"There is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah"
2 Nephi 2:8 (The Book of Mormon)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Our Savior's Love

Continuing on with the Savior's teachings at the Last Supper...

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love

Last week I invited you to consider why the Savior's invitation to love the way He loves was a new commandment.  Thank you so much Ellen and Martha for sharing your insight.  I have relished the opportunity to ponder on this concept this week.  The greatest distinguishing characteristic I've been able to identify between "loving the way He loves" and the command to "love as we love ourselves"  is that of self consideration.  In the above verses, Christ tells us that He patterned His love for us after the love of the Father.  He tells us that a key component of His love is obedience.  In my own experience, I have found that obedience is rarely the easy, comfortable, or self-serving thing to do.  

Christ's love is perfectly selfless. Not a grain of His motivation towards the Father, or any of us, has ever been influenced by self consideration.  

His willingness to leave His heavenly throne and descend to walk among men in a mortal condition, was prompted by loving obedience to His Father and perfect concern for the welfare of others.  The truths He taught in His mortal walk frequently offended, and still offend those who hear His words.  Even the slightest inclination toward self might lead one to be quiet and not cause offense... in turn reaping the disdain of others.  He boldly and unapologetic-ally spoke the words of the Father (truth) because He knew it was the only way to lead us to our heavenly home.  Do I love others enough to speak truth as directed by the Spirit?

His sacrifice of all personal comfort to heal, succor and lift others is another evidence of His selfless love.  Despite fatigue, He communed with and fed the masses.  Do I love others enough to serve even when my energy is spent?

He went about doing good yet was despised and hated of men.  "He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob and sentenced to die on Calvary's cross." (The Living Christ) Through the final, agonizing steps of His mortal walk He never took personal offense or reviled against those who so horribly abused Him.  His concern was for the welfare of their souls, pleading, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  When I have been wronged, do I focus on my own wounds, or do I love others enough to forgive?

Despite His own trepidation, His willingness to trust in and submit to the will of the Father, drinking the bitter cup, is the ultimate evidence of His perfect love.  He chose to fulfill the mission His Father sent Him here to accomplish.  Descending below all things, He gave himself as a sacrifice (Ephesians 5:2), suffering pain no mortal man could bear... because of love... for the Father and for us.  Do I love the Father and others enough follow His will, especially when it is hard or painful?

At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
... If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A New Commandment

Let's continue on with the story of the last hours of the Savior's life.  Picking up where we left off in the post "Is it I?" (Sept.18), let's take a further look at lessons from the Last Supper.  After Judas left to complete his betrayal, the Savior gave further instruction to the remaining 11 disciples.

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
John: 13:34-35

You will recall with me that the commandment to love had been given thousands of years earlier.

"...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself..."
Leviticus 19:18

What then is it that distinguishes the "new commandment" from the one that was already on the books?  How is loving as the Savior loves, different from how we love ourselves?  How does that type of love set true disciples of Christ apart from others?  

I feel impressed to open this post up to you!  What do you think?  Please, be brave and share a comment or two with us!  I am really looking forward to reading your thoughts and insights!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Honoring Christ's Sacrifice

One final though (which never really is the final thought :) ) on the questions we have been discussing over the last couple of weeks.  For a complete picture, please read the previous two posts.

How does one honor the sacred gift of Christ's sacrifice in Gethsemane and on the cross?  We begin by recognizing our complete unworthiness of such a gift!  We come to realize that no matter how hard we try... no matter how much good we do... it could never be enough to bring one into perfect alignment with God.  We embrace the truth taught in numerous places throughout the scriptures, illustrated here by Paul.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast."

In other words, it is grace, not works, which saves usUnderstanding this truth is foundational to honoring His sacrifice... however, it is not all that one must comprehend.

Grace is ALL about the Savior's goodness.  How do we then receive the gift and honor His sacrifice?  Let's look at another truth taught in countless places throughout the scriptures, once again, illustrated here by Paul.

"For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.  For ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise."

Grace and works are companion principles which combine to paint a complete picture of God's love and desire for His children.  Either principle on it's own is incomplete and unbalanced.  When we focus too much on grace... we begin to believe that our own diligent effort isn't required.  When we swing to the other side of the pendulum and focus to much on our own effort, we diminish the incomparable gift of the Savior!

Because God loves me, He gave His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for my sins.  Because I love Him, I rely completely and wholly on this magnificent gift.  Because He loves me, He expects me to give my best effort in "doing the will of God".  Because I love Him, I strive to be obedient to His will and pattern my life and my works after that of the Savior.

