Archive for the ‘Older Posts’ Category

29
Apr

The Gospel According to Pinocchio

   Posted by: John

My daughter was watching the old Disney movie Pinocchio this morning.  I happened to walk by about the time that Pinocchio was being talked into going to Pleasure Island, a place where boys could go and do whatever they wanted.  There were no rules, no authority, no responsibility.  They could do things like smoke, drink, destroy a nice house, play cards and pool, go on insane rides, and so on.  Pinocchio allowed himself to be convinced it was the place to by a couple of smooth talking shysters.  The carriage took him and a load of other boys to the ship, they sailed to the island and headed in.  However, once inside this place, the doors were closed so they could not escape.

It was true, there was so much to do on this island.  A boy could cause as much trouble as he wanted and nobody would catch him.  Cigars and beer were free and encouraged.  It was a life of debauchery and depravity.  The only problem was,  after some time, a curious thing happened.  The boys started to turn into donkeys.  First the ears would come out, then the tails.  Then, quickly, their heads would change into donkey heads.  Hands and feet turned into hooves.  Soon their entire body was changed, their voices gone, except for the “hee haw” that comprises a donkey’s speech.  Then they were captured, crated up and sold to the circus or the salt mines.  They were not able to go back and change what they had done to themselves.

As I watched, I considered how this is a great example of life.  As we grow, there are a variety of things that vie for our attention, some good and some bad.  The world would tell us that “Pleasure Island” is the way to go.  Sadly, most of the things that Pleasure Island offers are addictive and offensive.  We try them, enjoy them, but pretty soon we can’t let go of them.  As an example, smoking is portrayed as “cool”.  Even if it can’t be advertised as such, friends and acquaintances can pressure us to be cool like them by smoking.  I know people who smoke that like it, and some that hate it.  The common thing between them is that it is very difficult to stop it.  They become slaves to that habit, and it makes it easier to become slaves to other things as well.  The spirit distances itself from you and your mind starts to rationalize that, well, I’m doing this, I might as well do that.

As we become immersed, we become spiritual donkeys.  Our senses are dulled, our spirit loses contact with our Father in Heaven, and we drift away, slaves to the addictions and so-called pleasures of the world.  We might as well be slaves in the salt mines, driven by masters that control us.

In the movie, Jiminy Cricket manages to rescue Pinocchio before he fully changes into the donkey.  It takes some doing, but Pinocchio manages to escape the things that attracted him to Pleasure Island and, after some difficulty, returns to his Father.

We have the opportunity to take advantage of the Atonement, in which we can take strength from Christ and escape from the things that drag us down and set us on a path back to our Father in Heaven.  We can escape from “Pleasure Island”.  The difference between Pinocchio and the Atonement, however, is that those who are fully slaves to the desires and pleasures of the world, can still escape them, unlike in the movie where done was done.  The closer to being a full donkey you are, the harder it is to get away, but it can be done.

I find it amusing that a Disney film from 50 years ago can carry such an analogy, but the impression was made rather strongly this morning, and I am glad I stopped to watch that 10 minutes of movie.

26
Apr

Revelation and Priesthood Keys (April 2007)

   Posted by: John

The Sunday School lesson this week was about Priesthood keys, along with the events at the mount of transfiguration. Brother Miner led a very interesting discussion about what “keys” are and who has them.

One thing we talked about first was the part in Matthew 15 where Jesus asked the apostles what people thought of him.

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

During the discussion, we talked about how Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ. It would be easy to say that, well, Christ was there, why wouldn’t they know. One has to keep in mind that Christ was almost as mortal as any other man. He had a body of flesh and blood, as does every other person who lives or lived on this Earth. He was subject to hunger, pain, and any other malady that afflicts man. Thus, being as a “man”, the Holy Ghost still needed to perform the act of testifying to Christ’s divinity, just as it does for us who are not in His physical presence. That is why Christ told Peter that Father in heaven had revealed it to him. This passage of scripture also tells us that man is wholly incapable of providing spiritual testimony. A person can testify of things they know the spirit has confirmed, but the spirit must seal that testimony in the heart of the receiver.

