Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Testimonies

    In D&C 76 it says concerning those that receive of a Terrestrial Glory, “These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God.” In other words being valiant in one's testimony of Jesus is a key to entering into the Celestial kingdom.

    Obviously one cannot be valiant in the testimony of Jesus if they don't even have one, which is why we need to obtain that testimony. However, before we can do so we need to come to an understanding of what qualifies as a testimony.

    The Oxford English Dictionary of English Etymology defines the root of the word testimony to be testis which means witness in Latin. The meaning of the word has been changed by incorrect ideas amongst the different Christian faiths demoting it to become a mere declaration of faith, rather than a true witness.

    During the time of Joseph Smith however, the meaning was still that of a witness and not of a mere declaration of feeling. As such when reading the scriptures we must take that definition into account to gain a better understanding of what the scriptures intend.

    Now in order to receive that witness or testimony of which has been spoken, there are two conditions that we must fulfill. What are those conditions you may ask? Let us first turn to the scriptures.

    In 3 Nephi it says “Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” Also in James it reads “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

    While I have mentioned this seeking and asking before many times, this is especially important when it comes to receiving a testimony. I mentioned previously that this seeking is not a singular occurrence, but rather a continual never-ending quest for further light and knowledge.

    Joseph Smith did not receive that witness, the testimony of God’s plan, until he sought out and asked god, for months on end. He questioned what others were teaching, and did not accept the status quo, the philosophies of men, for face value. Seeking for knowledge, questioning what we see and hear, and desiring for wisdom, is an integral part of finding for oneself a testimony of god.

    Some are afraid to question as they say that it leads to doubt. But they do not realize that doubt is actually the opposite of seeking. As mentioned before here, true growth comes when when one is seeking for knowledge and questioning the status quo. His light only comes to those that don't rely upon the arm of flesh, and upon an imperfect society.

    Only when they realize their own imperfection and their own ignorance and have faith in an omniscient god to guide them to the correct answers, can they begin to find the answers that they seek. For those that seek for the truth and question the authority of man, god is the final and only authority. Every man must witness the truth for themselves, which testimony only god can grant.

    On the other hand, while those that doubt may rebel against the status quo, they do not seek for knowledge. Cynics may say “If god existed, such and such would not have happened.” or “I cannot believe in a god that allows such and such to happen” At that time one is jumping to the conclusion that they have all the available data to make an eternal judgment of the situation.

    Instead of humbly seeking why, and trusting in the Lord, they are setting themselves up as god, and as the final authority on the matter. They are not seeking, and trusting in god. Instead of seeking and knocking, they that doubt close the door to further inquiry, and thus as a consequence, they can never find the truth in and of themselves. Doubt is the polar opposite of faith.

    A second and more devious way that Satan uses to prevent us from receiving a testimony is complacency. In 2 Nephi 28 we read “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

    And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance...

    ...Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!

    Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well!

    Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!

    Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!

    And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God!  For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.

    Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!

    For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

    Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    This is a trap that many good men and women fall into. By saying they already know and that they have received enough, they deny the power of god, and as a consequence they cannot receive a testimony of his great plan. This is one trick that Satan especially likes to use upon those that profess to be christian.

    Upon unbelievers he uses doubt and cynicism, and upon those that claim to be his disciples, he uses complacency and self-satisfaction. We have so much that god has given to us that it is easy to fall into the trap of not desiring for more. But we have been expressly commanded to seek, and to never say that we have enough, lest that which we have be taken away. This is where our trial of faith comes in, which is the second condition of receiving a testimony.

    In Ether 12:6 it says “Wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” As we can see here the second and most important step in receiving our own witness is to test our faith. Our trust in him is the only thing that allows us to be able to find the answers that we seek.

    Without this faith we are left in the dark and instead of seeking and questioning, we become doubters and cynics. Joseph Smith is the perfect example of this process of seeking in faith. He desired for true knowledge, and did not find it in the world. Instead of becoming bitter, or denying god, he sought for wisdom by reading the scriptures.

    If we read his account, we can clearly see that he struggled with this question for not a short while. Instead of giving up, he kept on seeking, looking forward with an eye of faith that he will eventually find the answer.

    In so doing he finally realized that he must pray to god, and seek knowledge directly from Him. He put his desires into action, and prayed to god in the sacred grove, where Satan tried to stop him in a final effort. Through Joseph’s faith he was able to endure that trial, and finally receive the light and knowledge that he sought. This is the same pattern that we must follow.

    Let us look at the parable of the seed in Alma 32, where Alma compares the seed to the word of God, and that through our faith in planting that seed we see the fruits thereof.

    I quote: “But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out...

    And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.

    But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

    And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.

    Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.

    We see that even if we initially receive the word within ourselves, if we do not continue to seek after the fruit it will wither and die. This comes from the doubts and complacency spoken of above.

    We must continue to nurture and grow the word of god in our souls until it sprouts into a tree, and by continually exercising that faith we are able to reap the fruit of that tree. Now just as a tree doesn't spring forth in a day, so too do we need to nourish the word within our souls day by day, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit that will come.

    This is the faith necessary, the never-ending, forever enduring faith, the trust in Him that we will eventually receive according to our desires in His own good time. This wrestling and struggling with the spirit is the trial that we all need to pass through before we can receive a true witness from Him.

    If we do these things and pass the trial of our faith, as it says we will receive a witness of His love, which love is physically manifested to us through Christ Jesus. This great gift of our personally tasting of the overwhelming power of the atonement changes our souls, for we are cleansed by His love for us.

    I testify of Him and of His love, for I have tasted of it. I know that only through this continual seeking can we obtain this witness, this testimony of His great light, love, and power. This is the means whereby we can be valiant, wherein we struggle for and finally receive a testimony of Him. And it is only by our knowing these things that we can know ourselves, of this I testify Amen.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

On Sacrifice

    When I wrote before about Eternal Laws and the necessity of sacrifice relating to them, I neglected to fully explain the reasoning behind this. The fact is the sacrifices that He requires of us, not only in this life, but in the world to come can be very difficult at times to accept. So in order to more easily sacrifice those things that are dear to us, we need to know why it is necessary.

    The word sacrifice is defined as “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” To supplement this definition I like to think of sacrifice as giving up something to which we have a person connection, which makes it difficult to give up.

    Giving up money to receive goods is not a sacrifice. In the case where we are coerced into paying money, it's not the money that is the sacrifice, but rather our freedom that has been taken. Unless we have a personal stake in that thing which we are asked to relinquish, it cannot be called a sacrifice, but it is rather a simple transaction.

    So why must we make this painful and difficult decision to cut off a part of ourselves? Why did Joseph Smith say “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation”.

    As I mentioned previously, when the lord judges us, He does so according to who we serve. The fact is that we all serve something or another. It is in our nature to find a purpose behind all that we will, which purpose comes from that which commands us.

    I will touch more deeply upon the subject later, but one of the fundamental purposes of our life is to find our own eternal purpose, or rather to find that master whom we are willing to serve. This is precisely why we struggle throughout our lives with the choices that we do.

    It is who we serve that is the key to what we need to sacrifice, and it is this struggle that explains why. I have mentioned before many times what it is that we need to sacrifice, and even the why of the individual sacrifices. So now the question becomes why sacrifice is necessary as a general principle.

