Monday, January 11, 2021

Lifeboat

And God saw that the wickedness of man had become great in the earth. And every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, being only evil continually…the earth was corrupt before God and it was filled with violence. And God looked upon it, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh has come before me; for the earth is filled with violence, and behold, I will destroy all flesh from off the earth. Make yourself therefore an ark of gopher wood. 

—Genesis 5:12 (OC)



Recent events should make it clear to us all that the prophesied destruction has come to America. Political divisions now run so deep that all middle ground has disappeared. Both sides seem bent on the ruination of the other, and some on both sides have shown themselves willing to practice violence, destruction, arson, theft, and murder. Each excuses the actions of their own side as necessary and proper, while condemning the actions of the other side as criminal and treasonous. 


Many call for the extermination of their enemies economically, professionally, socially, and personally. Some openly advocate killing. Neither side is willing to even consider or hear the arguments of the other, and those with power to silence the voices of which they don’t approve are exercising that power with shortsighted abandon, marginalizing major portions of the population and potentially driving them to other, more dangerous forms of expression. I fear the day of grace has passed for this nation once so blessed by God.


Fortunately, this post is not about politics, and is not about losing hope for the future. Rather, it’s about the practicalities of our situation and the lessons in scripture that will yet guide believers forward to the glorious fulfillment of the Lord’s promises, even in the face of the coming certain destruction. 


Oh, and it’s about lifeboats.


Noah’s Family


In the early generations of this creation, Noah faced a world ripening in wickedness, about to be swept clean of all evil. Well before the rain began to fall, the Lord instructed Noah to build an ark to save his family. This ark was in a very real sense a lifeboat, taking Noah and his family to a place of safety, and renewing God’s covenant with those who obeyed—a covenant that particularly extends to us today:

And I will remember my covenant which I have made between me and you, for every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud. And I will look upon it that I may remember the everlasting covenant which I made unto your father Enoch: that when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself. And this is my everlasting covenant that I establish with you: that when your posterity shall embrace the truth and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness and the earth shall tremble with joy. And the general assembly of the church of the Firstborn shall come down out of Heaven and possess the earth, and shall have place until the end come. And this is my everlasting covenant which I made with your father Enoch. (Genesis 5:22 OC)

Though nearly everyone opposed him, Noah built his lifeboat and secured a renewal of the covenant God made with Enoch, that the last days Zion would come and Enoch’s people would again have place on the earth.


Nephi’s Group


After Lehi and his family fled Jerusalem, they suffered afflictions for eight years in the wilderness before they found respite on the seashore in the place they called Bountiful. And though they had previously secured the right to a promised land, they had not yet obtained that land, nor would they until they did what was required to obtain it. The fulfillment of the terms of the covenant necessarily required the construction of a boat. 


A major portion of the family opposed its construction and refused to contribute their labor to the project. Even Nephi’s well-reasoned scriptural arguments could not convince them to support the cause of fulfilling the Lord’s will. Only a raw demonstration of the Lord’s power, combined with fear of destruction proved sufficient motivation to finally secure their assistance.


The People of Jared


The Jaredite group spent four years on the seashore, evidently failing to give adequate attention to the Lord or his purposes. At the end of that time, and after the Lord’s chastisement, they were instructed to build the boats that would carry them to a land characterized as follows:

…he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people. And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and for ever should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fullness of his wrath should come upon them. (Ether 1:6)

The Children of Israel


After their epic departure from Egypt, the Israelites miraculously crossed the Red Sea. But after rejecting the offered fulness, they spent 40 years sojourning in the desert before they were allowed to again cross waters and enter the promised land. During their desert time, in preparation for receiving what was offered by covenant, they, too, were required to build an ark of a different sort, and a tabernacle to house it. The scripture records the following:

And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering. Of every man that gives it willingly with his heart, you shall take my offering. And this is the offering which you shall take of them: gold, and silver, and brass, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, and rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood, oil for the light, spices for anointing oil and for sweet incense, onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 14:1 OC)

Pattern


I see many similarities between the four situations highlighted here. 

  • Each required labor and sacrifice to build the lifeboats, in their various forms, that would bear covenant people safely through trials to receive promised lands. 
  • Each faced opposition, often from within the covenant group. 
  • Fire is an interesting prohibition. The Nephite group was not allowed to make much fire in the wilderness, and the Jaredites could not have fire in their vessels. In each case, rather than kindling their own light, the people received what they needed from the Lord. 
  • Each had the presence of the Lord with them, as manifested in a physical way. Whether by Liahona, stones touched by God, Zohar, or pillar of fire, each lifeboat included physical manifestations of God’s presence with his people. 
  • Each group escaped something fearsome, terrible, and destructive by obeying the Lord and fleeing with their particular form of lifeboat. 
  • Each secured a land of promise by doing what was required.

