Foundationless Buildings

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In the Book of Mormon we read of a great vision that the prophet Lehi had. In this vision he saw that “there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path [to the tree of life] did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost…. And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.” (1 Nephi 8:23,26).

Lehi saw a mist of darkness throughout the world. This mist is the temptations of Satan (see 1 Ne. 12:17) but it might also be viewed as ignorance or even the veil of forgetfulness that prevents us from remembering our pre-earth life. However you want to view the mist, it surrounds all of us and seeks to pull us away from God’s paths. It darkens the world. Off in the distance Lehi saw a great and spacious building that “stood as it were in the air.” I always picture something like this picture – a skyscraper floating without a foundation. The big, beautiful building is just that – big and beautiful; it is enticing and worldly. More importantly, it seemed to be floating in the air. Not only is this representative of the pride of the world, but also it means the building is without a foundation. Worldly things, specifically pride and coveting and gossiping and other sins, are founded upon nothing. Buildings without foundations or with weak foundations will never stand – they will always fail and fall. We might think that we don’t live in that great and spacious building, that we have a nice sensible home. However, do we live in a foundationless home?

Do we let our houses drift about aimlessly in the mists of darkness or do we anchor our hearths and homes to a solid foundation? Upon which foundation should we build? We should build upon Christ. How do we do this? Building upon Christ is a bit of an abstract idea. Let me reify it. In order to build upon Christ we must have a foundation of personal righteousness. This foundation includes learning the gospel, living close to the Spirit, keeping our gospel covenants, and obeying the commandments. If those four things are our foundation, we will not fall. Our homes will be firmly rooted upon a sure foundation: “Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).

Those who are not built upon this foundation will fall like the great and spacious building: “And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (1 Ne. 11:36).

That gulf of misery and endless wo is the same one that Lehi saw that separated the people of God from those of the world (see 1 Ne. 12:18), even an eternal gulf.

We must make sure our foundations are sure, that we are not left to be buoyed up by nothing but the pride of the world. We need our foundations upon the Rock of Christ.

3D building model sources: Skyscraper: http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/details?mid=74f60dc598c1a44bbaa0f452d5492d6&prevstart=0; house: http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/details?mid=35aa8adfc9d1e4ea8627bce8a46cfe19&prevstart=24. The buildings were imported into Google Sketchup where I created the scenes.

Solace from the Storm – Part 4

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We are responsible to be open to the spirit. Nephi reprimanded his wicked brethren and taught them about the communication from the Lord: “He hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words” (1 Ne. 17:45). If we are past feeling, the Lord might need to speak unto us with the voice of thunder and destruction. If I get to choose (which I – and we all – do) I’ll take the still small voice over a thundering voice. I enjoy thunder but not when it’s directed at me!

It is also through this still small voice that we can know the truth of all things – whether it is the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the reality of the Atonement, or anything else sacred or secular: “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5).

It is through the power and influence of the Holy Ghost that we have solace through the storms in our lives. The Holy Ghost teaches us truth. Truth is an anchor to our souls. If we are founded upon truth and righteousness and holiness, all which come through prayer and the influence of the Holy Ghost, we will withstand any storms that come our way. Again, it is truth and more specifically, eternal truth, that binds us to the Rock of our Redeemer, even our Savior and Atoner, Jesus Christ.

Alma desired to let all know of the necessity of repentance: “Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth” (Alma 29:2). When we are pure in heart and repentant, we will be protected from that “voice of thunder” that calls all to repentance. This does not mean that we will not need repentance but to those who are already repentant, the voice of the Spirit will come more as a still, small voice than as a voice of thunder and lightning. Even when it does come as a voice of thunder, the righteous will hear the piercing small voice amidst all the tumult.

As we are built upon the foundation of Christ we will withstand the destroying east winds. We will find solace amidst the dust storms and driving winds of mortality. “Yea, when all [Satan’s] hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Hel. 5:12).

Solace from the Storm – Part 2

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When Moses tried to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free one of the plagues the Lord sent was a plague of locusts. How did the locusts get to Egypt in such large numbers? “The Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts” (Ex. 10:13). With the wind came great destruction.

The east wind was not always bad. When Moses and the Israelites were leaving Egypt they came upon the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s army was right behind them, planning on forcing them to return. They were saved by the power of the Lord, “And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (Ex. 14:21). It was the east wind that blew and parted the Red Sea.The house of Israel crossed over the sea in safety while the armies of Pharaoh drowned in the closing waters.

