Thursday, June 28, 2018

Remnant Missionary Pal



Who remembers the Missionary Pal?

For those who don’t, here’s the back story:

In 1959 Keith Marston printed a brilliant little book titled, Missionary Pal: Reference guide for missionaries & teachers. For decades this handy reference guide supported LDS missionaries in their sincere attempt to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by providing scripture references, organized by topic. I was a big fan of the book on my mission.

In 2017 the Lord offered a covenant unto His people and accepted the Restoration Scriptures as His Holy Word. At that time the new scriptures became the “rod of iron” from which we must not let go. (1 Nephi 2:8-9).

To assist with the transition into the Restoration Scriptures, and to support all who are working to live God’s covenant, the Remnant Missionary Pal has been compiled by a group of dedicated believers.

Though I didn’t have the privilege of working on this volume, I applaud the efforts of all those who did. I think this is an excellent reference guide for the new scriptures, and I’m extremely happy to see it made available.

It can be had on Amazon at a very low price. Here’s the link:


Monday, June 25, 2018

Restoration Conference Recordings Available

The Joseph Smith Restoration Conference 2018 was a wonderful success. Many thanks to all who participated!

Recordings of the speakers are now available at www.restorationconference.org.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

How Long? Part 2: Ignorance and Knowledge


Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst. Therefore hell has enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure, and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoices shall descend into it.
—Isaiah 1:15 OC

We all, collectively and individually, have a problem with ignorance. If we must point to one thing that hinders our preparation for Zion more than all else, it is our meager education in the things of God. The Glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth. (T&C 93:11). Since the Glory of the Lord will be the hallmark of Zion, (T&C 31:14) those who lack such Glory will surely not be able to come into it (Isaiah 18:6, OC). All who dwell in Zion will know the Lord (T&C 158:15) and not merely know about Him. 

We claim to want Zion so badly, and yet we know almost nothing about it. We don’t even have the tools, in our present state, to begin to understand Zion’s economy (or lack thereof), social order, relationships, work ethic, infrastructure, communication, human interaction, culture, heavenly connections, manners, habits, customs, salutations, or nearly anything else about it. We have some platitudinal references to ideas like no poor, dwelling in righteousness, and being of one heart and one mind, and though we understand those words, we have little idea what they truly represent.

But before we try to understand Zion (which will take much more knowledge than we currently have) perhaps we should start with trying to understand some basics. Our greatest sin is ignorance, and it will remain so until we intentionally overcome our ignorance by faith, study, and divine tutoring. We must become competent in the things that God has already made available to us, or remain unprepared to dwell together in holiness. 

In the Answer to Prayer for Covenant, the Lord said, “I desire to heal you from an awful state of blindness so that you may see clearly my will, to do it.” (T&C 157:16) This was spoken to people to whom the Lord offered His covenant. The fact that He yet describes our state as “an awful state of blindness” should give us serious reflection. Admitting and embracing our blindness will bring the humility to seek and receive truth from Him. The opposite—pridefully assuming we have superior knowledge and understanding, and are therefore prepared for Zion—will only bring condemnation.

Therefore, recognizing my own blindness, here are some questions I’m asking myself. Perhaps they will be useful to you as well:
How vigorously are you pursuing truth? Are you searching the scriptures and attempting to plumb the depths of what God has already given? Do you study with care, or merely read? 
Do you hope to receive more scripture without wringing out all the truth you can from what has already been given? 
Are you anxiously engaged in this good cause? Doing many things of your own free will? Bringing to pass much righteousness? (T&C 45:6) Are you seeking and receiving answers from God to questions regarding scripture? 
Consider this account of the Lord healing blindness: 
And he came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man unto him and petitioned him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the town. And when he had spit upon his eyes and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw anything. And he looked up and he said, I see men as trees walking. After that, he put his hands again upon his eyes and made him look up. And he was restored and saw every man clearly. (Mark 4:20 NC)
Where can you obtain truth that will cure your blindness and allow you to see aright? Can it all be done in one step? I count at least four contacts with the Lord in this example, before the man was able to see clearly. Is there symbolism in our Lord’s ministry to the blind man that required multiple steps and multiple contacts with the Lord before the man could see properly?

