Bible Videos in Preparation for Easter

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been releasing a series of brief videos covering the last period of Christ’s mortal ministry (they will release many more videos in the future covering more of His life and teachings). All the videos the Church has released or will release are available on BibleVideos.org. Each video is professionally but simply and powerfully done, sticking to the King James Version text from the Gospels. I’ll post the videos in temporal order.

Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

The Last Supper

Jesus Warns Peter and Offers the Intercessory Prayer

The Savior Suffers in Gethsemane (click to visit the page, I cannot embed the video yet).

Jesus is Tried by Caiaphas, Peter Denies Knowing Him.

There will be four more videos released before Easter; I’ll post those once they are up.

The Great Heresy

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One of the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that seems to offend the most people is one of the most amazing doctrines of the LDS Church. While there is plenty of Biblical support for the doctrine, it is most clear in the teachings of modern-day prophets. But first, let me tell a parable.

Many years ago there lived two kings. Both were goodly kings but both had differing styles of ruling. The first king had a large family and was growing old. Before he died he wanted to pass on his kingdom. His oldest son was a wise and just man who was ever faithful to the commands of his father. He was the obvious choice to inherit the kingdom. The king, however, loved all his children and wanted all to give them the same opportunities that the oldest son had. So the old king gathered his children together and proposed a plan. He told his children that if each of them could demonstrate their loyalty to him, like the oldest son had, then they each would inherit a kingdom. “I will give you everything that I have. I will even give unto you my title,” he told them. “We will expand the kingdom and give each of you a part equal to mine. There is plenty of space outside the bounds of my kingdom, enough space to support a kingdom for each of you. Because I love all of you, my sons and daughters, I want you to become like I am.” Some of the children made poor choices, lost their kingdoms, and were cast out; others were faithful and inherited their kingdoms. To this loving king, each child was precious and each could inherit what he had and become like him.

The second king was also a goodly man. He grew old and wanted to pass on his kingdom. However, he decreed that only the eldest child could inherit what he had. He gathered his children together and said, “I know I have called you my sons and daughters; I know that each of you is born in my image. However, only the eldest will inherit what I have. None of you will have what I have; you will be servants to me and to your elder brother. From henceforth you will no longer be sons and daughters; you will all be servants, at least those of you who are faithful to my decrees. Those who do not what I ask will be cast out.”

Is one of these kings more deserving of love? Is it really loving for the second king to keep his children as servants instead of heirs? Are they really their children if they cannot become like him? Now let’s suppose that the king is immortal but still wants to bless his children. The first will allow his children to become like him, the second will not. Which king then, is really good?

As a father I want my children to grow up and have all the opportunities that I had (and more!). Their growth and success will in no way diminish mine. My children are in my image (“my” being inclusive of my wife). They can grow up and become like I am.

If I plant an acorn and nurture it, I expect it to grow into an oak tree. A kitten will grow into a cat, it will not become an okapi or an emu. We are children of God and can grow up and become like Him. We don’t grow up into something else. Our glory will not be like God’s if we are unfaithful, but we at least will be co-eternal with Him. If we are faithful, we have been promised that we can become like Christ, and thus like our Heavenly Father.

This is a doctrine that receives a lot of animosity from many of those who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Why is this? Before I answer that, let’s look at the doctrine a little more closely as found in the scriptures.

There is no shortage of scripture verses both ancient and modern that establish that God is the Father of our spirits. I recognize that LDS doctrine differs from most other churches’ doctrines in the understanding of the nature of our spirits but  that’s only part of this broader doctrine. If God is the Father of our spirits, then we are His children. Father is not used metaphorically. Why would so many of the authors of the scriptures refer to God as our Father if they really did not mean it? I know that was an appeal to the majority fallacy (i.e., X number of people believe this so it must be true) but why, if we are not really God’s children, why is not He referred solely as Creator or Master or Potter or Shaper or Maker or something like that? Why is there the touching familial title of “Father”? Are we nothing more than God’s creations, made just to worship Him? Or, are we really His children with part of Him in us?

Now on to the scriptures.

Deuteronomy 14:1: “Ye are the children of the Lord your God”

Psalm 82:6: “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”

Hosea 1:10: “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.”

Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Acts 17:29: “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”

Romans 8:16-17: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

I want to comment on the verse in Romans. Could it be any more clear? “We are the children of God.” What does this mean? “If children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” This is a simple syllogism.

All humankind are children of God.

All children of God are His heirs.

Therefore, all humankind are heirs of God.