Now, the Savior continues with this:

 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The basis of the Catholic church rests on verse 18, wherein the Savior says “upon this rock I will build my church”. Catholicism says that Peter was the first Pope, and this is where Christ named him as such. This is an error. Jesus was not referring to Peter as a rock (although Peter was destined to be the president of Christ’s church later on, and proved himself to be an unmovable rock in the gospel). Rather, Jesus was talking about revelation. Christ’s church is based upon God revealing himself to man through the Holy Ghost. Revelation is vital to true religion. When the spirit testifies, it is revelation. When a Bishop issues a calling, it is done by revelation. The 5th article of faith, as given by Joseph Smith, states unequivocally that a “man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof”. If there is no revelation and prophecy, a person can not be called of God, nor can he assume ecclesiastical responsibility with any level of validity. Peter was to be given the keys of the kingdom, but was never meant to be the foundation and basis of the church. That role belongs to Jesus, and he reveals how his church must be governed and administered.

Several days after these events, we read, in Matthew 17, this:

1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

Jesus took his first presidency (although at that time, they were not likely installed as such yet) with him to a high mountain, away from everything. It is likely that they prayed, and then Jesus was transfigured and received two (that we know of) messengers, Moses and Elias (Elijah). One has to ask why Jesus needed to be transfigured before Moses and Elias. He was the Son of God! The answer is that Jesus did not have a glorified body (as he does now). Because he was a man there was no need for anyone to be transfigured to be in His presence. At the same time, because he was a man, he had to be transfigured to stand in the presence of heavenly beings.

The reason for these visits at the mount of transfiguration, according to Bruce R. McConkie, was for Moses and Elijah to pass on the keys which they held to Christ, who then conferred those keys on Peter. (Again, one has to wonder why the Son of God needed these keys to be given to him, seeing as how they belong to him in the first place. However, as with every other aspect of Christ’s mortal life, he did things as an example, to fulfill righteousness, and, I feel, to perfect His role as the perfect man.) Peter, James and John were witnesses to this event, and likely took an active part in it. (As a side note, during this visit, the Father himself took the opportunity to “introduce” himself by proclaiming Christ to be his Son. If, as most Christian churches claim, Christ and God are the same, how could this occur?)

Now, as to the keys themselves, we had an interesting discussion about these keys and who holds them. Again, Bruce R. McConkie becomes very useful, wherein he states that keys are reserved for presidents of their respective Priesthood charges. The only people who hold all of the keys is the president of the church, his counselors, and the twelve apostles. The President is the one authorized to use those keys. He can delegate others to use some of the keys, as he sees fit. The only exception to this rule is when the President dies, and then the quorum of the apostles can use those keys to ordain the next president. At that time, the new president can use those keys and the keys the apostles hold like dormant again.

Brother Miner got the High Priest group leader to stand up in front with him and asked him what keys he held. The answer was “none whatsoever”. And, he’s right. The High Priest group leader is not the president of the Melchizedek Priesthood in the stake. The Stake President is the president of the High Priests, and holds the keys pertaining to that responsibility. The Bishop is the president of the Aaronic Priesthood and the Priest’s quorum, and holds keys pertaining to that office.

Remember that Elder McConkie said that the keys were reserved for the presidents. Counselors to the stake president do not hold keys. Members of the stake high council do not hold keys. Members of a quorum do not hold keys. Only the president does.

At some time after the events at the mount of transfiguration, Christ gave Peter the necessary Priesthood keys, thus designating him as the president of the church. Since the members of the quorum of the 12 Apostles hold all of the keys, either Christ or Peter bestowed those keys on the rest of the Apostles. As these Apostles were killed or imprisoned, the keys were removed from the earth, making it impossible for Christ’s true church to remain intact.

It is interesting to look at how these keys were restored to Joseph Smith. The period of time covers years, starting in 1829, when John the Baptist restored the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood. Then, also in 1829, Peter, James and John restored the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood. However, it should be noted that Peter, James, and John did not restore all of the priesthood keys. Some were reserved for others.

