Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Purpose of the Sacrament- Doctrine and Covenants Section 27 (1)

Section 27 in the Doctrine and Covenants is all about the Sacrament.

Historically, Emma Smith and a few others had been baptized about two months previous to this revelation. The baptism was cut short because of mob violence and they had not, however, been privileged to receive the Holy Ghost or partake of the “emblems of the Sacrament.” Joseph had been arrested and spent some time in jail and did not have another opportunity until this point to confirm these individuals, including Emma, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As the saints went about to procure some wine to participate in the ordinance of the Sacrament, the Lord revealed some beautiful doctrine regarding the Sacrament itself, and some information about the “last great Sacrament meeting” to come.

Section 27 could be divided into three main parts or principles:

  • The purpose of the Sacrament.
  • The last great Sacrament meeting.
  • How you can be there.

The purpose of the Sacrament.

Verses 1-4

Look for the most important thing you can do when you partake of the Sacrament.

1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful.

2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.

3 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies;

4 Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made anew among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.

What do you think “His Glory” is referring to?

The apostle John recorded the Saviors words as He uttered the beautiful Intercessory Prayer just prior to His experience in Gethsemane. It is here that He speaks at length on “glory”.

John 17:1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

How can you make sure when you partake of the Sacrament you are doing so with an “eye single to His glory”?

The Savior wanted His saints to understand that what the Sacrament emblems consisted of was of less importance than the condition of the heart of the partaker. (For example, in war torn Germany they used potato skins instead of bread because of the shortage of bread.) The importance of the Sacrament is clearly felt by the individual’s preparation, not what he actually eats and drinks.

If one could visualize the Sacrament table as the altar, with the Priests of Aaron officiating there, the offering or sacrifice, is the one you bring to the altar. It is an offering of “a broken heart and contrite spirit” with an “eye single to His glory”. Humility, repentance, and gratitude are just a few of the conditions that are necessary to partake of the Sacrament properly. Only then is your offering truly an offering in righteousness.

The Sacramental offering you bring to the Altar is similar to the offering the Priest made on the Day of Atonement. It was a double offering, consisting of a “goat” and a “scape goat”. The Children of Israel placed their hands on one of the goats, symbolic of the transference of sin onto the animal, and that goat was allowed to go free. The other goat was the one offered upon the altar for the actual remission of their sins. You bring your offering, which is not a “perfect” offering so it is allowed to be set free, that is replaced with the perfect offering of Jesus Christ, or the emblems of his Atonement. The Sacrament is a beautiful illustration of both justice and mercy.

The actual substance that you take into your body is not as important as what you purge out. What you take into your body is the Atonement of Jesus Christ which is the most important aspect of understanding the Sacrament. For it is “His work and His glory to bring to pass the immortality and Eternal life of man.”

Do you really think about what you are bringing to the altar each time you partake?

Monday, March 30, 2009

What Was So Great About King David Anyway?

I have often pondered why King David of the Old Testament was considered one of the greatest kings in Israel. Although he did many obedient things during his lifetime, he also did some not so hot things too. While studying in 2 Samuel this past week I believe I have found a reason why David was so special.

Saul, who started out strong as the king of Israel and the Lord’s anointed, simply went down hill fast. He became obsessed with David and jealous of David’s popularity with the people, and with the Lord himself. Pride and disobedience soon became the downfall of Saul, and the Lord withdrew from him. Most of Saul’s life was spent in pursuit of David, resulting in many attempts at David’s life. One amazing thing about David was his respect for the Lord’s anointed even when he didn't deserve it really, but I don’t think this is the true reason he was considered great.

After the death of Saul, Ishbosheth, who was the son of Saul, became ruler over the kingdom the Israel but David ruled Judah.

2 Samuel 2:8 ¶ But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul’s host, took Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim;

9 And made him king over Gilead, and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel.

10 Ish-bosheth Saul’s son was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David.

11 And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.

These two rulers created a division in the kingdom, or in the Children of Israel. The division lasted seven years and six months. Upon the death of Ishbosheth, the tribes of Israel then came to David, and in his mercy and grace, he united the kingdom which was divided for the first time.

2 Samuel 5:1 Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh.

2 Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel.

3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord: and they anointed David king over Israel.

4 ¶ David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.

5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.

This unification of the Children of Israel has never occurred again since. It was a great accomplishment and will only be repeated by Jesus Christ himself. In this way David is truly an Elias for Jesus Christ, who is the King of Kings.

