Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Covet

I went to bed wondering, “Why is THOU SHALT NOT COVET such a big deal? Murder, lies, theft, adultery and the rest I understand, but covet—really?”

To covet is to desire, to yearn for, to have one’s heart set upon, to want, to wish or to long for something one does not posses. A person who covets eventually finds oneself experiencing feelings of anger, envy, resentment, jealousy and bitterness. These are the yields of comparison.

In contrast, the ability to accept and be comfortable in one’s current circumstance while also being happy for or even celebrating others in their circumstance may be one of life’s greatest virtues.

When one accepts that his neighbor’s grass is often greener; he stops peering over the fence.  Regardless of the actual appraisal, the person participating tends to place himself as the lesser: it’s human nature.

Those who reside in the winner’s circle of life typically don’t participate in the act of paralleling oneself to others—rather they rise above as they have better things to do. Because time is not wasted passing judgment between oneself and another, the result may be a richer life of liberating happiness and contentment.

Since no mental, physical, emotional or psychological energy is wasted on anger, bitterness, jealousy and all its accompanying fruits, one’s natural capacity is toward maximization: being the person who somehow schedules 35 hours into a 24-hour day; whereas, one full of yearning, longing for, desire toward someone else’s situation wastes away the day and, with weighted drudgery, endures a lesser, even 18-hour-a-day-life.

Happy people are naturally industrious and effortlessly produce more each day.

Is that why a God can live eternally? Is he or she so content that he or she can schedule 1,000 or 10,000 years into one of our 24-hour days?

Though I can run long distances (of course I will throw in a running analogy), I am not an actual runner. I have no idea how to train, eat, sleep, recover, stretch, practice, hydrate or dress successfully--even appropriately. I marvel daily that I manage to keep putting one front in front of the other, and even participate in events such as marathons and ultra-marathons.

Because of tonight’s musings, I now realize I can run 50 miles or even 100 miles at a time, because: I ACCEPT THE FACT THAT I AM ACTUALLY RUNNNG THAT FAR. I don’t fight it, resist it, rush it, hate it, dream about not doing it, and wish I were elsewhere or deny it. I accept that I am running (this can apply to any circumstance of life) and try to find ways to enjoy the long run rather than despise it. In three years, I have run dozens of marathons and ultra-marathons. The two I hated, though they were just as difficult or easy as the others, I did not finish.

Accepting my daily situation and finding happiness in my abilities causes me to experience depths of joy, delight, and satisfaction in both congratulating the champions of races and appreciating the winners in life.

Indeed I have much to learn and much to celebrate.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Behold Your Little Ones

“Arrrgh! If I have told you once, I have told you a thousand times, we don’t have any newspaper. If you had told me about this homework assignment earlier, I could have done something.”
“Mom!!! I must finish my homework!”
The conversation flew before my eyes in sign language as I walked into the house on a Sunday evening. Parker, at age 6, had an assignment to create a paper mache animal for school and was furious that there was no newspaper in the house for him to use.
“Parker, if you had told me about this homework a few days ago, we could have bought some newspaper. It’s too late right now and we are not going to the store.”
Instead of intervene and rescue either Parker or his mother from this conversation, I just stood with a smile and watched.  I don’t know why, but watching little boys throw a fit is cute to me. The stomping and yelling makes me giggle—maybe it’s from all of the Calvin and Hobbes comics I read as a child. After a few more similar exchanges, Parker turned to me and pled his case.
“I’m sorry,” I responded, “We will not go to the store tonight to buy a newspaper. You will have to tell your teacher that your assignment will be late.”
Parker’s face reddened and he yelled back in retort, “Fine! I will ask God for a newspaper!” He then stomped to his room and shut himself in.
I looked to my wife and wondered if there was anything we could have done to help our son. His distress was obvious and I wanted to help. Before we could think of a solution, Parker came out of his room smiling.
“The newspaper is here,” he announced as he walked to the front door.
My wife and I followed him and wondered what would happen. We didn’t subscribe to any newspaper services, so we knew there was no such thing waiting for him on our porch. Besides that, I had just walked across the empty porch and crossed the naked threshold a few minutes earlier; therefore I knew nothing but disappointment waited to greet him as he opened the door.  
“Here it is!” Parker announced after he opened the door. We then watched him reach down and pick up a huge bundle of newspaper that rested at the bottom of our door frame.
“How did that happen?” I asked Parker in surprise.
“I prayed. Heavenly Father answered my prayer. Let’s make my animal.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Priesthood Striving for Motherhood

After observing the Savior preach about salvation and the way thereto, Nicodemus approached and asked that which weighed upon his heart, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”

After further discussion pertaining to the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, Christ finally answered, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

Again…

Again...

Though a man must be born again before entering the Kingdom of God, do we stop often enough to commemorate the original miracle: that man was born at all?

Watching each pregnancy as it was celebrated and endured by my wife filled me with wonder. As Adam saw that his wife was the mother of all living, I noted an equivalent with my companion. Week after week, flesh combined with spirit and grew into a living soul. How wonderful the opportunity must be—trusted by heaven, as a mutual partner, to be the vessel in which water, blood, flesh and spirit combine to create life!

As weeks turn into months, and little cells become eyes, limbs, torso and head, the womb changes from a place of celebration to one of distress. During the final days before delivery, many mothers experience a period of anxious suffering.

Analogously, during the final days of His ministry, in order also to bring about life, Christ suffered.

Mathew recorded, “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

In the final hours of each pregnancy, I watched my wife, heavy and tired, wish for some relief—even some other way that the little life within her could be delivered without such pending anguish to her mind, emotions and body.

Like Christ asked, she too wished for me to tarry near, it was too much for her to bear alone.

As He felt the pending anguish hasten nearer, He continued to seek for support, both from His sleeping friends and from Heaven.

Comfortless, my wife asked me to be awake with her while we waited hours into the night, and like the apostles, I felt helpless and never knew how to provide calm or comfort.

Then came the suffering of our Lord from within the garden. Only He can describe it thus, “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink… how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.”

Moments before each life arrives, as the womb contracts and the body prepares for delivery, many mothers endure such suffering and distress, as to cause tears, sweating, and pain to such extreme that only a woman knows—how sore, how hard to bear, man will never know.

After impossible suffering, the shedding of much blood, even unto death, Christ then rose from the tomb; having delivered himself from all peril to then provide life, with rejoicing and great joy.

Is it any wonder that women saw Him first? Who else, besides a woman or a mother, could ever appreciate that righteous suffering brings forth life triumphant?

How wonderful, amazing, inspiring and awe striking can it be?

As a man, I will never know. While standing along side my wife and observing the birth of my son, I learned a profound truth: I would never empathize with the Atonement of Christ as much as the mother of any child would--for I have never suffered great pains to bring forth life.

When testifying of His work and His glory, it is of little surprise then when He compares his love and concern to that of a mother's, “For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? … I will not forget thee, O house of Israel.”

As a child grows, will the mother disregard him? Never. It seems that it is always the mother that drops everything, every time, to ensure for the well being of her child.

What then is left for the man to do? 

It is for him to learn to be as loving and as full of charity and service toward each child sent from heaven as the mother of that child is. How is it to be done? By obtaining the Priesthood—for Priesthood and Motherhood are directly related.

Just like a mother, the priesthood holder assumes the obligation and opportunity to care for all of God’s children. It is not until the priesthood bearer willfully drops everything, including the cares of the world, and cares for all mankind that he becomes like a mother. Just like she was chosen and called from the foundation of the world to play an intricate role in the Plan of Salvation—namely to bring spirits from heaven to earth, so too, a man ordained with the Priesthood should strive to not only be called, but to be chosen to play his role—namely to bring God’s children safely back to heaven.

Christ did not shirk His calling in the Plan of Salvation.

Mothers do not shirk their calling in the Plan of Salvation.

Would that every priesthood holder attended to his calling, even in the face of pending distress and grief, as well as the mother does to hers or as the Savior does to His.

Many men are called, but few are chosen.

Why are they not chosen?

Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and [they] aspire to the honors of men…rather than learn this one lesson: Christ cares for His church as a groom cares for his bride. Men, in like fashion, should care for God’s children, as do their mothers.

If a man desires to do this, he will learn to behave like a mother and will understand that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood,

only by persuasion,

by long-suffering,

by gentleness

and meekness,

and by love unfeigned;

by kindness,

and pure knowledge,

which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost;

and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men,

and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly;

then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God;

and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. (D/C 121)

If a man does this, he will finally feel toward others like a mother feels toward her own. This is what every priesthood holder should strive for.

Elder Jeffery Holland taught, “The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever… Mothers, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones. Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are, better than you are, and better than you have ever been. And if, for whatever reason, you are making this courageous effort alone, without your husband at your side, then our prayers will be all the greater for you. Know that in faith things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly, because of you. We thank all of you, and tell you there is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and glory of God.

