Monday, February 23, 2009

The Bible- Plain and Precious Truths

In one of my earliest posts, I made a bold statement about the Holy Bible, but one that has been said before. I wish to justify and expound this statement now. In the post “About the Book of Mormon,” I stated, “However, both accidentally and purposefully, many plain and precious truths have been lost or taken away from the Bible.”

As Latter-day Saints, we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly (see Articles of Faith 1:8). This statement, as one blog follower pointed out, is obvious because “people of all religions only believe their religious texts to be inspired as far as they are translated correctly.” He went on to also make the point that, “The implication, then, is not that the Bible should only be trusted when translated correctly (which is kind of obvious, I think), but that the Bible has not been correctly translated.” Perfect. The “claim” is that the Bible has not been correctly translated. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 327).

Another one of the bases of this statement comes from Nephi, a prophet who fled with his family from his home in Jerusalem and was guided by the Lord to the American continents 600 years before the birth of the Savior. The Lord showed Nephi a vision, in which Nephi saw what would happen to the Bible, which he refers to as the book that, “proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew.”

From 1 Nephi 13:20-29:

20 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.

21 And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?

22 And I said unto him: I know not.

23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.

24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.

25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.

26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.

27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.

28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.

29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.

The Bible is not untrue because it has been translated so many times and plain and precious things have been lost and taken from its pages. The Bible is still true; the words contained therein are still the words of the Lord through His prophets and the words of the Savior Himself. The principles taught in the Bible are true and we will be happier when we live by them. The commandments recorded in the Bible are true and the Lord blesses us when we live by them. The Bible just is no longer as pure as it was when penned by the original authors. These discrepancies are both purposeful and accidental. However, God does not expect us to guess what His words mean and we do not have to go without the blessings of living by the teachings no longer contained in completeness in the Bible. God continues to speak to His children, and He has once again restored those plain and precious truths that were lost in translation.

The Lord has restored those plain and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has another book, the Book of Mormon. But the Church has so much more than that. It has the Doctrine of Covenants, the books of Moses and Abraham, and countless modern revelations in the form of talks given in the General Conferences of the Church, articles in the Church magazines, and other instances when the Lord’s present-day apostles and prophets have spoken. With all the revelation and all of the teachings present in the LDS church, none of the books or revelations detracts, distracts, or takes away from the Bible and the teachings contained therein. On the contrary, since the words uttered forth by the Lord’s prophets and apostles are, in fact, the words of God the Father Himself, they only contribute to, help clarify, and ultimately support the Bible. Elder M. Russell Ballard (1928-present) said, “The Book of Mormon does not dilute nor diminish nor de-emphasize the Bible. On the contrary, it expands, extends, and exalts it. The Book of Mormon testifies of the Bible, and both testify of Christ” (“The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign, May 2007, 82).

Indeed, the Bible is a miracle and a blessing. The apostle Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985) stated:

". . . the Bible is a book of books. It has enlightened and influenced the Christian world generally as no other book has ever done. Such measure of truth as was preserved in its pages (as soon as this truth became known to people generally) was instrumental in bringing to pass the Renaissance and of laying the foundation for the restoration of the gospel. When the Bible is read under the guidance of the Spirit, and in harmony with the many latter-day revelations which interpret and make plain its more mysterious parts, it becomes one of the most priceless volumes known to man" (Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft 1979, 82-83).

Joseph Smith taught that readers, “can also see God’s own handwriting in the [Bible]: and he who reads it oftenest will like it best, and he who is acquainted with it, will know the hand wherever he can see it; and when once discovered, it will not only receive an acknowledgment, but an obedience to all its heavenly precepts” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 56).

The Bible is true. It is a magnificent book that has only survived through the ages by the will and power of God. It is not a book that was written to make people feel good, to give people commandments and guidelines by which to live, and influence society to be a little better. God commanded the prophets to write His words and His teachings, which were later complied to make the Bible so that we, His children, would know the pathway back to Him.

