Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lesson 5


    Why did God tell the early church “say nothing but repentance unto this generation”?


    Why is repentance “the only panacea [cure] for the ills of the world”?


    Why do some people think that they “need no repentance”?


    Why does Christ consider “whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.” (D&C 10:67)?


    Why will Christ do this?

31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: 36Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? 38When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? 39Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you? 40And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.


    Why will Christ do this?

41Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.


    How do you integrate the following?

    The Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me” (Ether 12:27).

    How do we come to understand the following point?

    “If we wish to truly repent and come unto Him so that we can be called members of His Church, we must first and foremost come to realize this eternal truth—the gospel plan is the plan of happiness.”


    Why does it all come back to faith in Christ?

    “A second concept that is important to our understanding is the relationship of repentance to the principle of faith. Repentance is the second fundamental principle of the gospel. The first is that we must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is this so? Why must faith in the Lord precede true repentance?”


    Why is repentance change?

    “Alma states: “And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

    “And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 27:25–26.) …”


    In our efforts to repent, why is a change of behavior not enough? (See section 2.) Why do you think we need to look to Jesus Christ in order to truly repent?


    “What can we do to help others experience this change [“a mighty change of heart”]?”


    Why do some lose hope?  How do we avoid losing hope?

    “[The] final point I wish to make about the process of repentance is that we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible. The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair.

    But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life.”


    What is a Christlike life like?

    “They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” (3 Ne. 9:20; italics added.)”



[Six principles.]

First, the gospel is the Lord’s plan of happiness, and repentance is designed to bring us joy.

Second, true repentance is based on and flows from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other way.

Third, true repentance involves a change of heart and not just a change of behavior.

Fourth, part of this mighty change of heart is to feel godly sorrow for our sins. This is what is meant by a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Fifth, God’s gifts are sufficient to help us overcome every sin and weakness if we will but turn to Him for help.

Finally, we must remember that most repentance does not involve sensational or dramatic changes, but rather is a step-by-step, steady, and consistent movement toward godliness.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Lesson 4 (rough draft)

“Happiness here and now consists in freely, lovingly, joyfully acknowledging God’s will for us—and doing it in all ways and all affairs big and small.”

What experiences have you had with suffering?

One of President Ezra Taft Benson’s early assignments as an Apostle was to help bring relief to the Saints in Europe after World War II. While traveling in Germany, he met faithful people who were able to rise above the devastation all around them. He recorded in his journal:

“The worst destruction I have witnessed was seen today. … As I rode through the streets [of Berlin] and walked through some impassable by auto, I … saw half-starved women paying exorbitant prices anxiously for potato peelings. … I saw old men and women with small hatchets eagerly digging at tree stumps and roots in an effort to get scraps of fuel and then pulling those home for miles on anything that would roll—from two little wheels of a once baby carriage to small wagons—as beasts of burden.

“Later I faced in a cold half-wrecked third floor auditorium off a bombed street 480 cold half-starved but faithful Latter-day Saints in a conference meeting. It was an inspiration to see the light of faith. … There was no bitterness or anger but a sweet reciprocation and expression of faith in the gospel.”1

What can a good attitude help with?  What can it not solve?   

“Not a single member registered any complaint about their circumstances in spite of the fact that some were in the last stages of starvation right before our very eyes.

“… Our Saints … are full of hope, courage, and faith, and everywhere they look cheerfully forward with expressions of deepest faith for the gospel and for their membership in the Church. It was one of the greatest demonstrations we have ever seen of the real fruits of the gospel in the lives of men and women.”2

President Benson also saw examples of hope and optimism close to home, where many of his fellow farmers remained cheerful even when they faced severe difficulties. He said:

“I remember attending a meeting near Bancroft, Idaho. … We’d had a wonderful meeting, and after it was over, I was greeting some of the wonderful farmers who were there, and among them was a man by the name of Brother Yost, and I said, ‘Brother Yost, how are things out on the farm?’ Brother Yost said, ‘Oh, things are fine, Brother Benson, but I’m about 20 thousand dollars worse off than I was three days ago.’ I said, ‘What’s the matter—another frost?’ He said, ‘Yes, it hit the wheat just in the dough stage, and you know what that means.’ He said, ‘We’re starting the mowing machines in the morning, but everything’s all right. We’ve still got a little wheat in the bin, and we’ve got at least part of our year’s supply laid away. We’re not going to starve, and there’ll be another crop.’ As we left him, I said to my wife, ‘What a wonderful spirit.’

