Tuesday, July 31, 2012

One way the Sacrament prayer points to the temple

     Willing to take upon them the name of thy Son. Commenting on this text, Elder Oaks observed, "It is significant that when we partake of the sacrament we do not witness that we take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. We witness that we are willing to do so. . . . The fact that we only witness to our willingness suggests that something else must happen before we actually take that sacred name upon us in the most important sense.
     "What future event or events could this covenant contemplate? The scriptures suggest two sacred possibilities, one concerning the authority of God, especially as exercised in the temples, and the other--closely related--concerning exaltation in the celestial kingdom. . . .
     "Willingness to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ can therefore be understood as willingness to take upon us the authority of Jesus Christ. According to this meaning, by partaking of the sacrament we witness our willingness to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and to receive the highest blessings available through the name and by the authority of the Savior when he chooses to confer them upon us"  (Conference Report, April 1985, 102-3)

-Revelations of the Restoration, p. 170-171.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Background on D&C 20, and why I care.

From Joseph Fielding McConkie & Craig J. Ostler's Revelations of the Restoration, p. 154-55:

     As early as June 1829 Joseph Smith asked Oliver Cowdery to formulate an expression of basic principles and practices of the soon-to-be-organized Church. Oliver in turn asked the Prophet to inquire of the Lord about what he should do. Doctrine and Covenants 18 was given in response to that request. In the revelation Oliver was directed to rely upon the teachings "concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock" (D&C 18:4) as contained in the Book of Mormon. Drawing upon the principles in the Book of Mormon, Oliver submitted a manuscript to the Prophet. "Then Joseph Smith, or both he and Oliver Cowdery, revised that document. They put it in the format now found in section 20" (Woodford, "Articles and Covenants," 264-65).
     Section 20 binds together a number of sepearate revelations. It appears that verses 1 through 4, which designate the day upon which the church was to be organized, were given early in April 1830. Other sections of the revelation were at least influenced by Oliver's draft and may have existed before that date. Section 20 is divided into distinct discussions concerning the brief history that preceded the Church organization, a declaration of beliefs, requirements for baptism, duties of priesthood offices and members, ordinances of the Church, and record keeping. This revelation and section 22 became known among the early members as the Articles and Covenants of the Church.

This didn't strike me as particularly interesting until I read the heading to Section 20, which quotes Joseph Smith as saying "We obtained of him [Jesus Christ] the following, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according to his will and commandment, we should proceed to organize his Church once more here upon the earth."

When I imagine the Prophet obtaining a document from the Savior, I imagine a direct stream of words that come out of his mouth and are written down on paper, with the exact wording flowing. This, of course, is something that has never happened to me. There are times when writing talks or lessons where certain phrases or ideas flow quickly, but never an entire lesson; those come bit by bit--I take all of my study and impressions and thoughts, organize them over a period of time, pray about them, and ultimately settle on something I feel good about. It takes time and work and sometimes some agonizing, all of which is hopefully inspired by and approved by the Lord. And guess what!? That is how this revelation came about! Not to mention that the prophet had human help--Oliver Cowdery did a draft of the composition.

It is funny as I grow to find so many of my childish imaginations demystified. Prophets are people just like me. Much of their revelation is received in the same ways that I have received revelation, the only difference between us being the scope of our relative stewardships. It is encouraging to think that I can receive revelation just as they can, and also humbling to know it because it means I am just as responsible to put in that effort.

*Silly side-note: another mystical image I came across while reading to the littles: in the Book of Mormon reader, all of the men in Nephi's family have beards, but Nephi is clean-shaven. Funny that we have to portray a clean-shaven hero/protagonist, even though as a Jewish man in that time period, Nephi probably had facial hair. Tee hee.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Harold B. Lee on the ministration of angels

When we begin to understand that, beyond sight, as Brigham Young said, is the spirit world right here round about us. If our spiritual eyes could be open we could see others visiting with us, directing us. And if we will learn not to be so sophisticated that w rule out that possibility of impressions from those who are beyond sight, then we too may have a dream that may direct us as a revelation."

-Harold B. Lee, "Divine Revelation," Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, 15 Oct. 1952, pp. 10-11].

A couple of points for pondering:

1. As long as I have known this doctrine, I don't remember it very often. My mission president counselled me that when I was most in tune with the Spirit that I would probably feel my dad's influence helping and guiding me, among others of the promised angels that would be on my right hand and on my left. I did find that to be true, and there really isn't any reason that this shouldn't be true in my ongoing life, but I tend to forget that I have that wonderful support system beyond the seen world.

2. I thought it was interesting that in Guatemala it seemed a lot more common for people to have extraordinary experiences with dreams and spirits and such, and I did have the impression that part of the reason this was so was simply that they believed in such things. It is so true that our "modern" society has become too "sophisticated" for things of the Spirit, and the more direct the experience, the more it is deemed unbelievable.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Follow-Up on D&C 4

A story of how Joseph Smith, Sr. applied the instructions he was given:

Joseph Smith, Sr., was filled with the testimony of the truth, and was always anxious to share it with others. He was almost sixty when he made the tedious journey back to [Stockholm--Potsdam] New York to carry the gospel to his father and mother, his sisters and brothers. Soon after his return he was imprisoned for a small debt of fourteen dollars, rather than deny the divinity of the Book of Mormon and be forgiven the debt! He was cast into a cell with a condemned murderer and left for four days without food. Later he was transferred to a prison workyard where he preached the gospel and converted two persons whom he later baptized. He was in prison a full month before his family was able to obtain his release!

E. Cecil McGavin, The Family of Joseph Smith [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1963], p. 68.

All of us who desire to serve the Lord have the same calling to the work of the gathering. How true will we be to it?

p.s. My posts may have a different flavor for a while; I found two huge binders of handouts from a beloved Institute director. I can't hang on to them forever, so I am studying with them as an aid and recording the things I want to save here, in my journals, and in my scriptures. I think they may be an enjoyable departure from my normal ramblings, and also help me to be more consistent in recording my studies. Time will tell!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Interesting Take on Translating

A quote from Joseph Fielding Smith about Joseph Smith:

After the Prophet received the record, the Urim and Thummim and breastplate, he did not commence to translate immediately. In fact, this he could not have done. In the first place he discovered that the translation of the record had to be studied out. It was similar to any other kind of skill, it took study and practice. It was not a matter of sitting down and having the translation of the characters appear to him like looking at a picture screen. It required deep and sincere faith and a contrite spirit. Just as well might one expect to play a musical instrument without practice, or to accomplish another difficult task. Therefore in seclusion, such as he could obtain, he worked over his problem and gradually the light dawned and the skill came so that he could say after the task was finished: "I translated the Book of Mormon by the Gift and Power of God."

"Church History and Modern Revelation," Melchizedek Priesthood Manual (1947), p. 19.

This is particularly striking after I just read Moroni 10, where we are told that all have gifts of the Spirit given to them, but also that we should strive to lay hold upon every good gift. Such gifts don't come or stay with out an effort to receive them.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thoreau's advice for the perfectionist

Do you ever get so discouraged about not being able to do everything that you just do nothing? Maybe that's just me. All the time.  Glad I ran across this quote that I took down a long time ago:

"A man has not everything to do, but something; and because he cannot do everything, it is not necessary that he should do something wrong."

-Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience