Saturday, March 26, 2011

Searching for Meaning - My Membership in God's Kingdom

As I have looked over the various discussions on the internet I have found that it isn't uncommon for members (generally females - but I think that is only because they discuss heart issues) to be struggling with finding meaning in their church membership. They express their deep concerns with this problem, particularly when they believe in the Book of Mormon etc.

I have recently read of one sister's struggles, who has had her father leave the church; and he had been a bishop and her rock to rely on in regard the church.

People will often quote how they enjoyed youth activities and even service in the church. And often how they were greatly influenced for good by some member who may have been a teacher etc. Yet the struggle inside themselves goes on to find identity and a oneness with it all.

Some more active members may point and say, "oh well, they were probably smoking and not paying their tithing, I'll bet." And it certainly is true that this doesn't contribute to feeling part of the thing. But if these problems do exist they may just be another sign of the true problem, rather than its cause. Healing these problems may only be healing the symptoms.

So what should all really be looking for in our church membership? How do we make it fulfilling? Why do some carry on for years and then suddenly go off, while others carry on for years without deviating?

The answer is actually in the name of the church, and we hear it all the time. Jesus Christ. No, I'm not blaspheming. That is what is missing in people's church experience. I will explain this in more detail. But put simply; they are trying to create a relationship within the church system rather than a relationship with deity. Then wondering why they don't feel spiritually fulfilled.

Jesus Christ said, "For this is life eternal, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." John 17:3

The life Christ promises is by developing a personal relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It isn't about developing a personal belief in the bishop or other church administrators. These may be wonderful people. Some may be very inspired. But creating a relationship with them won't produce eternal life. And trying it this way is just attempting a short cut.

"And Enoch walked with God: and was not, for God took him." Gen 5:24

When we read of someone speaking to God face to face or walking with God it is sad that so many just put it off as something done by someone in some exalted position - "the prophet." Yet Joseph Smith had no position when visited by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ due to the enormous faith and sincerity of his prayer at 14. And what position did Lehi have when called upon to preach to those in Jerusalem (he had no priesthood authority at all)? And what of the child Samuel who was spoken to by God to give instruction to the prophet (church president) Eli?

Jesus Christ stated, "Draw near to me and I will draw near to you, seek me diligently and you shall find me; ask, and you shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened to you." D&C 88:63

Jesus also stated, "See, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20

In these verses Jesus has presented that he stands at the door and knocks. Note that he is there waiting for us. As we draw near to him he can draw near to us. He promises us that he is very willing to create this communication and oneness with us, it only requires our willingness also to make it happen. We have to open the door to our hearts to him in all sincerity, so that he can enter: He can't kick the door down. We are free and independent; and must remain so (D&C 93:30).

Some may ask then, what should my feelings in regard the church organisation be?

We need to learn to worship God all week in the heart; then go to church with the idea of finding opportunities to serve others. If something I say can make it easier for someone to live the gospel more fully then I have done good. Many opportunities exist for service in the church through callings. If we don't have a calling we can find service opportunities there ourselves. Even such things as thinking and presenting comments in Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society/Young Women's can help others to focus on their spiritual life. Don't underestimate the importance of such things.

Jesus prayed to the Father in regard all those who believe in him _

"That they all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us...." John 17:21

Jesus Christ wants us to be one with him and the Father. We need to get into our heads that we can have that perfect oneness and come to know them as well as we know ourselves. Through this oneness our life in the church will obtain true and full meaning.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Apostasy Predicted in the Bible

A lot has been written on the subject of the apostasy. Yet I would like to look at it from a Biblical point.

The apostle Paul notes the changing of doctrine that had been occurring in Galatia:

"I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you to the grace of Christ, to another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." Galatians 1:6-7

Paul further mentions the divisions that were already occurring in the break-up of the church in Corinth at that time:

"Now I implore you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been told to me regarding you, my brothers, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

Paul states later to them:

"Now in this that I'm declaring to you I don't praise you, you are coming together not for the better, but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it." 1 Corinthians 11:17-18

When writing to Titus Paul said in regard those in the church:

"For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision." Titus 1:10

Peter stated:

"... Paul also according to the wisdom given to him has written to you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction." 2 Peter 3:15-16

The apostle Paul presented that the members of the church at his time shouldn't regard that Christ had come yet. He points out that a falling away of the church had to come first:

"We are requesting of you, brothers, regarding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and us gathering together to him, That you don't soon be shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is here. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come an apostasy [Greek - apostastasia] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who will oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sets himself up in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be a God. ... And now you know what is being presently held back, that when his time comes he might be revealed. For the mystery of iniquity is already working: only he who now holds back [God] will hold back, until he [God] is removed from it [altogether]. And then shall that Wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders." 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9

Here Paul has presented that no one should regard that Christ will be coming until the church falls away and the true God is removed from it. Also that God is holding it back from happening at that point. He states that in charge of the apostate church one will arise claiming to be a God on earth. This latter prophesy could have been regarded as having being fulfilled not long after this time by Roman emperors or by the Pope.

Pope Pius V said, "The Pope and God are the same, so he has all power in Heaven and earth." quoted in Barclay, Cities Petrus Bertanous Chapter XXVII: 218.

Vatican Document:
"He [the Pope] can pronounce sentences and judgments in contradiction to the rights of nations, to the law of God and man...he can free himself from the commands of the apostles, he being their superior, and from the rules of the Old Testament...The Pope has power to change times, to abrogate laws, and to dispense with all things, even to the precepts of Christ." Decretal de Translat. Episcop. Cap.

Furthermore Paul is presenting that this "wicked one" will still be here when Christ comes again for Christ to "destroy [him] with the brightness of his coming". So this rules out Roman emperors, only leaving the Pope.

When writing to Timothy, Paul again mentions the fact that the church will lose its truth:

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables." 2 Timothy 4:3-4

This had to be speaking of the church as a whole, as people are always creating false teachers.

So a complete moving away from the truth has been in the beginning of its action at the time just after Christ; and has eventually occurred fully. Some truths remained through the publication of the Bible. But a lot of this was distorted by the ideas men had come to accept as truth. This is why it was necessary for the truth to be restored to mankind once again by revelation from God himself. God has set up his Church upon the earth again. It was set up by revelation, as in New Testament and Old Testament times. This means that people can be assured that the true ordinances of God are being performed in the right way, and a source of the whole truth is available to all. This is the purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.