Ephemeral Beauty and Eternal Beauty

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There is a harsh set of scriptures in 2 Nephi 13 (Isaiah 3) that stood out to me as I read them recently:

“Moreover, the Lord saith: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet—Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments, and cauls, and round tires like the moon; The chains and the bracelets, and the mufflers; The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the ear-rings; The rings, and nose jewels; The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping-pins; The glasses, and the fine linen, and hoods, and the veils. And it shall come to pass, instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle, a rent; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth; burning instead of beauty.” (2 Nephi 13:16-24)

If these verses are not applicable today, I’m not sure what in the scriptures is applicable to us. We have a world in which many live and die according to fashion. We place a premium on outward appearance – not that there is anything wrong with looking beautiful or handsome or taking care of our bodies; in fact, those can be important. What is condemned by Isaiah in these verses is covenant women placing external beauty above that of internal beauty, being “haughty, and walk[ing] with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes.”

What happens when the time comes that “the Lord take[s] away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments“? Is there bravery left without makeup and fancy clothes and accessories? Is self-worth tied to external looks? What happens when an accident disfigures or the aging process strips away some of the beauty of youth? Can the world still be faced with bravery? Do we merely have ephemeral beauty or do we have eternal beauty?

One of the problems with basing our self-worth upon the evanescence of fashion is that it is a changeable and weak foundation. It cannot and will not last. Eternal beauty is unchanging and lasting. Those who have true inner beauty, while they might or might not be physically lovely, recognize their value in the eyes of God. They understand that true beauty comes from goodness. True beauty comes from righteous living. Someone who understands her relationship to her Eternal Father, the Living God, faces life with confidence and with a bravery that does not come from fashion accessories; she faces life with a bravery that comes from the radiance of the Holy Ghost.

There is nothing more beautiful than one filled with the Spirit of God. Whether or not we are blessed with physical comeliness in this life, if we hold true to the gospel, we will be truly lovely, radiant beings in the life to come. We will be filled with God’s Spirit and power. Then, we will be truly, eternally beautiful both physically and spiritually.

Wretched, Miserable, Poor, Blind, and Naked

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14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue [from the Greek vomit] thee out of my mouth.

17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Rev. 3:14-22).

John covered a lot of doctrine in these verses. I want to focus mainly on verses 17 and 18: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”

The church members in Laodicea were prideful. They believed they were wealthy because they had worldly riches. They are oblivious to the fact that they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. How can they [we] not know that they are wretched?

The prophet Alma taught his son: “Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness. And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.” (Alma 41:10-11).

When we are doing things that are contrary to the nature of God, when we are not striving to like a godly life, we are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness. We cannot be happy, at least not truly happy. It is simply not possible. Now, we might lack insight about our unhappiness but we, in our sinful states, are unhappy all the same. The converse of this is not true – not all sorrow or unhappiness or depression is caused by sin – but if we believe the scriptures, we know that those who sin (particularly if they are not sinning in ignorance) are living in a state contrary to the nature of happiness and are wretched and miserable.

What does all this have to do with the Laodiceans and their worldly wealth? The prophet Moroni watched his civilization crumble because of wickedness. He watched culture and religion decay into wildness and anarchy. Why did this happen? Pride. “And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” (Moroni 8:36-37).

We learn in the New Testament a similar connection between pride, money, and wickedness: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” (1 Timothy 6:10-11).

The cure for this cancer of pride and wickedness is to flee from the love of money. We must flee from pride just as Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife. We do not just run away, we run towards Christ and His Atonement; we run from evil towards good. That is the only way to avoid being “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” even if we have worldly wealth. Sin blinds us to our condition. We, as I wrote earlier, in our sinful states do not realize that we are blind. We follow blind guides instead of reaching for Christ, who can heal our blindness. Those who repent, those who follow Christ will overcome the world just as He overcame the world. Those who are righteous will be able to sit with Christ in His throne, which is His Father’s throne. Those who overcome can become like Christ and inherit what He has inherited. Do we sell this eternal inheritance for a worldly bauble? Do we give up a throne for a minute of amusement?  The only true and happy way is through Christ.

