Patterns of Faithfulness: Introduction

liberty jail 1
The Old Testament prophet, Daniel, interpreted a dream that prophesied of the last days. “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44). This latter day kingdom is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the authority of this church “shall never be taken again from the earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 13:1).

Throughout the history of the earth, the Lord has been communicating with and directing His children through revelation to His prophets. Each period of time when this occurs is called a dispensation. “The Bible suggests at least one dispensation identified with Adam, another with Enoch, another with Noah, and so on with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus with His Apostles in the meridian of time. Paul writes of ‘the dispensation of the fulness of times’ in which the Lord will ‘gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth’ (Eph. 1:10). The fulness of times is the final dispensation and began with the revelation of the gospel to Joseph Smith” (Bible Dictionary, 56). Each of the previous gospel dispensations ended in an apostasy. Our dispensation will not.

Notwithstanding this prophesied reality concerning the Kingdom of God standing forever, there is no promise that individual members of the Kingdom will likewise never fall away. In fact, the sad reality is that no one is exempt from this possibility (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:32 ). Even the prophet Joseph Smith was warned “For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him” (Doctrine and Covenants 3:4 emphasis added). Also this warning, “there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me…if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead” (Doctrine and Covenants 43:3-4, emphasis added). The Prophet was made well aware that his standing before the Lord was not guaranteed and there was another who could be called to replace him. I would propose that if Joseph Smith isn’t safe from falling, then no one is safe to assume they will never fall away.

Some of the sad history of this church is that many did (and still do) fall away, even some of the great ones in our early history. Men who experienced spiritual gifts, served missions, and sacrificed reputation, wealth and health fell away. Men who saw visions, the gold plates, angels, and even the Father and the Son fell away.

At the same time, many stayed true to the faith in the face of so much persecution, opposition, and doubt. Why does this happen? Are their patterns we can observe in those who remained faithful as well as in those who fell away? My goal is to write several more posts highlighting some of these patterns in the early saints, with the hope of giving insight for how we can stay faithful today.

As we approach the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will see “an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked;” (Doctrine and Covenants 63:54). This is a time where there “shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:22). Our ability to guard ourselves against the threat of personal apostasy should be one of our great priorities in these last days.

Advertisements

How to Share the Gospel with an Agnostic at the County Fair

20140817-215814-79094475.jpg

I met a man at the Cache County Fair who belongs to the fastest growing religion in the world. You might have met some one like him. He believes that there might be a God out there, or an alien (his words). He believes that organized religion is nice if you need that sort of structure to get you through life (he admitted later he felt organized religion is also the reason for all the suffering throughout human history). The gospel he lives is be a good person. He figures he’s covered with that. He was very nice to me so I suppose he’s living his religion.

Some may find it difficult to try and share the restored gospel with a friendly Agnostic. It’s difficult to take any of the traditional missionary routes of talking about scripture, divine authority, or even the nature of God Himself with them. It seems we have almost nothing in common theologically. But Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught something recently that has changed my approach to sharing the gospel.

“When I say that Latter-day Saints “think differently,” I do not suggest that we have a different way of reasoning in the sense of how we think. I am referring to the fact that on many important subjects our assumptions—our starting points or major premises—are different from many of our friends and associates…

“I suggest that it may be preferable for our young people to refrain from arguing with their associates about such assertions or proposals. They will often be better off to respond by identifying the worldly premises or assumptions in the assertions they face and then by identifying the different assumptions or premises that guide the thinking of Latter-day Saints. This won’t elicit agreement from persons who don’t share our faith, but it can move the discussion away from arguing over conclusions to identifying the real source of disagreement.” (“As He Thinketh in His Heart”, Evening with a General Authority talk to religious educators, Feb 2013.)

Although Elder Oaks is referring to conflicts over moral issues, from this statement we see that figuring out the beginning assumptions a person is coming to the discussion with is very important. Once these assumptions are clear, you can explain the correlating premises of the restored gospel that speak to these assumptions. You may not change their mind, but you’ll be understood. And a person cannot have the spirit testify to them about something they don’t understand.

So in taking this advise, I listened carefully to what my friend was explaining to me about his beliefs so that I could articulate accurately his beginning assumptions. I needed to understand these before I could be ready with an answer for why I believe in the restored gospel. For simplicity, I will list his main assumptions.

1. If there is a God, He’s not too concerned with our life as long as we are good people, which he defined as following the Ten Commandments, specifically the don’t lie, steal or kill part (he was obviously not acquainted with the first four commandments which deal with the worship of the One true God).