Sometimes the east wind is used metaphorically to represent the ephemeral lives of the wicked. A prideful, wicked man may try to fill his stomach with the east wind (see Job 15:2) but he will be full of nothing but hot air. Not only will the air fill the wicked with nothing but also it will buffet and blow them about (see Job 27:21). Those who are thus puffed up will, like the ships of Tarshish, be brought down low and destroyed by the strength and scorching heat of the east wind (see Psalm 48:7). Their sails and masts will be broken, their rudders smashed, and they will sink into the depths of the sea (see Ezek. 27:26). Those who do not repent and who “sow filthiness…shall reap the east wind, which bringeth immediate destruction” (Mosiah 7:31).

How do we protect ourselves from the mighty winds and scorching heat of the east wind? Returning again to the verse in Helamen do we find the answer: “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Hel. 5:12). Only by building our foundation upon our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, do we find solace from the storm.

Storms will buffet all of us at some point in our lives. Some people seem to live under constant stormy skies while others only experience the occasional bluster. Just like any building, our lives need to have strong foundations in order to withstand the winds that blow. Christ is this foundation.

Solace from the Storm – Part 1

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“Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt” (Hosea 12:1).

When Ephraim follows after the east wind, he receives desolation and lies. What is this east wind that brings such destruction?

This wind is mentioned many times in the Old Testament and twice in the Book of Mormon. In almost every case it brings destruction. The earliest reference to this east wind comes as part of Pharaoh’s dream. In his dream, which was interpreted by Joseph, he saw seven fat ears of corn. After these seven fat ears he saw seven thin ears that were “blasted with the east wind” (Genesis 41:6). What was this east wind like if it “blasted” the ears of corn?

I grew up in the Phoenix area. In the summertime we would occasionally receive massive dust storms called haboobs. They usually occur in July or August, during the “Monsoon Season” (or, more accurately, the summer thunderstorms). These haboobs – these gigantic dust storms – can be felt before they arrive. They can also be seen before they arrive. There is something awe-inspiring about seeing a hundreds-foot tall wall of dust traveling towards you. At first the wall seems to travel slowly; it creeps across the desert toward you, but then it hits. 30 mile an hour winds; micro-dust everywhere. Everything is covered in a fine gritty sand. Breathing the air will fill your lungs with dust particles. All around you the dust storm beats upon you. This reminds me of the verse in Helaman: “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Hel. 5:12). Satan beats upon us with his mighty winds but if our foundation is strong, we are safe from the storm.

Dust storms like the haboobs I grew up with are probably similar to the east wind talked about in the scriptures. When I read of the wind blasting ears of corn, I think of a dust storm. The driving winds blast the dust and sand into your eyes. The air is thick and gritty with the many particulates; it can be hard to breathe. If you are out in the storm, sand fills your nose and eyes and lungs. Sandstorm air is usually dry and drying. It can be very hot. People who have not lived in the desert may not have experienced hot winds. Sometimes it feels much hotter with the wind blowing than without it blowing. These hot winds can dry and destroy.

A Sure Foundation, Part 6

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As we build our foundation upon the gospel and strengthen our foundation by attending the temple, we will feel and be closer to heaven. The veil is very thin in the temple. As the heavenly and the earthly meet there, we can often feel the presence of those on the other side of the veil. In the temple we take place in the great work of anchoring the generations of humankind together. We anchor ourselves to our ancestors and to the Lord.

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of this connection with those who have passed:

“In that sacred and hallowed house there passed through my mind a sense of the tremendous obligation that was mine to pass on all that I had received as an inheritance from my forebears to the generations who have now come after me.

I thought of an experience I had long, long ago. In the summer we lived on a farm. We had a little old tractor. There was a dead tree I wished to pull. I fastened one end of a chain to the tractor and the other end to the tree. As the tractor began to move, the tree shook a little, and then the chain broke.

I looked at that broken link and wondered how it could have given way. I went to the hardware store and bought a repair link. I put it together again, but it was an awkward and ugly connection. The chain was never, never the same.

As I sat in the celestial room of the temple pondering these things, I said to myself, ‘Never permit yourself to become a weak link in the chain of your generations.‘ It is so important that we pass on without a blemish our inheritance of body and brain and, if you please, faith and virtue untarnished to the generations who will come after us.

You young men and you young women, most of you will marry and have children. Your children will have children, as will the children who come after them. Life is a great chain of generations that we in the Church believe must be linked together. I fear there will be some broken links. Do not let yourself become such, I pray.

Stay close to the Church. Stay close all of your lives. It really does not matter where you serve, what office you fill. There is no small or unimportant duty in this Church and in the kingdom of God. (Source; emphasis added).

As we build upon the foundation of Christ, I too pray that we are not weak links in the chain of the ages; I pray that we are not weak stones in the building of the Kingdom of God. We must stay close to the Lord and His gospel. As we strive to keep the commandments, the Savior will be a starting block rather than a stumbling block unto us. We can build our spiritual houses upon the rock of Christ, our sure foundation.

