Thanksgiving Stories: Faith and Native American Covenant

Were American Settlers God’s Covenant People?

The people called upon to honor God and keep the Faith

History-Clues

By Timothy Ballard massbaycolony2

 

As the Puritans arrived upon the shores of the New World, their leader John Winthrop shared words that sounded a lot like those declared by Father Lehi [ancestor of the Native Americans] when he brought his people to the same land. Said Winthrop: “Thus stands the cause between God and us, we are entered into Covenant with Him for this work . . . . If we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.” Winthrop called upon his people to live the commandments, that God might make them a “City upon a Hill.”

bible1The prophet Nephi [among ancient Native Americans] saw the early American settlers in vision and described them appropriately: “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 . . . . which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel.” (1 Nephi 13:20,23)

Where did the expression “bury the hatchet” come from?

lamanitesburyweaponsWhen ancient Native Americans made a covenant with God to serve Him and stop killing people, they buried their weapons deep in the earth.

 

John Winthrop

From wikipedia

massbaycolonyWinthrop’s reference to the “city upon a hill” in A Modell of Christian Charity has become an enduring symbol in American political discourse.[136] Many leading American politicians, going back to revolutionary times, have cited Winthrop in their writings or speeches. Winthrop’s reputation suffered in the late 19th and early 20th century, when critics like Nathaniel Hawthorne and H. L. Mencken pointed out the negative aspects of Puritan rule, leading to modern assessments of him as a “lost Founding Father”. Political scientist Matthew Holland argues that Winthrop “is at once a significant founding father of America’s best and worst impulses”, with his calls for charity and public participation offset by rigid intolerance, exclusionism and judgmentalism.[137] But at heart he did truly want to be a good leader.

Winthrop strongly believed that civil liberty was “the proper end and object of authority”, meaning it was the duty of the government to be selfless for the people and promote justice instead of promoting the general welfare.[138] Winthrop supports this point of view from his past actions such as when he passed laws requiring the heads of households to make sure their children and even their servants to receive proper education and for town to support teachers from public funds.[60]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Winthrop

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History Heroes: Irena Sendler saves Children in Nazi Germany

History Heroes, Lest we Forget—

Lady Plumber rescues Jewish children in Nazi Germany

Remember this lady?

   Irena  Sendler

 Irena-sendler-jew-rescuer

Died: May 12, 2008 (aged 98)
Warsaw,  Poland

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist.
She had an ulterior motive.
Irena smuggled Jewish infants out in the bottom  of
The tool box she  carried.
   She also carried a burlap sack in the back of her truck, for larger  kids.
Irena-sendler-2Irena kept a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the  ghetto.

The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking  covered the kids/infants  noises.
During her time of doing this, she managed to
Smuggle  out and save 2500 kids/infants.

Ultimately, she was caught, however, and the Nazi’s broke both of her legs  and arms and beat her severely.

Irena kept a  record of the names of all the kids she had smuggled out,   in a glass jar that she buried under a tree  in her back yard..  After the war,  she tried to locate any parents that may have survived and tried  to reunite the family.Most had been gassed.    Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.

In 2007 Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize.
She was not selected.

Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming.

Later another politician,
Barack Obama, won for his work as a community  organizer for ACORN.

 

In MEMORIAM – 65 YEARS LATER
I’m doing my small part by sharing this  message.
  I hope you’ll consider  doing the same.  It is now more than 65 years since the  Second World War in Europe ended.

Irena-sendler-jew-rescuer-memorial

This message is being  sent as a memorial chain,  In memory of the six million  Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900  Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned,  starved and humiliated! 

Now, more than ever, with Iran , and others, claiming the HOLOCAUST to be ‘a myth’,  it’s imperative to make sure the world never  forgets,   because  there are others who would like to do it  again.

This message is intended to reach 40 million people
Worldwide! Please share it.

Biblical Worldview: Christopher Columbus and the Holy Spirit

Biblical Worldview: Christopher Columbus and the Holy Spirit

Christopher Columbus: Part 2, Book of Faith and Prophecies

Part 1- Epic Hero: Columbus and the Israel Connection

 

by Shirley R. Heater

keycolumbus3… our Lord opened to my understanding (I could sense his hand upon me), so that it became clear to me that it was feasible to navigate from here to the Indies; and he unlocked within me the determination to execute the idea…. Who doubts that this illumination was from the Holy Spirit? I attest that he [the Spirit], with marvelous rays of light, consoled me through the holy and sacred Scriptures…. encouraging me to proceed, and, continually, without ceasing for a moment, they inflame me with a sense of great urgency (Brigham 1991:179).

columbusIn His Own Words
Columbus’s title for what is called his Book of Prophecies, conveys the essence of his vision: Notebook of authorities, statements, opinions and prophecies on the subject of the recovery of God’s holy city and mountain of Zion, and on the discovery and evangelization of the islands of the Indies and of all other peoples and nations. To Ferdinand and Isabella, our hispanic rulers (West and Kling 1991:2,101).

The book is a personal collection of letters, scriptures (from both the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Apocrypha) and quotations from Biblical commentators such as St. Isidore, Rabbi Samuel and St. Augustine, and other sources. It was prepared for the benefit of the King and Queen of Spain to assure them that his mission, and their support, had been a fulfillment of prophecy. Columbus divided his material into four parts. The first is introductory, followed by three sections entitled: “Concerning the Past,” “Concerning the Present and Future” and “Concerning the Future. In the Last Days.”

Columbus compiled this work in 1501-1502 between his third and fourth voyages to the New World, using many handwritten notes as well as marginal notes he had made in books in his personal library. These notes lead West and Kling to conclude that there can be little doubt that Columbus’s systematic study of Bible history and prophecies began at least as early as 1481, concurrently to forming his great plan” (1991:91). Columbus’s Book of Prophecies culminated a lifetime of deep religious conviction and intense scriptural study and interpretation.

columbus4Today the original manuscript resides in Spain in the Biblioteca Colombina at the Cathedral of Seville. In 1894-four hundred years after Columbus’s first voyage to the New World-it was finally published in Spanish. Two translations of Columbus’s Book of Prophecies are now available in English for the first time (Brigham 1991; West and Kling 1991).