May I say to mothers collectively, in the name of the Lord, you are magnificent. You are doing terrifically well. The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And ‘press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.’”

Though I have the priesthood, I seek the attributes of MOTHERHOOD.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Applying the Sermon on the Mount

While serving in the military, I was occasionally selected for hurricane duty. When needed, a few of us would fly to various places throughout the world where propositioned maritime equipment was located. Depending on the amount of notice, we untied boats from their moorings and sailed away from the path of the oncoming storm. Sometimes, notice was short and we had to sail the boats straight into gusty headwinds and treacherous waters that preceded the arrival of severe weather.  After avoiding or riding out a storm, we then returned the boats back to their original moorings.

Occasionally, we had the opportunity to talk with teams working on submarines. Inevitably, the topic of riding out storms arose and often ended with a laugh or two from the submarine teams—weather never affected those that maneuvered hundreds or even thousands of feet under water.

Similarly, a person who snorkels has adjust to the ever changing motion of the surface water with persistent sloshing and splashing; whereas a diver, once deep enough, has more control of what may be done within his quiet environment.

When making a comparison between navigating ever changing seas and a life within the gospel, I see that those whose testimonies don’t dive deep enough are often troubled and moved by every little thing. On the other hand, a person who has a great and deep appreciation of the eternal perspective remains undisturbed and is often at peace, even amidst times of adverse trial.

Shallow faith leads to struggles with worry, apprehension, overreaction and fear over every minor change in life. On the contrary, deep, abiding conviction provides calming hope and fills the soul with anticipation and knowledge that God’s hand will soon be revealed. 

As if wading in muddy shallow pools, how can one broaden an underdeveloped faith to become like the unmovable conviction found deeper in the azure sea?

Christ, as He taught the Sermon on the Mount provides some insight. 

When applied one principle upon the other, His teachings will deepen our understanding and appreciation of God and how He cares for His children.

Each will also help to build a final foundation of faith, hope and charity within us that cannot be stirred. We will know God lives, will hope for eternal life and will care for others enough to help them strive for their own salvation and redemption.

Matthew 5 shows the following:
“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The first principle is to be poor in spirit, meaning to be lowly in heart and mind. Once humble, an opportunity arises for the Lord to work from within. Seeds of desire to know God sprout. Then one begins to exercise faith in Christ—which will lead one to repentance, baptism for a remission of sins and receiving the Gift of the Holt Ghost.

Unfortunately, once baptized and confirmed, many cease increasing in faith and pause further progress along the path of righteous living. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (3 Nephi 14:14)

Moreover, Nephi testifies, “And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.”


After becoming poor in spirit and cultivating the soul, one must learn how to endure to the end. 

The next principle taught in Christ’s sermon shows that after accepting the gospel, a person begins to sympathize with others who suffer or who have had a loss. 

"Most of us would like to help, but most of us feel inadequate... For some reason we feel embarrassed to show deep emotion or to be near someone who is showing deep emotion... The Spirit can guide us to know how to comfort those who grieve. Some people want to talk about their feelings. Others need someone to talk to them. Some want visitors; others prefer solitude...Do something, even though you may not know what to do... In our baptismal covenants we promise to be 'willing to bear one another’s burdens.'” (Ensign 9/1987) 

A sure sign that a person’s testimony lacks depth is when pleasure is found from  another’s misfortune.

Third, once humble and sympathetic, a person develops meekness—the ability to recognize individual capability and yet still always relying upon God. Though one thinks meekness is akin to mildness, the original New Testament text used the Greek term praus: meaning great power under control. Moses, who performed mighty miracles, even parting the Red Sea, is a great example of controlled might. Numbers 12:3 says “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.”

A.W. Tozer once wrote, “The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God's estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto."

Ammon remarked, “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.”

Fourth, greater reliance on God through meekness leads to more hunger and thirst for righteousness. As with all heavenly expectations, being righteous is an active pursuit. One cannot be sedentary in observance of God’s law. Blessed are they who DO, for they shall be filled.

Fifth, in the development of testimony is the ability to forgive. Holding a grudge is natural and endorsed by the worldly (I may forgive, but I will never forget). Being merciful though, is what is expected. Offering clemency purges the soul of all waste and encumbrances. Poor health and physical deterioration often are fruits of harshness and begrudging others. In addition, one cannot obtain forgiveness unless one forgives.

President Dieter Uchtdorf shared, "We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges. And we certainly don’t like it when people judge us. But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, said that those who pass judgment on others are “inexcusable.” The moment we judge someone else, he explained, we condemn ourselves, for none is without sin.5 Refusing to forgive is a grievous sin—one the Savior warned against. Jesus’s own disciples had “sought occasion against [each other] and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.” Our Savior has spoken so clearly on this subject that there is little room for private interpretation. “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive,” but then He said, “… of you it is required to forgive all men.” May I add a footnote here? When the Lord requires that we forgive all men, that includes forgiving ourselves. Sometimes, of all the people in the world, the one who is the hardest to forgive—as well as perhaps the one who is most in need of our forgiveness—is the person looking back at us in the mirror."

Sixth, after washing the soul through offering others forgiveness, one obtains a pure heart. A pure heart allows a person to see the hand of God in all things until eventually and literally, one shall see Him.

"All things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of [God], both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me." Moses 6:63

Seventh, once knowing the reality of God, one seeks for and creates peace.

When Christ visited the Americas after His resurrection, He immediately emphasized the following: "For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another."

Contention causes suffering, even the ultimate suffering of our God which led Him to sweat as Luke saw, “great drops of blood”.  Understanding Christ and the burden He bore in the Garden of Gethsemane, becomes the ultimate cause behind one’s desire to end all conflict and to publish peace. 

“If our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned. For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.” (Alma 12)


President Henry B. Eyring teaches, “Happily I am seeing more and more skillful peacemakers who calm troubled waters before harm is done. You could be one of those peacemakers, whether you are in the conflict or an observer.”

Eighth and finally, as one understands eternity, a person clearly sees the difference between good and evil; then knowing the difference, will always stand for good regardless of the persecution.  

David Lin, a man celebrated for his courage and endurance in the face of religious persecution under China’s Communist regime, died February 10, 2011, four days before his 94th birthday.  He was a Christian pastor who refused to abandon his faith, and so endured 17 years’ imprisonment, forced labor, and separation from his wife and five children. After being exonerated, he wrote about his confinement without bitterness, saying: “In retrospect, I praise God for His providential care in making all things work out for the good of all those concerned.”

One cannot control what life on Earth offers. However, one should take charge of the search for truth, light and knowledge.

Rather than tread water and hope for pleasant weather, be ever diligent in cultivating deeper dedication and appreciation for the Lord and His Gospel until that great day when He will say, “well done thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Almost? No, Altogether!

There is one little word in our language that probably has as much tragedy packed into it as can be contained in any single word. It is a very innocent looking word: “almost”.

An illustration of its potential tragedy is indicated by an experience of the Apostle Paul.

He had been imprisoned at Caesarea, and it was the responsibility of Festus, the procurator of Judea, to conduct Paul’s trial. As Paul shared his witness in court, Festus grew very interested in both Paul and his message.

Soon after, Agrippa paid a visit to Festus and he told Agrippa about this unusual Christian missionary who was a prisoner in his custody. Agrippa expressed a desire to hear Paul’s testimony. Paul was brought before them and he said to Paul, “thou art permitted to speak for thyself.” Then Paul told Festus and Agrippa about his extraordinary experience on the road to Damascus. He told them exactly what had happened, and bore a firm and convincing testimony of the truth. Agrippa was impressed and interested. How could he doubt Paul’s sincerity or the accuracy of his statement?

But he turned his back on his conversion opportunity BY A METHOD STILL VERY COMMON AMONG US. He would not make a decision to conform to the evidence. He disposed of the whole testimony by merely saying to Paul, “Almost, thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

Paul, of course, discerned the intent of this “almost”.

 It meant that even though Agrippa was within reach of his own salvation, he would do nothing about it.

Unfortunately, “almost” relentlessly and continuously shows the way to “nothing”.

Knowingly, Paul responded to the king, “I would to God that not only thou but all who hear me this day were both almost and altogether such as I am.”

If Agrippa had been as Paul, he would not have been “almost” persuaded. There was no “almost” so far as Paul was concerned. Paul had always been either one thing or the other. There never was a middle ground. Either Christianity was true, or it was not true.

A partial conversion must have been an unintelligible concept to Paul. Paul was altogether. He went all of the way. *

99% is never enough. The remaining 1% is the difference between “almost” and “altogether“. 

Diligent endurance begets eternal dividends. 