2. Organized religion is a man made institution. At best it provides some people with a peace of mind. At worst it’s a platform for corruption and abuse.

3. No one can really know what happened in the past if you weren’t there yourself. (This assumption came as we talked about Joseph Smith later in the discussion.)

4. If God wanted to be known, He would show Himself to everyone. (This also was expressed later in the discussion.)

I tried to understand his main assumptions before I responded. I proposed an alternate possibility. “Suppose there really is a God,” I said, “and suppose what He wants for us is to become like Him because He has a fullness of joy and happiness. This God would have to be known, so He could be followed.”

I then talked about how God is known through prophets who are witnesses of Him. They receive God’s will and authority and lead His kingdom on earth. It was around this point where he asked “am I just supposed to take Joseph Smith’s word for it?” I thought that was a great question, and I told him so.

I explained that at the end of the Book of Mormon we are given a promise that if we will read the book, and give it a chance, we can ask God specially if it’s true. The promise is we can know the truth by the power of the Holy Ghost. And this promise applies to all truth, “by the power of the Holy Ghost you may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:3-5)

At this point he asked why God doesn’t just show himself to everyone. I was glad to explain that this life is a test to see if we’ll chose God or something else. It can only be called a test if it were challenging. God will reveal Himself to those who are prepared and qualified. To those who say they need a sign before they will believe, Jesus condemned as evil and adulterous. We will always be given enough evidence to believe in God. At the same time we are also allowed enough reasons to doubt. We are to choose.

At the conclusion of our conversation I asked my friend if he’d accept a Book of Mormon to investigate. I told him we could talk about it next year when the fair rolls around again. He agreed, and an hour later I grabbed a book from the missionaries who happened by.

In the end, I don’t think I changed his mind. But I did break down at least a part of the caricature he had for members of organized religion in general, and Mormonism specifically. And who knows, I know the Book of Mormon is true, maybe he will actually give it a chance. That could make for an interesting conversation next year.

Who shall abide the day?

20140706-220824-79704187.jpg
A question is asked by the Old Testament prophet Malachi:

…who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? (Malachi 3:2)

To abide means to remain. It means to endure without yielding. “The day of his coming” refers to the second coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ. So to paraphrase Malachi’s question:

Who will be able to endure without yielding until the Savior comes?

This is not an idle question. We live in the last days (as the name given to His church by Jesus Christ Himself indicates. See D&C 115). And one of the more unnerving signs that Jesus is close to returning is indicated in His Olivet discourse:

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:24)

Abiding the day will require not just faith, but an ability to discern between truth and error. Between what is of God, and what is of Satan. And Satan is the great counterfeiter which makes it possible for him to deceive even the very elect. He takes something that is true (but difficult or sensitive or complex), something that will take sincere seeking, and asking, and soul searching, and he exploits our very natural tendency to create a worst case scenario. He magnifies our doubts and expands our fears.

Let me illustrate with a famous experience related in John’s gospel. The day after Jesus performed the miracle where he fed the 5000 with a few loves and fishes, he was again surrounded by a multitude. He said it how it was:

Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled (John 6:26)

Then He proceeds to draw a very hard line:

Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed…
I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst…
I am that bread of life.
Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:27, 35, 48-51)

His message is clear to the Jews in His audience, “you must choose between Me and the Pharisees, between the Living bread and the bread of tradition.” The reaction of His audience was doubt:

Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? (John 6:42)

They even, ridiculously, ask for a sign. Clearly, they don’t want to wholly commit to Him. Some even try to cast doubt in others by making His words sound weird or crazy.

How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (John 6:52)

And Jesus offers no apology for the line He drew, nor does He feel to defend His words:

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
(John 6:53-58)

Many call these words “hard sayings” and Jesus even asks if this offends them. The result is that “many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (Vs. 66)”

Jesus then asks His Apostles if they will also leave Him. Peter’s response is inspiring:

Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
(John 6:68-69)

Our choice today is equally clear. We have the Living Bread vs. the secular (politically correct, modern social agenda) bread. We have to choose. Some will shirk this choice and content themselves with making the words of Jesus Christ through His modern Apostles sound weird or crazy. They might chose to give church history or church policy the “worst case scenario” treatment to justify their decision. But the true disciples will honestly acknowledge that they don’t understand everything, but they “believe and are sure” that this is the church of Jesus Christ, and the words of life are found in His Apostles and prophets. And it is these who will abide the day of His coming.