The Bible is not to be taken lightly, the teachings are not traditions that people follow because their grandparents lived by the Bible; the words in the Bible came from God. Because one has a Bible on the shelf at home does not make on a believer, does not grant salvation, and should not be used to relieve one of the guilt that comes from ignoring the teachings of the Savior. The ten commandments, the beatitudes, the miracles Jesus Christ performed on the earth, the words of Paul are not simply good counsel that helps the world be a better place and to give people a reason to go to church on Christmas and Easter. The Bible was written to be read, to be studied, its teachings to be applied in our everyday lives. So very many sacrifices were made to preserve the version of the Bible we have today. People gave their lives to preserve the sacred text and to enable their posterity—us—to know that God loves them.

The Bible is also not a tool to be used to discriminate, to hate, to judge, or to condemn others. It contains many hard and harsh teachings against those who ignore or forsake the words of the Lord. But our place is not to enforce those teachings. “Judge not that ye be not judged,” taught our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Our place is to love our neighbors as ourselves and to strive for perfection in ourselves even as our Father in Heaven is perfect. Our place is to lovingly, gently, with righteous, soft intentions share the message of the gospel of peace and proclaim the life and teachings of the Savior, that all of our brothers and sisters on the earth may know the blessings contained within the pages of the Bible.

The Bible is true. The teachings of Jesus Christ change lives. The Bible tells of the Atonement, of the suffering and miracle of the life and death of our Brother and Savior Jesus Christ. Although incomplete and to me slightly confusing at times, the Bible is the word of God and is to be prized among our most precious possessions.

Jesus Christ atoned for each of our sins and shortcomings. I know that He loves us and that our Father in Heaven loves us. I know that they both desire our happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. I know this because the Lord speaks to us through His prophets whose words are recorded in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and in modern revelations.

For further reading:

M. Russell Ballard, “The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign, May 2007, 80–82

Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘My Words … Never Cease’,” Ensign, May 2008, 91–94

Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 83–86

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Tongue of Angels

By human nature, we are prideful; we need to be right, we need to prove to others that our ideas and ways of thinking are right. We feel the need to correct others when they aren't perfect and point out others' flaws. Everyone is victim to this mentality to some degree or another. Some are better at controlling their words and others are not, but each one of us can become better at loving one another in word and in deed. I know that sometimes words just come out, words that we don't mean or that we immediately regret, it is the natural man in each of us, the natural mand that we must put off in order to become more Christlike and return to God (see Mosiah 3:19; 1 Corinthians 2:19).

This week's article is entitled, "The Tongue of Angels" by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (1940-present) of the quorum of the twelve apostles. He said, "Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity." Actions speak louder than words, but perhaps words leave a longer-lasting impression for good or for ill. Elder Holland contrasts the extremes of what our words can do, and urges each of us to pay a little more attention to what we are saying to our loved ones and those around us.

Elder Holland was called as an apostle 23 June 1994. I love hearing Elder Holland speak because his voice adds so much to that which he teaches. This talk and each of his talks are more powerful when you listen to them, so here is the link to the video from the April 2007 General Conference in which this talk was given. The link directs you to the list of talks from the April 2007 General Conference, you can click the appropriate media format that your computer supports from the right columns. Also, here is the link for translations into other languages.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Articles of Faith

The following are thirteen articles or beliefs that describe fundamental doctrines and principles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were written by the prophet Joseph Smith in 1842.

1 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

2 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.

3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

5 We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Joseph Smith

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Book of Mormon, A New Witness for Christ

This week the article of the week is a double feature if you will.

I've been searching for an that explains the relation between the Book of Mormon and the Bible since I feel that I haven't done a very good job doing so. In the process I found these articles by President Ezra Taft Benson entitled, "A New Witness for Christ" and, "The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants." President Benson gave these talks in General Conference in October 1984 and April 1987, respectively.

President Ezra Taft Benson was called to be an apostle 7 October 1943 at age 44 and was called to be the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 10 November 1985 at age 86.

Although these talks aren't exactly what I was looking for, I chose them as the double feature articles of the week because in them President Benson explains so well why the Book of Mormon is so vitally important to our lives and why exactly we should read and study the words therein contained.

I love the straightforwardness of "A New Witness for Christ." These are the words of the Lord through His servant Ezra Taft Benson and they are applicable to all on the earth.

My favorite paragraphs from the second talk are are these:

We are not required to prove that the Book of Mormon is true or is an authentic record through external evidences—though there are many. It never has been the case, nor is it so now, that the studies of the learned will prove the Book of Mormon true or false. The origin, preparation, translation, and verification of the truth of the Book of Mormon have all been retained in the hands of the Lord, and the Lord makes no mistakes. You can be assured of that.