Here is another testimony from Paul,  2 Corinthians 12: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”

All have some variety of thorn in the flesh, a weak spot, a temptation or desire that never goes away. Regardless of one’s station in life, each of us struggle from within. All deal with a weakness that leads one to say, “I will never do this again,“ or “this is the last day I do this,“ or “I will try again tomorrow.“ “Just this one more time and I will never do it again.”

Because of this enduring Achilles’ heel, a person too often sanctions “almost” and gives up rather than continuing to engage and strive toward being “altogether“. 

What “almost” has been accomplished today? Was it the same thing that was “almost” completed yesterday? 

A transition needs to be made from accepting “almost” to being whole or “altogether”.

Notice that “wholly” and “holy” not only sound similar, but are in fact related in concept.

President Ezra Taft Benson teaches about a source of encouragement that, when applied, helps to overcome weakness:  “It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.…” (“The Book of Mormon is the word of God. “ Ensign May 1975)

A solemn, regular regimen of Book of Mormon study will cause one to become whole and thus holy. Reading and pondering scriptures and the words of life inspires and feeds the soul. 

Never accept “almost”. 

Like Paul, strive to be “altogether”.


*Adapted from Sterling W. Sill. Leadership: Bookcraft 1958

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Falling out of bed or Falling out of the Church?

A theme has been attributed to the teachings of Apostle Marvin J Ashton, “people fall out of the church for the same reason they fall out of bed: they don’t get in far enough.”
This theme then causes a person to ask, “how far in is far enough?”
The answer may be found in what the Savior taught Joseph Smith as they met in the woods in 1820, “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.”
Many teachings and principles pertaining to heaven and godliness taught within the church and elsewhere may cause a person to draw close to our Savior. However, a person is not one with Him or His church unless he or she has experienced and exercised His power.
How then, does one experience His power? How does the Lord express His power and how might we observe it?
In one of my favorite passages of scripture, we see how his power may be conveyed and measured.
1 Kings chapter 18 describes a time in the days of Elijah where a battle of religions lingered. The population wondered if they should worship the God of Abraham or if they should worship Baal. To end the discussion once and for all, Elijah called upon 450 priests of Baal and offered a challenge:

“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, how long halt ye between two opinions?
If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men.
Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.
And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under.”
So doing as instructed, the priests of Baal dressed their animal for sacrifice and began to pray. As they prayed, nothing happened, so they continued to pray. The day grew long and their prayers became more earnest yet nothing happened.
As Elijah watched he gave the following encouragement:
"Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked."
Though they cried louder, and mutilated their own bodies for the rest of the day, nothing happened. Baal did not answer.
As evening approached, Elijah called the crowd to his broken altar and had them watch him rebuild it. Once assembled, he dug a trough around the altar and laid his sacrifice thereon. After all preparations were made, he had buckets of water thrown on the altar to drench his presentation. (Using copious amounts of water proved two points: Elijah knew the power of the Lord’s fire and he knew that the same power would soon end the current famine and drought.)
After the water soaked the altar and the animal, Elijah prayed.
"Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.  Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again."

Then the fire of the Lord fell. It consumed everything, altar, animal, stones, dirt and even the water in the trough. Through his servant, the Lord showed his power.
1 Kings 19 describes that later, as Elijah pondered this the Lord showed how His power could be measured:
"And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?"
Even after the wind and earthquake, the Lord and his power were measured and perceived as a still small voice. This principle can only be understood by prayer, pondering and actual experience.
How then does one become eligible to access His power?
Power comes to a person as he or she exercise the laws that govern. All things in nature, or with people or even within governments and principalities obtain power via obedience to laws. The scriptures clearly teach that all heavenly encouragements come from obedience to the specific law that the blessing is related to:
"There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated."
Laws are universal and apply to everyone regardless of the amount of knowledge or ignorance toward the law. 
Whether I study the intricacies of gravity or if I am clueless, it is proven that what goes up, must come down. If I seek to defy gravity and decide to jump off a cliff, I will meet my unfortunate end at the falling rate of 9.8 meters per second. Conversely, if I learn enough about gravity and how to use it, I could fly to the moon.
The same applies to Laws decreed by God—whether in knowledge or ignorance, we reap the consequence.
Financial studies have shown that one of the quickest ways upward on a path of wealth is to give away at least one tenth of your earnings. We would call that principle, the opening of heaven’s windows after obedience to the Law of Tithing.
When the body is sick, before it can begin to heal, it vacates all unused food and water. Medical journals and holistic healing point to the health benefits of a regular fast.
Society deteriorates as it moves further from proper human relationships and observance of the Law of Chastity.
My own observation: when parents do not honor God on the Sabbath, their children likewise do not honor them. The rising generation has strayed from home and family foundations because the home has similarly wandered away from its heavenly origins.
With diligent adherence to these and the rest of God’s laws, we move from being nearer to Him to being one with Him. Therein is the source of heaven’s power: obedience and oneness.
Over the years I have watched with sorrow as close friends have fallen away from the Lord’s Church. I wish their return was as easy as when one falls out of bed. Though each has made a certain academic or spiritual claim as the rationale behind their apostasy, one thing has been true for each person I saw fall: they never fully observed one or more of the following:
The Law of Chastity
The Law of Tithing
The Law of the Fast
The Lord’s Law of Health
The Law of the Sabbath
Each person that has lost their faith and left the church, in my observation, never obeyed some or each law fully for an ongoing duration. It has not been lack of prayer, or lack of study or lack of doing a calling, but it has been the lack of observation and obedience.
When fully observed, a Godly power flows into one’s life which leads a person to do the rest of their duty. But when even the slightest rebellion occurs, light and power flee which leaves that person floundering in a fog of doubt, temptation and weakness.
My challenge is this: observe these laws with diligence for at least 2 years and note the power of heaven that flows into your life. It will lead you beyond faith into the realm of knowledge. Once there, as obedience continues, you may find yourself participating in miracles even like those of Elijah and Moses.
To those who say the Church isn’t true, I say observe the Lord’s laws diligently for at least two years and then see how true and tangible the Lord and his powerful teachings become.
Let me share a few examples of the Lord’s expression of his power in my life. Before I continue, I understand that sharing things like this places me into more public scrutiny than I am comfortable with. However, though I am just a man, struggling to repent each day, and am just seeking to find my way back home like the rest of us, stories like this may be of some benefit to someone.
Though I have have seen dozens of such examples, the following few will be a sufficient sample.
One example: in Seattle, a teenage boy was in a horrible car accident. He was smashed between a semi and another car, and then sent flying down a hill because he was not wearing a seat belt. He was thought dead, because his head was crushed and more than 100 bones in his body were broken. I was called to administer a blessing. When I arrived, this boy was in an ICU and being kept alive via machines. The family was trying to decide whether or not the pull the plug and let this boy pass to the next life. When I saw how serious the situation was, I went to a different room and asked for spiritual guidance. In undeniable terms, I was told that this boy would be healed completely and that all would be well. So I went into the room, anointed and blessed him to be whole. As I did, I felt light and power flow out from me to him. As I closed in the name of Jesus Christ, the flow stopped. The family may have felt what I felt, but they were surprised to hear that he would be healed. I left the hospital and wondered how things would proceed. Within two days he was moved from the ICU to a normal room. Over a very short time, he was released and basically restored to full capacity.
Another: one night as a missionary, a missionary companion and I prayed together to end our day. As my companion prayed, we both felt a desire to increase our prayers for personal safety. So we offered some extra prayers. While doing so, this same feeling of light and power flowed through me. Though I wondered why we felt such a need, I went to bed. In the middle of the night, I woke up to the sound of pounding on our door, but I decided to ignore it and go back to sleep. When we left our apartment the next morning, we were shocked to see that the entire complex had been on fire. There was smoke and water and fire damage throughout our whole building—every apartment on each side was damaged. Oddly, though, when we went back into our apartment, we couldn’t smell any smoke at all. When we went out to our car, we were also surprised by what we saw. Though it was parked in the middle of 4 other ash and firefighting foam covered cars, ours was pristine. There was no ash on it, nor water spots, nothing blemished the shine of our car at all.
Another: while in the MTC, I woke to the screaming of my companion. I was in a threesome. I had one deaf and one hearing companion. My hearing companion was screaming out loud pointing at the door. My deaf companion was asleep in his bed. When I looked over to the door, I saw a large black thing standing against it. It was around 7 feet tall and had no discernible features. It was just a black shadow like thing that stood at the door. Though Cruz kept screaming, I rose out of my bed, placed my right arm to the square and commanded in the name of Christ that the thing should leave. When I finished speaking, it turned around and walked out of our room passing through the closed wooden door.
Another: a friend of mine and I were called to the home of a person who was addicted to heroin. The mother of the person was at her wits end and asked if there was anything we could do for her son. When I looked at her son, I could tell that he had recently been high and had all telling signs of a heroin user. I then turned to the son and asked if he had a desire to be healed. He said yes. I felt that light and power begin to flow again and asked if he believed that through the atonement of Christ he would be made whole. He again said yes. So we laid our hands on him and blessed him to be clean and whole. From that moment on he went cold turkey and did not experience the normal and painful process of withdrawal. As far as I know, he is still clean to this day.
Another: hurricane Isabel hit the Washington DC area in 2003 (if I remember right). while living there and an hour before the storm hit, I saw the distress of my wife and children. I wanted to be some source of comfort to them, so I went up to my bedroom and prayed for help. The guidance I received was to go outside and rebuke the storm. “seriously?” That’s what I thought, but I did it anyway. I went to the back yard, held my arm to the square and with a loud voice said something like, “in the name of Christ, I rebuke you and say to you to do no harm to this property or the people herein.” An hour later the storm hit. Though we were inside, we heard the howling wind and pelting rain. It lasted for hours, but we were warm and safe in our home. We never lost power. The next morning, we went outside and saw the damage. There were tree limbs down everywhere and power lines had been severed. In fact, almost everyone from Raleigh NC to Philadelphia PA had no power. Some had it restored in a few days, but others didn’t have any power for up to two weeks. Though all of my neighbors had no power, somehow we did and our living space was absolutely unaffected by the hurricane.
Another: when I was serving as a Branch President in Washington DC, I had a feeling that there were some brethren in the branch that needed to resolve some law of chastity issues.  There wasn't a good system of finding out who to speak with and I didn't want to schedule interviews with each male adult in the unit. So I prayed and prayed and prayed. On a certain Sunday, while the sacrament was being passed, I prayed again. This time, I felt light and power fill me inwardly. As I looked up from my prayer, I scanned the congregation. While doing so, I saw 4 men that were shaded in a blue hue. I don’t know a better way to explain it. They each appeared as though they had been covered in a dark blue shadow. I looked to my lap and wrote the four names on my notepad. When I looked up at the congregation again, the hue was gone and everything looked normal. I scheduled meetings with these four brothers. Each meeting began with my greeting and something like “hello, the Lord asked me to meet with you. Is there anything you would like to talk about?” In each case, each brother confessed to struggling with a variety of law of chastity issues. Over time, the issues were dealt with and repented of.
Another: for some reason—maybe due to the experience of living through Hurricane Isabel, my daughter has been extremely frightened by howling winds. One day, when she did not return home as expected from 1st grade, I went over to her school to look for her. As soon as I stepped outside and felt the gusty wind on my face and heard the howling blow past me, I knew she would be frozen with panic somewhere between her classroom and her home. After searching, I found her curled up into a tight ball with her face buried deep in the grass of the school playground. She sobbed and said she couldn't make it home against such an awful wind. So I picked her up and carried her home. We still live in the same home and from time to time experience severe wind. Each time, though she’s learning to cope, she still becomes a little anxious. Another night, the wind blew with such ferocity that much of the siding on my house blew off and scattered itself around the neighborhood. (I guess we all could benefit from knowing how to put siding on a house—I learned how, after gathering and reassembling each blown piece.)  I woke up one recent night to another bout of loud and powerful wind gusts. While knowing how the wind has damaged both my house and daughter’s psyche, I knelt in prayer and asked the Lord if we could be blessed with a quiet and restful night. As I prayed, light and power flowed through me and I felt that if I stood, held my arm to the square and rebuked the wind that it would grow still. So I stood and did just that and as soon as I uttered the word “amen” the wind stopped and didn't blow for the rest of the night—I mean it went from window shaking gusts to absolutely nothing.
Here is one more for now: once when on a military assignment in Virginia, I had a day off and went to the gym for a workout. It was a Bally Total Fitness gym in the Hampton Roads area. While working out, I had a cold/sickly feeling stirring inside. It grew in intensity until I could no longer proceed with my exercise. I have learned that that feeling happens to me when there is an evil vibe around me. So I went into the locker room and began to pray. I asked the Lord why I felt so bad. In an obvious manner, he revealed to me that this gym was a place where evil men gathered to conduct business in drug trade and human trafficking. I responded that the thought was awful and wished there was something I could do. I then felt that I should gather my things, go to the front door and upon leaving, wipe my feet off at the threshold and rebuke the place in the name of Christ. So I did. After doing it, nothing happened. I went to my car and waited for a few minutes, but again, nothing happened, so I left. Out of curiosity, I returned to the place two or three days later. When I pulled into the parking lot, I was floored. Instead of a building, there was just a hole in the ground. The building had been razed.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Die Boek van Mormon by John M. Pontius

