Thursday, January 22, 2009

"I tried to live that/the Commandment/s and it Didn't work," some say - Why Not?

I have had people tell me that they tried living as God said and it didn't work. Considering that God is promising us joy and peace as we do as he says, surely as we do right we will gain a happiness inside.

Alma chapter 32 has Alma likening faith to a grain of seed that is planted and grown. The first time I read this I viewed it as being a bit long winded (unnecessarily long). It seemed somewhat repetitious. But re-reading has made me view it differently. I have found that each step he has outlined is important in learning the truth of what God has presented.

While this is from the Book of Mormon, and I realise not all readers believe in this volume as being from God, I would urge all to continue reading, as these steps he outlines work regardless of what religious beliefs you may have - its a non-denominational claim. I'll put it into understandable language for those not used to old English.

Verses 26-29 "Now, as I said concerning faith--that it was not a perfect knowledge--even so it is with my words. You cannot know of their surety at first, to perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. But note, if you will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yes, even if you can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until you believe in a manner that you can give place for a portion of my words.

Now, we will compare the word to a seed. Now, if you give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, consider, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if you do not cast it out by your unbelief, that you will resist the Spirit of the Lord, note, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, you will begin to say within yourselves--It must be a good seed, or that the word is good, for it begins to enlarge my soul; yes, it begins to enlighten my understanding, yes, it begins to be delicious to me. Now consider, would not this increase your faith? I say to you, Yes; nevertheless it has not grown up to a perfect knowledge."

The problem that can arise here is that people will start to feel they have reached the end of the investigation. But Alma presents that this isn't all there is to it. And so when it eventually fails (as they haven't completed all the steps Alma mentions) they end up saying it didn't work. But let's go on with what Alma states.

Verses 30-33 "But note, as the seed swells, and sprouts, and begins to grow, then you would have to say that the seed is good; for look it swells, and sprouts, and begins to grow. And now consider, will not this strengthen your faith? Yes, it will strengthen your faith: for you will say I know that this is a good seed; for look it sprouts and begins to grow. And now, consider, are you sure that this is a good seed? I say to you, Yes; for every seed brings forth to its own likeness. Therefore, if a seed grows it is good, but if it doesn't grow, see it is not good, therefore it is cast away. And now, note, because you have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swells and sprouts, and begins to grow, you must needs know that the seed is good."

So there is a need to continue having this growing of the seed (concept) and examining the your feelings.

Verses 34-36 "And now, consider, is your knowledge perfect? Yes, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for you know that the word has swelled your souls, and you also know that it has sprouted up, that your understanding does begin to be enlightened, and your mind does begin to expand. O then, is not this real? I say to you, Yes, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore you must know that it is good; and now consider, after you have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect? Note I say to you, No; neither must you lay aside your faith, for you have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that you might try the experiment to know if the seed was good."

So here he has presented that even though you now know it to be true the learning still isn't over: You are still in the learning stage. Again, if a person quits here they will eventually say that it didn't work.

Verses 37-39 "And see, as the tree begins to grow, you will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit to us. And now note, if you nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit. But if you neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, note it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun comes and scorches it, because it has no root it withers away, and you pluck it up and cast it out. Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit of it would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and you will not nourish the tree, therefore you cannot have the fruit of it."

So we must actually wait to see the full end of our efforts and the fruit that comes from following God. Only then will our testimony of that thing have full strength.

verses 40-41 "And thus, if you will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, you can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life. But if you will nourish the word, yes, nourish the tree as it begins to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit of it, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up to everlasting life."

I have seen people come alive upon reading the Book of Mormon, only to see them fade back and become worse than when they started, by rejecting it due to an assumed inability to live some commandment. The truth requires effort to find AND come to know it is true. I wish you all well in your pursuit of truth.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Our Responsibility VS Listening to Prophets

Last Sunday in priesthood class we were reading chapter 22 of the lesson manual. There were several quotes of Joseph Smith's relative to our responsibility in regard learning (quotes I give in this post are all cited in that lesson manual). Yet, sadly, I found so much of the class ready to just hand their learning over to another person/s. For example the last statement of the lesson material quotes the following-

"God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.." Joseph Smith (History of the Church 3:380, 1839 discourse reported by Willard Richards).

This was interpreted to mean that we should just listen to prophets and apostles. Yet the statement to me teaches exactly the opposite. Joseph Smith is trying to inform members generally and the Twelve that they can have personal revelation, rather than thinking that they have to wait for prophets to tell them.

If we are to believe that all our new knowledge must come from prophets then we are in a sad state indeed. The last new (ie. never having been revealed to the church generally, of, at least, recent times) thing a prophet said was by Spencer W. Kimball in regard the priesthood in 1978. Over thirty years ago!

Are we to believe that this is what Joseph Smith meant in his quote above? Is this the least Saint coming to "know all things as fast as he can bear them"?

I had someone leave a comment, on this site, saying, in accusational form, that I had a preoccupation with theology. I had to, obviously, be complemented by this attempted slur. Yet this also further increased my concern in regard the laziness that so many in the church demonstrate toward their own salvation. Here we are, a people saying we want to be Gods and Godesses, and this person is suggesting that my interest in theology (the study of the things of God) is a bad thing. That almost sends shivers down my spine, considering that I think I know (online) who the person was (a church member).

The doctrinal responsibility of the prophet for the church is to give that which can be accepted by the weak and weakest of Saints (D&C 89:3). Must we remain no further raised in doctrine than that?

If we want eternal life we must begin to think like that which we plan to be. We must be getting more knowledge of what God is doing and why. We must come to think as God thinks. Christ prayed that his believers would be one with him and the Father (John 17:21-23). This oneness can only be acheived when we do that which the Father would do. How can we do such without knowing the thoughts and feelings of the Father? No man can teach us this, no matter how eloquent his speaking ability. Only the Father can help us understand how he feels. And the Holy Ghost is the only continued instructor.

I certainly don't advocate that we shouldn't listen to prophets, of course. But it must be remembered that our gaining of eternal life can only be acheived by us taking on the responsibility for our own learning beyond the basics. There are no Gods with only a basic knowledge.

Joseph Smith made it plain that if the members wait to just learn it from prophets they will only receive backward doctrine _

"The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law." Joseph Smith (History of the Church, 5:555, Aug. 27 1843)

To learn the greater laws we must accept responsibility for our own learning.

"Joseph Smith taught that every man and woman should seek the Lord for wisdom, that they might get knowledge from Him who is the fountain of knowledge.." George A. Smith (Deseret News: Semiweekly; Nov 29 1870)

"The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man: if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity- thou must commune with God." Joseph Smith (History of the Church 3:295-296, Mar 20 1839)

Should we believe our own soul will gain salvation without following this instruction?

"..A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge..." Joseph Smith (History of the Church, 4:588, Apr 10 1842)

So will I have to wait yet another 30 years before I get more knowledge from the prophet to help me in my salvation? Christ may well be here by then, for his second coming, and it could be a bit late.

Joseph Smith has plainly taught that it is up to us to do something serious about learning the things of God, beyond that which any man can teach us.

My advice, beyond taking Joseph Smith's words seriously, is to remember to keep your feet on the ground while your head is in the clouds, or you may find yourself carried away by strange winds. In other words use your heart and the Spirit as well as your head. And seek knowledge for righteous reasons, rather than the vanity of having others consider you wise.