A funny thing happened on my backpacking trip

As many of you bloggers out there understand, you write something, you post it, and not much happens. Occasionally you write something that connects with a few people, but mostly you write and your aunt is supportive (you know who you are).

Imagine my surprise when I return from a backpacking trip with my varsity scouts (where I had absolutely no cell phone service) to find that the article that I posted Sunday night before I went to bed had been viewed over 100,000 times. 100,000.

Just for perspective, my previously highest ranking article had 600 views. 600. To say I’m overwhelmed by this is an understatement. I have yet to read the comments, (which as I observed at a glance, were many) and have many more to moderate. Can you sympathize with my poor wife who has been desperately trying to moderate the comments on a blog post she didn’t write?

So let me say this. I’m tired from all that hiking, and will be going to bed shortly. I plan on reviewing the many comments (remember, I’m not used to this) and will probably take a few down. I don’t write to start a fight. This isn’t that kind of blog. I do appreciate differing opinions, and will leave those comments up if they are civil and polite. I apologize if you are frustrated that your comment hasn’t been posted yet. I hope you understand…100,000.

By the way, a much better blog post was written on this same subject. You can find it here.

Why would the church of Jesus Christ excommunicate any of its members?

20140622-214250-78170837.jpg

Recent events in the past month have brought up some old feelings in the public opinion on Mormonism. Two high profile figures, Kate Kelly (the Ordain Women movement) and John Dehlin (Mormon stories website) are having church discipline administered to them and it’s making headlines. Since the so-called September Six there has not been such a high profile example of church discipline.

I read an article on Buzzfeed that declared the Mormon moment was now officially over. The article talks about how the church was having great successes in the PR department, finally showing how progressive and diverse we are. But now? “excommunicating thought leaders like Kelly and Dehlin will mean getting rid of some of the people who have made Mormonism interesting…Mormonism suddenly seems less cool and diverse…Both Kelly and Delhin told BuzzFeed Wednesday that the actions against them seem designed to send a message that questioning will not be tolerated by the church. ”

This all assumes, of course, that the objective of the church is to become popular in the eyes of the world. Why else would the church be trying so hard if we weren’t trying to fit in as a respectable world religion? The only problem is that no one at the head of the church has ever said that this is our goal. Not a prophet, not a scripture, not Jesus Christ. In fact, here’s what has been said:

“If you judge your actions and the standards of the Church on the basis of where the world is and where it’s going, you will find that you are not where you should be.” Elder Robert D Hales, April 2011

“The effect of God’s commandments and laws is not changed to accommodate popular behavior or desires.” Elder Dallin H Oaks, October 2009

“Unfortunately, messengers of divinely mandated commandments are often no more popular today than they were anciently, …As [the prophet Abinadi] said to King Noah: “Because I have told you the truth ye are angry with me. … Because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad” or, we might add, provincial, patriarchal, bigoted, unkind, narrow, outmoded, and elderly.” Elder Jeffrey R Holland, April 2014

In other words, we aren’t trying to be popular to the world, we are trying to help the Savior in His work to save the world. So why do we expend so many resources in the PR department? Well that’s simple, so we can help people come unto Christ by dispelling some of the false ideas they may have about members of His church. We are not interested, however, in portraying the false idea that sin is justified or that we accept the premises of the world that are out of harmony with the doctrine restored through prophets of God.

Which brings us to the topic at hand. What did Kate Kelly do that was worthy of Church discipline? (I’m not acquainted enough with John Dehlin to comment on his circumstance. I’m sure you could google him. The same principles might apply.) First of all I whole heartedly reject the notion being perpetuated by the media and on social networks that this means no one can ever ask questions. As a naturally inquisitive guy, I ask a lot of questions, especially along the lines Kelly has been proposing. In fact I’m at least grateful to her movement for helping me do that. We are commanded in the scriptures “to ask and he shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” So I couldn’t disagree more with this accusation that the church disciplines question askers. I dare say there isn’t an organization on Earth that is set up to invite the asking of questions as the restored church does.

So then what was it that got Kate Kelly disciplined? (The real answer is “I don’t know” since her local church leaders will keep confidences and we will only hear Kelly’s side of the story if we hear it all.) But there are a couple of scriptural principles that apply:

4 Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his [the prophets] words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
6 For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.
D&C 21:4-6

35 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.
D&C 88:35

28 Therefore I say unto you, that he that will not hear my voice, the same shall ye not receive into my church, for him I will not receive at the last day.
29 Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also.
32 Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward.
Mosiah 26:28-32

To summarize:

1. We are to accept the words of the prophets as if from God, and if we do the gates of Hell will not prevail against us.
2. Those who seek to become a law unto themselves cannot be sanctified by God’s law.
3. When a person refuses to follow prophetic counsel, the Lord authorizes His leaders to blot their names off the records of the church.

