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.

The Witness of the Book of Mormon, Part 5

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I’ll address other ways the Book of Mormon can help clarify the Bible. For instance, there are many differences in beliefs about the resurrection. Some people believe we will remain as spirit bodies. Others believe we will have physical bodies. Some believe that all will be resurrected while others believe only some will be resurrected. The Book of Mormon teaches that we will all be resurrected – all who ever lived on the earth – and that it is a physical resurrection (see Alma 40; Mosiah 15). Having these two witnesses (we also have additional teachings by modern prophets – see D&C; 76, for example) clarifies doctrine. We no longer have to rely solely on the Bible, even as wonderful as it is. We can understand the doctrines with more clarity and purity. However, it is the living prophets who provide true clarity and additional light and knowledge. [image by AllAboutMormons.com].

Without living prophets and even with the Book of Mormon, the doctrines of the gospel would quickly corrupt (we certainly have a broad range of opinions about many doctrines or practices within the Church, even among the General Authorities), just as they did following the Savior’s resurrection and the deaths of His original apostles. It’s not the books that the most important – what’s most important is the gift of the Holy Ghost – the ability to receive personal witnesses and revelation concerning the truths of the gospel – and the Priesthood power and authority. The priesthood allows for the organization of the church to function and exist. The priesthood keys as held by the prophet (and given to others through delegation and inspired callings) allow the ordinances of the gospel to be performed here on earth and be notarized in heaven.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we claim that the Bible is the word of God. We do not, however, accept it as a closed canon. We view scripture as open, expanding, and contemporary through ongoing revelation. We believe this view to be Biblical. Just as what Amos wrote added to what Moses had written (to refer back to Elder Holland’s quote at the beginning of this essay) and what Paul wrote added to the words of the Redeemer, we claim that modern prophets give new scripture. Instead of simply retranslating the Bible into more modern English, we have prophets who receive new revelation. We certainly can apply the doctrines and teachings of the Bible to our day and adapt them to our understanding and lives but we are not limited any more to the Bible. Does God love His children today any less than those who lived during Biblical times? No! He speaks to prophets today just as He did then. He caused the Book of Mormon to speak from the dust (see Isaiah 29:4; 2 Nephi 26:16; 2 Ne. 33:13). He restored His Church through the prophet Joseph Smith, a restoration that brought about the blessings and promises of the fullness of the gospel, including the blessings of continuing revelation to prophets who speak with authority from God. God speaks to us today – individually (just as He has done throughout the ages) and through prophets. Not only does the Book of Mormon stand as Another Witness of Jesus Christ, but also the testimonies of the prophets verify the truth of the Bible and the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Atoner.

Link to part 4 of this essay.

A Wellspring of Eternal Life, Part 2

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Water is a powerful force – in large amounts it can destroy nearly all life. It can also be used and controlled to bring and sustain life. The Lord’s control and power over water was demonstrated many times throughout the scriptures. Moses parted the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians. Elijah divided the waters of the River Jordan, as did Elisha (see 2 Kings 2). Elisha also healed the waters of Jericho: “And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake” (2 Kings 2:19-22). Our own spiritual waters can also be healed and cleansed as we partake of the blood of the Atonement and as we follow our priesthood leaders, especially the Lord’s prophet. [Image by Andrew.gd].

The Jaredites and the people of Lehi both crossed over the oceans in order to travel to the Promised Land. They survived their trials by water with faith in the Lord. The prophet Alma baptized in the waters of Mormon. Sometimes the waters beat down and seem to attack our very foundation but if we are built upon stony ground instead of sand, we can weather the storms.

I am always thankful to have clean water to drink and use. I am ever grateful to the Savior who demonstrated His power over water numerous times. The Lord gave Moses power to turn water to blood, in the hope that Pharaoh would let the Israelites go free: “And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood” (Exodus 7:20). This blood was symbolic of the Savior’s atoning blood that provides the power to free Israel spiritually. The Lord also gave unto Moses power to purify water and to cause it to flow from a rock, quenching the thirst of the weary children of Israel. The Savior demonstrated the importance of baptism by water when He was baptized in the River Jordan; baptism in part symbolizes the cleansing of our sins but baptism is also a covenant we enter into with our Father and an ordinance He has commanded us to receive. Baptism is essential for exaltation, which is why the Savior was baptized even though He was and is without sin. Jesus turned water to wine and calmed raging storms. He walked upon the water. The Savior shed tears for friends as well as in Gethsemane and upon the cross. We use water today for the sacrament in remembrance of the Savior’s atoning blood.

I am grateful unto Him, who is the source of all pure water; He is the fountain of living water. He promises that we too, can be like a spring of water whose waters fail not. “Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing.” We, as we follow the Savior, will become like watered gardens. These promises are both physical and spiritual but mainly spiritual. We will be well watered, even though much of the rest of the world is in drought. We will have access to a wellspring that never fails, even the Lord Jesus Christ.

Link to Part 1 of this essay.

