History Facts: 10 Reasons to accept Jesus Christ’s Resurrection

History Facts:

10 Reasons to accept Jesus Christ’s Resurrection

10 Reasons to Accept the Resurrection of Jesus as an Historical Fact

By Brian Chilton

When I left the ministry due to my skepticism, one of the factors involved in my departure concerned the reliability of the New Testament documents and the resurrection of Jesus. The folks from the Jesus Seminar had me second-guessing whether I could trust what the New Testament said and if I could truly accept the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. In July of 2005, my life changed. I entered the Lifeway Christian Bookstore in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and read three books that changed my life more than any other book outside the Bible. I discovered Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and McDowell’s A Ready Defense. I discovered that there are many reasons for accepting the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as a historical fact.

Through the years, the evidence has increasingly mounted for the historicity of Jesus’s resurrection. This article will provide 10 of the most fascinating arguments for the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This list is not exhaustive and my dealings with each argument is extremely brief. Nevertheless, I hope this list will provide a starting point for you to consider the authenticity of Jesus’s resurrection.

  1. The First Eyewitnesses were Women. The first eyewitnesses of the resurrection were women. All the Gospels note that the first individuals to discover the tomb empty were women. Matthew notes that “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb…The angel told the women, ‘Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the play where he lay” (Matthew 28:1, 5-6).[1] Women were not held in high esteem. In Greco-Roman culture, a woman’s testimony was not admissible in court. In Jewish circles, it took the testimony of two women to equate that of one man. If one were to invent a story, the last people one would place as the first witnesses would have been women, unless it were otherwise true.
  2. Minimal Facts Concerning the Resurrection. Gary Habermas has popularized the so-called minimal facts argument for the resurrection. The minimal facts are those things that are accepted by nearly all New Testament scholars. The minimal facts are “1. Jesus died by crucifixion. 2. Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them. 3. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed. 4. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed. 5. The tomb was empty.” [2] These facts are nearly universally accepted by New Testament scholars, including liberals.
  3. Transformation of the Early Disciples. As noted in the minimal facts, James, the brother of Jesus, was changed from a skeptic to a believer because of the resurrection. James along with his brothers did not believe in Jesus during Jesus’s early ministry (see John 7:5). However, Jesus appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:3-9) and James became a leader in the early Jerusalem church. His death is recorded by Josephus.[3] Paul is another example of one who was completely transformed by the resurrection of Jesus. Paul had been a persecutor of the church. After witnessing the risen Jesus, Paul became a proclaimer for the church.
  4. Embarrassing Details of the Resurrection. Historically speaking, embarrassing details add veracity to a historical claim. The fact that women were the first witnesses, that a member of the Sanhedrin (the same Sanhedrin that executed Jesus) had to give Jesus a proper burial, and that the disciples were fearful and fled all serve as embarrassing factors for the resurrection account.
  5. Willingness to Die for What Was Known. Many people will die for what they believe to be true. But no one will die for something they erroneously invented. The disciples knew if they were telling the truth. Yet, one finds that the disciples were willing to die for what they knew to be true. Stephen died by stoning (Acts 7:54-60), James of Zebedee died by the sword at the hands of Herod (Acts 12:2), James the brother of Jesus died,[4] and Peter and Paul died at the hands of Nero.[5]
  6. Documentary Evidence. The documentary evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is quite good. The historian seeks to find how many primary and secondary sources[6] can be gathered for an event to determine the event’s historicity. Concerning primary sources, the resurrection has Matthew’s account, John’s account, and Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 15, including the additional references by James (if one accepts that James wrote the letter attributed to him) and Jude. The following are secondary sources for the resurrection: Luke, Mark, Clement of Rome, and to a lesser degree Ignatius and Irenaeus.
  7. Circumstantial Evidence. Douglas Groothius notes that circumstantial evidence for the historicity of the resurrection is “namely, the practice of the early church in observing baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Sunday worship.”[7] Baptism is based upon the analogy of Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection. The Lord’s Supper is a symbol of Christ’s sacrificial death. In addition, it is quite odd that faithful Jews would move their worship from a Friday evening into Saturday to a Sunday morning unless something major had occurred on a Sunday morning. The major Sunday morning event was Jesus’s resurrection.
  8. The Missing Motive. J. Warner Wallace has noted in his lectures and books that when a conspiracy is formed, three motivating factors are behinds such a move—power, greed, and/or lust.[8] The disciples would hold no power behind claiming the resurrection as history. They were running around while often being threatened by the Jewish and Roman authorities. As far as greed, they taught that one should not desire earthly possessions, but spiritual ones. Lust was not a factor, either. They taught celibacy before marriage and marital fidelity after marriage. In fact, N. T. Wright notes in his classic book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, that the disciples had no theological motivation behind claiming that Jesus had risen from the dead as they were anticipating a military hero and a final resurrection at the end of time. What motivating factors existed for these disciples to invent such a story? None! The only reason the disciples taught the resurrection of Jesus was because Jesus’s resurrection had occurred.
  9. Enemy Attestation of the Resurrection. Historically speaking, if one holds enemy attestation to an event, then the event is strengthened. When one considers the claims of the authorities that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus (Matthew 28:11-15), the testimony of the resurrection is strengthened. The early belief that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus is strengthened by the discovery of the Nazareth Inscription that orders capital punishment for anyone who steals a body from a tomb.[9] In addition, several refences to Jesus and his resurrection include citations from Josephus,[10] Tacitus,[11] and Suetonius[12] among others (including the Babylonian Talmud).
  10. Multiple Post-Resurrection Eyewitnesses. Finally, there is multiple eyewitness testimony pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus. Several people had seen Jesus alive for a period of 40 days. The eyewitnesses include Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18), the women at the tomb accompanying Mary (Matthew 28:1-10), the Roman guards (Matthew 28:4), the Eleven disciples (John 21), the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), an indeterminate number of disciples (Matthew 28:16-20); over five-hundred disciples (1 Corinthains 15:6), to James (1 Corinthians 15:7) and to Paul (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). I am certain that there were many other witnesses that are unnamed.

