Wednesday, October 26, 2011

quote on praise

"I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise--lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game--praise of weather, wines, dishes...I had never noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least...except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible." (c.s. lewis, reflections on the psalms)

Thanks nate!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

a report on a chapter

I know i've written a lot of posts based on my reading from The Infinite Atonement by Tad Callister, but it really is a remarkable book. Plus, the Atonement is the most important thing that has ever happened and i believe that our efforts to understand it will bring more blessings of knowledge and spirituality than the study of any other principle ---- because everything in the gospel is really just an appendage to the atonement after all.

Today i was reading the chapter (Ch 24) on how the ordinances of the gospel relate to the Atonement. This is my report on that chapter (mostly paraphrased). Callister wrote that without the atonement, all ordinances no matter what they are, would "be like a check written on an empty account" (278). He explains that the atonement is what gives life and power to gospel principles and ordinances for salvation -- because of what the atonement is and has done for us, the ordinances we participate in can direct our thoughts to that event; they are meant to be mechanical efforts that focus our "spiritual, emotional, and intellectual efforts" on divine meaning (279). If they are done without this focus on the mind and heart on the savior, then they are meaningless (280).

Callister goes on to explain that ordinances are to be symbols that we feel and understand through spiritual means (281), to remind us of "the cost of salvation" that "could be paid only in the sacrifice of a god" (283) -- yet they are nonetheless JUST symbols, albeit powerful ones (284). It isn't the performance of baptism that saves - it is the atonement that saves - and baptism only has meaning and spiritual substance to it because of the atonement of Jesus Christ (285). The symbolism of the ordinances is meant to serve as a reminder of that sacrifice; to help us understand and not forget something that we are liable to forget in the hustle and bustle of life (286). Participating in the ordinances meaningfully "draws, channels, and focuses our spiritual thoughts on the essence of the gospel -- the Atonement" and we have the chance to remember it (287)  -- "Somehow the very act of remembering the Savior and reflecting upon his life is, in and of itself, a catalyst for goodness" (289) -- as well as to reflect on the condition of our lives and where we ought to be -- and through that, gain new resolve and commit ourselves to the Lord (291). 

Callister stated that Christ is "the master teacher and the master leader, but he is also the master psychologist. He knows that in our weakness we need to commit not just once at baptism, but frequently thereafter. Each week, each month, each year as we stretch for our hand to partake of his emblems we commit with our honor, for whatever it is worth, to serve him, keep his commandments, and put our life in harmony with the divine standard" (292). it isn't  the act of partaking the sacrament that changes us, but rather the reflective moments thereby when we catch glimpses of the meaning of christ's sacrifice and love that then empowers us to turn to him "there is a certain gravitational pull from spirit to Spirit that draws us heavenward"  -- there is enabling power/grace in ordinances (292-293).

the atonement is always the focus of any "saving" ordinance; they are sacred acts that Christ has commanded us to perform so that we would be pointed to him, reminded of him, think of him and understand him, and be recommitted to him -- and thus changed by him. As put by Callister, they are symbols of the atonement and the "floodgates" that open up the very blessings and grace of the atonement (297).

it's a fantastic chapter. i hope you'll read it. (as well as the rest!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

the resurrection

My thoughts about the resurrection this week all started with a quote from Hugh Nibley (Any Underlining of text in this post is done by me for emphasis!)
      The only real justification for the Christian Easter is the proposition that the resurrection of Christ actually took place—not as a symbol, a myth, a hope, a tradition, or a dream, but as a real event. The Lord himself after the resurrection took the greatest care to impress the literalness of the event on the minds of all his followers. Having risen from the dead, Christ came to his disciples and found them confused, perplexed, incredulous. He "upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen" (Mark 16:14), and showed them in detail how the ancient prophets had actually predicted what had happened. He ordered them to feel him and see for themselves that he was not a spirit, but that the flesh had been resurrected; he ordered food to be brought and ate it in their presence, inviting them to dine with him. He told them that whenever they met after his departure they should continue to eat real bread and drink real wine to remind them that he had been with them in the flesh.
      There was need to make this lesson perfectly clear, for men have always been reluctant to believe it. Matthew concludes his gospel with the report that "when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted" (Matthew 28:17). The Apostles had to rebuke members of the church who simply would not believe in the resurrection, and John noted with alarm that "many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" (2 John 7). "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead," writes Paul to the Corinthians, "how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Corinthians 15:12.)  (Nibley)
I started thinking about why Christ was so careful to emphasize the "literalness" of his resurrection, why so many resisted believing in it, and what we can learn from this.