Kay Brigham presents a reproduction of the original Latin and Spanish manuscript followed by the English translation; a companion biography is published separately (Brigham 1990). Delno West and August Kling place a transcription of the original text with the English translation on facing pages, introduced by historical/biographical information and commentary. Other writings by Columbus include logs he kept of each of his voyages. His logs have been published many times and are well studied. They reveal a fascinating picture of a man skilled in the “mariner’s arts,” astronomy, geometry, arithmetic, in drafting spherical maps, and drawing “the cities, rivers, mountains, islands and ports”–a man learned in “geographies, histories, chronologies, philosophies and other subjects” (West and Kling 1991:105). Many biographers and historians have focused on his numerous accomplishments in these areas.

However, more significant is his deep spiritual life, knowledge and interpretation of scripture, especially his fervent conviction that he had been chosen by God to fulfill one of the most significant missions in history, a “holy enterprise”-taking the message of Christ to the nations, which would then usher in the return of the Savior.

columbuslandsThe spiritual side of Columbus has been treated as at odds and in conflict with “scientific rationale.” The content of the Book of Prophecies with its emphasis on the spiritual has been virtually ignored or dismissed as “mad ravings,” “delusions,” “bizarre,” an “accute embarrassment “temporary ‘dark and sordid stupor’ … or a clever ploy … to convince the gullible queen that he was ‘the chosen man of destiny to conquer an Other World”‘ (Sale 1990:188-189).

This unbalanced treatment of Columbus is now changing with the English translation of his Book of Prophecies. Restoration Christians, as well as non-Restoration Christians, will find it significant, because “[t]he discovery of America was a triumph of Christianity” (Slater and Adams 1992:2). Many Christians believe that this nation is God’s instrument for taking the gospel to the world, a vision also shared by Columbus.

 

Led by the Holy Spirit
holyspirit
Nephi’s vision in the Book of Mormon clearly shows that “a man among the Gentiles”-Columbus was led by the Holy Spirit to make his voyage of discovery.

And I looked and beheld a man
among the Gentiles which were
separated from the seed of my
brethren by the many waters;
And I beheld the Spirit of God, that it
came down and wrought upon
the man;
And he went forth upon the many
waters, even unto the seed of my
brethren which were in the
promised land.     1 Nephi 3:147

Columbus’s own testimony that he was led by the Holy Spirit was made available in English when Peter Marshall and David Manuel published in their book, The Light and the Glory (1977:17), excerpts from an earlier private translation of the Book of Prophecies by Kling (see also West and Kling 1991:105). Brigham’s recently published translation reads:

… our Lord opened to my understanding (I could sense his hand upon me), so that it became clear to me that it was feasible to navigate from here to the Indies; and he unlocked within me the determination to execute the idea…. Who doubts that this illumination was from the Holy Spirit? I attest that he [the Spirit], with marvelous rays of light, consoled me through the holy and sacred Scriptures…. encouraging me to proceed, and, continually, without ceasing for a moment, they inflame me with a sense of great urgency (Brigham 1991:179).

columbuswglobeColumbus’s “sense of great urgency” is embodied by West and Kling as “his vision.” They characterize him as a “seer” who saw himself as gifted with “spiritual intelligence.” They point out in their introduction that “few know the story of [Columbus’s] vision.” This has led some to propose that because advances in reasoning and technology made the timing ripe, had Columbus not made the voyage someone else would have.

However, West and Kling emphatically disagree with the latter supposition, believing that “one important ingredient was missing: a vision so strong that nothing could deter its holder from the attempt” (West and Kling 1991:3, 22). The timing was ripe for the discovery of the New World however, it was God’s timing. And He selected the man to do the job. Columbus’s vision grew as he gathered numerous scriptural passages, seeing the role of his discovery in their prophetic fulfillment. The vision permeates the most predominant themes of his selections: islands of the sea, hidden lands, ends of the earth, the scattering and gathering of Israel, Zion and Jerusalem. And as we realize that Columbus was moved upon to fulfill his vision in God’s timing, the Book of Mormon also reveals that God’s timing was involved in keeping knowledge of the New World from other nations.

columbus5Hidden Lands
In[ancient American history found in] the Book of Mormon, a Christian prophet named Lehi explains God’s wisdom in keeping their lands hidden:

And behold, it is wisdom that this
land should be kept as yet from
the knowledge of other nations;
For behold, many nations would
overrun this land, that there
would be no place for an inheritance.
Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a
promise,
That inasmuch as they which the
Lord God shall bring out of the
land of Jerusalem shall keep his
commandments,
They shall prosper upon the face of
this land;
And they shall be kept from all other
nations, that they may possess
this land unto themselves.
And if it so be that they shall keep his
commandments, they shall be
blessed upon the face of this land,
And there shall be none to molest
them, nor to take away the land of
their inheritance;
And they shall dwell safely for ever.       2 Nephi 1:16-2

Lehi goes on to say, that when the time comes that “they shall dwindle in unbelief,” i.e., “reject the Holy One of Israel” (vv. 22-23), the Lord would bring judgment upon them and “bring other nations unto them” (vv. 23-24). This calls to mind a particular reference which Columbus included in his Book of Prophecies: “Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia,… a nation meted out and trodden down…” (Isaiah 18:1-2). The “land shadowing with wings” in this Isaiah reference has long been equated by Book of Mormon believers (and others) with the New World because the shape of the North, Central and South American continents resembles a bird with its wings spread. Besides fitting the description, the location of the New World is “beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.”

columbusreachesamerica2Columbus believed that God had kept knowledge of these lands hidden until he–Columbus-was led to make their discovery. He cites such scriptures as Matthew 11:27 [251: “0 Lord … because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them to the little ones” [babes; innocent; i.e., Columbus] (West and Kling 1991:107), and comments, “This I offer on my own behalf, together with the results that one has discovered by personal experience” (West and Kling 1991:109).

Brigham points out that Columbus also saw himself in a poem by a first-century Spanish-Roman writer who prophetically described, “An age will come after many years, when the Ocean will loose the chains of things, and a great land will lie revealed; and a mariner… will discover anew world.” Columbus’s son, Ferdinand, made a marginal note beside Columbus’s copy of the poem which reads, “This prophecy was fulfilled by my father… the Admiral in the year 1492” (Brigham 1990:116).

Lehi prophesied “that there shall be none come into this land save they should be brought by the hand of the Lord” (2 Nephi 1:10). In addition to Columbus, Nephi saw that others would also be brought to the New World.