I was searching through my books in storage a few days ago and came across a first edition of the Book of Mormon in Afrikaans. I served a mission in South African from 1971 to 1973. It was an interesting and challenging experience.
I attended the special conference in Johannesburg on May 14, 1972 when the new translation of the Book of Mormon into Afrikaans (Die Boek van Mormon) was presented. It was an electric moment. People wept. Some had waited all of their lifetimes to read the Book of Mormon in Afrikaans. Many people had learned English for the sole purpose of reading this scripture. The Spirit was strong among us as we rejoiced.
Remembering back more than 40 years, I can still remember Professor Felix Mynhardt as he spoke of his experience in translating that sacred book. We also had a special Zone conference a few days prior where our Mission President, Harlan Clark, recounted his involvement and experience of the translation of the Book of Mormon. I had a good friend who was an Assistant to President Clark, and who later shared with me his experiences of being in meetings with Professor Mynhardt and Elder Clark several times. I can no longer remember who said what exactly, but I remember what I felt, and how it affected my newly-minted testimony as a young missionary. I will retell it as best I can recall.
Professor Mynhardt was invited to come to the stand and speak about his experience in translating the Book of Mormon. He recounted how he had been given a gift of languages from God from his youth. He said that he was fluent in over 60 languages. He was presently employed at Pretoria University as a language professor. He said he had been praying that the Lord would give him some task, some divinely important task, that would justify his having this gift of language from God.
He said in about 1970 that he had visited a group of Mormon leaders, including a Bishop Brummer, Mission President Harlan Clark and others, who sought to commission him to translate the Book of Mormon from English into Afrikaans. He said that he knew of the Book of Mormon from his religions studies, and his initial reaction was that he did not want to be involved in translating it.
However, that evening, as he prayed upon his knees, as was his habit, he said the Spirit of the Lord convicted him. The message was something on the order of, “You asked me for a great, divinely inspired task of translation, I sent it to you in the form of translating the Book of Mormon, and you declined.” Professor Mynardt said he could not sleep through the night because he knew that translating the Book of Mormon would get him into trouble with his university, which was owned and operated by the Dutch Reformed Church. When morning came he agreed to begin the translation immediately.
He stood at the pulpit and described the experience. He said something like, “I never begin translating a book at the beginning. Writing style usually changes through a book, and becomes more consistent toward the middle. Accordingly, I opened to a random place in the middle of the Book of Mormon, and began translating.” He said, “I was startled by the obvious fact that the Book of Mormon was not authored in English. He said, “It became immediately apparent that what I was reading was a translation into English from some other language. The sentence structure was wrong for native English. The word choices were wrong, as were many phrases.” He said, “How many times has an Englishman said or written, ‘And it came to pass?’” We all laughed, and knew he was right, of course.
He explained that when he realized this, he knew that he had to find either the original language or a median language then proceed to translate it into Afrikaans. He listed a half-dozen languages he tried, all of which did not accommodate the strange sentence structure found in the Book of Mormon. He said he finally tried Egyptian, and to his complete surprise, he found that the Book of Mormon translated flawlessly into Egyptian, not modern, but ancient Egyptian. He found that some nouns were missing from Egyptian, so he used Hebrew nouns where Egyptian did not provide the word or phrase. He chose Hebrew because both languages existed in the same place anciently.
He said had no idea at that time why the Book of Mormon was once written in Egyptian, but he said that without any doubt, the Book of Mormon had been authored in Egyptian or a language with very similar syntax. I heard him say this over and over. Then, he said, “Imagine my utter astonishment when I turned to chapter one, verse one and began my actual translation and came to verse two, where Nephi describes that he was writing in the language of the Egyptians, with the learning of the Jews!”
He said, “I knew by the second verse, that this was no ordinary book, that it was not the writings of Joseph Smith, but that it was of ancient origin. I could have saved myself months of work if I had just begun at the beginning. Nobody but God, working through a prophet of God, in this case Nephi, would have included a statement of the language he was writing in. Consider, how many documents written in English, include the phrase, “I am writing in English!” It is unthinkable and absolute proof of the inspired origins of this book.”
He noted that he was one of the few people in the world with any knowledge of old Egyptian writing. He was certainly the only person who was also fluent in Afrikaans and English. He indicated that when a verse would not translate directly into English, that he used Egyptian as a tool to arrive at a correct translation into Afrikaans.
Professor Mynhardt spoke of many other things regarding the translation of this book, and then said, “I do not know what Joseph Smith was before he translated this book, and I do not know what he was afterward, but while he translated this book, he was a prophet of God! I know he was a prophet! I testify to you that he was a prophet while he brought forth this book! He could have been nothing else! No person in 1827 could have done what he did. The science did not exist. The knowledge of ancient Egyptian did not exist. The knowledge of these ancient times and ancient Peoples did not exist. The Book of Mormon is scripture. I hope you realize this.”
“I have since been asked to translate the book you call the Doctrine and Covenants. I got part way through and set it down. It is not like the Book of Mormon. Anyone could translate it into Afrikaans. It is not scripture in the same sense that the Book of Mormon is scripture. I declare that the Book of Mormon is of ancient origin, and is scripture of the same caliber as the Old Testament, or for that matter, the New Testament.”
“I have taken this book of scripture, this Book of Mormon, and presented it to my Board of Regents, and urged them to embrace it as scripture. They declined, of course. I took it to the head of our Dutch Reformed Church and demonstrated why the Book of Mormon is scripture, and urged them to at least study it, even if they did not canonize it or even share it with the people of the church. I urged them to just think what having a new and profound book of scripture could mean to the church, to my church, the Dutch Reformed Church. I pointed out that they need not become Mormons, in the same way that they did not need to become Jews to embrace the Old Testament. They considered my presentation for a very few seconds and then rejected it. They next threatened me regarding my belief in the Book of Mormon, threatened my employment, and ejected me from their presence. I am deeply disappointed, but I am not deterred. I will keep promoting this book as scripture for the remainder of my life – simply because it is scripture, and I know it.”
He paused then added, “I am not a member of your church, and do not expect to become one. I have been asked why I have not joined your church many times, and my answer is because God has not directed me to join you. If He had, I would be standing here as a fellow Mormon. Perhaps my mission in life is better served outside of your church. I haven’t studied your doctrine or your history since Joseph Smith. The only thing I know about you is that you have authentic, ancient scripture in the Book of Mormon, and that all of the world should embrace the Book of Mormon as scripture. It simply can’t be denied. I believe every religion could embrace the Book of Mormon without becoming a Mormon. You probably disagree with that, but it is my present belief, and my message to anyone who will listen.”
I have pondered that experience for half of a century now. I do not know if Professor Mynhardt ever joined the church. I know my memory of his exact words is wanting, but my memory of what I felt and what I knew and how potent it was to hear his testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon is one of those things that I will never forget.
Brother John
© March 2012, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cleon Skousen, Meaning of the Atonement