I was reading The Supernal Gift of the Atonement for and institute class and found a clue. In this talk President James E. Faust explained that "in all human experience" something like the resurrection "had never happened before. It was completely unprecedented."

This really stuck out to me. It starts to explain why it was so difficult for so many to believe, and why Christ's own testimony of his own resurrection and his showing himself to the apostles -- and their testimony of that -- is so important. It TRULY TAKES FAITH to believe in something that was so inconceivable and, in many ways, illogical.

And this is important because, as stated by Hugh Nibley, the "moral and social teachings [of Christianity] are by no means unique" --
It was those teachings that were not common to the schools and not discoverable by the use of reason [the literal resurrection!] that set Christianity off from the rest of the world. As Clement says, if these things could have been discovered by human wit, there would have been no need for Christ to come to earth in person, and on the other hand, if human philosophy cannot discover them, then human philosophy has precious little to contribute to the study of the gospel. The unique value of Christianity lies in those things which would never in a million years occur to men if left to themselves (Nibley).
To me this makes sense. Our mortal perception, our ability understand, is TOO LIMTED to come up with everything we need to know/believe in. We can't just think "hard enough" and think of everything; we HAVE to have communication from God (who's thoughts are above our thoughts, Isaiah 55:8-9) and that's why He sends special witnesses (prophets and apostles) of his important messages -- and the Spirit to confirm those messages (Romans 8:16).

I think this is what Nibley meant when he said that philosophic thought is limited in what it can help us perceive and the truths it can help mankind reason out, and therefor doesn't help much in understanding the gospel. Some ideas aren't discoverable by mortals -- due to their complete foreignness to this mortal sphere or our inability to comprehend them -- they can only be gained through revelation that God grants to his prophets, who then testify of it to us, who then must believe in faith. That is part of why the discovering of truth through logic (philosophy, etc.) doesn't have the same power as discovering truth by faith -- in the testimony of those who God has called to be witnesses of that truth. That has been the purpose of prophets and apostles since the beginning:
Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
The spiritual understanding the Apostles gained came because of their personal experience in seeing the resurrected Christ and the witness of the Spirit. Anyone who has followed, has based their understanding on their own personal witness by the Spirit of the testimonies of the Apostles WHO CHRIST SHOWED HIMSELF TO IN ORDER THAT THEY MIGHT BE THE BASE FOR THE TESTIMONIES OF OTHERS.
Ephesians 2:19-20 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles an prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
This, to me, is spirituality -- is knowing by spirituality (knowing because of PERSONAL experience with the divine). And like it says in that paragraph ("Clement says...") if these things could have just been figured out by logical study/use of reason/etc. then why would Christ have come and said them/shown himself to the apostles? I think he did it because he knew this was the only way to set into motion the process of faith on the testimony of others and the witness of the spirit of an event (the atonement and resurrection) that we all need to know of in order to believe on him and repent. 

And it makes sense because only personal experience with the divine is strong enough in the face of doubt. It is what gives us moral strength to stick to what we believe. President Faust quoted President David O. McKay as saying:
The world would never have been stirred by men with such wavering, doubting, despairing minds as the apostles possessed on the day of the crucifixion. What was it that suddenly changed these disciples to confident, fearless, heroic preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ? It was the revelation that Christ had risen from the grave. His promises had been kept, his Messianic mission fulfilled.  In the worlds if an eminent writer, 'The final and absolute seal of genuineness has been put on all his claims and the indelible stamp of divine authority upon all his teachings. The gloom of death had been banished by the glorious light of the presence of their Risen, Glorified Lord and Savior.' On the evidence of these unprejudiced, unexpectant, incredulous witnesses, faith in the resurrection has it impregnable foundation (Faust).
The striking change in these men, the thing that gave them power to do and be Apostles of the Risen Christ, was the personal intimate involvement that each of them had as a witness of something beyond their mortal experience -- of something divine. Because of this OUR "faith in the resurrection has its impregnable foundation" on the evidence their apostolic witness, confirmed personally for each of us by the Spirit.