Link to part 5 of this essay.

A Sure Foundation, Part 5

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Our chief corner stone gave some of His authority and power to us to help us be able to return home. “Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live” (D&C; 84:20-22). Without the ordinances of the priesthood, we cannot return and remain in the presence of God. The priesthood ordinances culminate in the temple, which buildings have sure foundations and strong corner stones. Temples are houses of the Lord and symbolic of Him. They are the places where we can firmly anchor ourselves to the Savior. Temples are places where we can learn of the Savior’s great care for us; we who are His fruit in the vineyard.

Temples provide a foundation for us, connecting earth and heaven. They are places of holiness where we can suspend our worries, concerns, and cares of this life and focus on eternal things. Pres. Ezra Taft Benson asked these questions about temple worship: “Do we periodically participate in all of the temple ordinances and thus receive the full blessings of vicarious work for our ancestors? Do we return to the temple often to receive the personal blessings that come from regular temple worship? Prayers are answered, revelation occurs, and instruction by the Spirit takes place in the holy temples of the Lord” (May 1988 Ensign). Temples and temple worship should be a foundation in our lives.

In April 1993, Pres. Thomas S. Monson spoke in General Conference about the temple and its importance in our lives:

“On another occasion, President Benson instructed us: ‘Sometimes in the peace of lovely temples, the serious problems of life find their solutions. [At times] pure knowledge flows to us there under the influence of the Spirit.’ Said he: ‘I am grateful to the Lord for temples. The blessings of the House of the Lord are eternal. They are of the highest importance to us because it is in the temples that we obtain God’s greatest blessings pertaining to eternal life. Temples really are the gateways to heaven.’ He said: ‘May we remember always, as we [visit and work in these glorious temples], that the veil may become very thin between this world and the spirit world. I know this is true.’ He declared, ‘It is well also that we keep in mind that it is all one great program on both sides of the veil and it is not too important whether we serve here or over there, as long as we serve with all our heart, might, mind, and strength.'”

Link to part 4 of this essay.

A Sure Foundation, Part 4

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Now back to Jacob. He asks, “How is it possible that these, after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may be the head of their corner?” (Jacob 4:17). Jacob then begins what is one of the most important, far-reaching, and deep sermons in all of scripture. He answers his question by sharing an extended allegory (originally given by a prophet named Zenos) about a grove of olive trees.

In this allegory, the most touching message is about the care of the Lord of the vineyard. When the Lord of the vineyard found out that all the fruit had become corrupt and all the olive trees wild, “It came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard wept, and said unto the servant: What could I have done more for my vineyard?” (Jacob 5:41). The Lord wept. Jesus wept. He has such great compassion and love for the vineyard – the House of Israel (and everyone else) – that He personally works in the vineyard. The Lord has servants helping him but he is out there working too. He toils and labors and sweats and cries. In the allegory the Lord of the vineyard gave His all, but the trees grew wild and the fruit had corrupted. It didn’t grow corrupt from a lack of caring. Jacob 5 is one of the most beautiful chapters in all scripture. In it we learn just how involved our chief corner stone is in our lives; how tenderly he cares for us and how anguished he feels about the corruption in the vineyard. He is not lifeless and cold and hard as other stones, He is a living stone, a warm but immovable foundation. Just as the Lord caused waters to flow from the rock for Moses and the house of Israel, a fountain of living waters flows from the living rock, which is Christ.

The Lord promises great and beautiful things to the faithful: “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted! Behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones…thou shalt be far form oppression for thou shalt not fear, and from terror for it shall not come near thee” (3 Ne. 22:11-12,14). What beautiful promises from Him who is our one sure foundation!

If the Savior is our anchor and our foundation, can we move, do we have a goal? Do we attach ourselves to that anchor and sit and stagnate? Do we act like we are stuck in the tar pit of life, never moving, never going anywhere? No! We build upon the corner stone and the foundation of prophets and apostles. The earthly and spiritual house we build upon them reaches heavenward. We reach heavenward towards our eternal home. We move, we progress, we grow. The foundation the Savior provides allows us to return back into the presence of the Father. That is our goal, that is our purpose here on earth – to try to live so that we, through the grace of Christ, are able to return to live with our Father in Heaven.

Link to part 3 of this essay.

A Sure Foundation, Part 3

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Before the vicissitudes and storms of life come upon you, it is important to be built upon a sure foundation. The Savior taught, “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock” (Luke 6:48). When the rains and storms come, it is too late to build your house upon the rock; it needs to be done before the storms hit. When the rains and floods came in Noah’s day, it was too late for the people to start building their own arks. When the time for performance has come, the time for preparation has passed.