I’ve always been puzzled, as a boy, by the Easter story. I used to sit there in Sunday School, in Raymond, Alberta, Canada, and I used to sit there and they’d tell me how Jesus suffered on the cross and I’d, that just left a lot of questions in my mind. Now here’s a person, a beautiful, beautiful person. Son of our Heavenly Father and He’s up on that cross, got a crown on his head made of thorns, He’s got dried blood down his face, He’s been all lacerated with a cat-of-nine-tails, and He’s up there on that cross, He’s got spikes in his hands, and He’s got them in his wrists and He’s got them in his feet, and He’s just all sweaty and bloody, and he’s hanging there on the cross. And I want to know what that’s for. I want to know what that does. What does that help do? And who wanted that anyway?
Everybody said it’s necessary. I want to know why. I want to know what it accomplishes. What’s he doing up there? Romans crucified a lot of people, but, why the son of God? What was this for? Why did they prophecy? Why did Enoch say he would die on a cross? So I used to say that to myself every Easter. So when I got on my mission, age 17, I’m riding on a train with an apostle of the Lord. He’s sitting there like all mission presidents do - worrying about the conference that we’re going to have and the missionaries, I guess. He is very quiet and meditative and I said, “Brother Widtsoe, can I ask you a question?” He said, “Oh, oh, yes.” For I knew I had awakened him from a reverie of meditation on something. He was a very famous scientist, by the way, brother Widtsoe. I said, “I wanted to just ask you about why the Atonement was necessary.” I said, “I accept the fact that it is but I just wondered why? I wondered what would happen, or what caused it, to have the Father require the Son to go through this.” And he said, “Elder Skousen, who asked you to ask me this question?”“Oh,” I said, “well, I, nobody. It’s my question. Nobody asked me to ask it.”He said, “I’m not asked that question very often. Do you really want to know why the Atonement was necessary?”And I said, “Well, if it’s alright.”“Yes,” he said, “it’s alright. How badly do you want to know the answer?”And I said, “Well, I’ve - I’ve wanted to know it ever since I was a little boy.”“Alright,” he said, “You know, if people don’t ask questions, they can’t hear the answer. So, I’ll share the answer with you over a period of time.”“Oh,” I said, “I so appreciate that.” and I got out my pencil. I said, “If you’ll give me the verses and everything, I’ll write it right down here.”“Well,” he said, “I’ll tell you what to look for and I’ll tell you which standard work it’s in.”I said, “aren’t you going to give me the chapter and verse?”
He said, “I wouldn’t deprive you of the thrill of finding it.”
So he’d tell me, “Now this is what to look for. This is the source of God’s power and this is where you’ll find it in the early part of the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C). And here’s where Jesus asked if he couldn’t get out of it and this is in several passages in the New Testament and it’ll say these things. Now you look for that. And then you’ll find some very basic scientific truths located in second Nephi and this is what it will tell you.” Do you know it took me seven years before I had located all of those passages!
And each time I’d see President Widtsoe, both on my mission and after I returned home, I’d report in. And he’d say, “Well, you’re doing pretty good. I’ll give you the section of the Doctrine and Covenants - try 88 or 29 or whatever it was.” And so, I’d look and there it was, there it was. I’d read right past it several times and missed it. And finally, finally I wrote it all up and put it together and sent it to him.
“Alright,” he said, “now, we need to get some of these things back into the mainstream of thought because the Latter-Day Saints aren’t doing what Jacob said to do.” He said, “We ought to talk about the Atonement and why it’s necessary a little more.” So he said, ”Put that in your next book.” And so I did in “The First Two Thousand Years”, in the appendix-”Why Is The Atonement Necessary.”
Now you listen to the angels when they appeared to the shepherds. The fact that Jesus was born wasn’t the important thing. Just being born wasn’t important. He frightened the shepherds terribly. I mean they were just out - it was early in the spring - it was April. It wasn’t in December the 25th. That’s when the Romans were celebrating the birth date of Sol, their sun god. Christians didn’t have a birth date so they said, “Well we’ll, now that we’re adopting Christianity, we’ll take the birth date of [Sol], the sun god. That’s how it’s happened to be the 25th of December. There aren’t any sheep out on the 25th of December. They’re out in the spring when the grass is starting. It starts the second week in March so that’s why the shepherds were out there. So they’re watching their sheep - lots of wolves out there in those days. That’s why they are watching them. And all of a sudden it happened. Here’s this burst of light and a personage appears and he knew he had scared them. Joseph Smith said, “When I prayed and Moroni came, I was expecting something to happen but even so, when he came he comforted me. That was the first thing he said was not to be afraid, “It’s alright, it’s alright.”
So that’s what the angel said, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy. Which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you, ye shall find him wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.” And then the heavenly choirs couldn’t be held back and they just split back the veil and they sang until music just filled the skies. And they said one sentence over and over again. At least the shepherds were able to hear it enough times so they could remember it. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Now, I think maybe we were there. I’m sure the saints from Adam on down. Maybe those of us who hadn’t been on the earth weren’t allowed to be there. But a lot of people were there and they sang. It was exciting to be there in that great conference just before Jehovah, who’d appeared to Nephi the second just that day before and said he was going to come in the flesh tomorrow and tonight would be the sign. Remember that?
Now here he is and he is ready, He’s telling us all good-by and he’s about to go down into the amnesia of the second estate. So he won’t even know who he is. You don’t even know who you are. I don’t even know who I am. Isn’t that exciting?
By the time he was twelve he’d been ministered to by angels and they had told him who he was. He had seen enough visions and revelations so he could pick up Isaiah, he could take Jeremiah, Ezekiel and talk to the most learned scribes there in the Solomon’s porches on the temple square. And say, “Now this is what Isaiah really saw.” They were fascinated that a twelve year old boy - hadn’t even been to the school of Gamael yet - he knew all the answers to all these mystical scriptures that they had studied so hard trying to understand. By the time he was thirty he was ready for his ministry and had some marvelous experiences. He’s still learning about himself. In fact, when he’d get wonderful things like Lazarus rising from the dead, he would say, “Thank you Father, thank you.” And, he would cry. “You did it for me. Thank you, Father.” And He’d cry.
He was just kind of learning what it was like to be the Son of God and to have these wonderful powers. But, I’ll tell you as he approached that great final Gethsemane, that shook him. He thought he was equal to it. He was doing pretty good right up to the time that he saw Judas go out. He was pretty sad and he was looking around the table and He said, “One of you will betray me.” Peter said, “John, ask him which one.” So, John, the beloved, said, “Which one?” “He to whom I give the sop.” He took some bread, dipped it into the gravy and handed it to Judas and said, “Whatsoever thou doest, do thou quickly.” It was beginning to get to him. He had washed their feet already.
And as soon as Judas went out, he stood up in that seventeenth chapter of John and gives that great high priest prayer in which he said, “And now O Father, neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on them through their words. That they all might be one as thou Father art in me and I in thee. That they also might be one is us.” That’s a great prayer.
Then he said to his disciples, “I must go pray. I must pray!” And so he went from the upper room and apparently across the temple square and down through the golden gate and across Brook Kidren where we’ve walked so many times - I visited it for the 23rd time here in October. Went on up into the groves of the olive trees and then something interesting happened. Eight disciples he had waiting sort of at the gateway, they immediately fell asleep. Went further up the hill and had the three remaining apostles (there were only 11 of them since Judas left) and had them wait. And apparently John was the only one that stayed awake, as far as we know. At least he’s the only one that recorded the details of what we know about what happened. And it says that Jesus went and threw himself full length - he didn’t kneel at a rock or at a tree. He just threw himself on the ground.
And now I’m going to ask you to take out a piece of paper, so that you won’t have to search for seven years for some of these choice, choice passages. You can put it on the back of your program or wherever is convenient.
I want you to put down first of all Mark 14:36. Where Jesus said to his Father, “O Father, all things are possible unto Thee.” In other words, “You are God. You can do anything. You have it within your power.” And then the petition, “Take this cup from me. Don’t make me do it. Work it out some other way. Please! Do it without my having to go through with this.” He was trembling.