    Behind the purposes of our life, and who it is we choose to serve lies a fundamental truth. The fact is that due to our free will, ultimately we only really serve that which we truly desire. Again it says “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

    Even if we serve various masters in this life, in the long run we will throw off the yoke of one master or another. We only choose to remain yoked down to that which satisfies our cravings. Only that which fulfills our inner desires will remain our masters at the last day. So it is that we are basically ruled by whatever our souls desire.

    To quote Sydney Losstarot from Vagrant Story “Those who crave the Dark cannot control the Dark.” It should go without saying that it is impossible to command or control that which rules over us. So it is that we become unable to control that which we hunger after, whatever that might be.

    The Telestial who hunger after the lusts of the flesh cannot control the flesh. Thus it is that they are not fit to receive a perfected body. They are not worthy of ruling over such, as they cannot even rule over what they are given now. Thus in mercy God grants to them a body that is free from lust and filthiness, that they can at least be preserved and live a life free from darkness.

    The Terrestrial who serve after the will of society and the philosophies of man can never govern over many, for they are forever slaves to the mind and will of their peers. Thus it is that they cannot be entrusted with the power to create worlds or lives, for they proved unable to set aside the concerns of the world, and live for Him while in this probationary state. Thus the Lord in His mercy grants that they may serve as angels, forever in the service of a perfected society, without the burden of lordship.

    Most alarming are the Perditious, who serve the darkness within, to set themselves up as a Law unto themselves, for they crave for power and dominion and hunger after glory by ruling over those around them with an iron fist. They try to sate themselves by looking for happiness in misery, parasitically sucking the life and light of those around them, living only to satisfy their pride, and as such they are not fit to rule even over themselves. Thus it is that they cannot even be preserved, for they will not.

    Finally the Celestial, they of whom it has been spoken that they have overcome all, they are they that seek after the light and love of God. They seek after the yoke spoken of by Jesus who said “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Obviously they cannot rule over their Eternal Father, but that is an entirely meaningless point as none are able to do so.

    While God does technically rule over them, He in his goodness never dominates or controls, never imposes His will, but rather allows them to be “agents unto themselves” and act by their own volition. For in D&C it is said: “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

    That is the way He rules, and it is through our being solely subservient to Him, that we are able to overcome all things. That is why His yoke is easy. The word yoke is always linked to bondage and subservience. By submitting to Him as our Lord, we take his yoke which is infinitely easier than any other yoke, for this is the only yoke where we are truly ourselves.

    Thus it is that if we are a slave to the desire, we can never rise above it. The desire and craving itself holds us back. When we sacrifice those things unto the Lord, he empowers us to rule over them. It is only they that are in complete control of themselves that are worthy of ruling over all.

    Obviously if we are to become the Fathers and Mothers of our own spiritual progeny, we need that perfection and holiness, that we might provide a perfect place to raise our own spirit children. However we can only attain that glory if we make the sacrifices necessary, by throwing away that which hinders our ability to rule in righteousness.

    That is why the Lord has written in Luke: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” We need to fill our souls with the bread and water of Christ, for that is the only thing that truly fulfills, for all else binds us down.

    So it is that the Lord provides this probationary time for us to choose how much we wish to sacrifice, and what we wish to accomplish. He doesn't forcefully demand that we all become as Him. He grants us the privilege of choosing for ourselves, that we need not give up what we cannot part with.

    He loves all of us as His children, and thus gives us the tools to choose and empowers us to rise up as high as we wish. This is not some meaningless test of how much pain we can endure, but rather, it is a means whereby we can climb up the ladder to the eternities to the greatest happiness possible. It is only through our rendering unto Him what is in His image that we are able to become like Him. Of this I testify amen.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

In Defense of Eternal Increase

    When I covered eternal progression last time, I didn't cover any possible alternative interpretations of the term. I did this with the intent of having my article as straight forward and clear as possible. I didn't wish to clutter it with all sorts of defenses against the philosophies of men.

    That said, sometimes it is necessary to look at those ideas, and see what they offer. The main opposing viewpoint to eternal increase is the idea of progression between the kingdoms. This idea is supposedly more fair and merciful, appealing to god's goodness and mercy, suggesting that He would not allow his children to be damned to a lesser kingdom for eternity.

    One article supporting this viewpoint by J.J. Dewey can be found here. If we take a look at his article on eternal progress it seems to offer various proofs to a plan that allows people to cross over and grow from one kingdom to another. However if we take a closer look at the so-called proofs we find that they take a very mortal view on eternal principles.

    First Dewey makes an analogy which likens progression to three cars, each going at differing speeds. However he is unable to grasp the true and glorious nature of how the Kingdoms truly operate. As I have explained more thoroughly before it is impossible for anyone of a lower kingdom to catch up with those of a higher kingdom.

    If we continue to read, we see that Dewey misconstrues Joseph Smith's words “if it had a beginning, it will have an end”. Again, if we take a correct reading of this doctrine, we can see that the most important thing is whether the principle is eternal, not the instance.

    We know that the eternal laws which govern the Kingdoms of God are without beginning of days or end of years and thus it is that any specific instance of an individual entering into these Kingdoms is bound to them for eternity.

    What a gift this is! There is no doubt as to our status before god, for as our state is eternal there is no fear of a fall. What Dewey failed to realize is that if there is the freedom of progressing upwards, then so too by necessity is there the option of falling down. God could not be unchangeable, for if he is growing, so too is there a possibility of degeneration, and as a consequence he is an undependable and unreliable god.

    Dewey goes on to say that it would be unfair or unmerciful for a person do be doomed to a lesser kingdom because of mistakes made in mortality. This shows an unmistakable lack of knowing Him and His Final Judgment.

    As I stated before, the fact is that those that receive a kingdom of Glory are empowered by it. No one is “doomed” to any kingdom, as Dewey states. This word doomed implies that it is somehow a punishment, or that those so consigned are unsatisfied in some aspect.

    Firstly, it wouldn't be a kingdom of glory if the people there were all miserable. Does it not say that the glory of Telestial kingdom does “surpass all understanding”. Obviously the Telestial Kingdom is far more wonderful than we can imagine.

    The final and greatest flaw in Dewey's argument is his lack of understanding of agency which I have covered here. According to Dewey's teachings even the most wicked and filthy will eventually get to the Celestial kingdom.

    Did Dewey not say “Will there ever be a permanent end to man's union with God? Could he ever be eternally separated from him? No.” Also “Water vapor in the air may condense and fall on the earth, but sooner or later it will evaporate and return to its source, but all the molecules do not return at the same time, each returns in its order.

    Both of these passages make it abundantly clear that there is no choice in this scenario. The first passage states that it is impossible to get away from god, no matter how much we wish it. Even if we despise God from the bottom of our blackened hearts, there is no way to escape from Him. This makes God an arch tyrant which leaves us with no escape from His grasp!

    In the second, it puts us on equal level with water molecules which do not have the ability to choose to return to heaven. They do so because of natural laws acting upon them, and if we are no different than them, then we too have no choice in the matter of our returning to God. Our Agency and Will are in vain, mere illusions of the mind, without substance or meaning.

    Is this not the exact plan that Satan himself advocated? The illusion of choice to pacify us, which allows us to be herded mindlessly back up to Lucifer's presence, without any real decision in the matter.

    If the only difference in the kingdoms, is the speed with which you progress, then what is wrong with taking a more relaxed route? I personally don't like driving fast, I'd rather take in and see the sights, as I'm in no hurry. If the consequences of our choices are not eternal then that doctrine is no different than the doctrine of the world spoken of in 2nd Nephi.