This brings us to our present situation.


As I noted at the opening of this post, it should be obvious to us all that the America we once knew, with tolerance, peace, decency, laws, order, prosperity, and brotherly love is gone, and not coming back. And that’s putting things more than mildly. Our entire society is crashing down around us more and more each day. What lies ahead for our nation is fearsome and terrible. And yet we have cause to rejoice because the Lord has promised:

And I, the Lord your God, will be with you and will never forsake you, and I will lead you in the path which will bring peace to you in the troubling season now fast approaching. I will raise you up and protect you, abide with you, and gather you in due time, and this shall be a land of promise to you as your inheritance from me. (T&C 158:12-13)

As with the other covenant groups here discussed, the key to our escape and inheritance is a lifeboat. Ours takes the form of a temple, where the Lord will come to dwell among his people. 


This is no surprise, of course. We’ve known of the needed temple for over seven years, ever since the Lord’s servant first spoke these words:

Yet to fulfill His covenant He must yet come to and take up His abode in a dwelling here. There has to be preparation made. These things require some effort to be made here, in order to prepare for His return. If there is no one here who is willing to engage in what's necessary to bring this to pass (because everyone looks around and expects someone else to do it), then you're neglecting the duty that's devolving upon you. Those who have been assigned to come down in this day, in order to honor the fathers, and honor the Lord, by allowing the covenants that have made to be fulfilled, have some responsibility to finish and fulfill the promised work. 

(“Covenants” Lecture 4 of the 40 Years in Mormonism series, Oct. 6, 2013, p. 14)

And again, when the Lord offered His covenant, it included the following requirement:

Whenever I have people who are mine, I command them to build a house, a holy habitation, a sacred place where my presence can dwell or where the Holy Spirit of Promise can minister, because it is in such a place that it has been ordained to recover you, establish by my word and my oath your marriages, and endow my people with knowledge from on high that will unfold to you the mysteries of godliness, instruct you in my ways, that you may walk in my path. And all the outcasts of Israel will I gather to my house, and the jealousy of Ephraim and Judah will end; Ephraim will not envy Judah and Judah will not provoke Ephraim. (T&C 157:41)

The sheer volume of scriptural admonitions, prophecies, and inspired pronouncements regarding the time we are now in would fill a great many pages. It’s clear the time long prophesied is now upon us, and the Lord’s promises must soon be fulfilled. If we expect to receive what is offered, a temple will be required, and soon. 


I believe we’re now in the second half of a seven-year covenant timetable that will culminate in the Lord accepting and coming to his completed temple, or in the opportunity being lost as destruction overtakes the wicked, including those who were offered a covenant but failed to perform what was required. The choice is up to us.


Temple Fund


This brings me to the point of this post. I’ll again use the lifeboat analogy. 



We’re on a great, sinking ship. It will not be recovered, and the ship and all who are on it will soon be swept by the waves, and drowned in the depths of the sea. Our only hope to escape this destruction is a lifeboat, which does not yet exist. If we are wise, we will devote all the resources we can to constructing that lifeboat as soon as possible. We need the lifeboat desperately; our very lives depend on it. There is nothing more important at this moment, though the ship yet floats and her pleasantries distract us. The ship is clearly listing, taking on water, and has lost her rudder. What more will it take to convince us of the severity of the situation? 


The Lord specifically commanded us to awake to our awful situation when we see the very things we’re now seeing. The end always comes quickly, and right up until Noah shut the door, people were still living in denial, partying it up and enjoying their wickedness. 


If we’re wise, if we have eyes to see, if we believe the prophecies, then it’s clear the need for a temple is becoming alarmingly urgent. And yet, it’s equally clear we don’t yet have sufficient funds to construct what will be required. Therefore, I’m writing this as a plea for us to come together as a people, make the necessary sacrifices, and provide the funds. 


I write this knowing that many have sacrificed much and contributed from their abundance or their widow’s mite. I’ve witnessed sacrifices and devotion to this cause that have brought me to tears on more than one occasion. I write this in hopes of persuading any and all who have accepted the Lord’s offered covenant to consider doing more. I offer the following thoughts with nothing but love for all who care about building the lifeboat, whether we all see eye to eye or not. I realize some will disagree with me on some of these points, and that’s OK. Nothing I say here is meant in any spirit of condemnation or accusation, and if I can’t persuade you now, I hope you’ll be persuaded later. Ultimately, we all want a seat in the lifeboat, which obligates us all to bring it into reality.


Commanded


I realize many are awaiting a direct commandment before they will donate funds. Some remain unsure if this is the time to act because they can’t point to language that convinces them a direct, open, public commandment has been given to begin construction of the house.


Here are my thoughts:


First, I believe we are already under command, for reasons I’ve written in the post linked here. If you believe there is not a commandment, I hope youll follow the link and read the post. 