There is a condition set on being an heir, namely, faithfulness to God (“suffer with [Christ]”) but it doesn’t change the simple logic and truth. What is an heir? It is “a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person’s death” (Source). In the case of God, who cannot die, an heir is “a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another upon the bestowal of the property or rank at a set time.” As far as I can tell an heir has always meant that. Further, that particular verse of the New Testament is translated virtually identically across all major, reliable, Biblical translations; “heirs” is always used. There is no other word that describes what is meant. So right there we are told that we can inherit what Christ inherited. Christ is God’s Son and is God; if we can become like Christ, the logical implication is obvious. There is no usurping God’s power and authority, it is all divine investiture of His power and authority.

So, either the authors of the scriptures mean what they wrote, or they didn’t. If we actually are not God’s children, then why are we called His children? If we cannot inherit (notice – not usurp, just inherit; if you have infinity and give away infinity, you still have infinity), then why are we called heirs?

I know that some might argue that it’s not supposed to make sense because our ways are not God’s ways but that is the influence of Greek philosophy into the interpretation of Christian doctrine. We can know God, it was the Greeks who argued otherwise. This belief then crept into Christianity after the death of Christ’s original apostles. We can all know God, just as Christ pleaded in John 17.

So what is the great LDS heresy? We believe that we are spirit children of God and can become like Christ, and thus like our Father. We believe that through Christ’s Atonement we can be purified and then blessed with glory and power like unto Christ’s. We believe that it is God’s nature to bless His children so. For those who still balk at this, let me ask a question, “Does God not have the power to give us power and authority similar to His?” In other words, is God able to allow us to inherit what He has; does He have that power? If not, then is God not all powerful? Which God is more loving, one who makes creatures (us) to worship Him forever, or one who has children who can grow up through Christ’s Atonement and become like Him?

We are God’s children; he loves us and wants us to return to Him. He wants us to live worthily and partake of Christ’s Atonement and become joint heirs with Christ. Is this a great heresy? If it is, it’s one that prophets have taught from Biblical to modern times. Really the great heresy is not that LDS Church doctrine declares the theomorphic nature of humankind but that members of the LDS Church actually believe the doctrines contained in the scriptures.

In Humility, Our Savior

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My current favorite hymn is In Humility, Our Savior. It is a song that resonates sincere worshipfulness of and reverence to the Lord. The melody used in the LDS Hymnal was written by Rowland Pritchard, a Welsh musician. The tune name is Hyfrydol (the Welsh “y” is roughly pronounced as an English “u”; the “f” is a “v”; the whole word sounds something like: huv’rudol), which means “cheerful”. This tune is used for a number of different hymns, one of the most famous is called Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.

These lyrics provide the joyful hopefulness the Hyfrydol tune name implies. The text is by Charles Wesley.

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.

Here is the Mormon Tabernacle performing Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.

However, I think the lyrics of In Humility, Our Savior have a special power when coupled with the melody Hyfrydol. Keep in mind that In Humility, Our Savior is written as a sacrament hymn – a hymn that helps us focus on Jesus and His Atonement as we prepare to partake of the Sacrament. The sacrament is an ordinance designed for us to show our devotion to God. With the sacrament we covenant with God. We covenant to strive for holiness so that the Lord may sanctify us and make us sacred (note that sacrament and sacred have the same root). The bread and water of the sacrament are blessed and made sacred, that is sanctified and set apart unto God, and in turn as we keep the covenants we make with God we are made sacred.

In Humility, Our Savior is a sacrament hymn. It is particularly worshipful of the Lord.

In humility, our Savior,
Grant thy Spirit here, we pray,
As we bless the bread and water
In thy name this holy day.
Let me not forget, O Savior,
Thou didst bleed and die for me
When thy heart was stilled and broken
On the cross at Calvary.

Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving;
Teach us tolerance and love.
Let our prayers find access to thee
In thy holy courts above.
Then, when we have proven worthy
Of thy sacrifice divine,
Lord, let us regain they presence;
Let thy glory round us shine.

I love the last words of the first verse: “Let me not forget, O Savior,/ Thou didst bleed and die for me/ When thy heart was stilled and broken/ On the cross at Calvary.” “Let me not forget, O Savior” we plead as we sing the song. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never, never forget!” The Book of Mormon prophet Helaman pleaded with his sons to always remember Christ:

“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.” (Helaman 5:12)

The next time you hear or sing In Humility, Our Savior, focus not only on the beautiful melody and moving harmonies but also on the words and meaning of the words. Let us never forget the Lord’s sacrifice for us and let us hope with faith for the day when we, having proved ourselves worthy, might regain the Lord’s presence and dwell forevermore with Him.