 

And it came to pass that I beheld the
Spirit of God, that it wrought
upon other Gentiles;
And they went forth out of captivity
upon the many waters;
And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles
which had gone out of captivity
were delivered by the power of
God out of the hands of other
nations.         I Nephi 3:148,155

The other Gentiles which Nephi saw in his vision were most likely the Puritans and Pilgrims who fled their homelands in Europe to find governmental and economic control. God had decreed that this land would be a land of liberty for those who served Jesus Christ (Ether 1:29-35).

 

REFERENCES CITED
Brigham, Kay
1990   Christopher Columbus: His Life
and Discovery in the Light of His
Prophecies.
CLIE Publishers, Terrassa, Barcelona.

1991   Christopher Columbus’s Book of
Prophecies: Reproduction of the Original Manuscript With English
Translation. Quincentenary Edition.
CLIE Publishers, Terrassa, Barcelona.

Judge, Joseph
1986   Where Columbus Found the
New World. National Geographic,
Nov. 1986, pp. 566-599.

Marshall, Peter and David Manual
1977   The Light and the Glory. Revell,
old Tappan, New Jersey.

Sale, Kirkpatrick
1990   The Conquest of Paradise:
Christopher Columbus and the
Columbian Legacy.
Alfred A. Knopf,
New York.

Slater, Rosalie J., and Carole G. Adams, eds.
1992   Principly Speaking, Vol. 2, No. 2.
foundation for American Christian
Education, San Francisco.

West, Delno C. and August Kling
1991  The Libro de las profecias of
Christopher Columbus: An en face
edition. Vol. 2, Columbus
Quincentenary Series, University of
Florida Press, Gainesville.

This article taken from the Zarahemla Record, issue 63 Sept/Oct 1992

Bible Study

 

 

 

Critical Thinking: Biblical History, Moral Compass, Why the Bible Matters

Critical Thinking:

Biblical History, Moral Compass, Why the Bible Matters

Why the Bible Matters: Defining Right and Wrong

keyThere is a right and wrong to every question—Paying attention to your conscience is what helps you develop good character.

Do what is right; be faithful and fearless.

right-wrongsignOnward, press onward, the goal is in sight.

Eyes that are wet now, ere long will be tearless.

Blessings await you in doing what’s right!

Do what is right; let the consequence follow.

Battle for freedom in spirit and might;

and with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow.

God will protect you; then do what is right!

~Anonymous; The Psalms of Life, Boston, 1857

 

See More Defining Moments

 

 Birthright Covenant Series

birthright_cvr

Birthright Covenant Series-Young Adult Christian Books

picnicwyouthIn this excerpt from the historical  Birthright Covenant series college history professor Jacob Nobles uses discovery teaching and ancient ruins at a historic site to lead his students in a discussion of truth, and discerning right from wrong.

      “Okay—” Preston spoke with caution. “I’ll give you that the Bible is actually a history. But why does it matter?

                “That is the million-dollar question …” Jacob smiled. “And you can find the answer here—for free!

                Jacob held up the Bible. “Now, Preston, you have asked why the Bible matters. Would you agree that the Bible is a history of God’s dealings with man?”

creationhands                “I guess you could say that. Apparently, somehow God’s version of the creation was given to Moses, and Moses wrote it down,” Preston commented carefully.

                “It makes sense to take God’s word for it,” Allison remarked with her usual bluntness. “After all, He was there when it happened—a distinction the rest of us cannot claim.”

                Preston shook his head. “Still, none of us were there for the creation process—not even Moses.”

                “That’s true.” Jacob chewed thoughtfully on his ham sandwich and inclined his head. “Hmm. So we have here two explanations for the Creation process—to keep it simple, we’ll call them two different stories. Since we were not present for the event, we’re forced to accept either one story or the other—on faith.”

                Puzzled, Preston tilted his head.

“What is faith, anyway?”

  “Well now, faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true,”[1] Josiah Bianco said.

 shepherdboy               Folding his arms across his chest, Preston surveyed the surrounding hills and glimpsed a boy leading a few sheep. “Are you saying that everybody just blindly follows …” He paused. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to offend.”

                “No offense taken.”

                “Don’t worry,” Ben said. “We all have done the same thing.”

                “Really?”

                “Of course. It’s called academic freedom.”

  “Sure. Bring it on!” Allison took a sip out of her can of grape juice. “Only frauds and liars are afraid to answer questions.”

                “Why is Dr. Marlow so afraid of other points of view?” Nola asked.

                “He doesn’t want to lose the debate!” Allison interjected.

“Yes. Debate is an important part of academic freedom, but anyone can win an argument without teaching truth. A friendly discussion with free exchange of ideas is more effective in discovering truth.” Jacob chuckled. “However, when you prefer to control what others say and think, truth can get in your way.

   “Now that we are away from the university, we can actually look at more than one point of view! We will look at two stories of the Creation—one, in the Bible, and the other, Dr. Marlow’s version.”

                “The Bible version seems too simple,” Preston said.

                “Well, what is Dr. Marlow’s version called?” Nola inquired.

                “Dr. Marlow believes in a theory called Natural Selection which, simply put, proposes that everything somehow creates itself by chance,” Jacob replied.

                “That doesn’t make sense.” Nola frowned in disagreement. “The human body—and mind—are complicated. Something can’t be produced by nothing.[2] My experience has shown me that nothing worthwhile happens by chance. Everything takes work, and effort, and planning.

                “Yes, Nola. That’s why some scientists say that the Bible history discloses an intelligent design, a purpose, or an orderly plan.”

                “Aren’t Bible stories for children?” Preston wondered.

                “Men struggle to explain their philosophy. The Bible explains the Creation so a child can understand—so that parents can teach their children through the ages. Who is more intelligent?” Jacob shrugged. “Anyway, the important thing is, who is telling the truth—Man, or God?”

                “Can you just assume there is a God?”

Preston asked.

Jacob laughed. “We can look at some evidence. Where is evidence of chance?”

            No one answered for a moment.

            Josiah Bianco chortled. “Shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not?” he quipped, quoting Isaiah.[1]

[1] Isaiah 29:16

“What about evidence of design?”

                “The ability to think, for one thing,” Allison said, “ …one of many.”

                “As I said, the human body,” Nola added, “and life itself. I know many very intelligent scientists and doctors, but no one can earimageduplicate an eye or an ear.”               

  Preston’s gaze rested momentarily upon Nola’s face—round blue eyes, delicate sculpted features like a work of art. “All right,” he said. “Let’s say God is the intelligent Creator. Couldn’t He have made man out of apes?”