What responses to suffering work well for you, what responses do you think do not work well?

“We drove on down to Logan [a city in Utah, about 80 miles, or 130 kilometers, from Bancroft]. We had our children with us, and we stopped on Main Street to go into a grocery store to pick up a few cookies for the kiddies. And who should I meet on the sidewalk but Brother Yost. I said, ‘Well, what are you doing way down here?’ He said, ‘Brother Benson, it’s our day to go to the temple.’ And I said, ‘Well, reverses don’t dampen your spirits any, do they?’ Then he taught me a lesson. He said, ‘Brother Benson, when reverses come we need the temple all the more.’”3

Should we be clueless or aware?

President Benson’s own responses to adversity lifted those who knew him, just as the example of other Saints strengthened him. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described President Benson as a “careful watcher of events, [who] maintains a certain buoyancy and cheerfulness we would do well to watch. Such buoyancy,” Elder Maxwell said, “comes not from ignoring enveloping events, but from noticing these and yet looking beyond them to promises having to do with how the kingdom will finally prevail.”4

Does anyone avoid disappointment or discouragement?

We will all have disappointments and discouragements—that is part of life. But if we will have faith, our setbacks will be but a moment and success will come out of our seeming failures. Our Heavenly Father can accomplish miracles through each of us if we will but place our confidence and trust in Him.5

It is a great blessing to have an inner peace, to have an assurance, to have a spirit of serenity and inward calm during times of strife and struggle, during times of sorrow and reverses. It is soul-satisfying to know that God is at the helm, that He is mindful of His children, and that we can with full confidence place our trust in Him.6

Prayer, Faith, Hope and Action.

How do these four principals work together?

Prayer—persistent prayer—can put us in touch with God, our greatest source of comfort and counsel. “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror.” (D&C 10:5.) “Exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me” is how the young Joseph Smith describes the method that he used in the Sacred Grove to keep the adversary from destroying him. (JS—H 1:16.)7


Without faith in our Heavenly Father, we cannot be successful. Faith gives us vision of what may happen, hope for the future, and optimism in our present tasks. Where faith is, we do not doubt the ultimate success of the work.8


Of all people, we as Latter-day Saints should be the most optimistic and the least pessimistic. For while we know that “peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion,” we are also assured that “the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst.” (D&C 1:35–36.)


With the assurance that the Church shall remain intact with God directing it through the troubled times ahead, it then becomes our individual responsibility to see that each of us remains faithful to the Church and its teachings. “He that remaineth steadfast and is not overcome, the same shall be saved.” (JS—M 1:11.)9

Why does happiness have to be earned every day?

We have no cause to really worry. Live the gospel, keep the commandments. Attend to your prayers night and morning in your home. Maintain the standards of the Church. Try and live calmly and cheerfully. … Happiness must be earned from day to day. But it is worth the effort.10

When George A. Smith was very ill, he was visited by his cousin, the Prophet Joseph Smith. The afflicted man reported: “He [the Prophet] told me I should never get discouraged, whatever difficulties might surround me. If I were sunk into the lowest pit of Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged, but hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I should come out on the top of the heap.” …

There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and outlast the devil until his depressive spirit leaves you. As the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.” (D&C 121:7–8.)

How do we earn happiness every day?

Pressing on in noble endeavors, even while surrounded by a cloud of depression, will eventually bring you out on top into the sunshine. Even our master Jesus the Christ, while facing that supreme test of being temporarily left alone by our Father during the crucifixion, continued performing his labors for the children of men, and then shortly thereafter he was glorified and received a fulness of joy. While you are going through your trial, you can recall your past victories and count the blessings that you do have with a sure hope of greater ones to follow if you are faithful. And you can have that certain knowledge that in due time God will wipe away all tears and that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9.)11

Be cheerful in all that you do. Live joyfully. Live happily. Live enthusiastically, knowing that God does not dwell in gloom and melancholy, but in light and love.12

“To live happily is to grow in spiritual strength toward perfection.”

What does God want of us?

Heavenly Father wants us to be happy, and He will bless us as we follow His will for us.