Lessons from the Brother of Jared

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“16 And the Lord said: Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built. And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did go to work, and also his brethren, and built barges after the manner which they had built, according to the instructions of the Lord. And they were small, and they were light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water.
  17 And they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish.
  18 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me.
  19 And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.
  20 And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood.
  21 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did so, according as the Lord had commanded.” (Ether 2:16-21)

Jared, his brother, and their families left the area near Babel to travel to a promised land. After a long journey over land and water, they camped on a beach. After staying there for a few years, the Lord commanded them to travel across the ocean. The brother of Jared asked how he should make the boats. The Lord told him to make them small and light and “tight like unto a dish”. These boats may or may not have had some sort of sail. They might have been rowed. They might have simply followed the currents of the ocean. In any case, the boats were built well and did not leak. I imagine they were something like a submarine, except they were designed to mainly float on top of the water. There were times, however, when they would be buried in the ocean before bobbing back up to the surface. Because they were water-tight, they were also air-tight. Air holes were constructed in the top and bottom (as the Lord instructed) so that if the boats were covered in water or upside-down, there were at least two holes to try and open to let in air. The hole on the bottom, if opened, would not let water in due to the internal air pressure of the boat. The hole on the top could let in fresh air.

The times would come when the Jaredites would be buried in the darkness of the depths of the sea. They would be without light and seemingly without help. It was of these dark times that the brother of Jared pondered when he approached the Lord in prayer and asked “What shall we do for light when we are buried in the depths of the sea?” The Lord asked the brother of Jared what he thought the solution was. After some thinking and problem solving the brother of Jared came back to the Lord with a solution. I’ll summarize and paraphrase the dialogue. “Here are some stones I created out of molten material. If Thou would but touch them, they could shine forth with Thy light.” The Lord then touched the stones with His finger and they lighted. The brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord and was surprised by the Lord’s appearance. Once the Lord taught the brother of Jared about the nature of His spirit body, the brother of Jared asked to see all of the Savior – for the Lord Jehovah is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Then the Savior appeared to him (see Ether 3).

There are some important lessons for us in these stories of the Jaredites. Like the Jaredites, there will be times in our lives when we will be buried in the depths of the seas, so to speak. We will feel lost, alone, scared, and in the dark. At such times, we can remember the story of the Jaredites and how the brother of Jared was blessed by God with a solution. The brother of Jared was able to come up with his own solution to the light problem but the solution still required to miraculous power of the Lord. God provides us with power to overcome the darkness in our lives.

One other lesson we can learn from this story is that the brother of Jared first had to see the hand (finger) of the Lord in His life in order to receive a greater manifestation of the Savior’s power and presence. Once the brother of Jared saw and comprehended the hand of the Lord in his life, he was blessed with greater light and knowledge from the Lord. He was blessed with one of the greatest of all blessings – to stand in the presence of the Lord and be taught by Him. Once we recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives, we can be blessed with greater knowledge of the Lord; maybe we will not actually see Him, but we will be able to feel of His power and love. As we are caught up in the depths, over our heads in life, if we see and recognize and acknowledge the hand of the Lord in our lives, we will be blessed by the Lord and protected through the stormy seas and darkness of life.

The Sacrament – Part 1

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There are many symbols on earth. Letters, words, and phrases symbolize everything from simple ideas to complex concepts. We have symbols for elements and molecules, such as water (pictured to the right). We have symbols for music. We have symbols for most physical and many non-physical things.

The Old Testament is replete with symbols of the Savior. Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Circumcision was performed as symbolic of the covenant between God and man. Moses lifted up a serpent upon a staff to provide healing to those Israelites who would look and live. Mosaic law required the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb in order to atone for sins. Baptism was and is performed in part to symbolize the death, burial, and resurrection of the Savior.

The sacrament is symbolic of Jesus Christ’s body and blood. To the Nephites in the Americas as well as to his disciples Jesus gave the sacrament. He explained the meaning of the bread: “And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.” (3 Nephi 18:7). The bread is symbolic of Christ’s body, which He laid down for us that we might have power over death in the resurrection.

After bread was given, Jesus commanded that those who had gathered at the temple in the land Bountiful partake of wine.

“And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his Disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it. And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled. And when the Disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you. And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.” (3 Nephi 18:8-11).

Just as the bread is symbolic of the Savior’s triumph over physical death, the water (or wine) is symbolic of Jesus’ blood, which was shed for us in Atonement for sins and sorrows and sufferings. Jesus’ blood provides the sanctifying power to those built upon His rock: “For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified” (Moses 6:60; see also 3 Ne. 18:12). Again, through Christ’s blood are we sanctified. The bread is symbolic of salvation from physical death whereas the wine or water is symbolic of salvation from spiritual death.