I believe that is what made David so great. What do you think?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sarah, A Woman of Sacrifice

We are reminded all the time of the sacrifice of Abraham and his willingness to be obedient to the Lord, but in remembering him we must remember his wife Sarah also. Sarah's life is one of sacrifice; it was filled with continual tests or trials, which as she proved faithful and obedient, resulted in blessings without number.

The first sacrifice Sarah faced required her to leave her home and family and “cleave” unto her husband, as they both left the familiar surroundings of Ur, to travel by faith to an unknown land. Arriving in the land of Canaan during a time of great famine, they were then required to journey onward still into Egypt for sustenance. Before they were to enter into the area of Egypt, Sarah was instructed that it would be safer for Abraham if she relinquished her title as wife, and become a sister to him to save him from death.

Sarah’s willingness to sacrifice even her precious virtue to Pharaoh if need be, so that Abraham could live, served as an example of consecration in marriage in the fullest sense. She was blessed for her obedience as she was allowed to leave Egypt with her husband with her virtue unscathed. In fact, she and Abraham left Egypt with far more substance than they had when they arrived; they received riches, through the Lord, in abundance from Pharaoh himself.

The Lord had covenanted with Abraham and promised him that through his lineage would continue a “royal priesthood”, and that his posterity would be “as numerous as the sands of the seashore.” Yet, after 24 years of marriage, Abraham still had no seed by Sarah. At the age of seventy-five, knowing that the years of her child bearing possibilities had passed, Sarah learned another great lesson of sacrifice. Putting her heart on the altar she submitted her will in offering her handmaid Hagar as another in her stead, to fulfill the promise of an heir to Abraham, made by the Lord. Because of her willingness to consecrate her all, this time to the Lord, she was blessed with the miracle birth of Isaac.

It is evident that Sarah became a great “mother of nations” as we come to know the character of Isaac himself, more fully through the experience he has with Abraham and his willingness to become the sacrifice to the Lord. Isaac’s unquestioning submission to the will of both his earthly father, and his Heavenly Father, confirms the fact that Sarah had taught him the ways of the Lord. He knew and understood the importance of the law of sacrifice, which Sarah had a firm testimony of herself. That testimony of sacrifice entitled her to the same blessings as Abraham in the eternities to come.

The fullness of glory is given to Sarah as Abraham becomes “a covering of the eyes” or a veil for her. This beautiful honor of a veiled faced showed that Sarah was given a place in the kingdom, not only of the earth but of heaven too. Abraham's blessing of priesthood, posterity, and a land inheritance was to be shared equally with this beautiful woman, Sarah.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

An Offering in Righteousness LDS Temple Worship

Today Zion is on my mind.

Perhaps it is because my adventure to the San Diego Temple last night is fresh on my mind.

I had the opportunity to go with a group of Young Adults and do a special “after hours” session of baptisms for the dead as we contributed our portion to our Stake’s “offering in righteousness”. I knew it would be a perfect time to take some family names to have work done for them in the Temple, so I decided to do some research for a friend of mine who gives many hours of service to the Young Adult Branch where I also am privileged to serve. As I entered the names of her family into the New Family Search Program I marveled once again at how fast and easy it is now to contribute and clear names for ordinance work to be done.

My research on her family line led me to a group of collateral relatives that needed their work done. The interesting thing about these people is that they were all from Independence, Jackson County, Missouri. Their time on this earth is precisely the time that the Saints would have felt persecution from those of the area. I felt a feeling of peace and healing as I researched this family line and contributed them to the Temple so that they could have their ordinance work done. It was a beautiful “come to Zion” moment for me.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell who creatively taught, some “people know they should have their primary residence in Zion, but they still hope to keep a summer cottage in Babylon also stated, “Since there are no instant Christians, to withhold what we can do to accelerate the process of the perfection of Zion until Zion is nearly perfected is to misconstrue mortality. To withhold all (or even much) of our fellowship, our talents, or our tithing until the Church and its people meet our “high” standard is like trying to book passage on Noah’s ark without driving a nail in a plank. We simply walk on board and ask to be shown to our stateroom and inquire as we enter the stateroom about what time dinner is served at the Captain’s table! We must sign on for the voyage with all our imperfections, and commit to help each other.”