God has built in His own proof system of the Book of Mormon as found in Moroni, chapter 10, and in the testimonies of the Three and the Eight Witnesses and in various sections of the Doctrine and Covenants.

We each need to get our own testimony of the Book of Mormon through the Holy Ghost.

President Benson was truly a prophet of God. His teachings on the Book of Mormon are true. The Book of Mormon changes lives and through it the honest seekers of truth find that for which they are searching. I hope that these articles from a modern prophet of God helps clarify the purpose of the Book of Mormon and its role in our quest for eternal life.

Jeremy

Monday, February 9, 2009

Three Towels and a 25-Cent Newspaper

In deciding which article to post this week, I came across an article that I haven't read since it was given entitled, "Three Towels and a 25-Cent Newspaper." Bishop Richard C. Edgley gave this talk in General Conference in October 2006. He was called into the Presiding Bishopric of the Church 3 October 1992.

Think about the ramifications of our decisions, even the smallest ones. Think about what life would be like if we all chose right now to deal honestly and live with integrity even in the small, seemingly insignificant aspects and decisions of life. Think about who we could become if we each dealt honestly with our fellow men no matter the size or importance of the matter. I realize that some do not think that dishonesty in everyday life is a big deal, after all, our decisions do not affect many people and we aren't deceiving shareholders or the general public. However, faithfulness in the small things leads to happiness in the grand scheme of things.

Personally, I have never regretted being honest even when the decision is super hard, and I cannot remember a time I did not regret being dishonest. Trust goes a long way and enables one to many comforts of peace of conscience and peace of mind. Decide how much your integrity is worth to you, the fleeting satisfaction of the moment, or the long-term peace of mind of an integrity-filled life.

Bishop Edgley's words are true and applicable to each of us no matter our current stages in life or our personal beliefs.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Consecrate Thy Performance

This week's article comes from the April 2002 General Conference. It was reprinted in the December 2008 Ensign so I apologize to those of you who just read this article a month ago.

The talk is entitled "Consecrate Thy Performance" and was given by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Elder Maxwell was an apostle from 23 July 1981 until he passed away 21 July 2004.

I love reading Elder Maxwell's talks; he is a phenomenal speaker and this article is no exception. I really enjoy how he explains exactly how consecration can and will bless our lives. One main thing that I got out of the talk is that the small and almost simple things are what help us the most in our journey to perfection.

Personal highlights:

I love the term "divine discontent." Go a head and apply that how you will.

"Spiritual submissiveness is not accomplished in an instant, but by the incremental improvements and by the successive use of stepping-stones."

"A stumbling block appears when we serve God generously with time and checkbooks but still withhold portions of our inner selves, signifying that we are not yet fully His!"

"Ironically, inordinate attention, even to good things, can diminish our devotion to God."

"The first commandment is not suspended just because of our vigorous pursuit of a lesser good, for we do not worship a lesser god."

"Are we really willing to submit to that process? Yet if we desire fulness, we cannot hold back part!"

Pray and carefully study the words of Elder Maxwell so that you may know how to apply his words to your lives, for these words are indeed the words of the Lord himself. Perfecting ourselves, or allowing the Lord to perfect us is a hard process, one to which we must willing submit. But all the "sacrifices" that we make will, in the end, be worth the effort and we will find that they are not sacrifices at all. The Savior set the example, now we must follow.

Jeremy

Premortal life and our decision to come to earth

I have the privilege of knowing and interacting with a wonderful lady named Sister Brown. At 72, she has so many fantastic stories and never hesitates in giving advice that she thinks will help us “kids” in our journey through life. Indeed, she is wise and visiting her is the highlight of my week. Just yesterday she was telling us a story about one of her neighbors and the reaction the neighbor had to Sister Brown’s diagnosis of a very serious type of cancer from which she was not expected to recover. The neighbor, referencing our premortal life and the grand council in heaven, challenged the teaching that the decision to come to this earth was ours and that we knew how hard life would be. She said, “Irene, you really believe that you chose to come down here knowing that you would experience this very painful sickness and probably die from it?” The neighbor was skeptical that one of the key parts to the plan of our Father in Heaven involved trials and suffering here in this life.