Elder Faust went on to say, "Like the Apostles of old, this knowledge and belief should transform all of us to be confident, settled, unafraid, and at peace in our lives as followers of the divine Christ."

Or, as stated by Joseph B. Wirthlin in Sunday Will Come :
      After the Resurrection, the disciples became renewed. They traveled throughout the world proclaiming the glorious news of the gospel. Had they chosen, they could have disappeared and returned to their former lives and occupations. In time, their association with Him would have been forgotten.
      They could have denied the divinity of Christ. Yet they did not. In the face of danger, ridicule, and threat of death, they entered palaces, temples, and synagogues boldly proclaiming Jesus the Christ, the resurrected Son of the living God.
      Many of them offered as a final testimony their own precious lives. They died as martyrs, the testimony of the risen Christ on their lips as they perished.
      The Resurrection transformed the lives of those who witnessed it. Should it not transform ours? (Wirthlin). 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

the divine law of economy

God sends his children into a world that will provide for their needs:
D&C 104:17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

It is the work that we were "cursed" to do that allows us to access these resources:
Gen. 3:19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

And yet, we seem to take this injunction to work to feed ourselves too far when God himself has promised to feed us:
Matt. 6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
This is because we do not seems to understand the Lord's divine law of economy, which provides sufficiently for the wants of his creation, but no excess. This is abundantly visible in the natural world, where "waste" of one creature becomes the food of another - nothing is ever actually wasted - and an animal or plant only takes what it needs.

Of course mankind has always struggled following this principle. The "curse" of industry is one that many stumble on because we devote so much time and energy to acquiring excess, rather than focusing on and learning from the examples all around of divine thrift.

I ought to spend more time studying/discussing this, but what I want to actually get into right now is a little bit of a twist on this basic idea of economy because like all of God's laws, it has it's temporal application AND a spiritual one, and the spiritual application leads into further clarification of grace and works!

In The Infinite Atonement Tad Callister gives the example In John 11 where the Savior has come to the grave of Lazarus, who has been dead for 4 days, and instructs those with him to move away the stone closing up the grave. He calls out "Lazarus, come forth" (John 11:43) and "he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin" (John 11:44). Callister states that upon reading this we might ask, "why didn't Jesus remove the stone with a show of power? Why didn't Jesus unwrap the revived corpse?" This is where the "divine law of economy" comes in, "namely, that we must do all we can, and when we have reached out limits, when we have asserted all our mental moral and spiritual energies, then the powers of heaven will intervene. Man could remove the stone and unwrap the corpse, so he must do it, but only the power of God could call the dead to life" (265).

It is the same idea, that God extends his power only as necessary, never in excess.

And it is part of how we become involved in the learning process necessary to become like him. When my mom taught me how to make cookies, she left as many steps as possible for ME to do - because that is the best way for me to learn - yet even though I may have "made" the cookies, they aren't really mine since the ingredients we used were hers, the steps we followed came from her knowledge and experience, and I never could have done it without her. But, in letting me do all I COULD do (the steps for mixing, etc.) she put me into the process of becoming like her.

Which does a lot to explain 2 Nephi 25:23 "We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." It isn't our "doing" that saves us, but it IS what God steps back and allows us to participate in, in order to enable us to learn -- following the law of economy to provide sufficiently for us but NOT IN EXCESS. This illustrates "that God will use his heavenly powers to exalt us, but only if we have done all within our power to accomplish that end" (Callister 264). Not because what WE do has ANY POWER AT ALL to exalt, but because as we do what we can, enabled by the grace and power of Christ, we little by little - grace for grace - are moved "from a small capacity to a great one" (Callister 267).

Saturday, October 15, 2011


i think her story - all of it - is inspiring.
(& more women need to hear it!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

spiritual identity

i was thinking about peter, james, and john. i was thinking
about where they came from and how they were just these rough
fishermen/laborers and not well educated.

in fact, even while following Christ they misunderstood things he said and the
roll he was to play, and at times contended with the other apostles. at one 

point peter even denied knowing Jesus. they were these really imperfect men, 
yet, by knowing Christ, they were changed.