I am grateful for the blessings of the Temple and the healing power it brings into our lives by application of the covenants we make there. It is a beautiful “ritualistic, ceremonial, memorial” that we are allowed to participate in to remind us that the power to save is only by the “strong hand of God.” It is an illustration of what it takes to live a consecrated life. It is a visual teaching of the process we need to follow to learn to “walk with God” as our Father Abraham did. But, last night, for me, it was also a moment to reflect on how we need to help each other, imperfections and all.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Temple Garment, Putting on the Armor of God

This week in Institute we discussed Section 27 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which I will hopefully discuss further in another post. While I was studying for class I came across a really great Ensign article by Elder Carlos E. Asay called, The Temple Garment: “An Outward Expression of an Inward Commitment.” It was so perfect for discussing the “armor of God” that I decided to post part of it here for reference.

Look for the important purposes the Garment serves:

There is, however, another piece of armor worthy of our consideration. It is the special underclothing known as the temple garment, or garment of the holy priesthood, worn by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have received their temple endowment. This garment, worn day and night, serves three important purposes; it is a reminder of the sacred covenants made with the Lord in His holy house, a protective covering for the body, and a symbol of the modesty of dress and living that should characterize the lives of all the humble followers of Christ.

Look for what the marks are to remind us of, or direct us to:

It is written that “the white garment symbolizes purity and helps assure modesty, respect for the attributes of God, and, to the degree it is honored, a token of what Paul regarded as taking upon one the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:13; compare D&C 27:15). … Garments bear several simple marks of orientation toward the gospel principles of obedience, truth, life, and discipleship in Christ.”

(Notice how those correspond with the covenants one makes in the Temple.)

Look for why it is important to wear the Garment:

Much, much more could be said about the war for the souls of men and the whole armor of God. The war on the earth began in the days of Adam, continued down through the years with Moses and the children of Israel, and still rages in a dispensation known as the fulness of times—a dispensation ushered in by the revelations received through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Hence, the issue of protective coverings enabling us to withstand the fiery darts of Satan will continue to be of great significance.

Look for how many items of “clothing” we are instructed to put on:

We must put on the armor of God spoken of by the Apostle Paul and reiterated in a modern revelation (see D&C 27:15–18). We must also “put on the armor of righteousness” (2 Ne. 1:23) symbolized by the temple garment. Otherwise, we may lose the war and perish.

Look for what the blessings are for faithfully wearing the Garment:

The heavy armor worn by soldiers of a former day, including helmets, shields, and breastplates, determined the outcome of some battles. However, the real battles of life in our modern day will be won by those who are clad in a spiritual armor—an armor consisting of faith in God, faith in self, faith in one’s cause, and faith in one’s leaders. The piece of armor called the temple garment not only provides the comfort and warmth of a cloth covering, it also strengthens the wearer to resist temptation, fend off evil influences, and stand firmly for the right.

The Lord has given us a beautiful reminder, by way of clothing, of His power to save us. How we wear the Garment of the Holy Priesthood is an expression of the testimony we have of the power of the Atonement and the ability Christ has to cover all of our sins. It is also an expression of our willingness to enter into covenants with the Lord. Obedience to these covenants bring blessings, the greatest of these being eternal life. The Garment is a symbol of our commitment and dedication to our Father. They are really "an outward expression of an inward commitment."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Torah Pointed To Jesus Christ

As I was studying from one of my new favorite books called, Beloved Bridegroom by Donna B. Nielsen, I was struck by a description of the Torah she gave as she quoted Ariel Berkowitz from his book, Torah Rediscovered.

“The word Torah in Hebrew does not only mean ‘law’, it also means ‘teaching’. Moreover, the root for ‘Torah’ can be traced to the Hebrew word meaning ‘to shoot an arrow,’ or ‘to hit the mark.’ Thus, the word ‘Torah’ means literally, ‘teaching,’ whether it is the wise man instructing his son, or God instructing Israel. Hence, we can say that ‘Torah’ is God’s teaching, hitting the mark of man’s needs including his need to know who God is and what His righteousness looks like.”

The Torah is also known as the Pentateuch or the first five books of Moses. For the Christian world these can be recognized as the first five books in the Old Testament. The Torah was a record written on scrolls that was to be read aloud to the congregation in the synagogue.

According to Alfred Edersheim in his book, Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ, the main objective of the synagogue was the teaching of the people. He states, “At present the Pentateuch is for this purpose arranged into fifty-four sections, of which one is read on each successive Sabbath of the year, beginning immediately after the feast of Tabernacles. But anciently the lectionary, at least in Palestine, seems to have been differently arranged, and the Pentateuch so divided that its reading occupied three, or, according to some, three and a-half years.”

In the Gospel of Luke we read about this very experience concerning Jesus as he read in the synagogue.