In 1836, in the Kirtland temple, Moses, Elias, and Elijah appeared to confer keys to Joseph Smith. It is interesting that these same prophets appeared on the mount of transfiguration to confer the same keys. I find it fascinating to think of the ancient apostles, who held these keys, are the ones honored to give them. From the foundation of the world, they were ordained to carry the keys of the kingdom, had those keys given to them, and are instrumental in returning those keys to the earth when they have been lost.

What a blessing it is to us to have these available to us. President Hinckley carries them and uses them daily as part of his duties. My Stake President and Bishop carry the keys of their offices, rightfully given to them by men who, holding the priesthood in righteousness, have those keys and are authorized by God to give them to other righteous men. What other church in the world can claim to call men by revelation and prophecy and the laying on of hands? None, as none others have the priesthood.

Along with the keys now on the earth, I have also learned this last week that there are many more Priesthood keys that we do not have, but will be available to those who move on to the next world in righteousness. I learned from the Bishop (and it was further expounded upon by a talk I listened to later that same evening by Phillip Allred) that there is a Priesthood key of resurrection. We do not have this key, but righteous resurrected beings in the next world can have it, and use it when it is needed. Brigham Young talked about this key in some of his addresses, and mentioned that there were many others, like the key of creation, that are part of God’s holy Priesthood. The reason we do not have them, or even know much about them is because they are not directly related to our salvation in this life and therefore are not necessary for us to have at this time. Fascinating, isn’t it, to know that this life is just a portion of our journey toward becoming like God. He has given us what we need, along with some tidbits of things to come, just enough to whet our appetites and help us understand what our true eternal potential is.

So, as a conclusion to this rather long essay, this has been an incredible subject to delve into. Truly, this topic can be listed as one of the mysteries of God, but one that will be understood and used by those who are worthy to move forward in the next life.

18
Feb

On Faith (February 2007)

   Posted by: John

We were talking about miracles in Sunday School today.  Bro. Miner was writing some things on the board as we were reading scriptures from the lesson.  One of the words that he wrote was “Faith”.  Then he proceeded to describe faith in a way I have not thought of before.

We had read the following situation from Mark 2:1-4.

“And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.  And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.  And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.  And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.”

At this point he asked us what other words can be used to describe faith.  Words like hope and belief were given by class members.  Bro. Miner added a different word on the board: confidence.  I have never associated that word with faith.  After thinking about it, I wonder why I haven’t.  It makes perfect sense.  A person with faith is confident that the Lord will respond to whatever the circumstance is.

This is a great example of why faith is different than belief, where one may hope that something is true, but does not have confidence in it.  Faith drives people to action, and while it is true that one hopes for the promises associated with the various commandments and works, the confidence in the Lord is strengthened with each manifestation of the spirit.

I think of Enos, whose soul hungered to know if the things his father taught him were true.  He prayed mightily and received his answer.  He prayed more about other things and was answered again.  Then, in verse 11, “And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord…”  In other words, his confidence that God heard him, answered him and loved him was strong.  It became so strong, that in verse 12, God said “…I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith.”  Now, the situation that Enos describes in these verses has to do with the Lamanites, but the principle applies to faith in general.  Enos had such confidence in the Lord that the Lord granted the righteous desires of his heart, and tells him that his faith is the reason.

That is what I learned in Sunday School today.

18
Feb

Why “Pat Answers” are OK (February 2007)

   Posted by: John

While I was sitting in sacrament meeting today, I got to thinking about the phenomenon of giving “pat answers” when asked questions in Sunday School or Priesthood.  For example, a question might be “What can we do as Priesthood holders to strengthen our families?”  The pat answers are things like “Read the scriptures”, “Have our family prayer”, or “Attend the temple”.

It is not uncommon to think of these kinds of answers as too simple, or even as humorous, since they can be used to answer 90% of the questions asked in class.  As I thought about it, I realized that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the so-called “pat answers”.  They are, after all, correct.