A Wellspring of Eternal Life, Part 1

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Growing up in the desert, I gained a strong appreciation for water. Whether it was conserving water at home or making sure we had enough water while camping or backpacking, I learned how vital water, especially clean water, is for life. When I was young I went on two multi-day backpacking trips with my father and the varsity scouts. On both excursions we relied heavily on spring water to survive. When there were no springs to replenish our water we had to purify our water by filtering, boiling, or using iodine tablets. The water from streams and rivers needed purification due to the various microorganisms in it, especially giardia. If we had not purified our water, the results could have been drastic and long-lasting. If we did not have water, we would not have survived the hikes, or at least would have barely survived. [Image by Hypergurl].

We preferred the spring water because it did not take as much effort to process as did stream water, which needed filtering or boiling or iodine to be pure. When we were able to get water from springs we did because the ground naturally purified the water. It was water for which we did not work hard to procure but still reaped its benefits and blessings – we were like the Savior’s disciples who were told: “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor” (John 4:38). Even though the spring water was naturally pure, we still filled our bottles as close to the source as possible, to avoid the impurities that enter once the water leaves its subterranean origin.

Many of the events in the Bible occur in deserts. The early part of the Book of Mormon also takes place almost exclusively in deserts. The Savior lived in Israel around Jerusalem, which receives little rainfall each year. Water is a precious resource. Potable water is even more precious. Because of the desert surroundings of many of the prophets in the scriptures, water plays a prominent role in many parables or scripture stories. “Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh” (Ezekiel 47:8-9). In the desert, where water is, there is life. Because water provides and symbolizes life, it is easy to understand why so many prophets, including the Savior, referred to water in their teachings.

When the earth was created, water covered the face of it (see Moses 2:2). The Lord commanded the waters to gather together and the dry land to appear (see Moses 2:9). Water was there from the beginning. Water was used to cleanse the earth of the gross wickedness in Noah’s day. Water is used literally, metaphorically, and symbolically throughout the scriptures.

Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time

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For any who are struggling, who feel despondent and hopeless, for those who suffer or sorrow because of sickness, sin, or loss, for those who seem surrounded by stormy seas without lifeboat or lighthouse, the new Mormon Messages YouTube video with a selection from a conference talk given by Elder Cook can provide solace.

Even in our pain and suffering, we can find comfort by helping others in need. The Savior atoned for our sins and sorrows, He provided a Balm in Gilead to heal our infirmities. He showed us the way to hope and happiness. In our trials we can follow the Savior and find the comfort in serving others.

Honoring Mothers

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Mothers have always played a large role in the history of this world – starting with Eve and continuing on through the generations. God gave mothers a special role as the primary nurturers of all humankind. Mothers were given a divine calling in the pre-earth life to play their role as those who would raise and teach and love God’s children. Jesus’ mother saw an angel announce her role as mother of the Savior of the world; she saw her beloved Son give His own life as she knelt at the foot of the cross. She heard her Son ask His beloved apostle to care for her. Mary was at the birth and death of her Son. She saw Him resurrected. She kept many things in her heart and pondered them.

Mothers are very dear to the heart of the Shepherd for they help Him watch over and gather His sheep. They help raise the lambs by nurturing and protecting and teaching them.

On this Mother’s Day, I want to share a few links to blogs or posts about mothers.

Nurture Mama always has great quotes and insights on parenting.

You can view all my posts dealing with motherhood by clicking on the label in my label cloud. Or, you can click on this link.

A few years ago I gave a talk called the Divine Role of Motherhood. I reproduced it on this blog:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Also, the LDS Church released this short video for Mother’s Day.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSVNNA98HF0]

Happy Mother’s Day! I’m grateful for a wonderful mother who is still very influential in my life.

On Grace

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Clean Cut has a new post about grace. I think it is a wonderful post that we all should read. Historically, we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed more emphasis on works than grace, or least to much of the world it appeared that we did. In the mid-1900s the LDS Church redesigned its logo to place more emphasis on the words “Jesus Christ” in the name of our church. This was not done because we previously did not emphasize the Savior, it was done so that all people (including all of us as members of the LDS Church) better understood the centrality of the Savior and His Atonement in our lives and to our church. It wasn’t a shift in focus or doctrine, it was just a subtle way to remind us and all the world that we do believe in the Savior and His Atonement and grace.

With this emphasis of the Savior in the LDS Church’s logo came an increased discussion and clarification about LDS doctrines about grace and works. Again, it was not a shift in doctrine, there was simply an increase in the dialogue with people of other Christian churches about LDS doctrines about the Savior. What some members of the Church started doing was trying to make sure members of other Christian churches (and our own!) correctly understood our doctrines. It is in light of that background that I believe Clean Cut wrote his post (if I can ascribe motive to him); in other words, I believe he wrote his post to help members of the LDS Church as well as other Christian churches better understand the role of grace in all our lives.