Luke 4:15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.

16 ¶ And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

This “law” or “instruction” given to Moses was simply a pattern for what was to come, a witness to bear testimony of the “Law of the Gospel” which was the “good news” of Jesus Christ. Christ himself bore witness that He was the law.

D&C 88: 13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.

The Torah or “arrow hitting the Mark” took three and a-half years to read starting right after the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast was celebrated in the Fall. It is interesting to note that many believe that the ministry of Christ began in the Fall of AD 26 and continued until the Spring of AD 30, exactly three and a-half years. In my opinion, the Torah was simply another testimony of Jesus Christ or the Mark.

Jacob 4:14 But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.

We know that all things point to Christ. With that understanding, as we worship today, we need to take special precautions so that we do not make the same mistake of looking beyond the Mark.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Burnt Offering A Sacred Temple Ritual

In my study of the Book of Leviticus, I have noticed some interesting insights concerning the procedure outlined for the Burnt Offering at the Tabernacle.

The person who desired to be cleansed brought the offering to the priest at the Tabernacle. The offering could be “from the herd”, “from the flock” or “of birds’. This designation was made according to the wealth and social standing of the offerer. For example, if the offerer owned a herd, then a bullock must be offered for a sacrifice. A lamb would not be an acceptable sacrifice for him. If however, he did not own a herd, but a flock only, then his offering must be a sheep or a goat. If neither a flock nor herd was owned, a bird, meaning turtledoves or pigeons, would suffice. We have been taught that to those who are given much, much is required in return. The Children of Israel were taught that lesson each day, as the smoke of the burnt offering constantly adorned the Tabernacle grounds.

Whatever their status in life was, the offerer was the one required to present the offering to be sacrificed. After he laid his hands upon the offering, the offerer was required to kill the offering himself. Everything was to be burned except the skin or feathers. It was a way in which the offerer could present himself, by way of transference on the offering, willing to “put off” or kill his “natural or sinful” nature in the act of complete submission of his will and seek for the change that would allow for a covering from the Lord. It was a great way of teaching them of the vicarious offering that would be made in their behalf, of the Savior himself. The skin “or covering” was the memorial of the sacrifice used to cover the priest with a “robe of righteousness”, or construct the garment of the holy priesthood, it served as a reminder of what the sacrifice meant to the individual.

The offering was then cut into portions and offered upon the altar. Each cut was symbolic of a covenant that was to be kept. Cuts and covenants are unilaterally the same thing. Today we may even use the euphemism, “to cut a deal” with reference to forming a contractual arrangement. It is interesting to note what parts were to be cut and what they might have represented.

The Head - representing the mind and the intellect

The Inwards - representing the emotions or heart

The Fat - representing health and virility and increase

The Legs – indicating the walk, which represent conduct and lifestyle

The head and inwards were symbols of the mind and heart. Oliver Cowdery was instructed that this process was the process of experiencing revelation when The Lord taught him in Section 8 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.

This process of turning ones thoughts to the Lord is the process involved in living the law of obedience and being willing to offer the sacrifice of ones own will. In turn, the beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ then enters the heart by way of the Holy Ghost, allowing one to have that change of heart needed to continually desire righteousness, and be taught all things.

The fat was always completely burned in every offering. It served as an example of exactness in offering complete fidelity to the Lord. It promised that putting the Lord first before any thing else would lead to a life of consecration in ones walk. In today’s vernacular, it is hard to give everything you have to something unless you are married to the idea. The legs represented the consecrated life, the complete “walk with Him” as Abraham was instructed. This consecration was only possible because of the willingness to sacrifice the fat, or increase.

The instruction that the Lord gave the Children of Israel, through the prophet Moses, concerning the burnt offering is such a beautiful way to view the application of the Atonement and our, as offering and offerer, relationship to our Savior. The sacred teachings of the LDS Temple are memorials of this same sort of instruction. Although the ceremony has changed from times past, and the “cuts” or portioning of the sacrifice are not quite as obvious to the participant, they are still beautifully taught in sacred ritual form. The understanding of what one is actually offering makes all the difference in the world in comprehending the beauty of the LDS Temple ceremony.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ruth, A Story of Both Faith and Works

One of my favorite stories about women in the scriptures is the story of Ruth and Naomi. Their stories are so similarly intertwined in an instructive twist of fate. Naomi, who was a woman from Bethlehem-Judah, finds herself in a strange land in a peculiar predicament. She and her husband chose to leave their homeland and venture to the area of Moab because of a shortage of “bread” in their land. While in Moab, Naomi loses her husband to death. She also loses her only two sons to death, but not before they each had taken a Moabite woman as a wife. With no means of financial support, and upon hearing there was food to be found in her homeland of Bethlehem-Judah, Ruth decides to return home.