Without grace, the gulf between His perfection and my weakness would be impassable.  Without my own good works, I would fail to receive His gift and there would remain no more sacrifice for my sins.

"It would mock the Savior's suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part.  Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Answers for Questions: Part 2 :)

This is part 2 of my response to some questions I have received.  
Please see last week's post for the complete picture:)
Why do Latter-day Saints follow "rules not found in the Bible"?
Through out the history of the world, God has given prophets to help people navigate the specific circumstances of their day.  Each generation faces challenges and matters unique to their time.  For the people of Noah's day, it was the flood.  For the people of Moses' day, it was bondage in Egypt and the ensuing 40 years in the wilderness.

The direction or "rule" given by the Lord to get on the boat in Noah's day, would not have saved those who lived in Moses' time.  The same is true of those who lived in Enoch's time in regard to the direction or "rules" given through Moses to the Israelites.  While the principles and precepts of the gospel are unchanging from generation to generation- the specific counsel of a loving Father to His children, changes to best help them navigate the times they are called to live in.

People of all ages have chosen to either accept the prophets and their corresponding counsel... or to reject them.  Satan has effectively convinced people in each generation that following the prophet is a sad and restricted life. 
I see it very differently!  Can you not imagine, among the many rationalizations to disregard Noah's direction, the thought "This boat will restrict my freedom.  What a sad existence it would be on the ark.  I will stay out here where I can move around freely and come and go as I please."  History teaches us that indeed the ark was the means given to maintain freedom... not to restrict it.  It is my testimony that this principle is applicable to our day as well.  As I have followed the direction or "rules" laid out by latter-day prophets, I have experienced pure enlargement of my freedom... absolutely ZERO restriction here!!!  God's precepts are unchanging, yet His direction is custom tailored to the specific needs of the day.

I want to specifically address the practices you have asked about. 

First, drinking coffee and other addictive "liquids".  God revealed the Word of Wisdom through the prophet Joseph Smith in 1833.  To read it in completeness, click here.  I basically view it as God's program to maintain a healthy body.  Among the things we are counseled to avoid are wine and strong drink and tobacco.  Coffee and alcohol would definitely be included in this list.  God does not promise salvation to those who follow the Word of Wisdom, but He does promise health and wisdom.  I have absolutely found this to be the case as I have made the effort to follow this direction.  Among the many blessings I have received is freedom from addiction.  Is it a sad life under the law to not be reliant on a cup of coffee to get me functioning in the morning?  I think not!!!  I am grateful beyond measure, that God cares enough to tell me how to take care of this precious gift... my body!

Second, wearing garments and modest clothes.  Paul questioned, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?"  My garments serve as a constant reminder of promises I have made to honor and follow God.  They remind me of the purpose of my body which is to be a "living sacrifice".  Wearing garments effects the clothing I wear and how I present myself to those around me.  My reverence for my body and understanding of it's purpose has been enlarged as I have made my best effort to worthily wear the garment.  The freedom that has come as I have tried to let go of the worldly messages about the value of my body, has been one of the greatest gifts I have received.  Falling into the fallacies of the world in regard to the body brings nothing but misery and captivity.  I praise God for this precious freedom!

Finally, temple marriage.  Throughout time, God has commanded His children to build temples.  While this is chronicled in detail throughout the Old Testament, you have to look a little closer to see evidence of this after Christ's fulfillment of the Law of Moses.  Paul referenced the work happening in temples, post-Christ when he asked 
 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
In latter-days God, through His prophets, has revealed the fulness of the doctrine of temples.  Simply put, the temple is a place of instruction and covenant making.  It is the most sacred place on earth... where earth and heaven meet and where we can feel closest to the Father and His Son.

Among the covenants made there, is the covenant of eternal marriage.  It is the entering of a 3 way companionship with God, husband, and wife.  Temple marriage is not "until death do us part", but seals a husband and wife for eternity.  The family is central to God's plan for His children.  Consequently, eternal marriage is one of the most important covenants we can enter into.
God's presence in my marriage to Todd has been indispensable.  The eternal perspective Todd and I have as a result of our temple marriage has been foundational  to our commitment to build something larger than either of our flawed selves could add up to.  This has once again blessed my life with peace, power and freedom which can only come as a result of God's blessing.  This ordinance is not necessary to receive the salvation I explained in last week's post.  It is however a necessary piece of obtaining the ultimate blessings and happiness the Father wishes to bestow.  For me... heaven wouldn't be heaven without my family!
How is that for not long-winded??? Ha Ha... Please know how grateful I am to get to share with you these things which mean so much to me!  Your interest in having this discussion means SO VERY much to me!  Next week I will wrap this all up with a post discussing my views on honoring Christ's gift on the cross.  I love you Erin <3 <3 <3