The Beast in the Shadow

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This post is something I wrote for a political blog I (infrequently) write. I am posting it here with only slight edits because of the our recent holiday – Thanksgiving – and the juxtaposition with the consumerism of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the “holiday shopping.” Today in our secular world, holy-days are little more than vacations from work. While family and giving are generally important, there is a huge focus on money and consumerism and other worldly things. Now, this is not necessarily bad but when our main focus becomes money and stuff, we have lost sight of what really is important, even if that money and stuff ostensibly is for our family. And so, here is my post. It is considerably more economic and political than typical posts on this blog but I feel it is am important topic; additionally, I have kept it as neutral politically and economically as possible. This post has influences from Hugh Nibley’s Approaching Zion, in which Nibley is very critical of consumerism.

I have very mixed feelings about Black Friday. On one hand I enjoy finding good deals on things. When I can purchase items for significantly less than their actual retail value, I always have a feeling of satisfaction. While I like to buy frivolous things sometimes, I also enjoy finding deals on everyday items – toothpaste, toilet paper, diapers, and so forth. I’m also a believer in many of the tenets of capitalism and consumerism, although I certainly don’t canonize those beliefs. I save money but I also believe that money is more useful when it is spent. Spending money directly on services or goods benefits both buyer and seller. On a macro level, money has to be spent to grow an economy. The old mantra of business – you have to spend money to make money – is true (generally and within the realm of legitimate business operations; there are those who illegally {or even legally} prey on others and unethically profit with little or no effort on their part).

I enjoy finding deals on Black Friday. I also don’t mind doing my part to help businesses become profitable and to stimulate the economy in my own little way; after all, businesses employ people and provide goods and services. All savings without any spending does not help the broader economy. Saving money for retirement, unexpected expenses, expected expenses, and so forth is necessary but saving all your money and spending only the bare minimum might not be in the best interest of the broader economy. That is, unless you do not make enough money to afford any of your wants beyond your basic needs. The problem is that so many of us have our needs and wants mixed up.

Image by hradcanska: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hradcanska/2361030629/

Then there is the other part of me that dislikes the barely suppressed or outright greed that is rampant on Black Friday. Black Friday is the paragon of consumerism, it is when many people openly and gaudily worship at the altars of Mammon by selling their messes of pottage for trinkets and trivialities. Occasionally in the pursuit of such idle pleasures and worldly possessions, a streak of egocentrism with apathy and violence towards the Other is revealed. How abhorrent that some people are so callous that their desire to consume results in the extinguishment of a human life! Yet, all is not gloomy. I witnessed kindness while shopping – people sharing a deal or helping others. Even those who were not Other-focused were patient and civil. The extremes just capture our attention. While violence that is performed by the hands (or feet) of the worshipers of Mammon is relatively rare, it reveals a dark and vicious beast lurking in the shadows of consumerism.

Another disconcerting aspect of Black Friday and the holiday season in general is the commercialization of it. Everything is about spending money and buying the fanciest toys for children, friends, family, and loved ones. Many people go into significant debt during this time of the year. According to one article, “One survey suggests that while 30% of Americans pay off Christmas debt within three months of Christmas, another 25% carry it for over a year” (Source). 25% are paying off Christmas debt until the following Christmas! And some people wonder why the U.S. government has a spending problem. How can we expect fiscal responsibility from Congress when we are not a fiscally-sound people? This whole holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day has become one big spending spree. Much of the original meanings of those holidays has been lost to the constant stream of consumerism (the recent mortgage crisis is also evidence of this).

With all the focus on consuming, it’s no wonder our country also faces an obesity epidemic. The two – irresponsible spending and eating – go hand in hand. We are a country of extremes and impulsivity. The shadow beast of consumerism is greed. It has claws of irresponsibility and fangs of self-centeredness. It preys upon all who stand in its way; in the end, the beast eventually turns on its owner and consumes him. We need to have moderation and responsibility of our personal habits if we hope to tame or slay this beast. We also have to gain control over our personal lives and habits if we expect to have a more fiscally-responsible government. We cannot afford to live beyond our means.