I think that many who have been church members for a long time get bored with these simple answers (even though they always give them) because they ARE simple.  We may feel that we are beyond simple and we should be discussing more complex and advanced principles.

It should be noted that the first principles of the gospel are indeed simple and basic, yet they are deep and symbolic.  For example, faith and prayer are simple concepts, yet the spiritual aspects to these are far more deep than most people comprehend.  Other examples would be scripture study, paying tithing, or personal prayer.  Yet, without a firm understanding of these simple things, it would be impossible to successfully grasp the meaning of the advanced gospel topics and ordinances.  One must firmly adhere to the basic principles if they wish to have even a hope of understanding the depth of things learned in the temple.

Strangely, we hear more from our church leaders on the basic and simple gospel principles than anything else.  Why is that?  Is it because people in general have trouble living the simple things even though they think the simple things may be beneath them?  How many General Conference talks have we heard on faith, repentance and tithing?

All of this goes to show that if the basic “pat answer” topics are good enough to hear from Apostles (who likely have heard gospel topics from the Savior himself that they can not share with us because we could not handle it), they are good enough for us to use in our classes.  We need to learn them, live them and love them.  The reason that we hear them over and over is because we do not live them fully.  Until such time as we do, we will continue to hear them time and again.  Then, we will understand the advanced things because our spirits will be communicating with God on a higher level.

So, give the “pat answers” and don’t think you are too good for them.  Use them well, and the rest will be given by the spirit.

15
Feb

On Being Qualified and Called (February 2007)

   Posted by: John

I have seen this message on a church sign, and thought it rather interesting.

“God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.”

As I think about that, I have to both agree and disagree with it.  Their meaning, of course, is to say that God will call who He will call, regardless of their position or stature in life, and likely regardless of their level of righteousness or knowledge.  They are also saying that when God calls a person, He will make them qualified to do whatever it is they are called to do.  I would like to analyze and discuss this some.

First, “God does not call the qualified.”  In some ways, this is true.  How many people really feel they are adequate when called of God to serve in some function.  Some people aspire to high church callings.  In most churches, this is achieved by theological education, ordaining to the ministry, and finding a church that is looking for a professional leader.  While most people who do these “callings” are truly good and God fearing people, they are doing it because they want to do it and have made the conscious decision to enter the ministry or priesthood.  Also, in most churches, these positions come with a salary of some kind, making it a profession, like any other job.

The 5th article of faith states “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.”  Joseph Smith, when trying to outline the basic beliefs of the LDS church, included this item because the world is confused about how a man is “called” of God.  In order to be called, there has to be one who is already called, and has authority to receive revelation.  This person would be called a prophet, or someone who is delegated by the prophet to receive and administer such revelation over their respective charges.  Virtually all Christian churches do not function in this manner.  What sets the LDS church apart is that we have Bishops who call people to serve in ward functions, Stake Presidents who call people to serve in stake functions, Area Presidents who do the same for areas, and the Quorums of the 12 Apostles and 70s who do this for the church.  Almost none of these people aspired to their individual callings.  Rather they were called by those who had authority and responsibility to do so, by the spirit of revelation.

Being called by revelation implies that the person making the calling is given information by God on who should be filling the various positions.  God is a being of righteousness.  His Priesthood is given upon principles and conditions of righteousness.  The scriptures are filled with examples of those who exercised their Priesthood righteously and were blessed, as well as those who were not righteous and the consequences of unrighteous dominion.  Section 121 contains several verses that spell out what happens when the Priesthood is used improperly.

When used correctly, then, the Priesthood and keys given to a man give him the right to call other men to positions that fall within his area of responsibility.