“Of course, He could, but would He? He is a God of order. As Creator of earth and all living things, He set up the rules for justice and science. Why would He violate His own laws?”[3]

         “What do you mean?”

                “Okay, if the Bible is really a history, and if it is true that we humans are created in the image of God, how are we different from animals?”

                “We can reason, while animals use instinct,” Preston said. “You’ve already established that.”

teotihuacanserpent               “Humans can draw, read, and write,” Allison said. “I have yet to see an animal who could carve something like this creature.” She poked her finger into the big teeth of the dragon carving, but withdrew her hand quickly. “Yikes! I don’t think an animal would make something this weird, even if it could!”

Free Will

  Jacob grinned. “True. Also, you chose to come here today, others did not. Ruben left early; the rest of you stayed. What does that mean?”

                “People have the power to choose,” Ben said.

                “Yes, that’s called Free Will. We have no empirical evidence of such a thing, but let’s suppose we have here a creature who is half man and half ape—by whose laws would this creature live—by the laws of man or nature? You’re the law student here, Preston. What do you think?”

   “Uh …”

                “If the creature is half man, would it be fair to make him live like an animal? Or if he is half animal, and cannot reason fully as a man, would it be just to impose upon him the laws of men?”

                “This is really getting confusing!”

   “Yes, Preston, it is confusing. But when He had completed the creation, God blessed human beings and all living things to multiply, each after their own kind.[4] There is nothing confusing about that.”

                A flutter of wings announced the arrival of a dove which lit next to his mate upon a limb of the tall tree.

How Do You Know What Is True and Right?

“The human soul can never die. So you see, it is created, not evolved, because God is not the author of confusion.[5] Therefore, to avoid confusion, would you agree we need some kind of law to bring order and justice to our lives?”

                “Absolutely,” Preston said. “We must have justice.”

 KJV Bible              “Let’s think for a moment about the two kinds of laws—which law provides true justice? Dr. Marlow makes no distinction between humans and animals. His law is simple: those who are strong rule and prevail over everything and everyone else.” Jacob placed his right hand firmly upon the rock and continued. “The law of Nature requires animals to kill other animals for food. In the law of the Bible, on the other hand, God tells us not to kill or eat other people. Why not?”

“It’s wrong!” The students exclaimed indignantly, in vigorous unison.

                “How do you know it’s wrong?”

                Jacob waited.

                “Well,” Preston began slowly. “There simply is no justice in murder and cannibalism. I don’t know why … Somehow I just know that.”

compass liahona   “Men often create laws to try to change God’s commandments,” Jacob continued, “but God’s laws never change. When He created our eternal souls, He planted those unchangeable moral laws in our minds and hearts. It’s called—”

                “Our conscience.” Preston nodded. “Of course! I see that now.”

                “Yes. The Bible contains our true moral compass in writing. And that, Preston, is why the Bible matters.”

More About Birthright Covenant series

[1] Isaiah 29:16

[2] John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding; Great Books of the Western World, vol.35

[3] These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the Creator Himself in all His dispensations conforms. William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1:59-60

[4] Genesis 1:22,24

[5] 1 Corinthians 14:33

Parents as Teachers: Christian Moral Standards and Biblical Values for Children and Youth

Parents as Teachers:

Christian Moral Standards and Biblical Values for Children and Youth

Written, Not with Ink

C.A. Davidson

keyoldAnd we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophesies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. (2 Nephi 25:26 )

 

Moses and 10 cropJochebed, mother of Moses, gently laid her infant son in a carefully crafted little ark, then watched over the short river journey of her precious cargo until he was safely in the arms of Pharaoh’s daughter. Even then, in the king’s court, she was there, nursing him and vigilant in his care.

Despite the opposition of those who would have killed him, Moses grew to manhood, delivered his people from bondage, and left to the world the priceless moral code known as the Ten Commandments. Moses went on to his reward, but opposition to his work continues.

In the New World, about 148 B.C., the prophet Abinadi was put to death by a king, for defending the plan of salvation and the Ten Commandments.

This revered code has been preserved, found today inscribed in stone or metal. The Ten Commandments have been ridiculed, forbidden, removed from public display. Yet within the calm eye of stormy hostility, this code remains serene, steadfast, and immovable.

After the children of Israel broke the Ten Commandments and other higher laws, Moses was instructed to create a complex structure of rules and regulations.

Today, many try to replace the Ten Commandments with gargantuan legal documents of government regulation.

10commandmentsLaws of men come and go. People have been killed or thrown in jail defending the Ten Commandments. But this moral code persists as a foundation for all civilized societies. Why? Because its Author is absolute— the same, yesterday, today, and forever. The Ten Commandments are moral absolutes.

Those whose behavior is consistent with moral absolutes are guided by what is called “internal government.” These individuals can successfully govern themselves, but are accountable to a just God.

When internal government breaks down, external government takes over, with rules, regulation, and bureaucracy. Persons under external government are accountable to men, who may not be just.

lesmisbookIn Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, a timeless novel about justice and mercy, hero Jean Valjean served in prison for decades because he stole one loaf of bread. He learned about mercy when a compassionate priest bought his freedom with two valuable silver candle holders. Because of that gracious gift, Valjean lived out his life serving and bringing joy to others. But Javert, his jailer, refusing to accept the price paid for Jean’s deliverance, became obsessed with re-capturing him. Failing in his objective, Javert finally ended his own miserable life. Such is the state of man at the hands of human justice.

In a civilized society, however, justice must be served, or there would be nothing to deter evil and protect the innocent. But much as we may desire to be morally perfect, we all fall short. What is to be done?

Many today reject moral absolutes because, like Javert, they do not understand the plan of mercy. A loving Father in heaven knew that his children would fail to keep all the commandments that justice required. Only His perfect Son could meet the absolute demands of justice and pay the price for His children’s deliverance.

Gethsemane2Parents need not be afraid of holding their children to high moral standards. The atonement of Christ is a safety net in the times of falling short, but it is fastened to repentance. Like Valjean, our children must forsake evil, or justice will have claims upon them.

If we as parents, like Jochebed, diligently train, nurture, and safeguard the internal government in our children, their souls will remain clean and whole when all around them are falling apart. Despite the fading ink of human doctrine, our children can remain true to eternal principles, written, not with ink, but in the fleshy tables of their hearts. (2Cor.3:3)

But remember, “It is easier to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent.” (Ezra Taft Benson)

Children prepared with strong internal government will always make honor and virtue their choice; they will triumph over evil, and rejoice.