Alright, now the Father knew there wasn’t any other way. All things are possible unto God, but he’s a God of law. He’s a God of cause and effect. He’s a God of love. He’s a God of justice. But what the Son had been called to do is the way. There isn’t any other way. So he had to send an angel. I wish we had the conversation. We can only guess what the angel might have said. But he ministered to Jesus and he probably said, “You don’t have to do this. Everybody has their free agency. But the Father knew you would do it and that’s why you were ordained from the preexistence because He knew you would. But you don’t have to. If you don’t do it, everything in which your hand participated by way of creation will go back to outer chaos. The earth, the animals, the plants, the human beings, their bodies, all the other planets on which there are similar families that you helped create - they all go back to chaos. The only way they can be preserved and perpetuated and exalted is to have you do this.”
The angel probably said something like that. At least, he convinced the Savior that he must go forward if he wanted the Father’s will to be done. And so that’s when Jesus said, “Thy will be done.” And he sweat great drops of blood. Now let me give you the other passages that fill in the details. Matthew 26:39. “Let this cup pass from me.” Luke 22:43. The angel came and ministered to him. Luke 22:44. As soon as he had said, “Thy will be done” the terror of the assignment came upon him with such an overwhelming impact that the capillaries of his circularity system couldn’t even contain his blood. And it came through the sweat glands onto his skin as it were great drops of blood. That’s a kind of suffering you and I probably couldn’t even contemplate, let alone endure. But, He did. And then he said in Matthew 26:42, “Thy will be done.”
One of the things that you learn in studying the scriptures is to get all of the authorities who talked about the same incident - take all of the details that each of them have - and then piece them together so that you’ve got the whole picture. And that’s the one we have here. Now, Jesus describes his terror in D&C 19:15-19. I’m going to read that to you in a moment, not now.
In Acts 4:12 we are told that the Father could not have saved us. There is only one name given under heaven whereby you can be saved and it is not Eloheim. Now I don’t know whether that disturbs you or not. I thought God could do anything. Why couldn’t He save us after we had fallen? Does that question bother you a little? That’s the one I asked Brother Widtsoe. Doesn’t God love us as much as the Son? It’s his plan to have us come down. Why is there only one name given under heaven whereby we can be saved and doesn’t include the Father, only the Son.
Is there an answer to that? “Yes,” Brother Widtsoe said, “there’s an answer.” Seven years - you know, he didn’t tell me about that part. But, anyway, now I think that’s enough - just draw a line. That raises all the questions. Now let’s look for some answers.
Brother Widtsoe didn’t give me the answers the way I have lined them up here. He gave me some of the big answers first and I want to start with one of the fundamental answers, which is the bottom line of where it all happens. Would you write down 2 Nephi 2:14.
Father Lehi is on his death bed. He’s trying to share with his sons the last element of gospel testimony before he passes away. He’s pleading with his sons to acknowledge and recognize the great truths of the gospel. He said you must realize that there is a God and that he created everything either to act or to be acted upon. Now, there are two building blocks in the universe. One building block consists of an active ingredient. It acts. There is another thing that doesn’t act but it can be acted upon. Now, you’ve read that in second Nephi. I had read it. I’ve gone through the Book of Mormon as a teacher over a hundred times teaching it or studying it. Over a hundred times. It’s like President Mathiney said, “My brethren, people keep adding things to the Book of Mormon for me. I keep finding new things.” Well, that’s one that I finally found. I didn’t find it on my own. Brother Widtsoe said, “It’s there, now you look for it in the early part of second Nephi.” There it was, something to act and something to be acted upon. Put down D&C 93:30. “That which acts,” the Lord said, “is called intelligence or light.” Now, what’s an intelligence? No description, except that it’s like light. Everything that exists which is truth is filled with intelligence. Everything is filled with it. Now the best way for you to know about intelligence is to find out about it the way I found out about it.
I said Brother Widtsoe, “What’s an intelligence like?”
He said, “Well, look in the mirror and tell me. You’re an intelligence.”
“Oh! That’s right, oh, that good. I’m an intelligence, aren’t I?”
He said, “How big are you?”
I said, “I don’t know.”
He said, “Where are you?”
“Well, I’m right here.”
He said, “You’re not down there. Did you notice. Isn’t that down from where you are?”
“Oh! Yah, it is.”
He said, “Take ahold of your chin. Shut your eyes.”
So, I did.
Now, he said, “Is that below you or above you or is that right on?”
I said, “That’s below me.”
He said, “Take ahold of your ear. Is that besideyou?”
I said, “Yeh, that’s out there.”
He said, “Where is your little ‘I am’?”
I said, “It’s way in there, isn’t it?”
He said, “I think so. It’s way back in there. It’s a little tiny ‘I am’. It’s self knowing, it’s self determining, it’s anticipatory, it can learn, it’s a little intelligence. Fascinating! And it always existed as an independent entity. A little ‘I am’.” Oh, alright, that’s an intelligence, alright.
Now, D&C 93:29-30. Intelligence is eternal and it is independent to act for itself. That’s what the Lord said. This is the essence of reality that acts for itself. Alright, Abraham 3:19-23. The intelligences, see it talks about spirits and that some are more intelligent than others. Then it tells you that its talking about spirits which are organized intelligences. So, you’re really talking about intelligences that are one above another. This is the fact that intelligences are organized and graded. What the Lord is saying and we start out with the little ones and we come up and here you are some of my most magnificent intelligences that I gave bodies in my image. You’re real super - you’re special.
Joseph Smith described the graduated intelligences that are structured in nature. Documented History of the Church 4:519. And he says he gave this sermon to the apostles and their wives so that they’d know this wonderful, marvelous God science of graduated intelligence. But, then he didn’t say any more about it and then we have to go to the brethren, the early brethren who heard it to get more details.
That which is acted upon is called element. Now that’s D&C 93:33. Put down Journal of Discourses 7:2 where Brigham Young says these little bits of element are capacitated to receive intelligence. Now, notice what happens. You get a little piece of element and it must be extremely tiny. You attach a little intelligence to it and you can now talk to it and say, “Move that little fellow over here. You two combine together. Now bring in three more. That’s fine. Let’s get this thing going now. We’ve got ourselves a little atom here working around. We get enough of those and you’ll get a molecule. It’s a universe when you get through. I don’t know how many, maybe a million little intelligences and bits of elements all spinning around that little universe there. We call it an atom, it’s so tiny you can’t see it. We put a lot of them together and we get a molecule. And they’ll do certain things.
The Lord said in the 88th section how he gives them orders and he gives them a pattern that they follow. They’ll always follow that pattern, unless you want them to do something else. And so you get two little molecules that we call hydrogen and another little molecule that acts completely different, called oxygen, and you put them together and you got water. You see, isn’t that nice we got water. But, Jesus said, “Wine. You know what to do. High grade of wine, please.” And it happened. All of a sudden the mystery is gone out of the miracle. You and I perform things by playing force against force. That’s the way you make a motor go - you know you explode something and it’s force. The Lord talks to things. That’s a better way won’t you agree?
See, God doesn’t violate law. He sets things going. And so you’ve got H2O - it’s water. He said, “But, I need wine.” “Oh, Alright.” Now, that’s the universe in which we live. This is God science, and Brother Widtsoe said, “Isn’t that thrilling Elder Skousen?” and I said, “I never even thought of that being a possibility.” He said, “God has revealed so many marvelous things to us if we’ll just study it out and put it all together.”
Alright, just a little bit more here. Abraham 4:9, 10, 12, and 18 where you see intelligence responding to commandments of the Gods during the creative process. Watch what it says, “And the Gods commanded the dry land to come up. And they watched until they were obeyed.” Dirt doesn’t obey as dirt unless it had intelligence in it. Would it? I mean, if it’s just … stuff. It has no capacity to obey. This is one of the great revelations of God. These little intelligences are in everything. I can move a mountain. I just tell it to move and I can let my priesthood tell it to move and if it’s authorized, it’ll move.
Nephi the Second was told by the Lord, “I have declared before all my angels that when you speak all things are to obey you as though God had spoken it. And I know that I can share this power with you because you’ll never use it till I tell you to.” And he could say to the clouds, “Don’t rain. Go away.” Or he could say, “Clouds come in and let us have rain.” That’s the power of God. Jesus would come and say to the little cells of the eyes, “You have not functioned properly since the birth of this man. In your places, please.” The man says, “I can see.” “Crooked arm, straighten.” And it straightened. “Feet, walk.” And everything goes into its proper order. And we call these miracles. It is the science of God speaking to his creations and saying, “Straighten up and fly right like you were suppose to.” That’s what he is doing. Now there’s the key to the miracles. Now this is going to bring this closer to something else in just a moment.
