Archive for July, 2010

In my last post on ‘living the gospel,’ I focused on the point of one, understanding what living the gospel means and, two, what the gospel truly contains. As I thought about the subject, I felt there was more that needed to be said.

First, it is disappointing to hear members of the church misuse the term ‘gospel.’ Either the scriptures are correct in an effort to clearly and concisely define this term, or we as ‘saints of the Most High God’ have a moving target as a goal. It is not just church members that, in my opinion, abuse the term, I have also seen it misrepresented from the pulpit. In 1991 October conference, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin  presented a talk entitled Fruits of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ In his talk, recites from Matthew 7:24-25 regarding building on rock rather than sand. He then states:

“This analogy teaches us an important lesson. We cannot have the fruits of the gospel without its roots. Through revelation, the Lord has established those roots—distinctive principles of the fulness of the gospel. They give us direction. The Lord has taught us how we should build our lives on a solid foundation, like a rock, that will withstand the temptations and storms of life.

May I give you some of the major principles of the gospel?”

Elder Wirthlin then proceeds to elaborate on what he considers to be the ‘major principles of the gospel’ including:

  • The Godhead

  • Resurrection

  • Parenting

  • Word of Wisdom

  • Welfare Principles

  • Missionary Work

  • Chastity

As you could suspect, I have a controversy with this list as representing the major points of the fulness of the gospel. Talks giving a broad application of the term gospel are easy to find. None of these points can be found in the scriptural definition of the gospel. These types of talks are, however, where members internalize the idea that topics like the word of wisdom and chastity are core to the gospel. The girl who posted her plea in my last post has accepted this man-made definition of the gospel and has found heartache and alienation.

Again, it comes down to this. Either the gospel is as defined in the scriptures by Jesus Christ or the words I presented in my last post represent only a recommendation to be modified by man. I believe strongly that the misrepresentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is why, in 3 Nephi 16:10, we are accused of rejecting the fulness of the gospel.

“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.”

Christ clearly defined His gospel in the same chapter of the Book of Mormon. He has also defined, for us, the relationship between the gospel and His Church In 3 Nephi 27 just before His exposition on His gospel, he tells us:

“9  Verily I say unto you, that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call, in my name; therefore if ye call upon the Father, for the church, if it be in my name the Father will hear you;

10  And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.

11  But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.”

As we read here, Christ expects His church to be built upon His gospel. He also tells us the outcome if it is, instead, build upon the works of men. Please look again at the list of major attributes of the gospel as defined by Elder Wirthlin. I hold that most of the topics are, indeed, the works of men – what else is parenting, missionary work and welfare?

If we build a church based on the works of men, we will have joy in those works but will ultimately be hewn down (see verse 11).

As a final thought on this topic,  I would refer to the first topic presented to the Nephites when Christ appeared to them. He explicitly defined His doctrine in 3 Nephi 11:31-40. While I will not repeat that entire scripture, I would like to refer to the last few verses:

“39  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.

40  And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.”

I find it ironic that this is the same allegory that Elder Wirthlin used to open his conference address. Clearly, anyone who adds or removes items from the doctrine of Christ will lose their footing and fail. I believe the same is true for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If we are truly to receive the benefits of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must apply ourselves to the correct version. Spending our efforts sustaining an incorrect flavor will not bring the desired outcome. The gospel of Jesus Christ can be for each of us a wellspring of joy and peace.

I challenge you to carefully read and prayerfully ponder the chapter of the Book of Mormon that contains the definition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – 3 Nephi, chapter 27. It should be the bellwether for our spiritual activity and a beacon by which to gauge the ‘light’ of the church.

What think ye?

What does it mean to live the gospel? I would encourage the reader to pause and consider how you would answer this question. Here is what one would typically find in a web search based on a search of that phrase:

Living His gospel is more about treating others with as much love as I can, and less about, say…getting my Visiting Teaching done on time.