 

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

knightandlady

  1. Give examples in the world today of human injustice, in which the Ten Commandments have been perverted and the atonement of Christ is denied.
  2. If we do our very best to live high moral standards, but fall short, what must we do to receive the mercy of Christ?

 

Copyright © 2010 by Christine A. Davidson

 

True to the Faith

By Evan Stephens

 

truth1Shall the youth of Zion falter in defending truth and right?

While the enemy assaileth, shall we shrink or shun the fight? No!

While we know the powers of darkness seek to thwart the work of God,

Shall the children of the promise cease to grasp the iron rod? No!

 

We will work out our salvation; we will cleave unto the truth;

We will watch and pray and labor with the fervent zeal of youth. Yes!

We will strive to be found worthy of the kingdom of our Lord,

With the faithful ones redeemed who have loved and kept his word. Yes!

 

ShieldresizeTrue to the faith that our parents have cherished,

True to the truth for which martyrs have perished,

To God’s command, soul, heart, and hand,

Faithful and true we will ever stand.

 

 

Christian Standards for Children and Youth

 

holyspiritI will follow Heavenly Father’s plan for me.

I will listen to the Holy Spirit.

I will choose the right. I know I can repent when I make a mistake.

I will be honest with Heavenly Father, others, and myself.

I will use the names of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ reverently. I will not swear or use crude words.

girlmodesty_largeI will do those things on the Sabbath that will help me feel close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

I will honor my parents and do my part to strengthen my family.

I will keep my mind and body sacred and pure, and I will not partake of things that are harmful to me.

I will dress modestly to show respect for Heavenly Father and myself.

familyprayerI will only read and watch things that are pleasing to Heavenly Father.

I will only listen to music that is pleasing to Heavenly Father.

I will seek good friends and treat others kindly.

I will do my part to strengthen my family.

 

Bible Stories: Character Education and Self-Government

Dinner Topics for Monday

Bible Stories: Character Education and Self-Government

Samson and Delilah—

Internal Government

*Teaching about the Fall

keySociety cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. ~Edmund Burke

samson-delilahSamson was raised from infancy, prepared by diligent parents to fulfill a mission of liberating Israel from the Philistines. Instead, he is known in scriptural record as the epic hero who never was. On the surface, the Biblical account of Samson looks rather amusing. That Samson’s remarkable physical prowess was connected to the length of his hair reads almost like one of Grimms’ fairy tales. The fact is, the length of Samson’s hair was only one outward manifestation of the Nazarite vows he had taken. The immense strength was a spiritual gift, contingent on his faithfulness to the Nazarite discipline.

Samson failed to develop the necessary self-discipline to merit the spiritual gifts he had been blessed with. As he became boastful, and trusted in his own strength rather than giving glory to God, Samson one by one broke all his vows. He indulged his selfish passions and appetites, including marrying out of the covenant with an immoral Philistine woman. He did not think anything through; his behavior was driven by his feelings.

When he trivialized the source of his strength by playing games with the Philistine Delilah, this represented the final breakdown of his discipleship to God.

She pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death. (Judges 16:16)

mockingpeopleAt some point, most of us can probably relate to having experienced this kind of pressure from someone else. Samson’s failure came first from dallying so much with sin and temptation. He constantly surrounded himself with it. Is it any wonder that he finally broke when he was pestered long enough?

Samson’s lack of internal government caused his personal downfall and deprived his nation of liberating leadership.

One may also be pressured when trying to do something right. Even then, it is easy to react in anger, fear, or foolishness.

The “wise man who builds his house upon a rock” knows that true freedom comes from acting by choice rather than being acted upon.

buildingonrock“Discipline” is defined as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” Simple, brute-strength “will power” is not mentioned. Because the natural man rarely has sufficient “will power,” the “wise man” trains, molds, and corrects himself on a daily basis. It is a building process— on rock. No shortcuts.

The wise man looks ahead, constructing his house to stand independently of forces that tear down and undo his work. Day by day, a step at a time, he schools his feelings, delays gratification, and subordinates foolish impulses to the larger character he is capable of. The less he indulges himself, the more substance he has, and the less room in his life for that which would cause irreparable downfall.

The builder’s to-do list might include practicing courteous actions rather than angry reactions. Discussing and using peaceful resolutions to conflict and misunderstanding. Using moderation in appetites and showing appreciation for the gifts and services of others. Teaching wisdom and order. All these seemingly small things make up the firm inner structure that can withstand incessant adverse elements and bring enduring peace of mind.

Character Education Concepts

gavarret-follow-christFor the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19 )

  1. Why is daily discipline in small choices more effective than “will power” in times of crisis?
  2. The three areas of temptation are: 1) appetites and passions 2)vanity 3)greed and power. How can this knowledge help us prepare to resist temptation?
  3. How can we avoid dallying with sin in the following areas? Movies and TV. Music. Reading material. Internet. Dating.
  4. What does “temperance” mean? Compare dedication and fanaticism.
  5. Choose five or more epic heroes from scripture and outline their ministries. How did they exemplify Christian discipleship?
  6. How does the Savior help us overcome our weaknesses through the atonement?

christs-outstreched-hand-lindsleyAnd if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.(Ether 12:27)

 

 

Copyright 2010 © by Christine A. Davidson

 

The Parable of the Empty House

As a Man Thinketh

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. (Prov. 23:7)

golden-calfAfter God had delivered them from bondage, the children of Israel began their epic journey to the promised land. Freedom, however, was not what they expected. Food was plentiful — indeed, bread from heaven rained down upon them daily. Yet they were not accustomed to the simplicity of the Lord’s way of life. Gone were the heathen groves wherein one could indulge in sensual pleasures. The flashy graven images were missing. Their new wilderness home was free of Egypt’s distractions. Now they could concentrate on building new lives for themselves, replacing the taint of idolatry with an eye single to the glory of God. They had but to look to God and live. Simple. They brought no Egyptian idols with them. Even so, they turned to idolatry, for in their minds, they were still in bondage.

The Savior gave a parable about this condition.

empty-house-2When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished, for the good spirit leaveth him unto himself.

Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. (Matt. 12:43-45)

 

empty-houseThis oft overlooked parable of the empty house might speak of a man who leaves his old life behind, accepts the gospel and embarks upon the strait and narrow path of Christian discipleship. On that path the first obstacle is in the form of habits from his past. The iron rod [word of God] is steady and secure, but plain. It does not glitter and allure. In vain he searches for something on the road to heaven that will give him the same thrills and carnal satisfaction that his pre-conversion world held. He finds none.

Still, his soul has been cleansed, released from the chains of past wickedness. Agency has been extended to him anew. He has arrived at the pivotal point of his life, the brink of glorious opportunity.   However, if a traumatic experience in his previous life robbed him of spiritual roots, that opportunity could have a dangerous edge. His mind might be a spiritual vacuum. With what will he fill his mind? The choice is his, and his alone. Will he lay hold upon every good gift, or will he touch the unclean thing?

apathydudeThe trials and adversities of life are painful. Seeking comfort, the man turns, not to God, but to his old habits. He goes to Church every Sunday, but during the week, the old ways take over. Instead of looking to God to heal his pain, he numbs it with worldly distractions, which God calls idols. Seemingly innocuous habits move in and make themselves comfortable, and make him comfortable. Upon arising, the man turns to phone and social media. This programming is the first thing that enters his mind in the morning. What can be wrong with that? During lunch, social media. After work, TV. After dinner, games, social media. Before bed, social media, video games. After Church, electronic media, video games.

On Sunday, the man dutifully dusts off his scriptures and hauls them to Church. But they don’t mean anything. He doesn’t understand them. After years of worshiping images, he can no longer recognize the real thing. He has succeeded in numbing his pain. In fact, now he is “past feeling,” just like the idols which have received his unwavering attention for so long.

Moses was faced with the monumental task of sanctifying his people— removing the ungodly habits from their lives and filling their minds and hearts with the word of God. Most importantly, he had to keep the children from being sullied by the unholy baggage their parents had brought out from Egypt.

So he taught them,

family5prayingdinnerAnd these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deut. 6:6,7)

“Holy habits and righteous routines,”[1] when practiced daily, are part of holding to the iron rod [word of God], and will steady us on our path back to Heavenly Father.

Dinner Topic Questions

Dinner Talk Topic: Our conversation, use of leisure time, and choice of entertainment are a reflection of what is in our minds. *Controlling our thoughts

  1. How are our conversation, use of leisure time, and choice of entertainment a reflection of what is in our mind? When you are alone, what kind of background do you like to “keep you company? Is there a better companionship to seek?
  2. What do you dwell on when you have nothing specific to think about? If you look around, can you see someone who is worse off than you are? How does it make you feel?
  3. Are you alone in your circumstances? Why not?
  4. Can a self-absorbed person be truly happy?
  5. Can you recognize the presence of the Spirit? How?
  6. In what conditions will the Spirit withdraw?
  7. What seemingly small things can offend the Spirit?
  8. How can continual exposure to the sensationalism of electronic media cause a person to be “past feeling”? (1Nephi 17:45)
  9. What must we do to be worthy of having the continual companionship of the Holy Spirit?
  10. In what ways can games and social media dull our senses? How can reading scriptures or a good book, or listening to classical music,  be active rather than passive? Can we go through the motions and not understand the life lessons God is trying to teach us?
  11. How can failing to actively nourish our minds with spiritual food create a spiritual vacuum, and what are the dangers of such a vacuum?
  12. A “graven image” is a tangible object a person might worship instead of God. Also, spending time and money on things that distract someone from God might also be considered as idolatry. How can we avoid this problem in our lives?
  13. Look up “idolatry” in the dictionary. Is idolatry only an ancient evil? How can idolatry affect our lives today? Why do you think their idols caused the children of Israel to be immoral? Do cold, lifeless idols, or even movie idols, hold their worshipers accountable? What happens when there is no accountability?
  14. James 1:8. “ A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” What must we do to stay out of spiritual Babylon?
  15. Isaiah 7:15 “Refuse the evil, and choose the good.” Is it possible to “touch the unclean thing” without letting go of the word of God?

 

Copyright 2010 © by Christine A. Davidson

 

            [1] Elaine Dalton, “Look toward Eternity!”. Ensign, November 2006, p.32

Judeo-Christian Culture: Theme Quotes on Journey of Faith

Judeo-Christian Culture:

Theme Quotes on Journey of Faith

I am the way, the truth, and the life. ~Jesus, John 14:6

When it comes to the core of their faith, millions of Christians will echo, by word and deed, the words of Martin Luther: Here we stand. We can do no other. ~David French

I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day. ~Alma 36:3

Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good. ~Alma 37:37

Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls. ~Alma 37:34

Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. ~Isaiah 12:3

And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness. 1 Nephi 17:3

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall revile against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is or me, saith the Lord. ~Isaiah 54:17

 

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:13,14

The trying of your faith worketh patience. ~James 1:3

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. ~Ephesians 6:13-18

 

Let us all press on in the work of the Lord,

That when life is o’er we may gain a reward;

In the fight for right let us wield a sword,

The mighty sword of truth.

Fear not, though the enemy deride,

Courage, for the Lord is on our side.

We will heed not what the wicked may say,

But the Lord alone we will obey. ~ Evan Stephens

Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. ~Isaiah 3:10

Judeo-Christian Culture: Parenting Tips, Teaching by Example, Biblical Values in Daily Life

Judeo-Christian Culture:

Parenting Tips, Teaching by Example, Biblical Values in Daily Life

Building Spiritual Patterns

By Karmel and Lloyd Newell

You can provide safety and strength for your family by establishing patterns of spiritual living in your home.

One morning, a family was gathered for scripture study when the phone rang. The mother picked up the phone, and her sister-in-law from New Jersey spoke frantically on the other end: “Hurry! Turn on the news.”

The day was September 11, 2001. The news told of a horrifying terrorist attack in New York City. The children were shaken. Going to school seemed a little scary now.

The parents turned off the TV, and the family knelt to pray. After the prayer, the eight-year-old daughter said, “It’s going to be all right. I think the terrorists are just like the Gadianton robbers. We don’t need to be afraid of them.” Peace replaced fear. As the children left for school, the mother and father turned to each other and said, “That’s why we do this every morning.”

The family was fortified during a time of great distress because they had established a pattern of family prayer and scripture study. When fear struck, it was natural for them to pray because they prayed together every day. When world events were upsetting, they found reassurance in the scriptures because that’s where they always found reassurance.