While it is appropriate to go into debt to purchase a house or a modest (and needed) car or to finance an education, we should not go into debt for other reasons. Elder Wirthlin cautioned against going into debt in the April 2004 General Conference:

“I would like to talk about our heavenly debts and earthly debts. The Gospels record that nearly everywhere the Savior went, He was surrounded by multitudes of people. Some hoped that He would heal them; others came to hear Him speak. Others came for practical advice. Toward the end of His mortal ministry, some came to mock and ridicule Him and to clamor for His crucifixion.

“One day a man approached the Savior and asked Him to intervene in a family dispute. ‘Master, speak to my brother,’ he pleaded, ‘that he divide the inheritance with me.’

“The Savior refused to take sides on this issue, but He did teach an important lesson. ‘Beware of covetousness,’ He told him, ‘for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.’1

“Brothers and sisters, beware of covetousness. It is one of the great afflictions of these latter days. It creates greed and resentment. Often it leads to bondage, heartbreak, and crushing, grinding debt.

“The number of marriages that have been shattered over money issues is staggering. The amount of heartbreak is great. The stress that comes from worry over money has burdened families, caused sickness, depression, and even premature death.”

Elder Wirthlin also quoted Pres. Heber J. Grant: “From my earliest recollections, from the days of Brigham Young until now, I have listened to men standing in the pulpit … urging the people not to run into debt; and I believe that the great majority of all our troubles today is caused through the failure to carry out that counsel.”

Finances strain most people. We shouldn’t allow poor decisions to result in severe strain. To avoid debt, Elder Wirthlin suggested these strategies:

  1. Pay your tithing [I will not discuss this here but this is an absolute must!]
  2. Spend less than you earn
  3. Learn to save
  4. Honor your financial obligations
  5. Teach you children to follow your example

I will not discuss these more right now, Elder Wirthlin covered them well in his talk. I just want to add that we should not only avoid debt but we should also avoid what usually causes debt – greed and pride. I know there are extenuating circumstances – loss of a job, emergencies, and tragedies – but those are more rare than not. When we love money, we worship it instead of God. We should not give home to the shadow beast of greed.

If you are struggling with debt, the Church has many resources available to help you work your way out.

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.

The Hollow Hedonism of Pride

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Pride is ultimately manifest by and in Satan. Lucifer, or “the Shining One” was truly a “son of the morning (2 Ne. 24:12). After his fall from heaven, that son of the morning became the prince of darkness and the father of mourning. Of those who follow Satan it is said, “Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them” (Moses 7:37). We gain some insight into why Lucifer fell from Heaven in the writings of Isaiah. Speaking of Lucifer, “For thou hast said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…” Who are these stars? They are us! “I will sit also upon the [mountain of the assembly of the gods], in the [farthest north heaven]; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (2 Ne. 24:13-14). Satan said, “I want this, I want that.” This is a very selfish and prideful mindset. He wanted to be above all; he wanted God’s glory without any effort.

Because of this God said, “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the [depth] of the pit” (2 Ne. 24:15). For, “the proud and lofty, and…every one who is lifted up…shall be brought low” (2 Ne. 12:12). An apostle stated, “One way or another, the grossly selfish will finally be shattered, whimpering, against the jagged, concrete consequences of their selfishness” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1999, p.25). As a result of his pride, that Shining One became degenerate like an “abominable branch” (2 Ne. 24:19) without root or fruit; yea, he became even “as a carcass trodden under feet” (2 Ne. 24:19). Those who walk a prideful path will find that instead of leading to celestial peaks, it leads only to the dark depths of the pit. The lives of those who follow the tempter’s travesty of the truth, end up in tragedy.