When God commands, they obey. Let’s take Helaman 12:3-18 where he describes all of the things that obey on God’s command. They obey just like they did during the creation process. Take Jacob 4:6 - add that also. And 1 Nephi 20:13. Why, Jacob says, “We can have the water obey us, trees obey us when we speak with the priesthood.” D&C 88:38-42 where the Lord says, “intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence” to do the things God has instructed it to do.
Now we come to a most interesting passage hidden away. It took me a long time - I read over it at least 10 or 15 times. Brother Widtsoe says, “You’re missing it. It’s in Section 29.” I said, “I couldn’t find it.” He said, “Read it again.” I still didn’t find it. He said, “I know. Read it again. You have to get the spirit when you read. Maybe you’ll get it this time.” Finally got it! D&C 29:36. God says, “My honor is my power.” Do you want to know where God got his power from? He said, “It’s my honor that gives me power.” Brother Widtsoe said, “This is a priesthood principle that often isn’t quite appreciated, You are ordained from above. Your power comes from that over which you have supervision.”
What makes a great bishop? His ordination? He’s ordained from above, isn’t he? What makes him a great bishop? It’s home teachers home teaching. It’s Sunday School teachers preparing their lessons. It’s people having Home Evening, paying their tithes, going to the temple. And people say, “My, what a great bishop.” Why? He is being honored in his calling. That’s what makes a great bishop. He was ordained from above. He was supported from those below that he supervised. Do you follow that? “My honor is my power.” “Water, wine.”
When God appeared to Moses - he was 80 years old when God appeared to him on Mount Sinai (which means “burning bush”). And the Lord said, “I’m now going to rescue Israel out of Egypt.” Moses said, “Oh! I think that’s just great because I’ve got Miriam, my sister is down there. Mother is still down there and Aaron is still down there. I’m so happy to hear about that.” And the Lord said, “And I’m going to have you bring them out.” Moses said, “Oh! No! … No! I’m a capital fugitive, no, they’d kill me.” Well, the Lord said, “I’ll go with you.” Moses said, “I’m still scared.” The Lord said, “What do you have there in your hand?” “My shepherd staff.” “Throw it on the ground.” He threw it on the ground. A serpent! A metamorphosis took place.
The Lord said, “Pick it up.” So he did. By the tail, of course. And it became a staff. Now, watch what the Lord said, “You see that hand. Do you want to see the miracle of God? See that hand? That hand is made of dirt. Isn’t that fantastic? That hand is made of dirt. The Lord said to Moses, “Put your hand in your bosom.” So he did. And the Lord talked to that hand and said, “Now my children. Don’t go all the way back. Let’s go back … leprosy - simulate leprosy. Moses, take your hand out.” Dripping with an incurable disease. “Moses, put your hand back in your bosom.” And the Lord said, “My children, as you were. Moses, take your hand out.” “Oh… !,” Moses said. Beautiful pink flesh. Isn’t that marvelous? And the Lord said, “And if you want to take water and pour it out and have it be blood, I’ll do for you. That they may know that you come to them not by your own strength only but by the very power of God.” So, Moses did it you remember. Finally he consented to go.
Now, once we understand some of these principles, we are beginning to comprehend a little bit about the God we worship. And that’s what the Lord says, “I want you to understand more about me. I want you to understand I’m not way off, a mystical being. I’m your loving Heavenly Father and I operate in an atmosphere of cause and effect and in a universe of law. There’s nothing magic about what I do. Everything is based on a science and I’m trying to teach it to you gradually.”
Alright now just a little bit more. We are told that God must maintain the confidence of these intelligences in order that they will sustain him and honor him. No other church has even dared to preach this doctrine. And no other scripture contains it save the Book of Mormon. That it is possible for God to fall. Now, he isn’t going to, because he knows how to avoid it. He just wants us to know that he walks a razor’s edge of necessity of having his conduct - as the great arbiter of heaven whom they all love and respect - absolutely immaculate in dispensing justice and truth and his love among them.
Now that’s a great discipline, is it not? Put it down now, this is Alma 42:13, 22, and 25 and Mormon 9:19. All of these passages say, “… or he would cease to be God.” Who dares preach such a principle? That God is under the necessity of maintaining certain conditions or he could cease to be God. He wouldn’t have power any more. How could he loose his power? By not being honored any more.
Now, you have the problem of the Atonement. Our Father wanted us to come into a laboratory where good and evil existed side by side. Where you and I could learn for ourselves. Not because Father said so, but we could learn for ourselves the difference between good and evil. And have you noticed, a little rubs off? In fact, you have to repent and erase it continually. It keeps rubbing onto us. You think you’ve just about got it whipped and the next thing you know, you’re doing it again. Or, you’re tempted to do it again. That’s life. And, that’s how we learn the difference between good and evil and the penalties thereof. You never went through this before. You learned how to be obedient in heaven because our Heavenly Father told you what the results would be if you didn’t. And sure enough it would happen. But you couldn’t quite understand. He gave you the criteria but you didn’t know for your self the Book of Mormon says. That’s why you came into this life. You’re really learning for yourself. So am I. Believe me I’m learning.
Alright, so the next passage is Alma 34:9 where “the Father cannot save us. The atonement is indispensable.” You have to have an atonement. But, what would happen if there hadn’t been an atonement? Would you like to know that one? Alright, it’s 2 Nephi 9:7-9. That’s what would happen if there hadn’t been an atonement. We all would have become subject to Lucifer and suffering the same consequences which the early brethren made very clear was total dissolution. Which means that they are stripped of their spirit body. They are stripped of all things that pertain to the organized kingdom of God and are cast back into outer darkness, naked. A naked intelligence. Unorganized! And the early brethren thought well maybe then they’ll get another chance - they’ll be scooped up again, you know, and come into another creation. The Lord said in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Don’t ever preach that they will be a second chance. I have never authorized that to be taught - that they get another chance.” So, we don’t preach that.
Now, how does the Atonement work? Alma 34:11. We can go quickly now. We have the problem. We have the basic ingredients for the solution. One person cannot pay for the sins of another. Now that’s Amulek, that’s not Alma talking. That’s a new convert to the Church, a missionary companion of Alma talking to the Zoromites - the name’s Amulek - that’s him talking. I hear people quoting Alma on this, no this is Amulek talking. He said, “One person cannot satisfy the demands of justice by paying for the sins of another.” You just stop and think whether or not this is true.
Let’s say I have committed a heinous offense, a capital offense. And this good elder loves me enough to offer his life on behalf of my offense for which I should die. Does that satisfy any of you? Do you feel good about that? Are you satisfied? Do you feel justice has been done? Has it satisfied your sense of justice? Amulek said no, it won’t. Now this is a very important thing to understand about the atonement. I hear people preaching for this much sin there had to be this much suffering and that’s what Jesus provided. No, that’s the law of quid pro quo.
Amulek says the Atonement is based on a completely different principle. It isn’t quid pro quo. It isn’t this much suffering for this much sinning. It’s a different doctrine entirely. That’s what Paul was so upset about when the Jews tried to preach that doctrine. We have it back in the Church being taught occasionally that way. Then what does Amulek say the key to the Atonement was? He said it was Jesus going on that cross. It had to be somebody, not you and me, but someone who is infinitely loved. Now that’s universally - infinitely means universally loved. Who would be so terribly tortured in his role as our leader that the sense of compassion in every little intelligence would be touched.
Now isn’t this interesting? You’re this same way. You are subject to compassion. Every intelligence can be reached. He has a sense of compassion. It’s necessary to somehow reach that sense of compassion sufficient to overcome the demands of justice. Because, when our Heavenly Father puts us down here and we try to repent the best we can, we’re still unworthy to come back. Are we not? It’s impossible to become perfect in this life. Right? Everybody agree to that? “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Does that sound familiar. Alright, you can’t become perfect in this life. Those little intelligences say, “Father, remember, you held us back.” You can’t overlook them. Our Father wanted us to learn the difference between good and evil and it’s impossible for Him, then, to bring us back. Everybody see the problem?