Thankfully, events this dramatic don’t happen every day. Most often the challenges our families face are less drastic, but they are real, and they can be dangerous. You and your family can prepare to face life’s challenges by establishing patterns of spiritual living in your home.

What Is a Spiritual Pattern?

A father reads to his three young children from the Holy Bible.

A pattern in a work of art, such as a piece of music or a quilt, is a repeating design of notes or colors. A work of art is often defined by the patterns it displays.

Spiritually speaking, patterns can work in our families the same way. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) outlined some basic spiritual patterns when he counseled mothers: “Teach [your children] to pray while they are young. Read to them from the scriptures even though they may not understand all that you read. Teach them to pay their tithes and offerings on the first money they ever receive. Let this practice become a habit in their lives.”1

These spiritual habits can become such a consistent part of our families that they help define who we are. They can unite family members, continue from one generation to the next, and give us a strong sense of stability, identity, and cohesion. Most important, they bring us closer to the Savior and help us overcome trials and temptations.

Beginning to Build

The patterns we hear in a beautiful piece of music don’t happen by chance; they must be carefully planned and precisely executed. The same is true for spiritual patterns in our families. Without deliberate planning, it’s easy for other activities to creep in and take precedence over spiritual patterns. Here are some tips for creating spiritual patterns in your home:

  • Begin by discussing with your spouse the spiritual patterns you want to develop in your family.
  • Prayerfully create a plan and present it in a family council.
  • Decide on a regular time and place for the spiritual pattern. For example, one family decided to gather around the kitchen table for scripture study so there would be less contention and fewer distractions.
  • Make it fun! Nothing quite compares with marching around the kitchen table singing “We Are All Enlisted”2 after family prayer, or sipping hot chocolate together during scripture study on a cold morning, or watching your children act out an adventurous scripture story.
  • Give spiritual patterns priority. Schedule other activities around them.
  • Be creative and adapt to the needs of your family members. Scripture study for small children might last just a few minutes each day. A family home evening lesson for teenagers with lots of homework could be a well-planned 15 minutes. Remember that the length of time is not as important as consistency.
  • Pray for inspiration for successfully integrating a spiritual pattern into your busy lives.

Following these guidelines is not a quick process. But through the patient repetition of small and simple acts, we can develop reliable spiritual patterns to strengthen our families, being assured that “by small means the Lord can bring about great things” (1 Nephi 16:29).

Persistence through Resistance

Because establishing spiritual patterns takes time, the rewards aren’t always immediate. Parents may wonder if their children are really benefiting from their efforts—especially when the kids quarrel, complain, or refuse to participate. Unfortunately, too many parents feel paralyzed by the seeming picture of perfection they see in the families around them, causing them to think: “Other families don’t argue during family night.” “Other families don’t forget to pray. What’s wrong with us?”

The truth is, no family is perfect. Every family encounters resistance to establishing spiritual patterns. But when children resist, wise parents persist. Gordon B. Hinckley shared this encouraging example from his own parents, who established a spiritual pattern of family night that included musical performances:

“In the beginning, we would laugh and make cute remarks about one another’s performance. But our parents persisted. We sang together. We prayed together. We listened quietly while Mother read Bible and Book of Mormon stories. Father told us stories out of his memory. …

“Out of those simple little meetings, held in the parlor of our old home, came something indescribable and wonderful. Our love for our parents was strengthened. Our love for brothers and sisters was enhanced. Our love for the Lord was increased. An appreciation for simple goodness grew in our hearts.”4

Blessed for Your Efforts

The spiritual patterns you establish will bless your family and help you draw closer to each other and to the Lord.

Even if they don’t realize it at first, your children will be strengthened by the righteous habits you choose to create in your family. One young woman described how her parents put imaginary armor on her and her siblings before they left for school each day. This was meant to remind them of the spiritual armor that would protect them from evil. “I never really appreciated this until I was older,” she said. “I am just now realizing the significance of this ritual they created. … Even if it was something I thought was stupid, I know it had an impact on the way I lived my life.”6

Another young woman shared how she was affected by her mother’s persistence: “She constantly invited me to come to prayer and [scripture study], even when I refused to come. It was her consistency that helped me to repent.”7

When we consistently strive to strengthen our families and center our homes on Jesus Christ, the Lord will bless our efforts. We never really know when and how those blessings will manifest themselves. Perhaps your family or your children will face an intense crisis, as the family did on September 11, 2001, and the spiritual patterns you’ve established will provide the peace and strength to move forward with faith. More likely, a spiritual pattern will help you and your family withstand the temptations that subtly attack us every day. The Lord has promised, “Be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

To Be Given Highest Priority

“We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.”

First Presidency letter, Feb. 11, 1999
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Religious Freedom Summit: President Donald Trump calls for Religious Freedom Worldwide

Religious Freedom Summit: President Donald Trump calls for Religious Freedom Worldwide Pompeo: Trump Administration Sounding ‘Clarion Call for Religious Freedom Around the World’ By Michael W. Chapman | (CNSNews.com) — In anticipation of next week’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, Secretary … Continue reading

Judeo-Christian Culture: Free Will and Jesus Christ Atonement

Judeo-Christian Culture:

Free Will and Jesus Christ Atonement

Dinner Topics for Tuesday

Free Forever, to Act for Themselves

Character-Education

Todd Christofferson

keyIt is God’s will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually.

A world without God, the living God who establishes moral laws to govern and perfect His children, is also a world without ultimate truth or justice. It is a world where moral relativism reigns supreme. ~D. Todd Christofferson

henryvshakespearechristoffersonWilliam Shakespeare’s play The Life of King Henry V includes a nighttime scene in the camp of English soldiers at Agincourt just before their battle with the French army. In the dim light and partially disguised, King Henry wanders unrecognized among his soldiers. He talks with them, trying to gauge the morale of his badly outnumbered troops, and because they do not realize who he is, they are candid in their comments. In one exchange they philosophize about who bears responsibility for what happens to men in battle—the king or each individual soldier.

At one point King Henry declares, “Methinks I could not die any where so contented as in the king’s company; his cause being just.”

henryvshakespeare2Michael Williams retorts, “That’s more than we know.”

His companion agrees, “Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough, if we know we are the king’s subjects: if his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us.”

Williams adds, “If the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make.”

Not surprisingly, King Henry disagrees. “Every subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s soul is his own.”1

Shakespeare does not attempt to resolve this debate in the play, and in one form or another it is a debate that continues down to our own time—who bears responsibility for what happens in our lives?