To understand the predicament that each of the three women were in, one must understand the conditions of the Levirate marriage. Under the law, if a man should die the dead man's brother should marry the widow and raise a family to the dead man, meaning all children born to this new union would be counted seed to the deceased brother. The firstborn son to this union would still be considered the birthright child of the dead husband and would inherit all the property and rights that should have been his dead fathers.

This custom insured the security and protection of the widow, who might have otherwise been left friendless and destitute. The law further stated that if there were no brothers to take upon themselves this widow a more distant male relative would be required to perform this duty of marriage and continuation of seed to that family. This was the responsibility of the closest blood relative, who actually became the widows "redeemer or protector" called a "Go'el."

For Naomi to have a continuation of seed, she must require her daughter-in-laws to marry her husbands nearest living relative. It is important to note that posterity was one of the ways in which a person was measured as far as worth. Naomi unselfishly allows her two daughter-in-laws their freedom and instructs them to return to their families and to their ways of worship. At this point Naomi also blesses them with the following petition to the Lord on their behalf:

Ruth 1:8 And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.

9 The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.

Orpah, one of the daughters, “kissed her mother in law” and left, but Ruth “clave unto her.” The true conversion that Ruth had to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the love she felt for her mother-in-law and her God is shown by her response.

Ruth 1:16 Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

17 Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

They both return to Judah and it is there we see a twist of fate; Ruth is now the one in a strange land facing a peculiar predicament. This Moabite woman is now required to provide support for her mother-in-law, whom she loves. To do this she is forced to go to the field and “glean” for their food.

The Lord explained this process of gleaning,

Leviticus 19: 9 ¶ And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.

10 And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God.

The “glean” was the food that was left for the poor, either on the vine or on the ground, after the harvest was gathered by the harvesters. Ruth had resolved to go into the field, for it was during the Barley harvest, and glean for food. As Ruth was gleaning in the field, the land owner who was called Boaz noticed her and found favor with her.

Ruth 2:11 And Boaz answered and said unto her, It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore.

12 The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.

Both the prayers of her mother-in-law Naomi, and of Boaz, who we ultimately find becomes her husband, desire for Ruth to be blessed because of her faith and her works. This faithful convert, does “find rest in the house of her husband” for his house is the House of David, which is the “house” Jesus Christ himself comes through. This “house” or family line is that of kings and priests, and would be considered a “full reward” for any righteous woman to have. Because of the faithful consecrated acts that Ruth performed, not only for her mother-in-law but for her God too, she received the blessings of redemption and eternal life.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ceremonial Clothing and Temple Worship

The Lord has always used clothing as an avenue for teaching symbolism. As early as in the book of Genesis we learn that the “garment” or coat of skin was a symbol of that which would cover. Unlike the fig leaves, or fake covering, the coat of skin taught of the sacrificial covering, pointing to Jesus Christ and the Atonement as the full covering of nakedness, or sin.

Ceremonial clothing has always been a part of Temple worship as well. In the book of Exodus the Lord gave detailed instructions to the Children of Israel regarding the clothing that was to be worn by the Priests who were called to officiate in the Tabernacle. This process of washing, or becoming clean, and changing of their clothes was an outward expression of the inward change that was to take place to be worthy to participate in the sacred ordinances.

Exodus 29:4 And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water.

5 And thou shalt take the garments, and put upon Aaron the coat, and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod:

6 And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre.

7 Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him.

8 And thou shalt bring his sons, and put coats upon them.

9 And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest’s office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons.

These garments of “glory and beauty” symbolized the change that was to take place of one nature to another or the act of “putting off the natural man.”

On one day of the year, known as the Day of Atonement, the High Priest of the Aaronic priesthood was instructed to make another clothing change.

Leviticus 16:4 He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen breeches upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.

This Day of Atonement offering required that the priest enter into another level of sacredness, or the Holy of Holies, in the Tabernacle. This offering took place inside the inner vail, as the priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrificial bullock on the mercy seat itself. This most sacred offering required the priest to change into white linen garments, which symbolized the absence of sin and his worthiness to make this vicarious offering on behalf of all the house of Israel. It was a very visual way to instruct the people about the sinless state of Jesus Christ, and the upcoming sacrifice he would make on their behalf.