What might we learn from the Lord first leading the man by the hand and taking him out of the town? What about spitting upon his eyes, and putting his hands on him before the man’s vision was even partially restored? And what about putting His hands on the man’s eyes again, and making the man “look up?” There is great symbolism here, describing the cure for blindness.
 
Heritage of Ignorance
(or, the Traditions of our Fathers)

All of us suffer from ignorance, and we all share an inner yearning for the Glory of God, which is light and truth. (T&C 93:11) Yet we also bear a heritage and traditions that teach us not to inquire, or to confine our inquiries to men in authority, rather than studying and inquiring of the Lord. Consequently, we tend to waste our curiosity on fruitless pursuits, uninformed teachers, online chats with similarly ignorant people, sharing unstudied opinions, and seeking truth where it can’t be found.

Our heritage of ignorance is the reason current anti-Mormon efforts are meeting such tremendous success among faithful LDS people. When confronted with information they have never studied, do not understand, and cannot put into context, the too-frequent response is to reject Joseph Smith, the restoration, the scriptures, the gospel itself, and even the Lord. Many deal with their manifest ignorance and cognitive dissonance by throwing out all religion and becoming atheists. The LDS church is of no help, even to honest seekers, as it continues to misrepresent its history, doctrine and scripture, while insisting those with questions only seek answers from “approved” sources that offer no help.

For too many of us, this is our heritage, and it needs to come to an end. If you want to overcome your ignorance, you hunger and thirst, read, pray, fast, seek and search. It is labor, to be sure. It is sacrifice. The Lord is ever willing to lead, guide and inform. He is first, and foremost, a teacher. But few are interested in His lessons, and even fewer are willing to do the homework required. Never in history has more light and truth been so readily available, with so few willing to search it out.

The Lord has been unbelievably generous in the outpouring of knowledge and truth He’s recently revealed. It’s hard to overstate the abundance of what has been given. It is, of course, undeserved on our part, but so is all grace. Just as the Book of Mormon was given to try our faith before more will be given (3 Nephi 12:1 NC), I believe our use of the current records and revelations similarly reveals our hearts and determines when, and if, more is given. Regardless of our response, we are left without excuse. Should we remain ignorant, it will be entirely our fault. None will have standing to accuse the Lord.

Palm, meet face. 

I once knew a wonderful woman on my mission who was the backbone of the ward. A lifelong member of the LDS church, she faithfully served as Relief Society President and carried much of the weight in the ward, despite being in her 60’s. I thought she was a tremendous example of service. 

During a lesson with an investigator in her home, I invited this lovely sister to share her testimony of the Book of Mormon. She stumbled a bit, then said, “I know the Book of Mormon is true. Though I really can’t say I’ve ever read it, I know it’s true.” 

I was flabbergasted. I had to pick my jaw up from off the floor. Being young and idealistic, and full of that missionary zeal, I simply couldn’t comprehend that a lifelong church member in her sixties, the backbone of the ward, the Relief Society President, had never read the Book of Mormon. And I further couldn’t compute how she could say she “knew” it was true.

I’ve grown up a bit since then, and lost my idealism. I’ve been around enough to see that abject scriptural ignorance is more the rule than the exception, even among so-called church leaders. It is our unfortunate heritage. 

But I digress. 

Though only a little. 

Because a similar level of ignorance yet persists among many of us who seek to labor in the Lord’s vineyard. “Awful blindness,” indeed. 