What then is pride? “It is an attitude that commences with personal comparisons with others and leads to demeaning thought or oppressive actions directed at other sons and daughters of God” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Pure in Heart”, p.96). Pride is as C. S. Lewis said, “the complete anti-God state of mind.” God is “immeasurably superior” to us and “unless [we] know God as that – and, therefore, know [ourselves] as nothing in comparison – [we] do not know God at all. As long as [we] are looking down, [we] cannot see something that is above [us]” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp.109-111). Proud men or women “preach and set themselves up fro a light unto the world” (2 Ne. 26:29). “They put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain” (2 Ne. 26:20). Pride is the great stumbling block. When men walk by the light of the sparks of their own conceit, their lives are full of shadows of darkness (see 2 Ne. 7:11). Christ is the true light of the world and when men walk by the light of any other source, their light grows dim and soon dies out. The proud who set themselves up as lights unto others, only set themselves up to become lost in the tepid mists of darkness. Since pride is self-centered selfishness that is also competitive, those who engage in this hollow hedonism will never focus on the true source of edification, which source is Christ. Those who seek to compete with God will never succeed. Their end will be a pitiful brokenness.

The natural man is a prideful creature, thus, steps must be taken to overcome this great sin called pride. The road one must walk to leave the valley of pride is not an easy path; it is an uphill journey but it leads to the exalted heights of eternal life. Overcoming pride is accomplished by humbly following Christ, even if and especially if that means treading the thorny paths that He forged. As we follow Christ we too need to take up our crosses. We must submit ourselves to our Father’s will, even to the point of crawling forward on our knees. King Benjamin taught, “And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you” (Mosiah 2:25). This is an important point to focus on. King Benjamin stated that we are less than the dust of the earth because the dust of the earth belongs to God. We are here on earth to show that we are willing to turn ourselves over completely to God. Christ ransomed us for Him but we must submit our wills to God’s, else we do not belong to Him and, as Benjamin taught, in a sense really are less than the dust of the earth. Joseph Smith taught us that the earth “abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law” (D&C; 88:25). The earth lives a celestial law, do we?

Those who do not humbly follow Christ are “in open rebellion against God” (Mosiah 2:37) for “no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon” (Matt. 6:24). He or she who is prideful and unrepentant is not following Jesus Christ and therefore serves the devil. Of these people the Lord stated, “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall” (D&C; 1:16).

Overcoming pride is essential to our eternal salvation. We cannot trust in the arm of the flesh because flesh is dust and corruptible and must waste away. God will never fail us. He is there as we seek Him. We must pray for humility. We need to repent of our prideful ways and turn our hearts completely to Christ. This is a complete submission of our wills to God’s. Only with the power of the Holy Ghost can we create this vast change within ourselves! I was not completely correct with my statement. Only the power of God, of the Holy Ghost, and of Christ’s Atonement can make this change within ourselves. However, we need to demonstrate effort. The Holy Ghost will teach us how to humbly follow Christ and submit our wills to God’s.

Great power, even greater faith, comes to us as we are humble. With humility and faith we can work miracles. The greatest miracle will be to change from the old man of sin and be reborn as a new creature in Christ. As we are humble we may be instruments in the Lord’s hands. The more humble we are, the more effective we may be. I pray that we may strive to live in humility and take upon us the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lucifer’s Insidious Plan – Part 3

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Heavenly Father chose Jehovah. In response, Lucifer rebelled. Many rebelled with him. But the majority of spirits did not join with Lucifer; they understood his lies. They saw through his orations and discerned his pride. However, those who followed Satan fought hard for his plan; Lucifer drew the support of one third part of the hosts of heaven (see D&C; 29:36). Heavenly Father let Lucifer fight and gain supporters because He could not take away His children’s agency. He would not force them to follow His plan. Michael led God’s armies to victory and Heavenly Father cast Satan out of heaven and down to the earth through the power of His Beloved Son (see Moses 4:3). Lucifer became Satan and the heavens wept over him. God wept over Lucifer’s fall; all wept for him and those who followed him. He had been a choice spirit but instead chose the path to perdition. His path left him nothing more than spirit. He is bitter about the loss of glory but he is still prideful; he wants to draw away as many children of God as will follow him.