Leviticus 16:11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:

12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:

13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:

14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.

15 ¶ Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:

16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

17 And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.

The changing of clothing is symbolic of the progression one must make to enter into the presence of the Lord. It represents ones willingness to leave this world behind and seek for that of a better one. It is a beautiful way to learn about the application of the Atonement and the ability one has to “change”. It can be seen as easy as a simple “change of clothes.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Blessings of Obedience

Opposition creates the ability to choose.

The ability to choose gives us the opportunity to obey.

What blessings are promised because of obedience?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sacred Temples Are Not A New Idea

Temple worship is really not a new concept. If one looks carefully for it, it can be seen in the scriptures as early as The Garden of Eden itself.

The prophet Ezekiel actually compares The Garden of Eden to The Mountain of the Lord in Chapter 28.

13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

The next Temple experience can be easily discerned in the description of Jacob’s ladder, or El Bethel, which literally means “The Temple”.

Genesis 28: 12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Jesus Christ promised His disciples this same temple experience in John 1, as He explained that He would be the way to open heaven and to introduce them to His father who was in heaven.

51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

Moses had a Temple experience as he ascended the mountain called Horeb, known as the Mountain of the Lord. As Moses sought to bring the Children of Israel into the presence of the Lord, they rebelled and worshiped the Golden Calf. The consequence of their broken covenant was the inability to be in the presence of the Lord and so the Tabernacle was constructed as a mediatory place of worship or a place of learning until they were worthy of a Temple.

David desired to build that Temple but was refused the right because he was a “man of war”. Solomon, who represented “peace”, was the actual builder of the Temple for the Children of the Lord. In the Temple built by Solomon the “glory of the Lord” was exhibited.

2nd Chronicles 7: 1 Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house.

2 And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house.

3 And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.

During the reign of Rehoboam, king of Judah, the Egyptian empire took the treasures of the house of the Lord and the temple became defiled. Ultimately it was completely burned to the ground by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.

Historically when the Persian Empire conquered the Babylonian Empire, King Cyrus who was the king of Persia, allowed the Children of Israel to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple of the Lord.

Ezra 6:5 And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which is at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to his place, and place them in the house of God.

This rebuilt Temple is commonly known as the Temple of Zarubbabel. Although the Lord accepted the offering of the Temple as in the days of the Tabernacle of Moses, the glory that was felt there was not the same as was felt in the Temple built by Solomon. In Haggai chapter 2 it is recorded,

3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?

4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts:

5 According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.

6 For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;

7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.

8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.

9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.

Even though the “glory” of the Lord was not exhibited in this temple or in the subsequent temple that Herod rebuilt, which is the Temple in operation during the time of Christ, the promise that the Lord gave of a “latter house” whose glory will be even greater than that of the Temple built by Solomon, was finally fulfilled with the building of His Temple in this last dispensation, the Kirtland Temple.

The description of the Kirtland Temple dedication as received in Section 109 of the Doctrine and Covenants reveals that once again the Heavens “shook” and the Law of the Lord was restored, creating a Latter Day Temple with an even greater degree of glory than that of the Temple built by Solomon.

The description of the Dedication is as follows:

“The dedication was set for Sunday March 27, 1836 after everything was cleaned up and ready, The doors promptly opened at 8:00 AM. Nearly one thousand people had gathered there waiting to get in. Some had to be turned away. They sang some songs written by some of the brethren; Sidney Rigdon offered a prayer and then spoke for two and one half hours. They then sustained the general authorities. The prophet Joseph then arose and offered the dedicatory prayers Among other things he said: "Thou hast commanded thy servants to build a house to thy name in this place. And now thou beholdest O Lord, that thy servants have done according to thy commandment...thou knowest that we have done this work through great tribulation; and out of poverty we have given our substance to build a house to thy name, that the Son of Man might have a place to manifest himself...And now, Holy Father, we ask thee to assist us, thy people with thy grace, in calling our solemn assembly, that it may be done to thy honor and to thy divine acceptance...And in a manner that we may be found worthy, in thy sight, to secure a fulfillment of the promises which thou hast made unto us, thy people, in the revelation given unto us that thy glory may rest down upon the people, and upon thy house, which we now dedicate to thee...And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with power which thou hast ordained to be poured out upon those who shall reverence thee in thy house... Let it be fulfilled upon them, as upon those on the day of Pentecost; let the gift of tongues be poured out upon thy people, even cloven tongues of fire, and the interpretation thereof. And let the house be filled, as with a rushing mighty wind with thy glory...That all the ends of the earth may know that we, thy servants, have heard thy voice, and that thou hast sent us." (DC 109: 2,3,10-12,22,36,37)

“One week after the dedication, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery "standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit," and accepted the Kirtland Temple. After the appearance of the Savior, other heavenly beings appeared to Joseph & Oliver including Moses, Elias, and Elijah, each committing the keys of their respective dispensation unto them.”