In the midst of these very serious matters—truths kept hidden from the foundation of the world, now revealed—a covenant people again on the earth—a servant sent by the Lord to teach truth—a new dispensation, including an opportunity for Zion—we yet make statements like these:

“I don’t really know the scriptures very well, but I think…”
“I asked the Lord if (fill in the blank) is true, and I felt the spirit…”
“I’m not really up on church history, but it seems to me that…”
“I can’t believe in a god who…”
“Well I just feel like…”
“So…I’ve never studied (fill in the blank.) What does everybody think about it?

Or, one of the most ridiculous:

“I don’t care what (the Lord’s servant) says; I don’t need need any man to teach me. I only need the Lord.”

Here’s the Lord’s word on that matter:
“And woe be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus and also to them whom he hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom he hath sent, receiveth not him, and therefore he will not receive them at the last day. And it would be better for them if they had not been born.” (3 Nephi 13:5, NC–emphasis mine.)
Consider carefully if it is logical to, in one breath, claim to believe someone is sent by the Lord, and in the next breath, claim you don’t need to receive that servant’s words. “Better to have not been born” is a pretty strong condemnation. And so is what follows in the next sentence: 
“For do ye suppose that ye can get rid of the justice of an offended God who hath been trampled under feet of men, that thereby salvation might come?” (3 Nephi 13:5 NC)
The Lord equates ignoring his servants with trampling Him under your feet.

We are like the blind man at Bethsaida; we need the Lord to take us by the hand, lead us out of our false paradigms, anoint us with his spirit, touch us with his power, converse with us, and convince us to look up. This process is neither easy nor quick. But it begins with admitting our blindness and seeking to be cured. We can speed the cure by responding as another blind man did:
And they came to Jericho. And as he went out of Jericho, with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus) sat by the highway side, begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! And many charged him that he should hold his peace. But he cried the more exceedingly, saying, Son of David, have mercy on me! And Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. And they called the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, arise, he calls you. And he, casting away his garment, arose and came to Jesus. And Jesus said unto him, What will you that I should do unto you? And the blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go your way, your faith has made you whole. And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus in the way. (Mark 5:29, NC)
I identify especially with blind Bartimaeus, the beggar of Jericho, because I happen to live on Jericho Road, and I consider myself a blind beggar before the Lord. Just as with the blind man of Bethsaida, I find a great deal of symbolism in the process of this man’s healing. He cried out, and cried out all the more when attempts were made to silence him. He responded to the Lord’s call, cast away his garment, arose, and came unto Christ. He spoke with the Lord, implored for the ability to see, and was made whole. 

Jesus, the Son of David, has mercy on us, and both the desire and power to heal us of our awful state of blindness. But we must take the steps required. He calls us and patiently waits. 

The Gathering has Begun

We yearn for the day of gathering, and hope to be gathered into the Holy City. We wait on the Lord for that to take place, not realizing it is already taking place. It’s not a physical gathering—not yet. Attempts to physically gather are foolish until there are enough prepared people to gather together and not fail. The angels, not us, will appoint who participates in that gathering.

No, the gathering currently underway is one of knowledge. Those who will pay the price in study, prayer and sacrifice, to become competent in the things of God, are gathered by virtue of their understanding, into a group of those prepared for what comes next. The Lord knows who has obtained light and truth and who has not. His angels are taking careful note of those who are beginning to see.

On the next day after, John stood beside two of his followers, and noticing Jesus as he walked nearby, he said to the two others, Behold the Sacrificial Lamb of God! And these two who had followed John, when they heard that testimony, followed after Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following him, and asked, What do you want? They called him, Rabbi (which means acknowledged teacher), and asked, How can we understand the truth and advance? He replied, All men move upward by gaining light. If you advance you will learn to be like me. And these two went with him and were taught, and were his companions through that day, for it was mid-afternoon.
—Testimony of St. John 1:12

Friday, June 1, 2018

How Long?

Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?
—Matthew 9:6

A friend recently pointed out that the Lord visited the Nephites in Bountiful, and that they were indeed considered “Nephites” at the time of His visit.