Since the person who issues calls is given revelation based on his own righteousness and adherence to the Priesthood, and the Lord wants people who are righteous to fill callings, it stands to reason that those who are being called will be qualified in righteousness to fill the calling.  That does not mean that the person being called will be fully qualified in his new duties pertaining to that job.  Indeed, it is a rare person who feels they are adequate to fill a position they are called to.  It is entirely normal and appropriate to feel overwhelmed and humbled when accepting a new calling.  This same person, as he fulfills his responsibilities and does so with faith and prayer, will be given direction, information and revelation to help him fulfill that office.

In Doctrine and Covenants section 4, verse 5 lists some of the “qualifications” to be called of God: “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.”  And, in verse 6, some additional items are listed, ones that I feel come from performing the work: “Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.”

If a person does not possess these qualities, or at least strive to possess them, he is not qualified to be called to a position of authority in God’s church.  If, on the other hand, he does have these qualities, God considers him qualified to serve, and, when sought in humble prayer, fills in the gaps and helps the person learn his duties and fulfill them well.

To summarize then, so far, the idea that God does not call the qualified, is not entirely true.  One must possess certain qualifications in order to be properly called of God to the ministry or a position of authority and responsibility, and God helps the same person develop the job skills needed to fulfill that position.

The second half of that statement is “He qualifies the called.”

I think this statement is absolutely true.  As already discussed, a person must be qualified for a calling in that he must be a righteous man, worthy to officiate in Priesthood offices.  Also, as previously discussed, this person is likely unfamiliar with how to officiate in that office when first called.

The Lord knows each person’s strengths and weaknesses.  He also knows that most people would not aspire to an office such as Bishop, knowing that they will be working with people’s trials and problems daily.  A Bishop’s responsibilities are a daunting task to a person who has not had the opportunity to experience them.

How then, does a person called to be a Bishop fulfill the calling?  The answer is this:  callings come with certain rights and blessings, among which is the right to call upon the spirit of revelation.  In other words, if that person earnestly seeks the guidance of the spirit, God will give that person what he needs to be successful.  Thus, God qualifies the called.  It must be noted that this spirit of revelation is not very often automatic.  The person must seek it.  Section 4 verse 7 says: “Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”  The key is to earnestly look for revelation to fulfill the job.  There will be times when the spirit gives information when least expected, but those times will likely be the exception and based on circumstances that require immediate attention.

Thus, we see that it is a two-way street.  God expects us to qualify ourselves to be partakers of his kingdom and holders of responsibility within that kingdom.  At the same time, when given responsibility, he gives us the tools and insight we need to fulfill it successfully.  If we do not qualify ourselves, God will not extend the calling.

The key principle is revelation.  God reveals himself to those who honestly seek him, and give special rights and privileges to those he calls to positions within the church.  From the prophet who has authority over the entire church, to the Bishop who has authority over his ward, to the person who has responsibility for himself, the Lord reveals himself and His will.

So, “God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.”  We see that God does call the qualified, then proceeds to qualify them for their positions based on faith, righteousness and prayer.

17
Dec

Priesthood Lesson (December 2006)

   Posted by: John

The Priesthood lesson today was on the Second Coming.  It was interesting to review various things we already know about the second coming.  During the discussion, we were talking about what we will be doing during the millennium.  Among other things, we will be doing genealogy and temple work.  We were discussing the kind of family history work that we would be involved in, having the heavenly records to work with.  I made kind of a flip comment that God’s bookkeeping system would be a lot more accurate than anything we have ever used.  After thinking about that a little more, I realized that God’s books will be perfect.  Every person who has ever lived on this Earth will be recorded in it, along with their parents, siblings, when and where they were born and lived, when they died, who they married, etc.  And, being a heavenly record, there will be no errors in translation, no incomplete entries, no wrong dates, and no family member missing because they died at birth.  Now, for those who are into family history, having those records at their disposal will be amazing.

Also, during the course of the discussion, Norm Stoddard had a deep thought.  He first asked if we thought the church was growing faster in foreign countries than here in the United States.  I think that it is.  So Norm said something along the lines of how we may be in danger in this country of losing the leadership to another, more humble place.  I thought about that.  There is some scriptural basis for that line of thought.  How many times in the Book of Mormon did the church move from one nation to another?  Then, the nation that had the church sent missionaries to the other nations to bring their brethren to repentance.