Once again the Temple work of old has begun again, new. The authority has been given to administer in the ordinances thereof, by those who hold the priesthood keys, and the work of the Lord has begun to come forth, restored and authorized, within the walls of the LDS Temples of God. This is a sacred work and, as is labeled on the doors of the Salt Lake Temple itself, one that is described as “Holiness to the Lord.”

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Mormon Message: The Blessings of the Temple

This is a great new video that can be used to teach others about the Temple. I am sure it was produced because of the heightened attention the LDS Temple ceremony has been given because of media exposure at this time. I love the beautiful way in which our leaders have used this added media coverage to take the opportunity to teach others about the beauty of Temple experiences. Make sure to use this video in your Blogs, and Email messages and in every opportunity you can to teach about the Temple.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"This Is My Voice Unto All" Section 25

Section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants is most commonly thought of as the section where Emma Smith is given the commandment to organize the hymns of the Church into a book for "the songs of the righteous are a prayer unto" the Lord, but this section contains much more by way of counsel to the saints in all areas of life. Although the revelation may be thought to be specifically geared to Emma Smith the Lord adds a broader application when he states in verse 16, “And verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my voice unto all.”

An overview of the Section can be divided into four areas of counsel to gain greater insights and instruction, as pointed out by Carol Cornwall Madsen in a Sperry Symposium Classic. They may be studied as follows:

Actions and Desires

Vs.2- Be faithful and walk in virtue.

Vs.4- Murmur not.

Vs.10- Lay aside things of this world and seek for things of a better.

Vs.13- Lift up your heart and rejoice. Cleave unto the covenants you have made.

Vs.14- Continue in meekness. Beware of pride.

Marriage Relationship

Vs.5- Comfort with consoling words in meekness.

Vs.6- Go with your husband.

Vs.9- Support your husband. Support your wives.

Vs.14- Delight in the glory which will come upon him, or Celestial glory.

Duties to the Church

Vs.7- Ordained to expound scriptures and exhort the Church.

Vs.8- Writing and learning.

Vs.11- Make a selection of Hymns.

Relationship with the Lord

Vs.1- Daughter or son.

Vs.3- Elect lady

Vs. 15- Crown of righteousness for obedience.

Some interesting insights that I learned from studying this counsel are as follows:

The word “receive” can be defined as “to admit a person to a place.” As the Lord explained the requirement for becoming His sons and daughters he specifies “all those who receive my gospel”. This act of receiving can be as simple as receiving Him into your heart, or a change of heart that is referred to in the scriptures.

Another word that stuck out to me was that of “meekness”. I loved the explanation that was given as meekness is “power under control.” Twice the Lord uses the word meekness, once in reference to the marital relationship and then again in our actions and desires. This is part of the process of “putting off the natural man.”

Lastly the term “elect” was used to describe Emma’s position in the kingdom. A simplistic definition of the term elect is given in Section 29 verse 7, “for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.” Joseph Smith in his journal entry dated March 17, 1842 writes, “Elect meant to be Elected to a certain work.” We were elected to come to this earth, hear the gospel, be proven faithful, and do our job of gathering Israel. I believe anyone who is a member of the Church is an Elect individual under these terms.

Section 25 is so much more than just a commandment to organize the hymns of the Church.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet

On February 26, 1980 in a Brigham Young University address Ezra Taft Benson, who was then president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a “grand key” of knowledge. It was to “Follow the Prophet”. In reference to the upcoming 85th birthday, soon to be celebrated by the Prophet Spencer W. Kimball who was prophet at the time, Benson stated that the best way to honor him would be to simply, “Follow the Prophet.” President Benson then gave fourteen fundamentals in following the prophet. Listen carefully as he expounds on each of them in the video below.

I believe that these fourteen fundamentals are still important for us today. Soon we will have the opportunity once again to be instructed directly from our Prophet and other church leaders during General Conference in April. Some of the direction and counsel we will be asked to live may seem hard. Perhaps some of the correction they have to offer may be stinging, or some may even have cause to find offense. I believe that the inspirational message that President Benson gave nearly 30 years ago, is just the counsel we need to hear today, for as he stated, “our salvation depends on them.”