But you already knew that, right? Moroni said so…
…therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus shewed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he shewed himself unto the Nephites. (Ether 1:14 NC)
My friend pointed this out because of my assertion about these people in a prior blog post:
There were no Nephites in the “Nephite Zion.” Nor were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites. They valued their identity as children of Christ far above their previous, divisive labels. 
No Nephites in the “Nephite Zion,” yet the Lord ministered to the Nephites at Bountiful. Do we have a problem here?

Well, as it turns out, we do. But it’s not the problem you might think. It’s a much different, and more important problem than me potentially making a mistake in a blog post, though again, as it turns out, I made no mistake in my assertion. Clear enough so far? No?

OK, let’s lay it out from the beginning.

According to the text, the Lord showed himself to the Nephites and former Lamanites who had survived the earlier destruction and traveled to Bountiful:
And it came to pass that in the ending of the thirty and fourth year, behold, I will shew unto you that the people of Nephi who were spared and also those who had been called Lamanites who had been spared did have great favors shewn unto them and great blessings poured out upon their heads, insomuch that soon after the ascension of Christ into Heaven he did truly manifest himself unto them, shewing his body unto them and ministering unto them; and an account of his ministry shall be given hereafter. (3 Nephi 4:11 NC)
Notice this was at the end of the thirty-fourth year, after which, things developed in due course. Here is a breakdown of what developed, as well as the years noted in the text:




Let’s take note of a couple of things. First, “no contention” is stated three separate times, and if you read the text carefully, you’ll see it’s associated with three different levels of not contending. Second, it took something like 66 years for the people to reach their pinnacle of Zion, by which point they had laid down their divisions and become one.

This may seem like a long time—indeed, a lifetime—to reach the status of Zion, but this is actually remarkably fast. Adam’s Zion, brief as it was, came after he had lived and taught for 927 years. Melchizedek tarried 500 years after the flood before he and his people were taken up. Enoch preached righteousness for 365 years. I suppose having an incredibly long lifespan is a boon to slow, steady progress. The Nephites, who had no such advantage, managed to pull it off in a single lifetime (or what we currently consider a lifetime, anyhow.) This is the world speed record, at least according to the scriptures currently available to us.

But in each case, the Zion society started, grew, and reached its zenith during the lifetime of its founder or founders. The living teacher of righteousness taught and ministered to a receptive people, who believed and practiced the teachings. Always, the opportunity was limited to the lifetime of the teacher. In every case, had the audience not been receptive, Zion would not have come. When the teacher’s life ended, the opportunity ended as well, and did not return for generations. This is always the case.

Joseph Smith’s ministry lasted approximately 16 years, during which time the saints came under the Lord’s condemnation, and repeatedly failed to repent and receive what the Lord offered. His ministry ended first with the death of his appointed successor, Hyrum, followed by his own death moments later. Hyrum’s death demonstrated a definite end to the opportunity by eliminating the successor first. The opportunity for Zion came to an end, and did not return for 4 generations.

So, like I said, we have a problem, and it centers on our own opportunity for Zion, which must come to fruition in the lifetime of the dispensation head, or be lost. The fuse is lit and burning. Our time is limited.

Impatience

This comes as no surprise to many of us, who feel the urgency of the opportunity. There’s no shortage of excitement, even impatience, for the Lord to act to bring Zion. Tremendous things have happened, and many of us hope more will happen soon. Look at all that has come in a few short years: The gospel taught with clarity and power; new scripture giving us the most accurate accumulation of Christ’s words to date; a covenant established by God; incredible light and knowledge pouring forth; people awakening and arising. These are tremendous blessings, which ought to fill us with gratitude.

Yet, in the midst of such an outpouring, we exhibit an insatiable appetite for more. When will we get more scripture? When will the temple be built? When will Zion come? When will more cool stuff happen? When will we gather? What’s taking so long?