    “Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

    Take in the Sights! Experience all there is to life! Even if you screw up, and murder and rape your neighbors, you'll eventually make it back, its guaranteed! Sure you'll go through hell to do so, but that's okay, ultimately it doesn't matter! Right?

    Clearly at its core, this doctrine does not lead a man to Christ. In essence, this doctrine is based upon trying to understand the Divine things of God, by the things of this world. That however is the opposite of God's way, for one can only understand the things of this world by understanding God, not vice versa. Man cannot know himself until he knows God, not the other way around. To perceive the things of God, one must build upon His Rock.

    And what is His Rock you may ask? It is His Atonement. When you truly know the atonement, you know of his grace and power, and as such you know that it can cover for all contingencies. That is why one can have the faith to believe in Him, and His plan.

    His eternal sacrifice is what allows us to not be afraid or be bound down by our mistakes for He already has them covered. There is no fear of not being able to make it, or any doubt as to His judgments, as His plan already has all of that accounted for.

    And so I ask of you to judge between these two scenarios. In the case I have laid out in further detail here, progression is a selfless journey of creation and raising up new progeny to fill the universe with glory.

    On the other hand if we take a thorough look at Dewey's interpretation of Progression there are two possibilities neither of them pleasant.
Either there is no agency, and as such it is no different than Satan's plan, OR if the path to progression is two way, allowing for both an increase and a deterioration, it results in a unstable, unreliable and undependable universe where one is never free from sin and temptation, where God himself cannot be relied upon for even He has the potential to fall.

    On top of which, in either case progression is basically about eternally being selfishly involved in trying to better yourself, with nary a mention about helping others. How can one be a perfect source of light to others, when one still has room to improve? Did not Christ say “first cast out the beam out of thine own eye”. Is it not said that “the inward vessel shall be cleansed first”?

    If you stop and think further, this even includes God himself in such a rat race, where there are things greater than He! Does this not profane Him? Does this not deny His power, perfection, holiness, and His unchanging and Eternal nature. It belittles Him, and drops Him down to our level, rather than raise us up to His.

    We read “Wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

    And so I ask, which scenario “inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ”? Which one shows a greater faith in Him, and his plan? Rather than trying to change his plan to save everyone like unto Lucifer, we must have Faith in him and his ability to judge us properly and do as Jesus did, saying “thy will be done”. That requires trust in Him.

    I trust that God knows me and all of his children. I know that he will give us what we truly desire, as evidenced by what we seek after. And I know that if one prays with a sincere heart as spoken of in Moroni 10, anyone can know the embrace of His love and find the trust necessary to believe in His plan for us. Amen.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

On Eternal Progression

    In my previous article on Growth, I mentioned that God was perfect, and as such did not grow, unlike us. This raises the question, what does eternal progression mean?

    Far too often, we misunderstand the relationship between growth in this mortal life, and eternal increase. As pointed out previously, our bodies are not necessary for, and even interfere with our mental and spiritual growth. God grants us growth and perfects us. Thus because of this, divine growth is neither slow nor gradual; it is immediate and complete.

    An example of this is when a man first finds Christ in his life. Anyone who as been truly converted can say without a doubt, that the Lord freed them from their sins. When one is freed from the bondage of sin, it is not a slow gradual thing. One is either free or in bondage, there is no state of half bondage. One is either clean or unclean, there is no such thing as partially filthy.

    Likewise God cleanses, perfects, and sanctifies all of his children in an instant, as soon as they accept the prerequisite conditions to become so. It is a quantum leap in change, not a gradual increase. Perfection is not a long sought out eventual goal. It is granted, as stated in Moroni 7, through Christ. While true perfection is not possible in this life, it is easily granted in the resurrection.

    In fact as stated before, the prerequisites for living in the Kingdoms of glory are cleanliness, perfection, and holiness. We need to be in that state prior to receiving our final inheritance.

    Now if we look to the scriptures, neither the words “eternal progress” nor the words “eternal increase” are found anywhere in the standard works. In fact, the word progress itself is used only six times simply to denote a moving forward in a journey, or the growth of the church. It has nothing to do with the eternal.

    So where does this idea come from? What does it mean, and who does it apply to? These are all very important and serious questions. The term “eternal progression” appears to have been originally coined by Brigham Young. But regardless of where the term comes from we can look at the words themselves to understand how and to who it applies.

    As stated before, Eternal is the name of god. As such, one can in replace the word Eternal with “Divine” or “God-like” to gain a greater understanding of what it means. For example Eternal marriage is a divine marriage, or a marriage that is the same as His. Eternal Life is a life similar to His, and so on and so forth. Thus Eternal progression, is to progress as He does.

    Thus it clearly applies to those that are on the same level as Him, namely those of a Celestial glory. Likewise since He is perfect and holy, there is no issue of growing or gaining, as he has all knowledge, power and also owns the universe. How He progresses is fundamentally an issue of progressing in one's journey towards a goal, the goal of raising progeny and creating worlds without end. As Joseph Smith himself taught “...God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children.

    President Joseph Fielding Smith put it aptly “Do you not see that it is in this manner that our Eternal Father is progressing? Not by seeking knowledge which he does not have, for such a thought cannot be maintained in the light of scripture. It is not through ignorance and learning hidden truth that he progresses, for if there are truths which he does not know, then these things are greater than he, and this cannot be. Why can't we learn wisdom and believe what the Lord has revealed?

    Here we can clearly see that there is no focus on personal growth, as that is fundamentally a selfish thing. Is not my studying and becoming smarter simply about self? God has moved beyond such trifles, and instead is a source of light to all.

    So too must we move past this mentality of eternally trying to get better. While it is important for us to try to better ourselves in this world, it is not the focus of the eternities and as such should not be our focus here as well. That is a Telestial mindset at best. As stated before those of a celestial mindset live for others and forget themselves as Jesus did.

    Doing as He did is an important key to understand Eternal increase. Joseph Smith stated further “What did Jesus do? Why I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself.

    From this we clearly see that our raising up a kingdom via the increase of our progeny is the key to progression. We raise up seed unto Him, and commit our kingdom unto Him. Progress in this fashion, is no different than the progress of generations. The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the grandfather who is then glorified by the posterity of his sons and daughters.

    Thus it is that we are able to achieve these higher exaltations, which exaltations are subsets of the Celestial Glory, continuing to infinity, each patterned after the last, but greater and more glorious.

    It is a fractal pattern, each individual in the Celestial glory being unique and different despite following after the same pattern. This glory is not something we can comprehend without seeing the eternities for ourselves.

    What He has in store for us is so great that it cannot be uttered by man, but we can see even the smallest beginnings of that glory in our own homes. It is in the home where love is born. It is there that purpose is found. It is there that the eternities are mirrored.

    Eternal progression or Eternal Increase can also be stated to be the only true and Eternal purpose. Beyond salvation and perfection, it is the holy and sacred crown of All. Thus we need to take responsibility and treat the home with the the reverence and respect that it deserves.

    All too often we get caught up in whatever activities that we have in our lives that distracts from the real purposes that are right in front of our face. If we cannot take care of our families now, and if we do not seek after the welfare of our own seed, then how could we possibly care for progeny in the world to come?