These kinds of examples are based on one of my pet peeves about history.  It is easy to see what happens when reading about it, particularly when one can cover years, or hundreds of years in a few pages.  The perspective is different when living it day to day.  The slowness of living compared to the rapidity of history makes it difficult to apply the lessons that history provides.

This is one of the reasons that the Lord wants us to STUDY the scriptures, to become familiar with them, to know them, so we can learn and recognize the lessons.  We have an advantage over people of all previous dispensations in that we have the scriptures available to read any time we wish.  Every person can have their own copy to read, mark, or ignore if they so choose.  One wonders if the children of Israel would have been so rebellious and quick to turn from the Lord if every household had their own set of scriptures to read and learn from.

On further reflection, I agree with Norm’s thought to a point.  Yes, it is possible that this land could fall into deep iniquity and require the efforts of missionaries from another location to bring us to repentance.  However, I do not think it is likely.  The difference is that we have the scriptures in our homes.  We are told that the elect may fall, but I do not believe that the majority of the LDS church will fall away.  To ensure that we do not fall away, we need to humble ourselves before the Lord to avoid becoming another “history lesson” worthy of future scriptural mention.

9
Nov

November Testimony Meeting (November 2006)

   Posted by: John

This past Sunday was Fast Sunday, and of course, Testimony meeting.  For some reason (after having what seemed a record number of people at church the previous week), there were not so many people attending this week.  Maybe 110 in sacrament meeting.  However, in spite of that, it was an amazing meeting.

There were only a few testimonies borne.  However, those few were some of the most heartfelt and spiritual testimonies I have ever heard in church.  Here’s a quick sample of what I heard:

Testimony of the power of visiting (and home) teaching, and how the influence of those people who, in the past, and now present, provided the groundwork for where people are now.  There were several who spoke about this.

Testimony about missionary work.  Brother Ownbey talked about how the missionaries were so persistent in seeing him that they braved severe weather and waded through flooded roads.  He figured that anyone who had that kind of dedication needed to be listened to.

Testimony about returning to church.  Brother Henderson related how he had been born in the church and baptized, but his father was not a member and encouraged his children to not go to church.  So he quit going about the time he was 12.  He married a woman who was a member, and, after some events, went to a meeting.  He was touched by the spirit and is now a very strong member, a person whose dedication to family history work is incredible.

The spirit was strong, and having few who felt the need to bear testimony gave these people enough time to bare their souls.  I noticed that Brother McArthur was very contemplative after the meeting.  (His wife was out of town that day, so he was sitting alone.)  He did not say why at that time.  However, at the beginning of Priesthood meeting (Brother McArthur is the High Priest group leader), he stood and mentioned that the testimonies borne of visiting teaching touched him greatly, and encouraged us to make our home teaching worthy of the same kind of testimony.

All being said, it was an outstanding spiritual Sunday.

This morning was our Stake Priesthood leadership meeting, at 6 AM.  Now, that sounds like an awful time of the morning to have a meeting of this nature, but President Olsen explained that, and in reality, having a meeting like this in the morning is a great way to start the day.  Not that I would recommend it every week…

Pres. Olsen’s reasoning for the meeting is based on a letter from the First Presidency some time ago that said Sunday meetings should be restricted to the necessary only in order to give church members the most time at home with their families as possible.  He reasoned that we were not doing anything productive with our spouses and children at 6 AM, so we might as well meet at that time.

Pres. Olsen started with a scripture from 1 Nephi 17, where Nephi, after arriving and living on the coast for some time, was commanded to build a ship.  In verse 9, Nephi asks “Lord, hither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me?”  He then went into “tools” a little, and talked about how the church has programs, callings, and responsibilities that are used to give people means to grow and to serve others.

I got to thinking about tools in general.  A tool is just that, a tool.  It does nothing by itself, neither creative nor destructive.  It is merely an instrument that is useless unless someone picks it up and uses it.  Once in the hands of someone, it becomes an implement to create, modify, or even destroy.  Sometimes it becomes a member of a group of tools use to some end purpose.