“Men are that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). Our Heavenly Father wants us to be happy. He expects us to be happy. But there is no happiness in a letting down of standards. There is no happiness when you fail to live according to your convictions, according to that which you know to be right. It is so easy to form the habit of taking it just a little easy on certain things. It is so easy to form the habit of faultfinding, or criticizing, of carrying in our hearts reservations regarding certain things in the Church. It is so easy for us to become a bit bitter, and then dwell on that, to become sad and carry a sad face with us. A sad face never won a battle in war or love.13

How do we turn our lives over to God?

Do we realize that happiness here and now consists in freely, lovingly, joyfully acknowledging God’s will for us—and doing it in all ways and all affairs big and small? To live perfectly is to live happily. To live happily is to grow in spiritual strength toward perfection. Every action performed in accord with God’s will is part of that growth. Let us not partition our lives. Let us unify our lives, being contemptuous of fictitious honors and glories that do not come with God’s approval. Let us remember that the real source of our strength and happiness is beyond the reach of men and circumstances.14

We must learn and learn again that only through accepting and living the gospel of love as taught by the Master and only through doing His will can we break the bonds of ignorance and doubt that bind us. We must learn this simple, glorious truth so that we can experience the sweet joys of the Spirit now and eternally. We must lose ourselves in doing His will. We must place Him first in our lives. Yes, our blessings multiply as we share His love with our neighbor.15

“Brethren,” said Paul, “but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philip. 3:13–14.)

What should we meditate on?

Let your minds be filled with the goal of being like the Lord, and you will crowd out depressing thoughts as you anxiously seek to know him and do his will. “Let this mind be in you,” said Paul. (Philip. 2:5.) “Look unto me in every thought,” said Jesus. (D&C 6:36.) And what will follow if we do? “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.” (Isa. 26:3.)16

We will never be alone if we live as we should, because our Father will always be with us to bless us. He wants us to be successful. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to achieve the good goals we set. He will do His part if we do our part.17

How can we use this lesson to help ourselves and to help others? 

How do we avoid being trite or overly simplistic when applying these principles?      

Philosophy mingled with scripture (rough draft)

When people talk about philosophy mingled with scripture they generally mean one of two things.

First, when Greek Platonic Idealism (sometimes called realism) replaced the non-Platonic parts of the gospel. (Somewhere around the third century AD).

Second, when Aristotelian Nominalism (the competing Philosophy) came in and replaced Idealism for some. (Somewhere around the twelfth century).

Third, any popular philosophy they encounter in the Church that they don't agree with.

For an example:

  • Idealism: beauty is a property constructed in the mind, so exists only in descriptions of things.
  • Platonic realism: beauty is a property that exists in an ideal form independently of any mind or description.
  • Aristotlean realism: beauty is a property that only exists when beautiful things exist.
  • Anyone who is famous has beauty (neo-calvinism/popular culture).
What is interesting is just how these frameworks can be applied to almost anything.  Sociology,  popular Marxism, and, of course, religion.

Platonic thought is found every time someone reads scripture and assumes that any particular concept refers only to a specific ideal form, that can be discovered without regard to the context of the person doing the discovery.  Thus the discussions about faith (which is used in several different ways) where every use of it is treated as fungible and the same as any other.

Aristotelian thought is found every time someone says there is no meaning outside of context.  Even better, modern, popular versions of Aristotelian thought are not the same as the "real" thing (as a philosopher would see it).

You can think of the one as black and white thinking and one as endless shades of gray.

The relevance is that there are two movements in the Church.  One is to strip everything of context -- to the point that while John Taylor may have used the word "Priesthood" in multiple different ways (as a replacement for the term "brotherhood" and other times as an inherent quality and other times as "authority") any time he uses the term is treated as being properly switched for any other time as if his uses were fungible.  I doubt that Plato would identify with this descendant of his thinking.

The other movement is to reduce everything to context, combined with the assumption that modern popular context is superior.  Thus anything that opposes the popular culture is evil and meaning becomes very fluid, depending on the needs of popular culture.  This leads to the words of Christ being used to justify violent aggressive war, free love and sex without responsibility, and the idea that we are now beyond sin.  Aristotle would not recognize this as his thought.

But both of these trends pull us away from Christ.  When asked to choose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Christ did not embrace one over the other.  He was neither, in the popular parlance, a Liahona or a Iron Rodder.  Instead he gave commandment to go beyond those dividing lines, to embrace charity and devotion, and to take upon us the name of Christ.

I think we learn something when we choose to do that rather than mingle philosophy with scripture.