Now how does he get us back? He ask us to do the best we can. Then he says, “We’ve worked it out. We’ve found out how we could reach those little intelligences. So, when Jesus was on that cross that suffering has to be so terrible that it is infinite in it’s persuasive power. That we mean that much to Him so that when He pleads for us, He doesn’t do it because of our righteousness, because it wasn’t that good. We did the best we could but it still wasn’t perfect. He says, “They did the best they could now for my sake will you let them come up or I’ll be robbed of the reward of my labor. Will you let them come up? And they say, “Jehovah, not for their sake, because they were imperfect, but if they mean that much to you, let them come up.”
And so Amulek says, “That compassion that has been created in those little intelligences is enough to overcome the demands of justice.” That’s Alma 34. Let me give that one to you, Alma 34:15-16. So, the Atonement is not based on the law of so much suffering for so much sin. It’s based on mercy and love. That’s all it’s based on. It’s those little intelligences saying, “Alright, if they mean that much to you after all you’ve gone through.” How much did he go through?
When Jesus was dedicated as the eldest son in the temple, an old man came hurrying up named Simeon. The Holy Ghost had whispered to him, “Rush to the temple today, you’ll see the face of the Messiah as I promised you before, you would not die till you had seen him.” He came up and took that little baby out of the arms of Mary and said, “Now, O Lord, God, Jehovah let me depart in peace for mine eyes have beheld thy salvation. The glory of thy people, Israel, and a light unto the gentiles.” Then he handed the baby back and he said, “Because of him, little mother, one day sorrow will pierce your soul like a sword.”
Thirty three years later on Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, she saw that beloved boy of hers nailed to that cross. Spiked, crown on his head, blood on his face, lacerated, sweating, crying out in suffering. What do you think that did to that mother? It was so intense that the Father had to do one final thing to make it supreme. He had to withdraw his spirit from Jesus. And that had sustained Jesus as it sustains all of us up to a point because it’s in all of us. All of a sudden the Father withdrew his spirit from Jesus. As it left him, he cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani? My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?” Then the spirit came back and Jesus said, “Oh … I did it! It is finished. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” And he died. At that moment, Jesus became the Christ.
You see, it’s since I came to understand this and the suffering of the Father - that was a terrible experience for the Father. When He had to tell his son that it was necessary for him to go forward with it in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he had to withdraw his spirit from him on the cross, that was a terrible experience. And the Book of Mormon says the reason that Abraham was commanded to slay his own son Isaac was so that one earthly father would at least know what it’s like to have the role of the Father and have to sacrifice your son. Abraham didn’t have to go through with it but he was reconciled to it because he knew it was for a righteous purpose that he didn’t understand. The Father just wanted Abraham, at least one father, to know a little bit what it’s like to be the Father on the night of Golgotha. And then Jesus became the Christ.
Since this began to clarify itself in my mind and I began to see what was the meaning was of Jesus on that cross, he’s become my personal Savior. I love Jesus. I love my Heavenly Father. I never realized before what they went through for me and my children and for you and all the rest of us. I’ve learned to love God with all my heart and feel closer to them. And I love to testify about them. I love to testify of their great mission to us and their great sacrifice. Both the Father and the Son–what they went through for our sakes.
Quite often I’m asked down here in Texas where I speak quite often, “Dr. Skousen, are you saved?” I usually reply by saying, “Thank you for asking that. May I bear you my witness?” They’re used to that. They want to hear my witness. And I say, “I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and I’ve asked my Heavenly Father to forgive my sins. I have made a commitment to my Heavenly Father that I will try to obey all his commandments by going down into the waters of baptism by immersion administered by one having authority. And then I have had hands laid upon my head by one holding the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood so that I could receive the great Gift of the Holy Ghost. Now I am endeavoring to endure to the end that I might have the great privilege of overcoming the very last hurdle, death, and being resurrected to glory and going back unto the Father. That’s my witness”…
Be valiant in your calling from morning until night. Be a good student. Mark your books. Study it out. Be prayerful. Try to understand God’s science of salvation. That’s all I’ve been talking about this morning - the real science of salvation. Why the atonement was necessary and it was. Why God, the Father, couldn’t do it. Why He said His Son is the only name given under heaven whereby we may be saved. So we will know that they have done their part. All we have to do is ours. So that is why Jesus makes such a plea to us.
Let’s read this in closing, D&C 19:15-19. “Therefore I command you to repent - repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, (You see he’s a God of love, but he also has to be a God of justice or the intelligences would loose confidence in him.) and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore–how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; (In other words, what we do is to repent in order to qualify.) But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; (Now notice how terrible it was.) Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit - and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink - Nevertheless, I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” “I did it! I did it! I was so frightened. I was so scared. I trembled. I asked the Lord not to make me go through with it and he said I didn’t have to but you know the consequences no doubt.”
He was just so thrilled about it. Now, he said, “Don’t let that be wasted.” Turn to D&C 45:3-5. “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him–(See the Father loves us as much as the Son. It’s his plan, really! Because that’s what Jesus said in the preexistence, “Father, I will do it the way you want it done.” Lucifer wanted to do it a different way and take credit. The Son said, “I’ll do it as it’s been done before. I’ll do it. I will suffer.”) Saying: Father, behold the suffering and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.” Now turn to Alma 34 … beginning with verse 14, “And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, (Meaning the law of Moses.) every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal. (It’s going to reach every corner of the universe.) And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of his last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about the means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircle them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice;” …this is the most profound principle of the whole gospel - the Atonement and why it was necessary…
Let me just give you an example now as I finish of Abraham Lincoln. I just want to show you how this happens every day in real life. If you want to see how intelligence overcomes the demands of justice, watch this. There was a boy fighting in the Union Forces. 19 years old. Went to sleep on guard duty. And the opposition broke through and wiped out a whole flank of the army. Several hundred were killed, including some of the best friends of this young man. But he survived. Court-martialed. Sentenced to die. He expected to die. He thought it was only just that he die. And president Lincoln was ready to sign his death warrant for his execution and a little mother appears on the scene.
She says, “President Lincoln, when this war started, I had a husband and six sons. First I lost my husband, and one by one I lost five of my sons. Now I only have one son left and he’s sentenced to be executed with a firing squad because he went to sleep. He feels awfully badly, he lost some of his best friends and he expects to die. President Lincoln, I’m not asking for the sparing of this boy’s life for his sake, but for his mother’s sake. He’s all I have left. For my sake could you spare him?” President Lincoln said, “For your sake, little mother, I will spare him.” And as far as I know President Lincoln was never criticized for that decision.
Does that touch the heart of compassion? Notice how that overcame the demands of justice. “For her sake, I will spare him.” And so that’s what’s happened for us. And the salvation of Jesus Christ is very real and the price he paid was very terrible. And you’re here to testify that Jesus is the Christ and that the Gospel has been restored to prepare for His second coming. Now that’s our mission. Now I went to the mission field thinking that testifying of the restoration was my whole mission. No! That’s incidental. The divinity of Jesus Christ is our main message. And the fact that He is now spoken to prophets and raised them up, they’re now walking the earth the priesthood is back - that’s our good news. We’re preparing for the second Christmas. Where there’ll be a thousand years of peace on earth, good will toward men.
I only pray that God will bless every one of us to fulfill our callings with valiance. That the Spirit can testify to thousands of His children that Jesus is the Christ. And if they can feel our testimony and they can enjoy the fruits of the Gospel… that’s my prayer… in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.