I’ll return to a scripture I quoted earlier. “And now I, Jacob, am led on by the Spirit unto prophesying; for I perceive by the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation” (Jacob 4:15). Jacob continues, setting up his next great lesson, which is found in Jacob 5: “But behold, according to the scriptures, this stone shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build. And now, my beloved, how is it possible that these, after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner?” (Jacob 4:16-17).

Before I provide Jacob’s answer to that question I want to mention a couple things. The stone that Jacob writes about is the great, the last, and the only sure foundation that the Jews and that any of us can build upon. We live in a tumultuous time. Not only is marriage under attack by high divorce rates, cohabitation, and children born out of wedlock, but now it is under attack by those who would seek to redefine what constitutes a marriage. Friends strive against friends – there is hatred all around. People talk of justice, rights, fairness, and acceptance yet ignore and fight morality, religion, and God. The cacophony of clamoring voices is great; this “progressive” symphony of dissonance and din is full of nothing but tinkling cymbals and sounding brass (see 1 Cor. 13:1). Through the tumult, the confusion, and the strife, there is a single clarion call – a call to the one sure way, one sure foundation, and one sure stone! This stone is like a light bursting through the darkness, like the stones made by the brother of Jared that shone with the light of the Lord. This stone is the light of the First Vision, rending through the darkness of the ages, anchoring humankind to their sure foundation. We must never let go of this stone – our True Anchor – even though mobs may assemble and calumny may defame (see History of the Church, 4:540).

Link to part 2 of this essay.

A Sure Foundation, Part 2

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The Apostle Peter, whose name means “small rock,” wrote about this theme of the Savior as a foundation for the righteous and a stumbling stone for the wicked: “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence [sic], even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (1 Pet. 2:6-8).

For the believers, the Lord is a sure foundation. He is a starting block on the pathway of faith to eternal life. But to the unbelieving and the wicked he is a stumbling block. Instead of gaining great momentum, the wicked trip over the Corner Stone and His word.

“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:23). How is Christ a stumbling block? In the same way that the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a stumbling block to people. Or, in the same way that Joseph Smith or the Word of Wisdom or tithing can be stumbling blocks. Sometimes people stumble over not having tangible proof of the gospel; they want proof and a sign. As a missionary I met a man who told me who told me, “I’d believe all this about the Book of Mormon if I could just see the gold plates with my own eyes, or if I could see an angel.” He wanted proof that what we were teaching him was true. However, there is an easy way to obtain proof – pray and ask God for the truth (see Moroni 10:3-5). This experience with this man taught me another important truth; the Lord taught that a “wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Matt. 12:39). It turned out that this man had three children with a woman whom he had never married. They were living together but were not married. Was he an adulterer in the strict sense of the word? I don’t know, but he was “living in sin” as the saying goes.

What does it mean for Christ to be our Corner Stone? Elder Holland explained one role of the Savior,

“In the words of esteemed New Testament scholar N. T. Wright, ‘The risen Jesus, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, does not say, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth is given to the books you are all going to write,’ but [rather] ‘All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me.’ In other words, ‘Scripture itself points…away from itself and to the fact that final and true authority belongs to God himself.’ So the scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge for Latter-day Saints. They are manifestations of the ultimate source. The ultimate source of knowledge and authority for a Latter-day Saint is the living God. The communication of those gifts comes from God as living, vibrant, divine revelation.” (Elder Holland, Ensign, May 2008).

Christ is the ultimate source of knowledge and truth. The is the source of authority for us as Latter-day Saints. He is the foundation upon which we build.

Link to part 1 of this essay.

A Sure Foundation, Part 1

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“Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isa. 28:16).

When LDS temples are built, we hold a ceremony to commemorate the laying of the corner stones. These stones are part of the foundation of the buildings and are some of the most important. They bear much weight and make sure the foundation is sure and aligned. Temple corner stones represent the Savior, who is our One Sure Stone. He is the Way and the foundation of our faith. He was tried with the refiner’s fire and remained strong and pure; He is the source of strength and purity. The Lord is our precious Corner Stone.

The Apostle Paul taught of the importance of building on the foundation of the Savior and the prophets and apostles: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:19-20). Without prophets and apostles, the Lord’s church crumbles and collapses, as it did following the death of the Savior and His apostles. He is the Chief Corner Stone but without the other stones in the foundation, the Church cannot stand.

Sometimes the Corner Stone is a stumbling block for people. “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (2 Ne. 18:14).

The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob expanded on this message: “And now I, Jacob, am led on by the Spirit unto prophesying; for I perceive by the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation” (Jacob 4:15). The Savior tried to provide the Jews with a sure foundation – with safety – but they rejected that Stone and tried to grind Him down.