Satan continues to wage his war against the Savior and all of God’s children. He wants to deny us what he was denied – the opportunity to return to live with God again. The war he commenced in heaven continues today. Satan’s prophets preach sermons that are merely gaudy imitations of godly principles. They preach relativism, hedonism, and humanism. They build false temples and gain faithful followers. His disciples buy up power and influence with the riches of the earth and with promises of happiness. Any happiness or mirth that comes from living as a citizen of Babylon is ephemeral. His followers prance about in gaudy clothing, walking with a mincing step (see Isaiah 3:16), and speaking with tongues of tinkling cymbals and sounding brass (1 Corinthians 13:1). They compass themselves with sparks, thinking they are the lights of the world (see Isaiah 50:11 and 2 Ne. 7:11). Yet their evanescent sparks will sputter and die. Some of Satan’s followers even preach his gospel while denying his existence. They create whitewashed facades to hide their inner decay. Instead of being filled with truth and light, they are filled with dead men’s rotten bones. Satan’s lies are so insidious yet so appealing, that many do not realize the deleterious effects of heeding them. Those ensnared by Satan’s deceptions often, like the anti-Christ Sherem who stated at the end of his life that “he had been deceived by the power of the devil” (Jacob 7:18), do not know that they are living his plan of damnation and not the Lord’s plan of progression. Satan lives a plan of misery and desires all of us to forget and stop following the plan of happiness.

We should use our agency to reject Satan’s plan of misery. We need to cleave to the good and reject that which is bad. We need to clasp the iron rod and ignore the scorn of those dwelling in Satan’s architectural marvel – the great and spacious building – even as beautiful or impressive an edifice it might be. It was built by the master of pride, and like Lucifer, will have an exceedingly great fall. The time is now to choose to endure to the end where we partake eternally of the sweet fruit of the tree of life and where we will be forever clasped in the loving embrace of the Savior through His atoning blood.

We must press on keeping the encouragement of the Prophet Joseph in our minds: “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren [and sisters]; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free. Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons [and daughters] of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!” (D&C; 128:22-23).

As we fight on in righteousness we will be victorious! We can, and will, win the war that was started in the pre-earth life. In righteousness we will stand victorious, surrounded by the army of the archangel Michael, and be reunited with our Eternal Father in a world of endless light and love.

Lucifer’s Insidious Plan – Part 2

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The day came for an official presentation of the plan of salvation. God had prepared His plan from the beginning; I believe that many and even all of His spirit children already knew the plan but God needed to give His children the opportunity to accept it or reject it. He needed to let Jehovah exercise His agency and publicly propose and accept His role in the plan. Our Father also wanted to allow Lucifer to exercise his agency and put forth his own plan. A great conference was called in Heaven; we all gathered there as siblings, friends, and families. We waited in eager anticipation for the announcement of the next step in our eternal progression. Heavenly Father explained to us the Plan of Salvation and called for a Savior. Jehovah stepped forward and said he would go in accordance with His Father’s will and that the entire honor would go to the Father. This was the plan we knew and accepted. Many shouted for joy at the prospect of coming to earth (see Job 38:7). Not all were thrilled though. Then Lucifer stepped forward and revealed his plan.

Some likely knew portions of his plan but he had not let his plan be widely known – he waited for the right moment to present what he deemed a superior plan to his Father’s. What was his plan? It was similar to the Father’s plan but with insidious differences. With all the power and persuasion of his rehearsed oration, he began to unfold his plan. “I propose that we will send everyone to earth to receive a body. However, I will be the Savior.” Murmurs arose from the crowd. “Lucifer will be our Savior?”

He continued his speech, “But only on one condition – we will require everyone to be good. We will make sure everyone makes only good choices. Then they will not sin and they can return to live with Father. We will make sure everyone makes it back to heaven. With my illustrious plan there will be no suffering, no sin, and no sorrow. Everyone will be perfect. All will live in Heaven on earth and be as Zion. We will not lose any to the dredges of sin or the pain of despair! I will save all my brothers and sisters; I will exalt them!” People started nodding in approval. “Lucifer’s plan sounds fair. It sounds good to me.” Others saw his plan for what it was: “If everyone will be forced to be perfect, then we don’t need a Savior. Satan wants to usurp Jehovah without actually doing anything!”