    The Lord is there for us, and seeks to raise us up to Him. But we must do as He does and lose ourselves in the service to our family. For he that is greatest of all is the servant of all. If we do these things and use the powers and dominions granted to us to protect and serve those for whom we are responsible, then I know that we can have the joy of having posterity in the eternities to follow, of this I testify, Amen.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

On the Nature of the Kingdoms

    To truly know Him and have faith in Him, we need to have a correct understanding of His plan for us. If we are misled or have an incomplete understanding our faith will remain incomplete and weak. Thus it is that we need correct doctrine to open our eyes to the gloriousness of His plan.

    Now, I have discussed in depth the laws of each of the kingdoms (here, here and here), and so the next step is to delve further and begin to gain an understanding of the nature of each kingdom. Knowing this will give us confidence in His plan and will allow us to trust in His judgments, that they are just and true, and leads to a deeper appreciation of all that He has done for us.

    Let us first recap what we have learned about the laws of the kingdoms. In Moses 6 we read  “... ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;

    For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified.

    This short passage passage contains the Eternities. His plan is expressed in such a simple and yet profound manner that it just leaves one awestruck. His ways are all one. There is a pattern and an order, the first and the last, the greatest and the least, all mirroring each other, forming one great whole.

    By the rebirth of water we first sacrifice our life and are reborn anew. This “life” that we sacrifice is our superficial agency which makes us who we are. By sacrificing our corrupt agency, we gain a true perfect agency from Him, and by so doing are able to keep the commandment. This is the first gate we must all pass on the way to Him, which allows entry into the Telestial kingdom.

    By the rebirth of fire or the spirit we yet again sacrifice our life and are reborn to an even  higher state. Again this “life” that we sacrifice is yet another part of our self, which is our independence and individuality. By relying upon Him and throwing away our pride, we are able to finally become innocent and pure before Him, and by so doing we are able to be justified. Again this is another gate we must all pass to return to Him, which allows entry into the Terrestrial kingdom.

    Finally our being cleansed in His blood is the means whereby we are re-inherited as His children, wherein we do as He did. And what did He do? He sacrificed his life and will to the Father, which is what we must do to return to Him, and only then can we become holy like He is.

    Again in Revelations 22 when Christ speaks to John of the Final Judgment He divides those that are judged into four camps saying: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.

    Clearly we can see that these four groups are the perditious i.e. the filthy, the Telestial i.e. the unjust, the Terrestrial i.e. the righteous, and the Celestial i.e. the holy.

    Now by looking at these differences in the nature of those that enter each kingdom we can see that the Kingdoms are not mere different editions of the same thing. Just as there are fundamental differences in the nature of those that inhabit each kingdom, the the kingdom's nature is also different in like manner.

    I am not going to cover the perditious as they are not a kingdom of glory, and so instead let us cover Telestial kingdom in more detail, a kingdom which is often likened unto this mortal world in which we now live. Unfortunately, due to this likening, some mistakenly assume that this mortal world is the same as a Telestial world.

    While there are indeed many similarities between the Telestial and us, one simple change makes all the difference in the world, namely a lack of filthiness. There is no death, disease, sin or wickedness in this kingdom, and as such there cannot be any comparison as to our state versus theirs. It is a kingdom of glory and immortality, with no corruption or sorrows.

    That said, the individual that enters this kingdom is not special or spectacular in any way, relative to this world. As evidenced in the Bible passage where Christ meets Mary after his resurrection, a person with a Telestial body can be mistaken for a mortal. Now this is not to say that they are the same, as evidenced by the inability to get sick and die. However from this we can discern that there is not a fundamental difference in degrees of power or freedom between the mortal and the Telestial.

    Again, they that remain in their Telestial state are they that are slaves to the natural man. As such, they remain forever imperfect and thus, forever common. Even Isaiah compares this group to common stones, i.e. not of particular worth or value, which is interesting, as they are the very people who refuse to throw away their pride, and thus end up becoming common and worthless.

    However those that fulfill the conditions set forth by Christ are they that rise from a mere Telestial state to a Terrestrial one. This state is often compared to the millennium. However again people do understand that this similarity is not not the same as an equivalence. There will still be imperfection and death during the Millennium, it is just that the hearts of the people during that time will be comparable and in like manner to a higher kingdom, wherein they live by that higher law.

    Again Isaiah likens the Terrestrial to semi-precious stones and metals. They are perfected in Christ, and as such wield power beyond our mortal comprehension. There is a visible difference between mortal men and those that are Terrestrial, or like unto angels of God. When Christ first appeared to the Nephites, the people mistook him for an angel of god, as he was in a Terrestrial state.

    In Joseph Smith's description of the angel Moroni we see that there is an unfathomable gulf that separates us from the angels of God. To quote: “... his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me.

    Interestingly even the wicked do not attempt to raise their hands against terrestrial beings as evidenced by Paul and Alma, Laman and Lemuel, and any of the wicked that have seen angels face to face. Though they may deny it years down the road when the memories have faded, while in a personal confrontation against the powers of heaven, even the wicked bow their heads.

    In any normal circumstances the wicked would in no way bow down to a righteous authority figure. Imagine if you will if a glowy person in a robe simply appeared in front of a wicked person today, don't you think that they would doubt the veracity of the angel's power unless it was overwhelmingly obvious? There is no way that a wicked man will listen to someone simply because they are sparkly. More than likely they would just give any mortal person the finger and simply continue sinning.

    This alone is a testament to the unmistakable level of power which they possess which even the wicked cannot deny. When Alma was faced with such an angelic messenger the angel spoke saying  “And now behold, can ye dispute the power of God? For behold, doth not my voice shake the earth? And can ye not also behold me before you?

    It was sufficient that Alma behold the angel to know that he was sent of God. That is the power that the Terrestrial have. They are conduits of His light. Even their voice shakes the earth. There is no denying them, unlike how we can deny the holy prophets.

    Next and finally we come to the Celestial. While there is not a great deal of evidence in the scriptures as to the nature of the celestial, we can see from what is written that it is far beyond even what the terrestrial possess.

    First, there is no doubt that a divine personage is God. His whispers pierce the souls of any and all who hear as shown in Helaman and 3rd Nephi. His words are such that only those that have their hearts opened can understand them.

    In D&C 110 it describes Christ as a Celestial being saying “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah

    As Joseph Smith said in another account “God Almighty Himself dwells in eternal fire; flesh and blood cannot go there, for all corruption is devoured by the fire” In yet another account the pillar of light that Joseph Smith saw is described as a pillar of fire. Moses consistently describes god as being in the “midst of the fire”.

    Now this isn't a literal fire, but rather the closest description that can be given of Him and His glory is that of a flaming fire or a pillar of light. It is beyond mortal words to describe. Every word that is uttered by the Lord is truth, and thus his words alter or fixate reality itself. That is His eternal and enormous power.

    It is for this very reason that we can read in Psalms the following “And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.

    For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD?  who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?

    Unfortunately we live in a day and age where we have forgotten awe and worship. We tread lightly the things of God, and treat Him as but a friend or some backup guy we go to for help only if things are getting a bit nasty. There is no praise or being awestruck at his majesty, and as a consequence we know nothing of Him.

    Thus we see that the gap between the kingdoms shows us that it is not merely a difference in speed of progression, but rather we see each degree of glory gains powers untouchable by those below. As the fundamental nature of their personality changes as they rise, so too does the fundamental nature of their abilities change with them.