Tools may have multiple purposes.  For example, a claw hammer’s primary purpose is to drive nails.  However, it may also be used to remove nails, straighten bent nails or other items, or even to take things apart by prying or hammering.  The hammer is used in different ways depending on the purpose needed at the time.  The scope of the hammer’s use is limited to its design and functionality.  It is not suitable for cutting wood or turning bolts.  Different tools are required for those functions.  Many tools, such as a table saw, should only be used by those who have been trained in their use and given “authority” to use them properly for their intended purpose.

The church is no different.  The Lord has given us a wide range of “tools” to use in our organizations and callings.  These tools have a scope of use and many are available only to those who are “authorized” to use them.  Many tools are “hammers”, to be used by anyone for the purpose of building spiritual strength.  Meetings, the scriptures, the sacrament and participation in lessons are some examples of “hammers” that almost anyone can use to build themselves up and put together their personal salvation.  Other tools are “table saws”, for use by quorum leaders, bishops, or anyone else who has a calling.  When someone is given a calling and set apart, they are given a set of tools to fulfill that calling.  How they use them is subject to some guidelines and their creativity within those guidelines.

How are we using the tools we are given?  Have we even picked them up?  Have we found creative ways to use them within their scope of operation to build in creative, innovative or other ways?  Are the products or end results a reflection on how we used the tools?  Are we clumsy or skillful?  Can we learn how to use them better and more effectively?

Nephi, having written his conversation with the Lord, gives us insight into how we should approach our callings, membership in the church, our personal lives, and the tools we use to fulfill them.  “Where shall I go…to find tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou has shown unto me?”  What is our “ship?”  It is any thing we need to build in our lives.  Nephi acknowledged that his ship’s design was the Lord’s design.  Virtually all of our “ships” are also designed by the Lord, given by His eternal wisdom.  Nephi knew he could build the ship, but also knew he would need the proper tools first.  Further, Nephi asked the Lord for the starting point, in this case, where he could find the raw materials.

Our starting point may be our baptism, a calling to the Bishopric, our marriage.  Once we start, having the tools to be successful is vital to finishing the job.  Most callings have releases, however new callings are issued.  Our marriages are a continual work, as is our personal salvation.  There are numerous tools given to us, but we may be required to make some of our own.  Then, by using them within the scope of their operation, we are able to progress.

This was a very interesting line of thought to pursue, but I feel that my eyes were opened to some level of understanding.

9
Nov

Stake Conference Notes (August 2006)

   Posted by: John

This weekend was our Stake Conference. I have looked forward to it for the past few weeks, and I was not disappointed. Because I am part of the Elder’s Quorum presidency, I attended the Priesthood leadership session on Saturday afternoon. Then we had the adult session Saturday evening. Sunday morning was our general session. All were very good meetings. I took some extensive notes (12 pages) simply because the talks were so good and I knew I would not remember all of them.

I must say that I love my Stake Presidency. Presidents Olsen, Dopp and Leckie are great men, spiritually sound and able to speak and teach with the spirit. For this post, I want to briefly describe President Dopp’s remarks from Saturday evening and Sunday morning. The two talks have similar and continuing themes, and are worth relating. Just as a matter of interest, Pres. Dopp is a seminary teacher at Boise High School.

Saturday evening, President Dopp’s talk was based around an address that President Benson gave at BYU in 1980, entitled “14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”. These 14 items are quite interesting, and caused me to think some as they were read. They are:

1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

3. The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

4. The prophet will never lead the church astray.

5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

6. The prophet does not have to say “Thus Saith the Lord,” to give us scripture.

7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

8. The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

10. The prophet may advise on civic matters.

11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

14. The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer.

At the time, Spencer W. Kimball was president of the church. I do not know the circumstances that led to this address. However, some of these points are interesting to ponder. For example, #2 and #3 indicate that a living prophet is absolutely vital to us, even over the past prophets and scriptures. These items are contrary to traditional Christian thinking, which, almost without exception, rejects the need for modern prophets and revelation. Pres. Dopp explained that revelation for a church could not happen without an absolute spokesman for the Lord. Simply put, there would be thousands of individual churches as each unit would soon be doing their own thing.