As Lucifer listened to some express their approval, he smirked. He knew something those who liked his proposal did not know; some understood Satan’s motives instantly. Satan knew the fatal flaw of his plan but he was not going to tell anyone. The flaw in Satan’s plan was that no one would be able to return to Heavenly Father’s presence. Without agency and thus a time of testing, God’s children could not make the required growth that would enable them to be like their Father. All Lucifer wanted was Heavenly Father’s honor (D&C; 29:36), in fact he demanded all of Heavenly Father’s honor.

That was the most insidious part of Lucifer’s plan – he knew that his plan would not work; he knew it would relegate all of God’s children to eternal damnation. However, he believed he could be granted God’s power through his plan; that only shows that he did not fully understand the process and nature of exaltation. Why did Lucifer desire to take what he deemed to be the easy road to exaltation? Satan might have been frightened of what earth life entailed. He wanted the easy way out. He wanted the reward (and all of the reward) without any effort. In what would have been the most selfish act in eternity, Lucifer was willing to sacrifice the eternal progression and eternal lives of all of his brothers and sisters, just so he could be like God. Ironically, Satan’s plan that would deny people their agency resulted from him exercising his agency. God allowed the presentation of this plan because agency is an eternal principle. In his perversity and knowing that agency was essential for people to become like Heavenly Father, Satan proposed a plan that removed agency—only he would reap agency’s benefits while all of God’s other children would be denied its blessings. Lucifer wanted to usurp Jehovah’s role as God through divine investiture of authority. While his plan might have started out innocently in the beginning, it was not innocent in the end.

Lucifer’s Insidious Plan – Part 1

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Let me tell you the story of one of the most tragic characters in all of the scriptures. This story begins many years ago in a premortal world of light and truth. This is the tragic tale of a bringer of light, a shining one, even a son of the morning. This essay is quite different from anything I’ve previously posted on my blog. It’s part doctrinal, part speculative, and part dramatized. As such, please forgive the literary license I take in the story. While I believe my interpretation of the root cause of the tragedy is sound, some of the ascribed thoughts and feelings are included to flesh out the character of the antagonist – who happens to be the main character of this story. Again, this means that much of this is my opinion and certainly is not doctrinal, although I do not think it is far-fetched.

Lucifer was one of the bright stars in heaven; he was likely one of our Father’s choicest sons – someone of great intelligence and faith. He was there when the “morning stars sang together” (Job 38:7). He was not evil in the beginning, his path to depravity began small and potentially innocently but it soon became overgrown with thorns and thistles. How did he become the devil, an enemy to the Savior forever (see D&C; 76:25)? As with all sin, I believe Lucifer’s fall started with pride.

The Savior was the firstborn of the Father. He was chosen from the beginning for his role as Savior and Lord. He was the most intelligent and truest of all His Father’s children. By divine investiture of authority from His Father, Jehovah had authority to act fully in place of the Father. When the discussion started concerning going to an earth and gaining physical bodies, the Savior was there to support His Father’s plan. At first, Lucifer might have thought that the plan of salvation was good. It made sense. But then he started thinking that it left too much room for error, it seemed too hard. “Hey, that is not fair! How could Father’s plan be fair if some of His children would never return to His presence?”

Lucifer knew, as did we all, that eventually we could become like our Heavenly Father – in character, in attributes, in authority, and in power. Knowing he could be like Father made him feel good. He knew of the power and authority that would come in time and he liked the idea. However, he began to be impatient – he couldn’t wait that long. He might have asked himself, “Why cannot Father give me His power now? Why is He holding me back?” He wanted to be like Heavenly Father now! Even though Lucifer had some authority from God and was in God’s bosom (see D&C; 76:25), he wanted all of God’s authority. Lucifer might have been envious of Jehovah’s relationship and status with the Father. However, He not only wanted that position as favored Son but also he wanted God’s position! Isaiah tells us Lucifer’s thoughts, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (2 Ne. 24:13-14). What a selfish desire! “I will” do this, “I will” do that, “I will exalt myself.” He was puffed up with pride. He thought his expansive pride could exalt him. He wanted to make himself like God and sit on God’s throne.