“Not only is the Church growing in number today, it is growing in faithfulness and, even more important, our young generation, as a group, is even more faithful than the older generation. God has reserved you for the eleventh hour—the great and dreadful day of the Lord (D&C 110:16). It will be your responsibility not only to help to carry the kingdom to a triumph but to save your own soul and strive to save those of your family and to honor the principles of the inspired constitution of the United States.” Ezra Taft Benson

“Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”

  • 1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
  • 2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
  • 3. The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
  • 4. The prophet will never lead the church astray.
  • 5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
  • 6. The prophet does not have to say “Thus Saith the Lord,” to give us scripture.
  • 7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
  • 8. The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
  • 9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
  • 10. The prophet may advise on civic matters.
  • 11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
  • 12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
  • 13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.
  • 14. The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer.

Have you ever felt that the counsel given from our leaders was hard to follow? How did you deal with that dilemma?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"The Gathering of My People"

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the vehicle by which the scattered Children of Israel will be gathered. The keys to the gathering of Israel, which the prophet Moses holds, have been turned once again in this dispensation and the work has begun. This gathering is taking place each day, as people from all over the world come to an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and join with the saints in worshiping the Father through Him.

In the early history of the Church Joseph Smith was instructed very specifically about those who would be gathered and the reasons He had for gathering them. In Section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants He outlines some qualifications that are necessary for His people in order to be gathered.

D&C 10: 65 For, behold, I will gather them as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if they will not harden their hearts;

66 Yea, if they will come, they may, and partake of the waters of life freely.

67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.

It is very easy to recognize these qualifications as the first four principles of the gospel, faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Today we can easily see those who are being gathered, by the number of baptisms that are taking place into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, through conversion because of the condition of their hearts. When they hear the “good news” they recognize it as a familiar voice. The Lord refers to these people as His elect.

D&C 29: 7 And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts;

8 Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.

Look for the many reasons the Lord has for gathering His people.

D&C 38:31 And that ye might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless—

32 Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high;

  • To escape the power of their enemies.
  • To gather a righteous people.
  • To be given the Lord’s Law.
  • To be endowed with power from on high.

Joseph Smith said, “What was the object of gathering the people of God in any age of the world? The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose. It is for the same purpose that God gathers together His people in the last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washing and anointings, etc.”

D&C 38:35 And they shall look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer; and send them forth to the place which I have commanded them;

  • To look to the poor and the needy.

D&C 38:39 And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.

  • To have the riches of eternity.

D&C 38: 42 And go ye out from among the wicked. Save yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Even so. Amen.

  • To go out from among the wicked.

Can you think of other times in the scriptures that the people were told to come out from the wicked?

In Section 37 the Lord gives counsel to the saints instructing them to gather to the Ohio, but is very specific with His instructions when he states,

D&C 37:4 Behold, here is wisdom, and let every man choose for himself until I come. Even so. Amen.

Why do you thing it is important for each man to choose for himself?

He also give further instruction for the saints as follows,

D&C 38:24 And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practise virtue and holiness before me.

25 And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.

When it comes to the gathering of His people, why do you think it is important for every man to “esteem his brother as himself”? It certainly must be important, for the Lord has stated it twice!

The instruction to gather is prevalent in our Church today. We gather in Regions, Stakes, Wards, Sacrament Meetings, Priesthood meetings, Relief Society, etc. We gather today for the same reasons the Lord told the Saints to gather in all ages.

Elder Russell M. Nelson stated:

“The choice to come unto Christ is not a matter of physical location; it is a matter of individual commitment. People can be “brought to the knowledge of the Lord” without leaving their homelands. True, in the early days of the Church, conversion often meant emigration as well. But now the gathering takes place in each nation. The Lord has decreed the establishment of Zion in each realm where He has given His Saints their birth and nationality. Scripture foretells that the people “shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise.” “Every nation is the gathering place for its own people.” The place of gathering for Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; the place of gathering for Nigerian Saints is in Nigeria; the place of gathering for Korean Saints is in Korea; and so forth. Zion is “the pure in heart.” Zion is wherever righteous Saints are. Publications, communications, and congregations are now such that nearly all members have access to the doctrines, keys, ordinances, and blessings of the gospel, regardless of their location.

Spiritual security will always depend upon how one lives, not where one lives. Saints in every land have equal claim upon the blessings of the Lord.”

In what ways do you participate in the gathering today?