(Feminist Mormon Housewives by Emily S., Sept. 29, 2009)

This line of reasoning aligns with the comment from a Mormon missionary once gave me in response to the question: What is the gospel? His answer was: “The gospel is love.”

More broadly, though, it seems to me that this phrase “living the gospel” usually equates to “living the standards of the church”

I’m Mormon but I dont live the gospel…Help me!!!!!!?

I’m a mormon, and i have been all my life. I believe in the truthfulness of it but i do not live it on a normal basis. I don’t pray, read my scriptures, and i’ve committed some big sins.
I have been touched inappropriately with and without clothes, and i have touched him as well.. I still am a virgin.
I drink coffee.
I only drank a couple of times and stopped because i realized it compromises myself and decisions.
I have a bellybutton ring.
I swear all the time..
MY PARENTS NO NOTHING ABOUT ANY OF THIS.

These are all sins, if you are not a mormon you probably think it’s ridiculous. And you would think by the things I do.. I have kicked my religion out the window. but I HAVEN’T. I can’t stand being a hypocrite so i Dont pray anymore. I dont know what to do…because I don’t know how to seek forgiveness.. my father is the bishop as well..so i dont have any where to turn

My parents do not know any of this

Im so lost, i want to be married in gods temple one day but i dont even know how to fix it or maybe i’m just too lazy to.. I have no idea.

I feel like when i pray God does not want to talk to me because i’m inconsistent…I dont know how to stay on one side without swaying.

(http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100407093929AAgzX37)

Is living the gospel equate to the Word of Wisdom? To avoid sexual sin?

Gramps provided a different perspective:

Dear Gramps,

What does “Living the Gospel to the fullest” mean?

Joan, from Frazier Park, CA

Dear Joan,

The commandment given in the Mormon scripture, The Doctrine and Covenants, section 84, verse 44 says,

For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.

.In other words, in our daily lives we would do, say or think nothing that would be contrary to God’s will.

The problem is that we live in the most wicked of all the worlds in the universe (see Pearl of Great Price, Moses 7:36), and severe temptations to violate God’s word are all around us. So, in practice, we WILL do, say and think things that are contrary to the will of God. However, God is not a harsh taskmaster, but rather a Loving Father. He judges us not so much by our actions as by the intents of our hearts, as He told Samuel in 1 Sam. 16:7

But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

Therefore, “if our hearts are right,” in other words if we continually try to be as obedient to God’s word as possible, and if when we succumb to any temptation we are truly remorseful, and make a firm resolve to be stronger in the future, God will forgive us of our improprieties, the Holy Spirit will strengthen our resolve and we will be better prepared to meet and overcome such temptations in the future.

Gramps

(http://www.askgramps.org/what-does-it-mean-to-live-the-gospel-to-the-fullest/)

Here we are presented with the concept that living the gospel is to live in accordance with every inspired word that has come from the Lord, by scripture and by the inspired words of his leaders.

In support of this perspective, Joseph F. Smith noted that:

There is no fundamental principle, or truth, anywhere in the universe, that is not embraced in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is not confined to the simple first principles, such as faith in God, repentance from sin, baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, although these are absolutely essential to the salvation and exaltation in the kingdom of God.

The laws known to man as the “laws of nature,” through which the earth and all things on it are governed, as well as the laws which prevail throughout the entire universe, through which heavenly bodies are controlled and to which they are obedient in all things, are all circumscribed and included in the gospel

(Gospel Doctrine, pp 85-86)

So… what is living the gospel to you?

How do you live the gospel? By attending your meetings, fulfilling your callings, doing you Home/Visiting Teaching, paying tithing, and attending the temple? Are these actions the essence of living a gospel-centered life?

From my perspective, before one can understand what is meant by this phrase, one must understand how the gospel is defined. Does the gospel mean living based on the golden rule – love they neighbor? Does the gospel mean don’t drink, don’t smoke, and don’t engage in immorality? Does the gospel mean performing a set of regular tasks that are perceived to be of value to the church?