Clean Cut wrote:

The other day I read an article titled “How to become a Christian” by Billy Graham. I was actually quite impressed. I thought it was good and I couldn’t find a single thing I disagreed with. (This must mean I’m a Christian after all, despite the fact that some probably think Billy Graham should have inserted a disclaimer: “unless you’re a Mormon, in which case this won’t work for you”).

I especially liked how he described Christ’s free gift of salvation. Naturally, we don’t pay anything when we receive a gift. The giver of the gift pays for it and we receive it joyfully, ever grateful for the giver of the gift. Graham writes:

“The word grace means ‘undeserved favor’. It means God is offering you something you could never provide for yourself: forgiveness of sins and eternal life, God’s gift to you is free. You do not have to work for a gift. All you have to do is joyfully receive it.”

He then goes on to talk about how to demonstrate commitment back to Christ as a response to the free gift of grace. (We Latter-day Saints would also have more to say about how to appropriately respond to Christ’s grace, namely, through covenant). But in short, I think it was simply an excellent article.

I wrote a comment to his post, which you can read on his site. However, I felt that the topic warrented a post on my blog. I’ll use my comment as a basis for my post. To fully understand my comment in its context it is best to read Clean Cut’s post first. 🙂

What I wrote was (with some mild editing):

Great post. I think the only quibble, and it’s a very small one (and I even hate to quibble [or use the word quibble] because I don’t want to come across as pedantic or dogmatic), we as Latter-day Saints might have with Billy Graham’s statement is that we do not have to work for the gift of eternal life.

As Mormons our definition of eternal life is a bit different from our definition of salvation, although the two are highly related (salvation is essentially a superordinate category with eternal life a subset of that category; all eternal life is salvation but not all salvation is eternal life). For most other Christians, they are not different.

While we do not earn the gifts we receive from the Lord, we do need to place ourselves in a position to receive the gifts. Firstly, we all chose to come here to earth and support the Plan of Salvation. Coming to earth is a wonderful blessing we did not earn, per se, but by our choices to come here, we were placed in the condition where we could progress further along the road to salvation.

Similarly, we do not earn forgiveness but we do place ourselves in a position through repentance in which we can receive forgiveness. Further, we do not earn resurrection but we did make the decision to come to earth, which decision placed ourselves in a position where we could receive the blessing of resurrection. That decision also places us in the position where we can additionally all receive some measure of glory in the next life – but again, we did not earn it.

It’s the same with eternal life. Those who are faithful in receiving and keeping the necessary covenants and ordinances place themselves in the position where they can receive the gift of eternal life. Did those who receive this gift earn it? No, that’s the grace of God, but they did expend the effort, however large or small, to receive that “bicycle.”

So, my quibble is with the statement that we don’t have to work for the gifts. We do have to work for them but that does not mean that we earn them; that does not mean that we purchase them. We give our hearts, as Clean Cut said, which means we give our wills to our Father in Heaven. That is work but it’s not earning salvation. It’s like standing out in the sun rather than hiding in the shade. Do we earn the light? No, but we did walk out of the shade.

The Lord gives us everything; all we are required to give in return is our all, especially our wills. That may seem like we are “purchasing” our salvation; we are not. The Lord gave us everything, all we are doing is giving Him what is rightfully His. His grace is free; of the Lord it was written, “Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price” (2 Ne. 25:26; see also Isa. 55:1 and 2 Ne. 9:50). Is there anything more beautiful than that beckoning call?

Do Good and Love God, Part 8

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The story of the Good Samaritan reminds me of the scripture in Ezekiel about the shepherds who do not watch over their sheep. “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd” (Ezekiel 34:2-5). We should serve others and emulate our Savior. Of the Savior Isaiah prophesied:

“The Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;…to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; tat they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3). Just as the Good Samaritan cared for him who was broken and poured oil into his wounds in order to cleanse and purify them, the Savior applies the oil of joy for our mourning. He binds up the broken and the brokenhearted, freeing them from the captivity of pain, sin, and sorrow. In our own way, large or small, we too can help bind wounds and free captives. As we do this unto our brothers and sisters we do it unto the Lord.

“But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” (Moroni 7:13). We should do that which is inspired of God – that which invites us to do good continually, to love God, and to serve Him. As we seek wisdom out of the best books, study the words of the prophets, particularly Isaiah, and serve others, we do that which is best – that which leads us back to our Father in Heaven.

Link to part 7 of this essay.

Do Good and Love God, Part 7

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What are various ways we serve God? The Savior said, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). How we treat other people is important. Jesus taught that how we treat others is how we treat Him. In other words, if we serve and help others it is like serving and helping Him. Actually, that is not true. When we serve and help others we are serving and helping the Lord. The Savior lived a life of service and sacrifice; He also taught of service.

“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee” (Luke 10:30-35).

Samaritans were, to many Jews, unclean, apostate people. However, the Levite – a member of the priesthood class – and the priest – who may have been returning from or headed towards his temple service – both ignored the man in need. The Samaritan man took care of the injured in his immediate needs and paid for his further care. He was the one who served God, unlike the Levite and priest, by serving and saving his neighbor.

Link to part 6 of this essay.