The Innocence of a Child – Part 2

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One of the debts the Savior paid was for little children. Those under the age of accountability – age eight (and older if the mental capacity for accountability is not there) – are freed from the demands of justice by virtue of the Atonement. Jesus suffered in the Garden and on the cross so that little children would be redeemed.

I marvel at the price the Savior paid. The more I think about the Atonement, the more awed I am by it. My pains and sufferings in this life are nothing compared to the Savior’s; yet, my sufferings and pains are everything to Him. He came to earth to pay the price for all our sins and sufferings. He paid in great drops of blood. He paid the measure due justice in His 40 day fast, in His fatigue, in His worry and sorrow; He paid with the lashes He received; Jesus Christ paid the debt as He carried His cross to Calvary until He could walk no more; He paid as He hung and died upon the cross. With His death came the end of His mortal work. He finished all His Father sent Him to do. He was the one true Son.

The Savior paid the debt owed justice. Mercy cannot rob justice. However, Christ did not just pay the debt, He also provides enabling power. The great prophet Enoch taught this principle many years ago:

“That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory; For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified” (Moses 7:59-60).

We all sin and fall short but the Spirit justifies us. The blood of Christ sanctifies us – we are not only free from blame but also pure and holy and are endowed with power from on high. We are able to act with the knowledge and power of God. We lose the desire for sin and are enabled and enlightened in all aspects of life. The Atonement enables us not only to do good but also be good. It enables us to live godly lives here on earth and prepare to live godly lives in the world to come.

The Atonement is the keystone of the Plan of Salvation. Without the Lord’s sacrifice, all humankind would inevitably be lost. The entire measure of the earth’s creation would be for naught; it would be but dross and refuse. But the Atonement did occur; Jesus did suffer for us. That means it is up to each of us to choose to accept that sacrifice by choosing to make and be faithful to the principles, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel. The Lord stands at the door; we simply need to open the door and let Him in.

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.

I Stand All Amazed

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“And again I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not saved.
Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—
Saying: Father, behold the sufferings 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.” (D&C; 45:2-5).

We all sit condemned before the judgment seat of the Eternal God, our Father. He sits there gazing upon His children, who all like sheep went astray. All? Nay, not all. One Lamb is without blemish. He who is without blemish or imperfection or sin sits before the judge – He is the court-appointed counsel for us. Then comes the voice of the Eternal Father, “Where is He who was born in the lowliest of circumstances, He who descended below so that He might comprehend and be in all? Where is the Sacrificial Lamb who took upon Himself the sins and sicknesses of the world? Where is He who died and rose the third day so that all humankind will no more suffer the shortcomings and pains of mortality? Where is He, my most Beloved Son?”

The Redeemer stands up to take on His role as Advocate. As He approaches the judgment seat, he turns to view each of us; we see His glory and feel His love. In an instant He views each of us and loves us, in spite of and sometimes because of our shortcomings. His entire aim in approaching the judgment seat is to sit next to it in the mercy seat and plead on behalf of us.

He says, “Father, behold the sufferings 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” (D&C; 45:4-5).

In other words, “I suffered and died as the sinless, unblemished sacrifice. My sacrifice pleases Thee. Because of my blood, let those who believe have everlasting life.” Similarly to many prophets in the scriptures, the Lord reminds His Father of the covenant they made. Our Father did not and cannot forget the covenant; the Savior simply is stating the whole covenant: “Here is what I did, here is what you agreed to do.” It’s a formality between the covenant parties. Restating both sides of the covenant is something we can and should do in our prayers. For example, “Thou hast said that that if I keep Thy commandments, Thou wilt bless me with Thy Spirit. I am striving to live Thy commandments, wilt Thou please bless me with Thy Spirit.” Prophets and saints throughout the ages have given prayers like that.

I love the words the Savior says on behalf of us. He stands between us and justice; He is our Advocate, pleading on behalf of us. The Savior experienced all of our sins and sorrows. He understands us perfectly. Is there anyone else we would rather have as our Advocate? No one understands us better or with more love than Jesus Christ. He is not only our Savior and our Creator, He is our eldest brother. He suffered, “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 [He] might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink – nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and [He] partook and finished [His] preparations unto the children of men” (D&C; 19:18-19).

I am eternally grateful for Jesus Christ for His Redeeming love, mercy, and Atonement that provides me the opportunity as I surrender my will to His, to stand with my head held high before the judgment seat of God. The words of the hymn I Stand All Amazed are fitting:

“I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me;
I tremble to know that for me He was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, He suffered, He bled and died.

“Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

“I marvel that He would descend from His throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine;
That He should extend His great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

“Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

“I think of His hands, pierced and bleeding, to pay the debt,
Such mercy, such love, and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

“Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!”

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).

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.