How important is it to maintain a strict understanding of the meaning of the gospel? Paul told the Galatians:

6  I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

7  Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

8  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Should we, as members of the restored church, be concerned with this warning regarding the gospel? What constitutes preaching another gospel?

We all speak of the restoration of the gospel – the Lord saw fit to call a prophet to ‘restore’ that which was lost. We preach that the Book of Mormon contains the ‘fulness of the gospel.’ What is the gospel? Should we pay strict attention to what the Lord has defined as the gospel to ensure that we are not accursed per Paul’s warning?

I would strongly suggest that the answer should be ‘yes.’ We should strive to understand what that gospel is and what it is not. We should not twist the gospel into something else that fits with our worldview.

To me, the best place to go for a definition of the gospel is that book we have been told contains the ‘fulness of the gospel’ – The Book of Mormon. What better source could we have than the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, in telling us what constitutes His gospel?

While the following quote is lengthy, I will place it here. This is how Christ defined His gospel in the twenty-seventh chapter of Third Nephi:

13  Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

14  And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

15  And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

16  And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.

17  And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father.

18  And this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men.  And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.

19  And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

20  Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

21  Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;

That, my friends, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Christ came that He could draw all to Him

  • We will be judged according to our works

  • Repentance, baptism and enduring to the end

  • We must be cleansed of all our sins by the blood of Christ

In my opinion, verse twenty summarizes the gospel. We must repent and come unto Christ. We are to achieve sanctification through the receipt of the Holy Ghost. That will allow us to present ourselves as clean and free of all sin at judgment day.

Do we preach another gospel? Have we found ourselves cursed because we have accepted another gospel – one that focuses on ritual and the works of men? Does the expansion of the definition of the gospel to include all truth and all the laws of nature constitute ‘another gospel?’

This is the message we should take to the world. We believe that Jesus Christ is our personal Savior – that he died on the cross that we might live. We have restored that plain and precious truth of the gospel that there is a way for us to be sanctified – to be free of sin through the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. This is the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What think ye?

There are phrases in the scriptures that carry extra meaning in one’s life.  For example, Alma’s simple self description found in Alma 27:18 regarding the joy that was felt when dear friends reunite:

Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness.

I would like to consider myself on the path to becoming a ‘truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness.’ Could it be that the message of Jesus Christ through the restoration of the gospel is to guide us on a path to become such? True penitence would be an accurate and honest recognition of our sins and weaknesses. This type of honest assessment brought the people of King Benjamin to the point where they were receptive to the cleansing power of the Holy Ghost. To me, truly humble means that our thoughts are always selfless. We think and act in a way that separates our wants from our actions.

I also yearn to be a ‘seeker of happiness.’ In the sense that this was used by Alma, they sought the happiness that comes from bringing to others the joy found in the application of the gospel in their lives – namely the spiritual bond with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Another phrase which has deeper meaning to me is the name of this new website: Just and True. The term ‘just’ would mean in accordance with God’s proper standard. Justice is the proper accounting relative the standard given to us by God. True, to me, means genuine, the real thing. Truth is what we should all seek for. That which we seek for should be correct and truthful.

This phrase is found ten times in the scriptures. Here is a glimpse into the use of this term.

First, from Revelations, chapter 15:

2  And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.

3  And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous areare thy ways, thou King of saints. thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true

Those that overcame the beast sang the song on the Lamb defining the actions of the Lord just and true.

From 1 Nephi, chapter 14, we find that the words originally written by John fall into this category.

20  And the angel said unto me: Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

21  Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been.

22  And he shall also write concerning the end of the world.

23  Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.

Scripture can be held to the standard of being just and true. The words of John originally fit into this characterization.

The words of men influenced by the power of the Holy Ghost also fit the model.

34  Ammon said unto him: I am a man; and man in the beginning was created after the image of God, and I am called by his Holy Spirit to teach these things unto this people, that they may be brought to a knowledge of that which is just and true;

I take these scriptures to mean that the God’s message to us must be just or correct and true or accurate.