There is a difference between honestly asking questions and questioning the answers already being given. And many people are even allowed to remain in full membership when they do that. In my opinion, once the ordain women movement organized, they began to be a law unto themselves. Once they marched, they demonstrated they were at odds with prophets, (especially the second time when they were asked specifically not to), and when they started producing discussions, they were beginning a new religious organization. They are free to do all these things, of course, but not as members of this church. Any organization has the right to defend its borders, and when another organization seeks to come in and change fundamental things, especially when this organization arises from within, it has a right to declare that organization is not a part of them.

Those sympathetic to the ordain woman movement have a decision to make now. Many more questions are now being raised, and that’s ok. Ask questions, seek answers, and even question those answers if you want to. But if you start your own church within the church, don’t be surprised when the Lord doesn’t allow you dual citizenship.

The One True Church

fist visionRecently in sacrament meeting (the weekly worship service for Mormon’s) my wife and I had some friends from another faith visiting. This particular meeting happened to be a fast and testimony meeting which means members from the congregation go to the podium of their own volition, to proclaim what they know is true. I went up to testify. As I returned to my seat, my friend whispered to me, “why does everyone keep saying ‘I know the church is true’?”

I wasn’t surprised by the question. Serving a two year mission in Louisiana, I quickly discovered that for most people, they were just looking for a spiritual connection to God. The idea of one “true” church was completely foreign to them. In recent years, there has been on all out migration from organized religion in general, so a “one true church” isn’t even in the picture.

It is the lofty claim of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that this church is the only true and living church God has established on Earth. This church is Christ’s only official and authorized organization for salvation. We accept this claim from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself when He first appeared to the young Joseph Smith:

“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join… I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)–and which I should join.

“I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.'” (Joseph Smith—History:18-19)

And then later in a revelation designated as the preface to the collection of revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants:

“And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually.” (D&C 1:30)

We understand the potential offense such a claim may give to our brothers and sisters of other faiths. Our goal is not to offend. Our goal is to proclaim truth. Then we leave it between the individual and God. We don’t ask anyone to take our word for it. It’s up to every person to honestly approach God seeking the truth. Here’s how:

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
(Moroni 10:4-5)

A person who wants to investigate our claim, must spend some honest time in the Book of Mormon. It isn’t prescribed how much they must understand, or how long they must spend in terms of time, we are only told to “receive these things”. Then we approach God in Christ’s name with three conditions: a sincere heart (a real desire to know the truth), a real intent (this means a person intends to do something once they know the truth, that is, join the church once they know it’s the kingdom of God on Earth), and of course, faith in Christ (that is, they believe Christ is both willing and able to reveal the truth to them).

This formula works. If any part is missing, it won’t. I’ve taught people who were genuinely curious, but had no intentions of changing. I know some who read the Book of Mormon only to discredit it, they didn’t have a sincere desire to find out if it’s true. I’ve certainly met those who didn’t believe that Christ was either willing or able to reveal truth to them regardless of their sincere desire or real intent. All three conditions are required. And the promise is sure, by the power of the Holy Ghost all truths can be known.

This is good news. We aren’t interested in going around and telling everyone that they’re wrong and we’re right. We genuinely believe that ultimate and lasting happiness is found in the Lord’s organization. We want to invite all to come unto Christ, that is, join us in this important work of salvation.

Doctrines vs. Policies

20140406-220145.jpg

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an easy target for attack because of our claim of living prophets. As the Savior said anciently:

“…ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets…I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city”. (Matthew 23:29-34)

Fortunately, we live in a day where murdering a prophet is difficult to get away with. But the attempted silencing of prophets is alive and well. There are several strategies of the Adversary to accomplish this end. Prophets can be discounted in the minds of some people by character attacks, misrepresenting their message, or conspiracy theory (among other things).

Within the membership of the church, Satan seems intent to get people to question prophets any way he can. I’ve noticed that one way he seeks to accomplish this is by confusing doctrine with policy. A doctrine is an eternal, unchanging truth. A policy is an official application of doctrine. Elder Dallin H Oaks (a prophet and apostle of Jesus Christ) explained how those who preside are given keys to direct policy and administration, but only the Lord can reveal new doctrine.