    If we were to use vehicles as an analogy, it wouldn't be three cars going at various speeds but rather three entirely different vehicles. If we were to symbolize the Telestial glory by a car, then we would need to symbolize the Terrestrial with an airplane, and the Celestial with a spaceship. Even this imperfect analogy cannot capture the infinite gulf between the kingdoms of god.

    A Telestial car can never hope to fly where the Terrestrial airplanes are capable of going, and the same goes for the difference between the Terrestrial airplanes and Celestial spaceships. There is no catching up, as there is no contest between them.

    Each degree of heaven separates us from Him by infinite gulfs which we cannot cross. From mortality to immortality, from imperfection to perfection, from the common and profane to the sacred and holy, these are chasms that we cannot fully comprehend, let alone cross. No amount of effort can overcome the natural limits that are ingrained in our souls. Only God can overcome those limits.

    When we begin to understand these fundamentals when it comes to the unquantifiably vast differences in the Kingdoms and how they operate, it elevates us and empowers us to put that much more trust in the Lord. If a mere angel's power is beyond our comprehension, then how much greater is the Lord's! If mere prophets can discern what is in the hearts of the children of men, how much more does He understand us!

    I testify that He is, and that He is all powerful, all seeing, all knowing, all good, for He is God. Then let us put our trust in Him, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, He who has freed all of His people from Bondage, and has his arms stretched out still, just waiting for us to seek Him out. If we do this, we will become like Him of this I testify, Amen.

Monday, April 2, 2012

On the Highest Law

    As I have written, through the first law of justice we are cleansed and through the higher law of mercy we are justified. This then leaves us with questions concerning that which is Celestial. What more can we sacrifice than our independence? What law could exist above mercy? What could be greater than perfection?

    First to understand why perfection isn't the end, we need to know what perfection is. Every word in the Hebrew Old Testament for perfect are also the same words which mean finished, complete or whole. His definition of perfection is different from our westernized perception of it, and is not a state where one is all powerful or all knowing. Rather it is a state of complete lack of weakness or flaws within its sphere and element.

    When we describe a perfect diamond, it doesn't mean that the diamond has all possible properties of beauty, rather it is used to describe the crystal itself, that is has no blemishes and its crystal matrix is without flaw. Similarly and quite obviously, the perfect man is not the same as the perfect woman. They still need each other to fulfill the measure of their creation. So too, is the perfect man meaningless without God.

    Thus when we are perfected we become whole and complete in and of ourselves without any weakness or lack as to our own nature. However this does not mean that we have “received of his fulness”, as we still need His Kingdoms and His light to sustain us. We can see from this that perfection is merely a preparatory state, a state we need to reach before we are able to return to Him.

    So if our being perfect is insufficient, then what is? If the first law separates the clean from the unclean, and the higher law divides the just from the unjust, then what is the Highest law, and how does it differentiate between the Terrestrial and the Celestial?

    Interestingly there is not much which is detailed when it comes to the Terrestrial Kingdom and its laws. The differences between the two kingdoms are rarely spelled out in the scriptures. Yes there are some indications in what the Kingdoms stand for such as whether they were “valiant in the testimony of Jesus”, but even that isn't strictly defined.

    God however does have a strict definition as to what that means, and what we need to do to inherit Eternal Life. There is no subjective judgment; it is clear cut and without exception. Thus we need to find out that law as He defines it.

    We can find at least a preliminary definition in D&C 88 where we read “they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.

    The law of Christ is the law which separates us, wherein it separates the sanctified from the unsanctified, or in other words the holy from the unholy. This holiness and sanctification is the necessary condition which we need to fulfill in order to finally inherit Eternal Life.

    Some have mistakenly believe that this Law of Christ is doing what Jesus did in a literal sense, wherein we atone the for the sins of another world. However as I have written before, this literal way of interpretation of His word is a very Gentile and wrong way to understand His will. It is in this way that the philosophies of man are mingled with scripture.

    Besides being mathematically unfeasible, this belief belittles what Christ did for us, and undoes the foundations of salvation. It raises us up in our pride and arrogance, supposing that we could possibly do what Jesus did, for we are not the Father's first born nor His Only Begotten, which name becomes meaningless if we believe in this doctrine. How can we die and live again, if we have already received incorruption, or do ye suppose that there is some form of trans-migration, which doctrine Joseph Smith denounced as the doctrine of the devil?

    No, obviously the Law of Christ is not to do what He did in a literal sense, but rather to follow Him in a more abstract manner, or in other words to follow the example and principles that He laid down for us.

    So what exactly are these principles? What exactly is this law of Christ? To answer this let us take a brief look at sacrificial animals in the Law of Moses, as well as the general law of the people prior to the coming of Christ.

    First of all these animals needed to be ritually clean, strong and healthy specimens, and physically unblemished. All sacrifices were then salted or purified, before finally offered upon the altar. Only then were they “korban” or sanctified as a sacrifice unto the Lord. The animal that was sacrificed was considered holy and sacred and belonged to Him.

    We can see from this that anything that we sacrifice unto Him must abide by those conditions. We don't sacrifice that which is unclean or worthless to Him, we sacrifice that which is of great worth to Him. Thus cleanliness and perfection are mere prerequisites to something greater. The first sacrifice of our agency, and the higher sacrifice of our independence are the preparatory sacrifices which lead to the ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice of self or will.

    This is the final example of that which is written “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” This is the ultimate and utter surrender, and thus the greatest humiliation, wherein we sacrifice the only thing that is left: ourselves.

    This is exactly what He did for us. He was the final sacrifice for all the world, wherein “the will of the Son [was] swallowed up in the will of the Father.” This is the final example that Jesus showed us, on what to do to follow Him. For has He not said “wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.

    Neal A Maxwell explained “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!

    So it is that our wills must in like manner be swallowed up in God's will. In Helaman 3 it reads “Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.

    The word heart in Hebrew is “leb” which can also be translated as the inner man, or will. It is the core of our souls that we must sacrifice unto Him, and only then can we say “That [our] garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins”.

    Moroni expounds upon this saying “And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

    This is the ordinance that we need to enter into, which is our being re-inherited as children of the Father, receiving that patriarchal priesthood which is necessary for us to become joint heirs with Christ through the Blood of his perfect atonement, for “by the blood ye are sanctified”. It is through this that we are endowed with power from on High to pass through the impenetrable veil which protects us from the Kingdom of everlasting burnings.

    If we submit to Him, we lose our unholy wills, wherein we receive a Holy will. This is how “[we] shall overcome all things”. Can any man in and of himself overcome all? Of course not. He empowers us with the ability to do so, in and through our sacrifice of our wills to Him.

    Again the irony rears its ugly head, for they that are unwilling to sacrifice their will, are they whose wills becomes meaningless. For how can God expect us to become Eternal Fathers, if our wills are not like His, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent?

    Thus it is that they who cannot take that last step are they that are condemning themselves to be forever unholy, their wills becoming dead ends. They die the “eternal deaths”, in that they cut off the possibility of posterity from themselves, for this is their covenantal curse, a curse of damnation, without the possibility of increase in glory or meaning, worlds without end.

    Likewise they that follow Christ's example are inheritors of the patriarchal order, the covenental blessing of “eternal lives”, wherein they become a light upon high, becoming a source of creation, raining down eternal life upon an innumerable host of like children.

    How glorious and wonderful the blessings He has in store for us! We cannot comprehend what He has in store for us, for so great are they “that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man.