Today, I will not directly answer the question, “if God loves us, why do we suffer and experience so much pain?” Although the answer to that question is at least partially found in this post, I imagine it will merit its own post at a later time. Today I will discuss the reality of our premortal life, the choices and agency we had there, and answer this neighbor and all those who wonder “how does it make sense that we would willingly choose to go through these hardships?”

The answer is not a short one, but it is simple. I echo the answer that Sister Brown gave her neighbor, a resounding “Yes!” We did willingly choose to come to this earth and experience all manner of trials and our suffering does not prove the lack of love and sympathy that our Father in Heaven has for us.

Some people believe in life after death, or wish to believe in such a glorious concept. Life after death is not a vain hope or superstition, it is a reality and our spirits live on long after our bodies pass away. Is this not wonderful? Does the sting of death lessen with this grand knowledge? Absolutely! Alma taught that “the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life” (Alma 40:11). Death is not the end, nor is birth the beginning.

Just as our spirits live on after death, we lived as spirit children with our Father in Heaven before we came to this earth. We were not like God, however, and could not ever become like Him without the experience of living on earth in a physical, mortal body. God desires our success and happiness and created a plan for us that we may gain the experience necessary to attain the happiness that He enjoys.

In our premortal life, God told us of His plan, referred to in the scriptures as the great plan of happiness, the plan of salvation, a merciful plan, and the plan of redemption. He explained what life on earth would be like, we learned of the trials and hardships, and the blessings and joyous occasions. We learned that we would pass through a veil and would be tested, gain experience, be given the opportunity to progress, and learn to live by faith rather than sight (see 1 Nephi 17:36; 2 Corinthians 5:6-7). We learned that we would be able to have families and that our families and relationships could extend beyond mortality and into the eternities. We learned of other rewards if we lived faithfully and kept the commandments in this mortal life, that is, we would be able to return to live with our Father in Heaven as exalted beings, even as He is, and thus enjoy all the blessings and privileges that He enjoys.

Just as we have agency in this life, or the ability to choose for ourselves, we had agency in the life before. God let us choose whether to accept the plan; and all those who have lived or will live upon the earth chose to accept the plan. As you know, we do not remember our premortal existence, nor do we remember living with God, being given a choice, weighing the options, knowing how wonderful the rewards of this life will be, or coming to the conclusion that striving to remain faithful during the trials and miseries of this life would be worth the experience.

Were we to remember all that happened before we were born, this life would not be a challenge; we would know the greatness of life eternal and we would never make mistakes or sacrifice the blessings of eternity for the pleasures and desires of the world. Yet God, in His infinite wisdom, allows us to strain, to struggle, and learn to exercise faith in Him.

To Sister Brown’s neighbor and to all those who wonder about the trials and purpose of this life, yes, you and I made the choice to come here and experience all the world has to offer. We chose to be tried, to experience the pain of losing a loved one and the joy of bringing a child into this world, we chose have the opportunity to cry, to laugh, to doubt God and His wisdom, and to feel the ever-present and ever-patient love of our Heavenly Father as He guides us through this life and back to Him.

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee and the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

The trials in this life would not seem fair if life ended at death, but it does not. Life continues on and blessings not seen but gained in this life are able to be enjoyed in the life to come. Remember, without tasting the bitter, we cannot know to prize the good.

The Lord loves us and desires our happiness. He gives us commandments not to hinder us or weigh us down, but to guide us and set us free. His is the great plan of happiness, ours is the choice to do the things necessary to return to live with Him and with our families for eternity. I know this to be true.

Jeremy

For further reading see:

L. Tom Perry, “The Plan of Salvation,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 69–72
Earl C. Tingey, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, May 2006, 72–74
Dallin H. Oaks, “‘The Great Plan of Happiness’,” Ensign, Nov 1993, 72

Susan W. Tanner, former young women general president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said this of our premortal decision to come to earth:

Why were we so excited? We understood eternal truths about our bodies. We knew that our bodies would be in the image of God. We knew that our bodies would house our spirits. We also understood that our bodies would be subject to pain, illness, disabilities, and temptation. But we were willing, even eager, to accept these challenges because we knew that only with spirit and element inseparably connected could we progress to become like our Heavenly Father (see D&C 130:22) and “receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 93:33). “The Sanctity of the Body,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 13