Their weaknesses humbled them and the Lord made them strong. they
became the amazing leaders and apostles that we think of today when we
hear their names.

God knew that despite the earthly challenges of their upbringing, rough lives,

and culture who these men really were - the strength of soul they really 
had - would come through/come out. As they were reacquainted with the 
spirit and with the Lord himself, they "remembered" who they were and 
tapped into the strength that was waiting there for them.

these were not ordinary men......they were men God had ordained -
before they were even born - to do more than most, and to be intimate
witnesses of his mortal ministry and atonement -- then guide his
church and spread his gospel as apostles.

i think this is a really empowering concept.

that there is so much more to us that our earthly background.
that we really aren't defined by where we came from, how we were
raised, our education, our genetics, our tendencies, or our 
weaknesses. these are all the ways the world defines us. 
in all reality we are children of the almighty God and we are meant to
be so much more than our often limited perspective of ourselves 
allows us to understand.

there is a depth and spiritual strength to the soul, and like the
apostles, it can come bit by bit to the surface. making out

our spiritual identity OUR TRUE IDENTITY and not all that 
earthly/mortal stuff.

there's a scripture in hebrews that talks about how through the
struggles of our lives god provides better things for us -- we are
refined, all the mortal weaknesses, etc. burned away, and we are left
as who we truly are.

i hope you see that in yourself.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

the ability to choose

I always thought our ability to choose came as a result of the fall, that because adam and eve partook of the fuit, their fall brought sin/evil into the world, and therefor a choice between evil and good since knowing good from evil -- "the eyes of them both were opened" (gen. 3:7) made choosing evil possible. And I still think this is true, but what I had never considered before today was that, yes, without the fall there would be no choice, BUT WITHOUT THE ATONEMENT THERE WOULD BE NO CHOICE EITHER.

In The Infinite Atonement, Tad Callister states "Were it not for the Atonement, there would have been no choice between eternal life and eternal damnation. The Fall would have opened the gate to one road and one road only. 'Our flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to tis mother earth to rise no more... Our spiritus must become subject to...the devil to rise no more' (2 Nephi 9:7-8) -- a bleak picture, to say the least. Without the Atonement everyone would be compelled to participate in this no-option program. The Fall, without the Atonement, would lead us to a downhill plunge from which there was no escape" (254).

This is why the prophets so often remind us to be at peace/happy because we are FREE -- we are free, from death and hell, because WE CAN CHOOSE to escape them through the Atonement which has overcome them. We can choose between good and evil because of the Atonement, which offers us the opportunity to choose good as opposed to the inevitable, it offers "another road, another choice, another option" (Callister 255).

The atonement not only gives us the option to choose good, it is also what gives us the power to choose good. But that is a topic for another post!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

the meaning of words

two little additions for your collection:

"Elohim" is the Hebrew name for God and appears in the Bible over 2,000 times. "El" translates to God and the "im" is a pluralization, yet when it is used to refer to the God of Israel it is grammatically singular.

So, God's name describes him as having a singularness AND a plurality. Makes sense right?

To me this seems to indicate the necessity of one being "as one" in order to be like God. Which fits with the commandment Christ gives that we be one as he is one with the father. But I think it also goes a step further, that to be like God and have a fullness of glory and increase there is another pluralization that has to take place...
D&C 131:1-3 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
and so:
1 Corinthians 11:11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

Which all gives more light to this verse of the hymn "O My Father" by Eliza R. Snow:
I had learned to call thee Father, 
Through thy Spirit from on high, 
But until the key of knowledge 
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heavens are parents single? 
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason, truth eternal 
Tells me I've a mother there.


When the saints who settled in Salt Lake City applied for statehood they were told they had to name the state "Utah." The two theories for the name:
  • That it is taken from the Ute indian name, which means "people of the mountains"
  • That it was a word taken from the native Ute indian language and comes from an Apache word
    (yuttahih) which means "one that is higher up"
Either way it is REALLY interesting to note Isaiah's prophecy concerning the building of a a house of the Lord (a temple) in the last days:
Isaiah 2:2-3 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.