Archive for the ‘Misc Spritual’ Category

29
Oct

On A Sign In A Home

   Posted by: John

A couple of weeks ago in church, the youth speaker was Claire Kartchner.  She brought in a sign from their home that I thought was great.

Be pretty if you are

Be witty if you can

Be cheerful if it kills you

Good words to live by.

21
Oct

Lesson 40 and Friendships

   Posted by: John

Sunday’s Priesthood lesson was #40 from the Joseph Smith manual, “How Glorious Are Faithful, Just, and True Friends”.

The premise of the lesson had to do largely with true friendships, those which people build over years of time.  They are the results of trust, integrity, sacrifice,  and many other strong and positive attributes exhibited by regular and sometimes extreme acts of service.  These are the kinds of friendships where one would do almost anything for the other, regardless of circumstance.  For example, an excerpt from the manual, regarding one of Joseph Smith’s true friends:

One such friend was Willard Richards, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, who was jailed with Joseph and Hyrum Smith and John Taylor in Carthage, Illinois. While being held in the jail, the men were allowed to move from a cell on the first floor to a more comfortable bedroom on the second floor of the jailhouse. Then, shortly before the martyrdom, the jailer suggested that the prisoners would be safer in an iron-barred cell next to the bedroom. Joseph asked Elder Richards, who was called “doctor” by his friends because he had practiced medicine: “ ‘If we go into the cell, will you go in with us?’ The doctor answered, ‘Brother Joseph, you did not ask me to cross the river with you—you did not ask me to come to Carthage—you did not ask me to come to jail with you—and do you think I would forsake you now? But I will tell you what I will do; if you are condemned to be hung for treason, I will be hung in your stead, and you shall go free.’ Joseph said, ‘You cannot.’ The doctor replied, ‘I will.’ ”

This is a great example of true friendship, one person being willing to do anything for another.  The verbal exchange was not one of chance, but the culmination of years of knowing, trusting and suffering affliction together.

One of the things that was discussed had to do with convert retention.  Among the things that are crucial for new (and prospective) church members are good friendships with other members.  However, there’s a catch (there’s almost always a catch, right?) to the whole friendship thing.  We are encouraged to become friends with new and prospective members.  But, are we doing it because we are SUPPOSED to or because we WANT to?  There is a huge difference. 

Most intelligent people know how to spot a phony.  A person who has been enlisted to be a friend to another isn’t very often invested in it.  Sure, you can be polite, even charming, and display every outward appearance of friendship, but very soon it becomes apparent that it’s for show.  When the artificiality of the friendship becomes exposed, it can be a major turn-off.  Imagine how you would feel if you found out someone liked you for the simple reason that they were told to, or because it made them look good to someone else.  I like to call these fake-friends, and frankly, they stink.

Likewise, there are those who are so-called fair weather friends.  Good times, parties, you-have-something-I-want-or-need type friendships are shallow and don’t stand up to the test of time or trouble.  These kinds of friendships only last until the good stuff runs out, then it’s on to the next one. 

It could be co-workers, who you are friends with as long as you work together, but never talk to each other again when one leaves.  Or the next door neighbor of several years who moves away and is never heard from again.  Friendships of convenience are common, even necessary, but they do not qualify as true friendships as described of Willard Richards.

Young women especially should be wary of guys who are out to be friends just long enough to talk them into bed.  These types of people are worse than fake-friends.  They are outright frauds, making themselves presentable and likeable, knowing they are going to take advantage of someone.  There is no friendship here, just flattering words and disguised sleaze.

So what to do?  We are not likely going to form hundreds and thousands of true friendships in our lives.  Truth be told, I can probably count the number of my true friendships on the fingers of both hands, and these would include family members.  That’s not to say that I will not and do not do things with and for my friends, because I do.  However, I really can’t think of very many people that I would be willing to replace at the gallows. 

What does that say about me?  Do I just not make true friends?  Perhaps I have grown cynical.  I have had people I considered good and true friends stab me in the back and abandon my family in the past (and there were a good number of them…most of them were church members, some of whom I had known for years).  More likely, I have stepped away from the ability to wholly trust.  I think I have improved some over the past couple of years.  At least I certainly hope so.  I don’t want to be a fake-friend, or a fair-weather one either.  I prefer to be the real deal.

I found one of my old Don Black tapes the other day and listened to it while driving around.  (Yes, I have a tape player in the car.  This particular model car has a CD and tape player in it.)  The title is “Principles with Promise.”  In this talk, Don talks about various principles of the gospel that have promises attached to them, specifically, tithing, fasting, the word of wisdom.  Then, he talks about the Holy Ghost.

Now, I have listened to this talk before, but I found myself thinking very hard about the Holy Ghost.  As Don says, we often think of Him as a latent power, sitting idly by until needed in a great way.  This is not the case.

One of the stories that Don tells, is when he received his mission call to Denmark, and how he was worried that he would meet someone who knew more about the gospel than he did.  His father put his arm around him and said “My son, in your case, plan on it.”  Hardly words of comfort.  Then he says this:  “All your life we have taught you principles of the gospel.  We have tried to fill your mind with truth and knowledge.  You have a mechanism, God given to you called the Holy Ghost, who will bring to recall the principles and truths you have been taught, in the very hour you need them.”  Then he proceeds to give some examples of when that gift manifested itself in various circumstances, almost of its own accord, but giving him the words, scriptures and language he needed at the very time he required them.

As I have thought about this testimony, I thought about how the Holy Ghost operates.  He doesn’t very often force his way upon anyone, although he has the power to do so.  He isn’t loud or overbearing, but has the ability to pierce the soul.  He does not work through fear or threat, but gives love, understanding, and various gifts as needed, such as speaking in tongues.

Indeed, the Holy Ghost becomes more than a principle of the gospel.  He is a part of the gospel.  Being a member of the Godhead gives him authority and standing equal to Christ.  Neither can work without the other.

As Don says, the Holy Ghost is one of the grandest blessings we can have in this life.  Without him, we would be aimless, having no hope of knowing truth.  The evidence of this is when Christ was on the Earth with his apostles.  Even being in his presence, they were not the strong, powerful men they became when they received the Holy Ghost.  Their acts, as recorded in the New Testament, were as instructive and powerful as Christ’s.  We can be as strong as they were, having that same gift given to us.

10
Aug

Truth and Obfuscation (August 2007)

   Posted by: John

As I’ve been reading various blogs, I have noticed an interesting topic being discussed.  It has to do with Jesus and his parentage.  The person who has posted the most seems to have a good religious background, and has taken time to learn some of the languages the Bible was originally written in.  He argues that many, if not most, of the stories contained in the Bible are just not right or believable, based on his study of the original manuscripts.

As an example, he talks about the miracles of Jesus as being written after the fact by some years (which we already know), but exaggerated to make Jesus appear to be more than just a man.  During the course of these “discoveries”, he says he has come to some different conclusions about religion, God and life.

Among some of these things, I have read, in several separate places, discussions on who Jesus’ father really was.  Most of them say that Jesus’ father was indeed Joseph, who impregnated Mary in the same way mankind has always done.  The result of this idea is that Jesus was simply a man who, although favored of God, was no different than any other mortal man.

I find it so amazing how people can tarnish what little truth they do have.  The Bible was given to man to give them the word of God.  Nephi was prophetic when he wrote that people would say all they needed was a Bible, and nothing else could possibly be given.  Now, we have those who take that Bible and attempt to show that it is nothing more than fantasy, a product of ancient writers with large imaginations.

This shouldn’t really be surprising, seeing as how the history of man has been riddled with those who reject the words of God.  I just find it very interesting that I would run across it in several places in the past couple of weeks.  It is no wonder that God only gives a very small portion of His wisdom to most people.  They look for a sign or wonder, hoping that God will “prove” himself to them, when in reality it is they who must prove themselves to God.

I mentioned in our last testimony meeting that I had met some very nice people who were of the opinion that organized religion was just a way to tie people down, that nobody could know for certain if any one church or denomination was really correct.  That was the same Sunday that I was able to confirm Ashley and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost, after having baptized her the previous afternoon.  I said that after those experiences of exercising the Priesthood and feeling the spirit, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the true church.

A couple of people later, Jim Sevy stood and, to paraphrase, said that it was actually easy to know the church was true.  You simply start out by doing the things you know you should be doing, like going to church, praying, fasting, and accepting callings.  If you do it right, the church becomes a way of life and you feel the spirit during lessons, talks, and in your home.  Then you know it is true.  But you have to make the effort.  God isn’t going to force it on you.

For those who have the spirit and their testimonies, it is very easy to picture Jesus as the literal Son of God, perfect in every way, and the only person who can finish our journey back to God.  God’s truth does not change regardless of man’s desire and effort to alter it.  Truth gets lost in the clutter of speculation, lies and deceit.  But it is there, ready to be discovered and learned.  Those who seek it honestly and humbly have found it.

The rest, according to Section 121:38  are left unto themselves, “to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God”, unenlightened and unable to recognize what is right and what is not.

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.