For this reason, I acquired the name for this website, www.justandtrue.com. It is my fond hope that we can all seek and portray the correct and accurate statement of the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you look around in a typical LDS ward, you will see people who are striving to do the right thing. We come to church in right attire, men in white shirts and suits, women in modest dresses. We present the right image of being clean and pure. On occasion, we talk of repentance as a necessity, but something done in private away from the prying eyes of our fellow saints who distain evil and vice. We speak of shunning sin as though we have accomplished the feat. But how accurate is the public image we have chosen to present?

Aren’t we all broken? Do we not all have sin and evil in our lives? Not all of us wear the odor of our addiction on our clothes as smokers do. But what if this was the case? What would our environment be like if the addiction to pornography, or to drugs, or even to material possessions and worldliness generated an odor that could be sensed by those around us? What would our church be like?

What would the recognition of the fact that we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) do to our religious community?

In Ether 12:27 we read that we, all, have weakness:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

The Lord tells us that we are given weaknesses, the inability to withstand all sin and temptation, in order for us to be humble. In my opinion, pride is the antithesis of humility. Humble is not having anything hidden. Humility is not doing anything that we place ourselves above another.

Nephi demonstrated this openness when he told us in 2 Nephi, chapter 4:

17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

What would our reaction be if one of our leaders today were to make a similar statement?

Pride means we must project and protect our image; whether it is a fine home, an SUV or a lifestyle. Self righteousness is a blatant form of pride. We can easily fall into a mode where we become proud of our circumstances or accomplishments and look with distain upon others who are not at the same ‘level.’ Christ referred to people who wear an external appearance of good but were rotten inside as ‘whited sepulchres”

We read in D&C 121 what impact this has on one who holds the priesthood.

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

A priesthood holder can lose his priesthood authority by covering his sins. Does this mean that any attempt to keep our sins secret negates our priesthood? Is this why Nephi was so candid? How many truly hold priesthood authority if the simple act of sinning and hiding the fact disconnects them from the priesthood?

This type of candid self assessment by anyone in the church is almost shocking. What if the Lord expected us to be this open to those of our religious community?

In Moroni 6:2 we read:

Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.

How many of our new members have stood before the church and witnessed that they have repented of all their sins before they were baptized? Moroni states this as a prerequisite to baptism. What would the atmosphere be like if we all witnessed unto the church of our degree of sinliness? I will let you go first…

After King Benjamin delivered his sermon at the temple, the people had this reaction found in Mosiah, chapter 4:

1 AND now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.

2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.

How much of our own pride would we need to dismantle before we would see ourselves as ‘less than the dust of the earth?’

The people of King Benjamin were blessed with the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost and were sanctified because they reached this state.

3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.

These people received a remission of their sins as a group of the followers of Christ. They had the burden of sin removed from them and had received great joy. They did it as a collective membership of the church. What would it take to have this same experience among us today? Would we be willing as a ward to lay ourselves open to all, to be stripped of all pride and view ourselves as nothing? The prize would be to truly receive a remission of our sins.

This is the same result as defined by Moroni regarding the prerequisites to church membership.

4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.

As we read here, it was not until AFTER the person had been baptized by water and cleansed and sanctified by the power of the Holy Ghost that they were admitted into the membership of the church.

This is the same result as the people of King Benjamin. They also were cleansed of all sins. I believe this is significantly different from coming out of the waters of baptism and immediately having a confirmation where we are told to receive the Holy Ghost. This simple act does not garner a remission of sins. It is not until we have had the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost that we can be truly clean, that we can be truly sanctified.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that if we desire to have membership in his spiritual church (as opposed to the corporate church) and administer with true priesthood authority, we must be willing to bear our souls. We must be willing to leave no sins hidden. We must strip ourselves of all pride and ambition in any degree of unrighteousness in order to be cleansed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

Are we individually and collectively willing to truly approach God with a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit,’ to bear our souls as an open book, and seek to be cleansed by the Holy Ghost as required in Moroni 6?

What think ye?