    As Neal A Maxwell so eloquently stated “In striving for ultimate submission, our wills constitute all we really have to give God anyway. The usual gifts and their derivatives we give to Him could be stamped justifiably “Return to Sender,” with a capital S. Even when God receives this one gift in return, the fully faithful will receive “all that [He] hath” (D&C 84:38). What an exchange rate!

    Then if that is the case what have we to lose? If we have already sacrificed our agency and independence, why not go just a little further, and sacrifice the little that remains, and gain the whole world in exchange.

    Let us follow the words of Moroni who counseled “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.

    Let us be those true followers, where we do as He did, submit as He did, and love as He loves. If we do these things, I can promise that we will finally inherit all as He has and be filled with that joy the eternal joy that only comes to those that are like Him, which is beyond measure. Amen.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

On the Higher Law

    The first law of heaven is perfect obedience, wherein we sacrifice our agency to choose evil and filthiness. If this is the case what could we possibly sacrifice more than our agency? What greater or higher law could possibly exist than to eliminate all evil?

    To understand this this we need to look at what the first law implies. Firstly this law is not just the law of obedience but also the law of Justice, Judgment and Truth. It condemns the wicked and protects the innocent. The law that separates the filthy from the clean in and of itself doesn't have the power to cleanse; for “the strength of sin” is this absolute, unbending, and remorseless law.

    Because of this “no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off.” We are all sinners and have the need to be saved; and yet with only the first law in place, “there [is] no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man [has] brought upon himself because of his own disobedience”.

    This first law was taught to men by means of the Law of Moses. It was not only a law of performances and ordinances, but it strictly defined the differences between the clean and unclean, the holy and the mundane. It taught the children of Israel the how awful filthiness was, by showing direct consequences to them. However we know “that salvation doth not come by the law alone”.

    Obviously this first law is insufficient, as it only serves to act as an insurmountable barrier to those that desire to enter Heaven. “Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state”. This is where a higher law of heaven comes into play, aka the law of the gospel or the law of mercy.

    The details as to what the gospel is and how the atonement works were spelled out in a previous post, and so I won't cover that here. However I will say that it is not something we have earned or deserve; it is a glorious gift that He gives to us in his bounteous love and mercy; that is the key. We don't have to earn it, for we cannot.

    So how do we accept this higher law of mercy? If we cannot earn or pay for it, then what do we sacrifice, and why do we do so? Obviously if this higher law of mercy were simply given without restriction, there would be no difference between the Kingdoms, for why would any reject mercy, if there is no price to pay? Would one willingly suffer hell, if there were no need to do so? Of course not.

    This then raises the question, how does this law of mercy and good news separate the Telestial and Terrestrial? We know that the first law differentiates between the clean and the unclean, so by what mechanism can we provide a deeper look into our soul? The answer quite simply is that the difference boils down to a question of innocence.

    The higher law divides us into the just and the unjust which identifies us by the method of our cleansing; either on the one hand by our paying for our sins via the law of justice, or on the other hand by our relying upon Christ, where He pays in our stead via the higher law of mercy absolving us of our sins, by which we “[become] again, in [our] infant state, innocent before God”.

    This justification is not given without restriction, rather it is only given to those that fulfill the conditions by which mercy may operate. One cannot take advantage of His mercy, for it comes only upon those that are willing to give up that pride and arrogance that distinguishes their identity and individuality, for we must “not put [our] trust in the arm of flesh”.

    What He requires is that we take upon us His name, by which we become His children. In order to do so we must acknowledge our weakness, imperfection, incompleteness, incompetence, unworthiness, and foolishness before Him, and beg of Him that He will save us, bowing our heads down to the earth in utter humility; for “whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted

    And again it says “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

    This is the innocence and humility required of us to accept this higher law. We need to admit that we can't do it alone, and we need Him from the depth of our souls, not just want Him in a superficial manner. Without his life giving light we are doomed to wander in the darkness forever without a glimmer of hope. It is that desire for light that must drive us so that we can come unto Him.

    “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ;

    By throwing away even our independence and individuality, our pride and arrogance, He is finally able to give us a true individuality, independent, glorious, whole and perfect. Remember that for every sacrifice that is demanded, a greater gift is given beyond our wildest imaginations. This great gift of justification and perfection is the covenantal blessing that can only be given to the meek.

    In this our broken and ungodly state, we cannot know what the word perfect even means, for in this filthy world we are separated from Him so exceedingly so as to not be able to even comprehend what it means to be clean, let alone perfect. And while we cannot know what it is, we can catch even the smallest glimpse of cleanliness and perfection in the truths and light that He shines downs upon us.

    It is only those that are “meek and lowly of heart” that are raised up beyond the highest ambitions of man. This reliance upon Him is the faith that is necessary for us, which faith is the first step in following the law of the gospel. It is this trust in Him that allows us to relinquish our desires for the things of this world to buoy us. Our value is not dependent upon man and the glory of this world, but we can only know that if we believe Him.

    We all know that the first principles and ordinances of the fullness of the gospel are faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. As I wrote before about the relationship between repentance and baptism to the preparatory gospel and its place in the First law, we now need to focus on the remaining principles, which are Faith and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    I will cover Faith more extensively in another post, but it sufficeth me to say that the faith that is necessary is the relationship that we have with Him, our trust, loyalty, and belief in Him. This is what leads us to satisfy the conditions necessary to complete and fulfill the promise that we make when we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

    The Law of the gospel, or in other words the Law of mercy and good news is officiated to us through the ordinance of the baptism of fire; for “by the Spirit ye are justified”. So what exactly does this fire represent?

    We read in Malachi “for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

    This fire burns away any impurities, and thus leaves only the precious metal behind, pure, clean, whole, and perfect. It is the divine fire of God, for He dwells in the “everlasting burnings.” Those that enter any of His kingdoms must be burned, either by Divine fire, or by the fire and brimstone of hell. This is why it says “then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

    Again Amulek taught “I desire that ye … contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.

    Only through this humbling of ourselves “even to the dust” can we find ourselves; for the Lord has stated “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

    Herein lies the difference between the ordinance of the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the reception of it where we are finally baptized by fire. When we have the gift given to us, it commands us to receive the Holy Ghost, it is something we must seek to accomplish.

    Simply sitting around and waiting, remaining ever dependent upon the world and Babylon will not make it happen. We are commanded to actively partake of it, bowing our heads, begging before Him that we may be baptized in the purifying fire that He promises to all those that have followed Him “with full purpose of heart”.

    This utter abasement is the great hurdle that those that have given themselves to the natural man cannot overcome. “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

    So it is that the natural man are those that refuse to bow to Him, and are ultimately humbled through death, forever being marked as sinners, never coming close to perfection, being enslaved to their weakness and incompetence forever, which is their eternal covenantal curse.

    Thus it is that the same irony that was present for the Perditious, manifests itself yet again upon the unjust, the Telestial. They who desire independence above all, are the very ones that are forever dependent upon others due to their own incompetence and imperfection. They are reliant upon the Higher kingdoms, never becoming kings and leaders themselves, being subjects for all eternity.

    Just as the Lord cannot tolerate sin, so too can He not allow for arrogance. It is a common theme throughout the scriptures that they who lift themselves up shall be forced down. This pride, or in other words this trusting in the arm of flesh is the source of wickedness, the fountain of death. Of course the Lord will dam up that stream of destruction, to protect his children.