Hey, I’m as excited for these things as anyone. But no matter how impatient we may be, the Lord controls the timing. And He’s already shown Himself more than willing to act. Therefore, I’m left to conclude that “things” aren’t happening for one reason only: We aren’t prepared for the Lord’s next steps. If we were ready, the Lord would act. He intends to complete His work, and He most certainly will as soon as the time is right and He has a people prepared to receive, believe, and act on what is offered. But He is also far more patient and wise than we are, and He will allow us to wait out, even squander our opportunity, in hopes we will finally repent and turn to Him.

So what’s the hold up?

We are.

Conversion Speed

This brings up the topic of how fast things can happen. The establishment of Zion is the Lord’s work (Isaiah 18:7, OC), and we cannot hasten it (Isaiah 1:16, OC). However, though the Lord’s work cannot be hastened by man, our own work in our own lives CAN. The scriptural record is replete with examples of those who made astonishing changes, almost instantly. Rapid repentance and conversion are possible, and frankly recommended. The Lord is quick to forgive and ready to teach. He patiently waits for us to repent, just as He invited those who would eventually meet Him in person at Bountiful:
O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me and repent of your sins and be converted that I may heal you? Yea, verily I say unto you, If ye will come unto me, ye shall have Eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. (1 Nephi 4:7 NC)
Question: How much time passed between the above invitation and the personal ministry of Christ to these people?

Answer: Less than a year.

More questions: How long did it take Benjamin’s people to experience a mighty change of heart? What about Lamoni? And his father? Alma the younger? Paul? The Lamanites at the prison where Lehi and Nephi were held?

Alma the younger, who knew something about conversion, had the following to say about it:
And now, my brethren, I would that after ye have received so many witnesses, seeing that the holy scriptures testify of these things, come forth and bring fruit unto repentance. Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer. For behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation. And therefore if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you. (Alma 16:37 NC)
Immediately. You can’t get much quicker than that. The Lord’s plan accommodates even the impatient, just as quickly as they will repent. (And just for fun, check out how many times the word “speedily” associates with the word “repent” in scripture. Returning to the Lord SHOULD be a matter of haste.) There is no prescribed checklist to be followed, no specific time period required. There is only recognition, desire, and a mighty change of heart, which can happen almost instantly. It is born more of abject surrender and desire, than it is of grueling effort. Repentance is speediest when it is most desperate.

Yet, repentance also seems to be a low priority. Speaking for myself, anyhow, I often find it more appealing to consider the Lord’s future work and my hopes of being involved, than to recognize my own shortcomings, disobedience, and bad behavior. As foolish as it sounds, I’m sometimes more interested in the Lord keeping His promises than I am in keeping my own.

Maybe you’re in the same boat as me. We all fall short of living the truths we claim to embrace, and Christ is more than willing to forgive. But forgiveness alone is not progress. We cannot succeed collectively until we succeed individually in repenting, turning to our Lord, and doing as He has asked. Until then, He will wait. He will not move things even an inch beyond where we are prepared to go. Some have already been pruned from the tree of life. Some will yet be. The digging, dunging, and pruning will continue until the Lord, at last, has a people who are humble, obedient, and filled with understanding. The natural fruit must return to the vineyard.

In that spirit, and intended mostly as advice to myself, my next few posts will focus on “what’s taking so long” and what to do about it. Again, this is not about hastening the Lord’s work. He, alone, controls the timing. This will be about preparing ourselves to be ready for Him to act, and capable of accomplishing what will be required.

Behold, verily I say unto you that these are the words of the Lord your God, wherefore labor all of you, labor in my vineyard for the last time; for the last time call upon the inhabitants of the earth, for in my own due time will I come upon the earth in judgment. And my people shall be redeemed and shall reign with me on Earth, for the great Millennial, which I have spoken by the mouth of my servants, shall come, for Satan shall be bound.
—T&C 29:9