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Answers for Questions: Part 1 :)

This is a comment recently posted by my cousin after reading my post, Choose to Receive.  I wanted to include you in the discussion. :)
Okay Carey...forgive me once again as I'm behind on your posts, but I had to add some food for thought on this one! It is in my humble opinion as someone with a different faith, that this comment about your faith is based more on what I see as "rules not found in the bible". For example...drinking coffee, wearing special undergarments (sorry I don't know the correct word - not trying to be disrespectful), having to be married in the temple, etc... I view these things as ceremonies or rules that don't actually have any effect on your salvation and don't mean your are disobeying God or any of his commands if you do or don't do them. I have to say that I agree with you 100% that God's "lists" are commandments and NOT suggestions. And that although salvation is a free gift it is very important that after we receive it we take action and follow Christ by imitating Him just as He commanded. I fear that some Latter Day Saints might believe their salvation is tied to what clothes they wear of what liquids they drink and for me that is a sad life under the "law" rather than living in the freedom that Christ gives you. Christ never gives you the freedom to sin (disobey a commandment) but the freedom to live outside of the law (circumcision, eating certain foods, no longer sacrificing animals etc.). If you tie your salvation to rituals, clothing or drinks than you take away what Jesus did on the cross. The only way to heaven is not by works but by faith in Jesus, and even when I sin and disobey a command God is always there with open arms as I have a repentant heart and turn once again towards Him. And that's my two cents...hopefully without offending anyone! (-: As always I love you and love the conversation you create! 

What great questions!!!  Thank you so much for your candor!  I am really excited to get to elaborate on this a little further.  My goal is to answer your questions as guided by the spirit.  The challenge for me is to express the fulness of the concepts in question without becoming too long winded.  In an effort to do this- I am breaking my response into 2 posts... 1 for this week and 1 for next.  Before reading further, I invite you ask the Father to illuminate your mind with understanding and with a witness by the power of the Holy Spirit.  As always, please feel free to follow up with any questions that linger. :)

Basically it boils down to a couple of points.  

First, What is the definition of salvation?  
As a Latter-day Saint I would define it as the gift given by the Savior of everlasting life in a condition of glory.  It is my belief that most every human being will receive salvation.  Latter-day Saints believe in the doctrine referenced by Paul when he spoke of a man caught away into the third heaven.(2 Cor 12:2)  Simply put, there are 3 different degrees of glory possible for us to receive after we stand before the judgment bar.  The glory of the least of these kingdoms "surpasses all understanding".(D&C 76:89)  This is the salvation which I believe that those who reject Christ and His gospel will receive.  If I am understanding you correctly, you are asking about people who honor and love the Savior by living a life in harmony with the 10 Commandments.  If those who reject Christ receive the formerly mentioned glory, how unspeakable must the glory be that God has in store for those who are faithful in keeping the commandments? 

Second, Do Latter-day Saints practice religion not found in the Bible?   
The answer to this question lies in another.  
What does the Bible teach us that Christ's church looks like?  
As I study the Old Testament, I see that God spoke to His children in ancient times through prophets. Trusting that God is the same yesterday, today and forever... it makes sense to me that He would still use this pattern. Christ tells us that we can identify true prophets by their fruits. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit and neither can a false prophet. As I study the fruits of the spirit as identified by Paul in Galatians... I recognize them to be the fruits which have filled my life as I follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by Joseph Smith, continued on through the current prophet, Thomas S. Monson.

As I study the New Testament, I recognize the pattern which Christ himself established for His church to be the same one which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized by. Paul teaches that Christ's church is built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.(Ephesians 2:20) This is the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

The study of the Bible is the study of people who had religion.  It is my testimony that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ today, and the religion documented in the Bible, is contained in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!  I have conviction that following the direction of the prophet is one and the same with following the direction of God.

Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. 
This means that when the prophet lays out the "do's" a "don'ts", I follow!  This isn't a sad life under the law, but rather a life filled with the priceless fruits of the spirit.  It is a life free of addiction and it's painful repercussions.  It is a life free from the bondage of sin.  It is a life filled with gratitude and respect for my precious body.  It is a life filled with constant reminders of the love my Father has for me and the love that I have for Him.  It is a life filled with power!  Power to choose for myself which blessings I want to receive.

Next week I will answer the question, "Why do Latter-day Saints follow rules not found in the Bible?" I will also discuss the specific practices you have asked about!!!  Hugs...
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