    On the other hand, it is those that are humble that He consistently exalts. Then let us too worship Him and serve him with all our might, that we too may be lifted up at the last day. Only by bowing our head to Him can we truly hold our heads high, having a perfect brightness of hope, being absolute in our confidence in ourselves, thanks to Him.

    Let us all show obeisance and worship Him, as did David who wrote in Psalms “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!

    How can I say it better than Alma who said “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you. Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely;

    Who can say that they in and of themselves are perfect? I say no one can. Then if that is the case, how can we say that our pride in the pathetic works of our hands is so important as to reject Him. Is not his magnificent mercy and grace greater than anything we can accomplish? Is this not worth giving up our nothingness and foolishness for His majesty and greatness?

    He in his infinite love for us has provided this world where we can finally learn our place, and to learn to become independent, in and through our dependance upon Him. For He has said “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.

    I testify that He is there waiting for us with arms outstretched, to humble ourselves that He may pull us up and uplift us to Him. I know that there is no greater gift than His love, and that if we desire after it He will glorify and perfect us in Him. Amen.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

On the First Law of Heaven

    In His kingdoms His Laws absolutely rule all, and since each successive Law builds upon the last, those that live the highest law by necessity must live them all. For us to begin on the path back to Him, we first need to understand his laws, each in turn building one upon the other; and to do that we must begin with the First Law of Heaven, or the Law that governs the Telestial Kingdom.

    In order to understand this first law, we must first examine and see those who refuse to enter into His kingdom, and why they choose not to partake of it. Only by realizing the differences between the lost and the saved, can we understand the law that they reject, which highlights the differences in the natures of those that reject that law versus those that embrace it.

    We often hear that it is those that have “denied the Holy Spirit” that become the Sons of Perdition. However what exactly does that mean? Everyone has ignored the promptings of the Holy Spirit at one time or another. Obviously that isn't sufficient to damn one to hell for eternity, otherwise there would not be any hope for salvation.

    If we read in 2 Thessalonians it speaks of a specific son of perdition at the last day, the Antichrist. Of him it says “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” We can see that all those that are lost in like manner follow the same mental pattern.

    These are they that not only rebel against God, but deny all Divinity rejecting His light. They “deny the truth and defy [His] power”, making a mock of all that is good. This is how they deny “the Holy spirit after having received it”. In their raw unbridled pride and arrogance they raise themselves up as God.

    Further in D&C 88 we read “That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.

    They are they that raise themselves up as the law rejecting his true Law, thus leaving them in their awful filthy state. We see from this that the phrase “filthy still” are key words that are associated solely with the with sons of perdition. Because of their filthiness they are “the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power”. This second death being a spiritual death and is the hell from which the Telestial are eventually saved, and the Perditious are lost to again for all time.

    However after all this we do not learn what the Law requires. An eternal law is more than not doing something, it is a fundamental change in our nature. It is more than just not denying, for the Law demands a sacrifice of ourselves, after the manner of covenants of old. So what is it that we must sacrifice, and how is it that we must change?

    In Alma we read “Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death”. As stated above, the condition that man must submit to in order to be saved from that death is that “they should not do evil”.

    This is the Law: The first law of perfect obedience, wherein one must accept the truth, and bow to His power. God does not and cannot tolerate any wickedness, “for the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance”. This goes doubly for any of His kingdoms, where His will reigns supreme.

    It seems obvious if one thinks about the nature of heaven. Of course there is no evil or filthiness in His kingdom, for filthiness begets more filthiness, which filthiness is the cause of suffering and misery, corruption and death. Even physical death is no escape from the stain of sin, but in this our mortal world we at least have an escape which is available by His grace. However if such corruption were to exist in an Eternal world, then it could only be an everlasting hell.

    Therefore the only way to guarantee this state of cleanliness is to enforce that by the Law of obedience. Because we are not allowed to sin, this law requires the sacrifice of our agency, wherein we give up to Him our ability to do evil, whereupon he grants to us true agency where we are able to act as we wish, free from the yoke of sin. And what does it mean to relinquish our ability to sin?

    In Alma we read: “Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence”. We can see from this that the righteous begin to receive this blessing even in part while in this life, and it is by being repulsed from all filthiness that they are protected from it.

    How glorious this is, that we may act with true freedom, without fear of causing undue pain, and without worrying about our weakness. This is the first and founding Law upon which all others are built. It is the law of Justice and Obedience, where His will is absolute, and his Law protects all that live by it.

    From this we see that the covenantal blessing associated with this Law is our salvation and preservation, where we give up iniquity that we may inherit life. Thus it is on the other hand that those that refuse to give up their ability to sin and their agency to rebel are they that spiritually die, having no agency “for they have no power”, being unable to act according to their wills for their wills are corrupt, being unable to find joy for they would only take joy in misery, seeking for happiness in wickedness.

    “And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.” They receiving the covenantal curse, which is that final death of which has been spoken.

    Thus it is that all those that enter into any Kingdom must fulfill the words of Helaman who said “Yea, and it bringeth to pass the condition of repentance, that whosoever repenteth the same is not hewn down and cast into the fire; but whosoever repenteth not is hewn down and cast into the fire; and there cometh upon them again a spiritual death, yea, a second death, for they are cut off again as to things pertaining to righteousness.

    Now if this is the case, then you may wonder how it is that “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers” are saved in the Telestial kingdom. Since they are sinners who repent not, how can they possibly be saved? Well to understand this we need to take a closer and broader look at repentance.

    The word repentance is the same word as return in Hebrew. All those that wish to return to any degree of glory must obviously accept the light and truth that governs it. The key difference between the perditious and the saved is the acceptance of his judgment.

    They that enter the Telestial Kingdom are those that reject His atonement and suffer for their sins. However they do so acknowledging their fault, bowing to the truth and accepting His justice. They are sanctified by justice, and in the end repent of their sins. In other words, they return from that hell as changed people, they having experienced the horrors of filthiness firsthand.

    As these are they that have ever served the flesh while in life, so it is that they receive a flesh that has no inclination of evil in the next. It is by this that they can be saved, for they ultimately reject filthiness, and while it is not because they love righteousness, they still do so and become clean before Him. It is their journey through hell that renders within their hearts the abhorrence of sin. It is in this manner that they repent, by dying as to their old selves.

    This goes hand in hand with the ordinance related to this kingdom. In D&C 84 we read that Repentance and Baptism are the preparatory gospel which was given to Israel, even after the Higher law was taken from them. This preparatory law is what governs this Telestial kingdom.

    Repentance is an obvious necessity, to prevent filthiness from entering, but Baptism's relationship isn't as obvious. However in 2nd Nephi 31 we read that Jesus “witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments” through this Baptism, which it later restates that it is something that we must do. Also in Moses 6 we read “For by the water ye keep the commandment”.

    Now what exactly does this baptism represent? It is a representation of our death, and rebirth as a new person, a person who has rejected sin. This is the very thing we must all do to gain entrance into his rest. Now this does not mean that those that reject Christ receive Baptism, but rather it means that all must go through that death and rebirth, either through the ordinance of Baptism wherein Christ has completed this act of spiritually dying and resurrecting in our stead, or by our literally dying spiritually and coming forth as changed creatures.

    It is then one of life's ironies where those that are least willing to give up their agency and will, are the very ones that lose any ability to act. Conversely it is those that are humble enough to bow to the Lords laws that are able to live as they will, just as in the scripture in John 12 “He that loveth [or is personally attached to] his life shall lose it [or have it destroyed]; and he that hateth [or loveth less] his life in this world shall be preserved unto life eternal.