A good example of this was given by Brother Romero from the Spanish Branch. (He is from Spain and spoke in Spanish. Another person interpreted for him.) He had gone from Spain to the Canary Islands looking for work. After 2 months he had not found any was returning to Spain to be with his family. A few days prior to returning to Spain, one of the area authorities found him and extended a call to him to be the Branch President on the island. He at first did not wish to, knowing he was going home. However, after some conversation, accepted and served in that position for 7 years. When he first visited the branch, he found that the people had gone astray from the principles of the church, were few in number, and lacked a solid leadership to keep them solid. Over a year, he was able to correct the errors and build up the branch to 150 people of solid testimony. His talk was in the context of the blessings of serving. However, I can see that this story also emphasizes the need to have a prophet and to follow his counsel. These people hadn’t done so for whatever reasons, but when given the proper direction responded and became strong in faith and spirit.

In Sunday’s meeting, the topic was about prophets, and Pres. Dopp spoke about why a prophet is essential. He started with a series of items that had appeared in church bulletins (not necessarily LDS) that had good intentions, but the meaning was not clear. Such as “The choir is looking for donations to purchase 8 choir robes as several new people have joined the choir and some old ones have deteriorated”. Oops! The scriptures and doctrines of the Savior are sometimes misunderstood. The proof of that is the fact that there are thousands of Christian churches, all claiming to have the spirit and truth with them. Almost none claim to have a prophet who has the spirit of revelation at their head. Instead, those who lead and preach are either graduates of a theological school or those who believe they are called simply because they want to preach. It is true that the Lord considers those who have desires to serve as qualified to do so, but they must be called by the proper authority and given the authority to serve or the call is void. With a prophet at the head of the church, we can be assured that those who are called to lead are called by those with the proper authority. Along with this idea, #4 on the list becomes important.

One of the points that President Olsen made was that we do not need to be perfect to receive answer to prayer or the witness of the spirit. Rather, we need to be clean. When Joseph Smith entered a forest and received a divine manifestation of God and Jesus, he was not perfect. He was, however, clean and worthy to receive revelation. Throughout the early years of the church, he received revelation and visions, and while chastised at times, walked uprightly before the Lord.

I am very glad we have a prophet today. It is vital that we follow his teachings and counsel. I am very thankful to have these good leaders who are in tune with the spirit and can speak with the confidence and authority it gives.

24
Apr

Nephi and Immigration

   Posted by: John

Yesterday was our high council Sunday.  Brother Ingersoll was the high council speaker, and we had the pleasure of hearing his wife as well.  The Ingersolls are members of our ward, so it was nice to have speakers we know.

Both of them spoke about scripture study.  This is something we have been trying to do as a family.  We don’t seem to be able to do it every night, but have been making it a few nights of the week.  Last week we didn’t seem to do it at all, and here were the speakers in church emphasizing that it needs to be done!  Funny how the Lord knows what you need to hear and delivers.

I just finished 1st Nephi (again) and was thinking about what he said concerning this land.  Nephi mentions that this promised land had been hidden from the world because if it was known, it would be overrun.  Of course, his people were meant to inherit it, but they ended up blowing it big time.  Then, the “gentiles” came and received the land for their inheritance.

I got to thinking about the current immigration issues facing this country.  There are a lot of people who are righteous, both in and out of the church, and I think these people are largely what’s keeping this land from utter destruction.  But, seeing as how we are being overrun by illegal immigrants, I have to wonder if this is the kind of thing Nephi was referring to.  We have others who have greed and envy in their hearts and there doesn’t seem to be much preventing them from making their way here.  I fear that if we are not careful, we will lose our land of inheritance to others.  Food for thought.