A common example of this confusion was with the priesthood restriction on black members of the church that ended in 1978. (A great explanation of this policy can be read here.) This is often misunderstood as a doctrinal change, when it was, in fact, a policy change. It was never taught by a leader of the Church that this restriction was eternal. There were plenty of opinions and attempted doctrinal explanations offered (none of which were authoritative), but it was always understood that “the long promised day” would come when all worthy males could hold the priesthood.

This misapplication then leads some to conclude that a seemingly similar change could happen with same sex marriage or women ordination to the priesthood. Since both of these changes wouldn’t just be policy changes, but would in fact be doctrinal changes, they run contrary to the eternal nature of doctrine. A man has always been meant to marry a woman. Men and women have always had different roles to play in the plan of salvation. Both of these doctrines are clearly taught in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World“, a document that was set forth by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (whose unity in this document fulfills the scriptural requirement of establishing doctrine. See D&C 107:27. See also 27:2, 7).

There is no long promised day in either of these instances. That’s not to say we have everything revealed on these subjects, as I’m convinced we have much more to understand about both. But the foundational direction is set, and it will not be moved. Unfortunately, I see members of the church who look sideways at any prophetic teaching that runs counter to their personal, political, or societal philosophy. They conclude, “oh this is just like blacks and the priesthood, just wait and they’ll come around.” According to a revelation given the day the church was organized, this is a dangerous mindset.

“Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.”
(D&C 21:4-6)

It is my hope that the honest in heart will not be deceived by these snares of Satan. We live in a day of living prophets. If scriptural history teaches us anything, it is that following prophets has always been the test of faithfulness.

Be true to who you are… maybe.

20140309-215956.jpg

Recently a local high school had a motivational speaker. I asked some of the students what the speaker said. “Be true to who you are” was the response. I asked them what that meant. I was answered something along the lines of “we should be happy with who we really are and not care about what others think.”

This is a very popular message in our world today. The most notable version of it was presented to me in the Disney movie “Frozen“. Be true to who you are and don’t worry about what others think.

Whereas I admire this message in one context, and can see the good that can come from it. I’m also deeply concerned with it if it’s used in another context.

The question I ask is: which part of you are you being true to? We are duel beings.

All of us are children of God in a spiritual, yet very real sense. Within us are the seeds and the potential of divinity. If you mean “be true to the divine nature inside you regardless of what the world says”, then I’m on board all the way with that message. This is called moral courage.

At the same time we are all born into a fallen condition. Abinadi taught that we are born “carnal, sensual and devilish”. This means that we have a very natural inclination toward the things of the flesh. If it is easy, exciting, or fun, the natural man in us is drawn to it. The problem is that

“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…” (Mosiah 3:19)

If that’s who we’re being true to then we’re in trouble and I’m not entirely confident the world is steering me toward being true to my divine nature.

What prophets and apostles invite us to do is be true to the divine nature, and resist the natural man. They may be a minority in this but I stand with them.

Give me more commandments.

20140302-202912.jpg
An interesting reward for obedience is given through a revelation to Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants.

“Blessed are they…who have obeyed my gospel…And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few…”
D&C 59:3-4

Basically the Lord is saying ” if you obey my commandments, I’ll give you more commandments.”

We live in a world that celebrates a restraint free lifestyle. And the standards Jesus Christ has set through prophets are often viewed by others as restricting. Why would a person who has so many restrictions on their life already, want to get further restrictions?

Commandments = Restrictions.

I will now attempt to explain a different paradigm for commandments.

Father Abraham had a desire that all righteous people should have. He relates it with these words:

“And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.”
Abraham 1:2

Abraham understood that in order to be a greater follower of righteousness he needed greater laws to follow. Those greater or higher laws come in the ordinances of the priesthood. Abraham knew he had to find the priesthood of God to gain access to those higher laws. And as Abraham obtains those covenants, he is given greater knowledge, greater blessings, and greater peace. Ultimately, he became an heir to the promises of God.

Commandments = Happiness

I will conclude with a more practical example. A group of ancient disciples were given instructions from the Lord. As they were obedient they received further instructions. (See Ether 1-2)

“And it came to pass that they did travel in the wilderness, and did build barges, in which they did cross many waters, being directed continually by the hand of the Lord.”
Ether 2:6

Ultimately commandments are instructions. They are direction from an all knowing source to us who sit in darkness.

Commandments = Help

And I don’t know about everyone else, but if I’m humble and being honest, I need all the help I can get.