    The Lord is God, His decrees are unalterable and his will is absolute, for He “will punish the world for evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; [He] will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay down the haughtiness of the terrible”. This is the terrible justice of God, and His wrath upon us save we repent, “for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous.

    Obedience to Him is the first law of heaven, upon which all other laws are predicated, not obedience after the manner of men, or after the precepts of men. For men will multiply rules and precepts to the binding down of man, if we will hearken and trust in the arm of flesh. But this runs contrary to true obedience, where we must seek for Him and His will.

    “Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.

    As stated many times in the scriptures, if we keep His commandments we will prosper, both in this life and in the life to come. By actively seeking His will to keep the covenants that we have made with him, we will be preserved and raised up at the last day, not only to the Telestial Kingdom but beyond. Of this I testify amen.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

On the Nature of Eternal Laws

    As I have written before, in order to understand His Judgments we need to understand his Laws. Likewise, in order to enter a Kingdom, we must first keep the Laws of that Kingdom; which we cannot do if we don't even understand the Law. Before we can understand who we are and where we will end up in the eternities, we must first gain a greater understanding of those laws.

    Now when we hear of keeping God's Laws, the main thing that we hear of at church are things that command us of how to act in our everyday lives such as the Ten Commandments, Tithing and Offerings, or other mundane commands. However if we stay at a superficial level of understanding of His commandments, when we will never grow. We need to understand the motivation and purpose behind these commands, or we cannot appreciate the true laws of heaven, which govern His Kingdoms.

    Just as the Law of Moses was a preparatory law to the children of Israel, so too are these commandments to prepare our minds for greater things. However too often we fall into the same trap that the pharisees fell into, and “take strength unto [ourselves]”, not seeing the commandments as His way of guiding and and loving His children, but instead using those superficial statues to judge and condemn others, that we may have pride in our own strength.

    That, however, is not how His plan works. His judgments do not differentiate people by their superficial actions, as noted in a previous post, and as a consequence neither do His laws. So there arises the question, how do the laws differentiate us?

    Before looking at each kingdom and its laws in detail, first we must understand the nature of His laws. As stated in the D&C “And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same

    His Laws are not just orders to be followed, but rather are the source of that Kingdom's glory, or in other words they are covenants. On the other hand they are far beyond the covenants that we make in our mortal life, for the promises that we make demonstrate our desires, but they can and often are broken. In His Kingdoms the Laws are just like the Laws of nature, they cannot be broken, which is the reason for the distinction.

    Now what does it mean that his laws cannot be broken? It doesn't mean those they are in some sort of bondage or that their agency is forfeit. The laws are eternal and unbreakable in that it protects all those that have chosen the law. Since they have committed to take upon them the law and have adorn themselves with it, it becomes a protective armor that covers them in the bonds of His light and love. It is not restrictive, but rather power beyond imagining.

    This said, the Laws of Heaven are counterparts to the covenants that we make here on earth, for these promises that we make, prepare us for the eternities to follow. This is why Joseph Smith said “A man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge.

    Many fail to comprehend what this means, for they misunderstand by trying to apply a worldly definition to an Eternal concept; thinking that it means that they gain salvation through understanding calculus or quantum mechanics, or some other fact of nature. By doing this they undo the glorious message contained therein. Knowledge according to divine definition is not factual statements that one has mentally compiled.

    The Hebrew word for knowledge is da'at, which is comes from yada meaning "to know." To quote Avraham Gileadi “to know is another technical term that we get from ancient near eastern covenant language. It is a covenant term even way back in the sense of Adam knew his wife Eve and she conceived and bore a son. They have a covenant relationship between them. To know someone expresses that covenant relationship.”

    True knowledge is the making, keeping, and fulfilling of that covenant relationship. To Know god is to have an “intimate and interactive relationship” with Him. When Christ saved me by teaching me of his Atonement, I finally knew him. Until then I knew nothing of Him or His ways. The knowledge I have of Him and His power is what grants me strength to go forward.

    As much as I love studying scientific facts and laws, I understand that they do not save me. They have a form of power, but that is nothing compared to His power. Science cannot break the bands of death, He can. Thus to know His laws is also to keep them and make them a part of oneself, so much so that they will never be broken for all eternity. Thus His Laws become a part of every creature that inhabits that Kingdom.

    Then the next step for us is to find out how we come to know His law. Related to this in Matthew we read: “For whosoever [desires to] save his life shall [sacrifice] it: and whosoever will [sacrifice] his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give [as a ransom] for his soul?” I have added the words in brackets to show the intention of the Greek meaning, in order to clarify the meaning behind the verse.

    The necessity of sacrifice is explained in more detail here. To summarize: this sacrifice, by necessity, must precede our receiving His light and truth. It is impossible for us to gain any measure of power until we forfeit that which is required to receive it. Until I personally was willing to sacrifice my foolish and incorrect ideas, I was unable to know Him. It was my humbling myself and giving up those things that opened my eyes to His truth, by which I finally knew Jesus. 

    Similarly every Law of heaven demands that a sacrifice of oneself must be made before its power can manifest in empowering us. On the other hand if we are unwilling and refuse to relinquish that which is demanded by law, then in a way we lose that part of ourselves regardless. The Law demands that something is taken and it will be, either willingly if we acquiesce to the law, wherein it serves to bless us, or by force if we resist the Law, wherein it serves to curse us.

    Now this is not to destroy our agency, nor is it to enforce some arbitrary rule set. The Law exists to protect the order of heaven, and these Divine laws cannot be bent nor broken, for the protection and preservation of the innocent is of the utmost priority. It is only during this brief time on this world in this mortal probation, that we are able to get away with defying the law for so long. But the time will come and is soon at hand when it will be enforced yet again.

    Like as in ancient time, when children of Israel offered sacrifice before the Lord at his Holy House, so too must we now make this sacrifice, which sacrifice is made as we enter into that covenant by means of the ordinances that He has set forth for the deliverance of His people. Only by understanding these covenants, and ordinances can be begin to understand His law.

    The covenants The Lord made with Israel were made after a specific pattern, and while I won't go into detail as to the specifics of that pattern, it is important to note that all of these were made after a familial or patriarchal order. The Lord is our Father, where we must prove faithful unto him, whereupon He provides us with protection.

    With every Covenant, there were specific covenant blessings for faithfulness, and likewise there were specific covenant cursings according to our disobedience. Only by knowing this pattern can we begin to see how the Heavenly Laws work.

    The Laws of the Kingdoms likewise have blessings and cursings, each blessing and cursing being a natural outcome of keeping or breaking the law. The Lord does not wish to curse us, but it is an inevitable consequence that we ultimately choose, knowing full well what it entails. His blessings are available for all who continue to seek for them.

    While the laws themselves are covered here, here, and here, knowing the nature of the laws alone allows us to appreciate what He does for us. As I have mentioned many times, His work and glory is our immortality and eternal life, and the tools by which He accomplishes that work are the Laws of Heaven.

    Through our paltry sacrifices, he grants us to truly know Him, and through that, we finally know ourselves, our place, and even the entire universe. It opens our eyes for these laws are the key to our heart and ultimately our destiny, and if we acquiesce to those laws I promise that there is nothing that cannot be overcome, of this I testify. Amen.