Second, how do you know the Lord has NOT issued the command? What makes you so certain it will be publicly announced? In fact, would a public announcement even be wise? Or might it stir up opposition that would seek to hinder the work? How do you know the effort is not quietly taking place behind the scenes and beyond the notice of those who would oppose it (and who are otherwise occupied with political strife)? Is it wise to make your donations contingent upon a public announcement? 


Third, if there really, truly is no commandment yet, might it be because we are not yet prepared? Naturally, we assume being “prepared” is a matter of the heart—and it is—but it is also a matter of economics. Are we, as a people, truly “prepared” to receive and obey the Lord’s commandment to build his house if, knowing full well the command is coming, we’ve failed to prepare and have only gathered a fraction of the funds needed? Is our hesitation to donate actually delaying the commandment? Perhaps until it is too late?


And finally, there’s this:

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things, for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant, wherefore, he receives no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness, for the power is in them wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good, they shall in no way lose their reward, but he that does not anything until he is commanded, and receives a commandment with a doubtful heart, and keeps it with slothfulness, the same is damned. (T&C 45:6)

If we wait until a hoped-for public command compels us to finally act, how might our Lord view us? Clearly, he prefers us to use our own free will to bring to pass righteousness because we see the need to act and discern what must be done, rather than him having to command us. (This is, of course, a deeply personal matter, and one we should each take up individually with the Lord. What does he want you to do?)


Babylon


I’ve heard arguments made by those who believe it’s important to be out of all debt before donating to the Lord’s work. Some of these arguments hinge on the idea of being free from any and all claim of Babylon before fleeing her. 


I don’t know others’ situations, and I would never presume to tell them how to handle their finances. I can only speak of my own situation. 


I have a mortgage. I have some other minor personal debts. I own a business that has business debts. It will take me many years of intense effort to satisfy all these debts, and I don’t believe we have many years left. Therefore, Babylon will continue to have some claim on my money, perhaps until Babylon is destroyed. If I withhold my support of the temple until I’ve paid all other debts in full, and if all others do likewise, our failure is a certainty. This path, if universally followed, will most definitely delay the temple until it’s too late. 


But wait: there are terms to Babylon’s claims. Each of my debts, whether mortgage, business, or personal has prescribed payment terms. My creditors can only exact so much each month before their claims are satisfied. This means that once I’ve paid the required monthly payments, Babylon has no further claim until the next month. This also means that if I have enough funds for those payments, and my family’s needs for housing, food, transportation, education, medical care and necessities that month are satisfied, and I yet have money left as a surplus, Babylon has absolutely no claim on those surplus funds that month. I am absolutely free to give Babylon no further thought until next month’s payments are due. There is no requirement to accelerate the payments or pay extra. 


Babylon’s claims are further tempered by other factors. For example, my mortgage is secured by my house, and I am at liberty to sell it to satisfy the debt, or simply surrender it to my mortgage lender and let them sell it. So long as it sells for more than what is owed, this would end the claims of my mortgage lender. My point here is that there’s no way I’ll pay my house off nor pay off all my other debts nearly soon enough meet the Lord’s timetable, but I don’t have to. I’m at liberty to remain in debt for the time being and use my monthly surplus to further the Lord’s work, knowing I can always satisfy the debt if I need to go to that extreme. 



To be clear, I
’m NOT suggesting anyone should give up their housing and become homeless. Rather, I’m simply pointing out the obvious limits to Babylon’s claims, and my freedom to choose how I spend my surplus. 


Ultimately, I can choose to do as I will with my surplus, and I believe my choices demonstrate what I value most right now. In this way, as well as many others, we all put our hearts and desires on display while heaven watches and takes note.


Common Sense


Finally, I’d like to make an argument in favor of common sense. Whether the Lord commands publicly or privately, when the commandment is given the clock will start. We will then have a very short time to complete the work. So why would we not be wise and do everything we could before hand to be prepared? Believe me, we need all the head start we can get. Do we not recall this was exactly the situation in Nauvoo, when the Lord commanded a house to be built and the people failed to finish in time? 


Of course there were those in Nauvoo who preferred to build their own houses, businesses and interests rather than giving what was required to complete the temple. But aren’t we in the same situation when we do those very same things? Should the temple be at the bottom or at the top of our priorities? Given the alarming events unfolding around us and the nature of the coming destruction, is it time to reconsider our priorities? 


The people in Nauvoo didn’t know how long they had, and they therefore didn’t give what was required. We, like them, don’t know how long we have. Let that sink in for a minute. Were in EXACTLY the same situation they were in, only we’ve been given the opportunity for a head start. Will we learn from their failure or won’t we? Therefore what is the most logical action if we don’t wish to repeat their failure? What makes you think we have any guarantee whatsoever that the Lord will shift the timetable of world events to accommodate our slothfulness? He certainly didn’t for them. 