When things turn bad, there is a tendency to blame others or even God. Sometimes a sense of entitlement arises, and individuals or groups try to shift responsibility for their welfare to other people or to governments. In spiritual matters some suppose that men and women need not strive for personal righteousness—because God loves and saves us “just as we are.”

freewill1But God intends that His children should act according to the moral agency He has given them, “that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.”2 It is His plan and His will that we have the principal decision-making role in our own life’s drama. God will not live our lives for us nor control us as if we were His puppets, as Lucifer once proposed to do. Nor will His prophets accept the role of “puppet master” in God’s place. Brigham Young stated: “I do not wish any Latter Day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ,—the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves.”3

So God does not save us “just as we are,” first, because “just as we are” we are unclean, and “no unclean thing can dwell … in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man [of Holiness].”4 And second, God will not act to make us something we do not choose by our actions to become. Truly He loves us, and because He loves us, He neither compels nor abandons us. Rather He helps and guides us. Indeed, the real manifestation of God’s love is His commandments.

We should (and we do) rejoice in the God-ordained plan that permits us to make choices to act for ourselves and experience the consequences, or as the scriptures express it, to “taste the bitter, that [we] may know to prize the good.”5 We are forever grateful that the Savior’s Atonement overcame original sin so that we can be born into this world yet not be punished for Adam’s transgression.6 Having been thus redeemed from the Fall, we begin life innocent before God and “become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for [ourselves] and not to be acted upon.”7 We can choose to become the kind of person that we will, and with God’s help, that can be even as He is.8

The gospel of Jesus Christ opens the path to what we may become. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His grace, our failures to live the celestial law perfectly and consistently in mortality can be erased and we are enabled to develop a Christlike character. Justice demands, however, that none of this happen without our willing agreement and participation. It has ever been so. Our very presence on earth as physical beings is the consequence of a choice each of us made to participate in our Father’s plan.9 Thus, salvation is certainly not the result of divine whim, but neither does it happen by divine will alone.10

jesusjusticemedAtonement of Christ, Justice and Mercy

Justice is an essential attribute of God. We can have faith in God because He is perfectly trustworthy. The scriptures teach us that “God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round”11 and that “God is no respecter of persons.”12 We rely on the divine quality of justice for faith, confidence, and hope.

But as a consequence of being perfectly just, there are some things God cannot do. He cannot be arbitrary in saving some and banishing others. He “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”13 He cannot allow mercy to rob justice.14

It is compelling evidence of His justice that God has forged the companion principle of mercy. It is because He is just that He devised the means for mercy to play its indispensable role in our eternal destiny. So now, “justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own.”15

jesusforgivemedWe know that it is “the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom [the Father] wast well pleased; … the blood of [His] Son which was shed”16 that satisfies the demands of justice, extends mercy, and redeems us.17 Even so, “according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance.”18 It is the requirement of and the opportunity for repentance that permits mercy to perform its labor without trampling justice.

Christ died not to save indiscriminately but to offer repentance. We rely “wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save”19 in the process of repentance, but acting to repent is a self-willed change. So by making repentance a condition for receiving the gift of grace, God enables us to retain responsibility for ourselves. Repentance respects and sustains our moral agency: “And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.”20

Misunderstanding God’s justice and mercy is one thing; denying God’s existence or supremacy is another, but either will result in our achieving less—sometimes far less—than our full, divine potential. A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who does not exist. A world without God, the living God who establishes moral laws to govern and perfect His children, is also a world without ultimate truth or justice. It is a world where moral relativism reigns supreme.

 

Relativism

Relativism means each person is his or her own highest authority. Of course, it is not just those who deny God that subscribe to this philosophy. Some who believe in God still believe that they themselves, individually, decide what is right and wrong. One young adult expressed it this way: “I don’t think I could say that Hinduism is wrong or Catholicism is wrong or being Episcopalian is wrong—I think it just depends on what you believe. … I don’t think that there’s a right and wrong.”21 Another, asked about the basis for his religious beliefs, replied, “Myself—it really comes down to that. I mean, how could there be authority to what you believe?”22

To those who believe anything or everything could be true, the declaration of objective, fixed, and universal truth feels like coercion—“I shouldn’t be forced to believe something is true that I don’t like.” But that does not change reality. Resenting the law of gravity won’t keep a person from falling if he steps off a cliff. The same is true for eternal law and justice. Freedom comes not from resisting it but from applying it. That is fundamental to God’s own power. If it were not for the reality of fixed and immutable truths, the gift of agency would be meaningless since we would never be able to foresee and intend the consequences of our actions. As Lehi expressed it: “If ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.”23

responsibilityResponsibility is a gift

In matters both temporal and spiritual, the opportunity to assume personal responsibility is a God-given gift without which we cannot realize our full potential as daughters and sons of God. Personal accountability becomes both a right and a duty that we must constantly defend; it has been under assault since before the Creation. We must defend accountability against persons and programs that would (sometimes with the best of intentions) make us dependent. And we must defend it against our own inclinations to avoid the work that is required to cultivate talents, abilities, and Christlike character.

graveyardThe story is told of a man who simply would not work. He wanted to be taken care of in every need. To his way of thinking, the Church or the government, or both, owed him a living because he had paid his taxes and his tithing. He had nothing to eat but refused to work to care for himself. Out of desperation and disgust, those who had tried to help him decided that since he would not lift a finger to sustain himself, they might as well just take him to the cemetery and let him pass on. On the way to the cemetery, one man said, “We can’t do this. I have some corn I will give him.”

So they explained this to the man, and he asked, “Have the husks been removed?”

They responded, “No.”

“Well, then,” he said, “drive on.”

It is God’s will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually, that we be free from the humiliating limitations of poverty and the bondage of sin, that we enjoy self-respect and independence, that we be prepared in all things to join Him in His celestial kingdom.

christofferson-freewillI am under no illusion that this can be achieved by our own efforts alone without His very substantial and constant help. “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”24 And we do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help—divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience. But I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency. My plea is simply to take responsibility and go to work so that there is something for God to help us with.

I bear witness that God the Father lives, that His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Redeemer, and that the Holy Spirit is present with us. Their desire to help us is undoubted, and Their capacity to do so is infinite. Let us “awake, and arise from the dust, … that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto [us] may be fulfilled.”25

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