent and return’ to somewhere he/she has never been? No, we must return to our former condition before we rejected the fulness. If we do so, we can be numbered among those of the house of Israel who will have the fulness of the gospel.

The Lord continues in this chapter with this warning:

15 But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel.

As I read this, one question that can be asked is: Who does the Lord characterize as the salt and savor? We read this in D&C 101:

39 When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men;

40 They are called to be the savor of men; therefore, if that salt of the earth lose its savor, behold, it is thenceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.

I read this to mean that the salt and savor, according to the Lord, are those who are part of the everlasting covenant – another clear indication that the Lord is speaking of those who are members of His restored church. If we do not repent and return, we will be as the salt that has lost its savor and will be trodden down. Once that fulness of the gospel is taken from us and given to the house of Israel, our only course of action will be to repent and return whereby we can be numbered with the house of Israel.

This idea is reinforced in chapter 21 of 3 Nephi:

6 For thus it behooveth the Father that it should come forth from the Gentiles, that he may show forth his power unto the Gentiles, for this cause that the Gentiles, if they will not harden their hearts, that they may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel;

It is imperative that each of us weigh these words of scripture in our hearts and in our minds. What is it that the Lord would have me do with these words? Should I ignore them and blindly claim our right as a child of Ephraim? Or should I humbly seek the wisdom and knowledge needed to understand how these verses of scripture apply to me and what I must do to be acceptable of the Lord?

What think ye?