Let’s suppose the time allotted is less than three and a half years (the Nauvoo saints got 1255 days.) And let’s suppose we start collecting funds at the beginning of that period. The fact—the hard fact—is that we will not be able to collect funds fast enough to stay ahead of the need. Therefore the work will necessarily be delayed while awaiting the funds to continue. And given the sheer scope of the work required, there simply will not be time for delays. The project, from engineering to architecture, to infrastructure in a remote location, to site preparation, construction, finishes, furnishings, landscaping, and a thousand other things will easily require all the time allotted and more. Do we really want money to cause us delays when our very lives are on the line? 

For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea and all that do wickedly, shall burn as stubble; for they that cometh shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch… Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood by the hand of Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord…And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers; if it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming. (JSH Part 3, vs.4)

Not only are our lives on the line, but the whole of this creation hangs in the balance. Our sacrifice is not only for our benefit, but for all those who came before as well. The temple is the hinge point of this creation and I don’t think we even understand the utter importance of getting it built. It is our personal lifeboat as well as others. The covenant fathers and mothers of times past are relying on us to complete the vital work that yet remains undone. 


We know it must be done. We know it must happen soon. We may barely escape if we act with alacrity. What is the wisest course of action? Are we best off making clever arguments AGAINST donating to the Lords work? Or is it better to spend that energy finding ways to raise the funds with dispatch? 


Sacrifice


The sacrifice required to build the Lord’s house, including the funds required, should be considered in light of the Lectures on Faith. Saving faith requires sacrifice:

Let us here observe that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation. For from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life, and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life. (Lecture 6:7)

How light a thing, really, is it to give from our surplus? Considering the sacrifices listed above, and the rewards obtained, I can say without hesitation that such a cause as the temple merits laying down one’s life if necessary. And yet, such a sacrifice is not asked. Though a greater time of sacrifice is coming, we are yet in a situation where merely giving of our surplus is enough to make a great difference, and perhaps make ALL the difference. 


What is a covenant with God worth? What is a lifeboat worth on a sinking ship? Can we put a price on the cavity of a rock to shelter us when a flood of fire rolls across the face of the earth? 


   Then out spake brave Horatius,

          The Captain of the Gate:

     “To every man upon this earth

          Death cometh soon or late.

     And how can man die better

          Than facing fearful odds,

     For the ashes of his fathers,

          And the temples of his gods?”


—from “Horatius” (Lays of Ancient Rome by Thomas Babington Macaulay)


Be Wise


Now, having made all the above pleas, I want to add just one more. Please, please don’t donate at the expense of your family’s well being. Each of us has a sacred responsibility to provide for those of our own household and family, including all the necessities of life, health, education, safety, and comfort. We likewise have an obligation to care for the poor among us. These should not be neglected in the service of building the Lord’s house. Please consult with the Lord and make such decisions at the time and in the way he directs, in accordance with scripture. 


There is a GoFundMe page for donations, which diverts 2.9% of the donated amount to the GoFundMe platform. Those who wish to see that 100% of their donation goes directly to the temple fund can make arrangements with the three women who administer the fund to donate directly. 


In closing I simply want to offer a personal note. This subject has weighed heavily upon me ever since I witnessed last month’s conjunction on the Solstice. The Lord’s spirit has urged me and wearied me that time is short and our actions right now have eternal repercussions. The temple hangs in the very balance because the time is at hand but the funds are not. Please ask the Lord if this is not so. 


To those who have donated and who continue to donate in support of the Lord’s work, I offer my humble gratitude. To those who might be able to do more, please consider this an invitation. And to those who have yet to donate, please consider helping to build the lifeboat in which we all hope to have a seat.



Wherefore, settle this in your hearts: that you will do the things which I shall teach and command you. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first and counts the cost, whether he has money to finish his work? Lest unhappily, after he has laid the foundation and is not able to finish his work, all who behold begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish?

—Luke 9:8 (NC)


Saturday, January 2, 2021

2021

 As we begin 2021, Tennyson's poem seems more applicable than ever.


In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]

By Alfred Lord Tennyson 


Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

   The flying cloud, the frosty light:

   The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.


Ring out the old, ring in the new,

   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

   The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.


Ring out the grief that saps the mind

   For those that here we see no more;

   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,

Ring in redress to all mankind.


Ring out a slowly dying cause,

   And ancient forms of party strife;

   Ring in the nobler modes of life,

With sweeter manners, purer laws.


Ring out the want, the care, the sin,

   The faithless coldness of the times;

   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes

But ring the fuller minstrel in.


Ring out false pride in place and blood,

   The civic slander and the spite;

   Ring in the love of truth and right,

Ring in the common love of good.


Ring out old shapes of foul disease;

   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

   Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace.


Ring in the valiant man and free,

   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

   Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the Christ that is to be.