So Lucifer formulated a plan. He thought it was good. It would, he thought, allow—no, require—all of God’s children to return. So Lucifer started talking to his brothers and sisters, gaining support where he could for his plan. It made sense and it seemed fair. Those who listened to him thought it seemed fair but Lucifer had ulterior motives.

Pride, Part 5

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Pride not only leads to sin, it keeps us from repentance. Isaiah warned, “Wo unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope” (2 Ne. 15: 18). The wicked pull their sins along behind them in cart. Notice how Isaiah described the ropes: “cords of vanity.” People do not cut the ropes – do not repent – because of their vanity, or their pride. Some people are proud of the carts they pull. Others may not repent because without their cart, they feel they might not fit in with the rest of the world. Still others pull invisible carts and are too ashamed to admit they too pull a cart, so they don’t repent.

Those who are able to cut off their sins are promised great blessings: “Behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God…and their joy shall be full forever” (2 Ne. 9:18). The crosses of the world the righteous bear include mocking and scoffing, which is a common pastime of those who dwell in the great and spacious building. The righteous despise the shame of the crosses of the world, meaning that they do not heed the mocking and derision; they humbly go on their way, following the Savior’s footsteps, even if they lead up a lonely Calvary. The righteous know there is no shame in following the Savior. The righteous receive the promise that they will return to dwell with God and have a fullness of joy. I’ve felt a portion of this joy and long for its fullness.

Pride is manifest in many ways. For some, it is not repenting because of feelings of shame. Others don’t repent because they feel unworthy of forgiveness. Pride is also manifest through the desire for worldly things at the expense of the Eternal. It is manifest through our refusal to forgive others or to accept their forgiveness.

[More to come as I finish the essay].

Pride, Part 4

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The proud try to forge their own way and light their own paths. Isaiah stated: “Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand – ye shall lie down in sorrow” (2 Ne. 7:11). When people try to walk by the light of their own conceit, they will always stumble. The light of Christ is perpetual while the sparks of the proud are merely ephemeral. “Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine. The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle shall be put out with him” (Job 18:5-6). The proud do not turn to the Lord for strength. Their sparks are short-lived. The prideful “[turn] out of the way of righteousness, and…trample under their feet the commandments of God, and…turn unto their own ways, and…build up unto themselves idols of their gold and their silver” (Hel. 6:31). Turning to another analogy from Isaiah, “shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?” (2 Ne. 20:15). We axes and saws have no reason to boast. The Book of Mormon king Benjamin spoke much on that subject: “Of what have ye to boast? And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you” (Mosiah 2:24-25).

Another facet of pride causes us to be focused inwardly on ourselves. Those who are prideful do sometimes turn their thoughts outward. However, when the prideful turn outward they merely look down their noses at others, seeing only the worst in others while viewing themselves as better than those around them. Pres. Benson stated: “Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right. Pride is manifest in the spirit of contention” (Ensign, May 1986, p.4-). Pride is not about having things or talents or money, it’s about having more than others and making sure they know that. C.S. Lewis explained this concept: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10; as cited in Benson, Ensign, May 1989, p.4-). There is a condition called anosognosia that is occasionally occurs after brain injury or in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Anosognosia literally means without knowledge of disease. People with this condition are not aware of their deficits and usually deny any problems. Specific areas and connections in their brains are damaged, destroying the ability for them to have that self-insight, or self-awareness of their deficits. The proud have a similar problem. They cannot see their faults or their sins. They deny any problems and only see faults in others. However, unlike those with anosognosia, the proud do not have an excuse for their lack of self-awareness – it is a choice they make.