Bonus:

Reason number 11: Additional witnesses in the Western Hemisphere

Translation of records of a Christian colony in ancient America documents a visit of the resurrected Jesus Christ to Central America, and that 2500 people witnessed His visit, and felt the scars in His hands and feet. ~C.D.

 

How to help strengthen the faith of the rising generation

 

Conclusion:

Many other evidences could be given for the resurrection of Jesus. Thinking about the methods of history, one must understand that there is a reason why American accept the first President of the United States as George Washington and not Spongebob Squarepants. History backs up the claim that Washington was the first President. In like manner, history backs up the reality of Jesus’s resurrection. Now the question is this: what will you do with such information? Some will try to ignore the event. Some will try to dismiss it. Others will acknowledge the factual nature of the event and worship Jesus as the risen Lord. It is my prayer that you will do the latter.

See how you can draw your family closer to God in these troubled times

 


 Notes

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2017).

[2] Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004), 48-50, 64-69.

[3] Josephus, Antiquities XX.200.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Eusebius, Church History XXV.5.

[6] Primary sources are documents written by eyewitnesses. Secondary sources are documents written by individuals who know eyewitnesses. For instance, my grandfather was an eyewitness to the biggest naval battle in World War II history. From the information my dad gathered from him, he would be a secondary source, whereas my grandfather would have been a primary source.

[7] Douglas Groothius, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2011), 553-554.

[8] See J. Warner Wallace, “Rapid Response: I Think the Disciples Lied About the Resurrection,” Cold-case Christianity.com (October 17, 2016), retrieved April 11, 2017, http://coldcasechristianity.com/2016/rapid-response-i-think-the-disciples-lied-about-the-resurrection/.

[9] See http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2009/07/22/The-Nazareth-Inscription-Proof-of-the-Resurrection-of-Christ.aspx#Article.

[10] Josephus, Antiquities XX.9.1.

[11] Tacitus, Annals XV.

[12] Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars-Claudius 25 and Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars-Nero 16.

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2ppUPKK

 

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Gospel Teachings: Repentance, the Love of God, and Unconditional Love Definition

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Gospel Teachings: Repentance, the Love of God, and Unconditional Love Definition Abide in My Love D. Todd Christofferson God’s love is infinite and it will endure forever, but what it means for each of us depends on how we respond … Continue reading

Judeo-Christian Culture: Discipleship Definition

Judeo-Christian Culture:

Discipleship Definition

Becoming a Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ

By Robert D. Hales

The constellation of characteristics that result from faith in Christ are all necessary to our standing strong in these last days.

What does it mean to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ? A disciple is one who has been baptized and is willing to take upon him or her the name of the Savior and follow Him. A disciple strives to become as He is by keeping His commandments in mortality, much the same as an apprentice seeks to become like his or her master.

Many people hear the word disciple and think it means only “follower.” But genuine discipleship is a state of being. This suggests more than studying and applying a list of individual attributes. Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry.

Listen to the Apostle Peter’s invitation to become a disciple of the Savior:

“Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

“And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

“And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”1

As you can see, weaving the spiritual tapestry of personal discipleship requires more than a single thread. In the Savior’s day, there were many who claimed to be righteous in one or another aspect of their lives. They practiced what I have called selective obedience. For example, they kept the commandment to refrain from work on the Sabbath yet criticized the Savior for healing on that holy day.2 They gave alms to the poor but offered only their excess—what they did not need for themselves.3 They fasted but only with long faces.4 They prayed but only to be seen of men.5 Jesus said, “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”6 Such men and women may focus on mastering a specific attribute or action but do not necessarily become as He is in their hearts.

Of these, Jesus declared:

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”7

The attributes of the Savior, as we perceive them, are not a script to be followed or list to be checked off. They are interwoven characteristics, added one to another, which develop in us in interactive ways. In other words, we cannot obtain one Christlike characteristic without also obtaining and influencing others. As one characteristic becomes strong, so do many more.

In 2 Peter and in Doctrine and Covenants section 4, we learn that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation. We measure our faith by what it leads us to do—by our obedience. “If ye will have faith in me,” the Lord promised, “ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”8 Faith is a catalyst. Without works, without virtuous living, our faith is without power to activate discipleship. Indeed, faith is dead.9

Virtue, Knowledge

And so, Peter explains, “add to your faith virtue.” This virtue is more than sexual purity. It is cleanliness and holiness in mind and body. Virtue is also power. As we faithfully live the gospel, we will have power to be virtuous in every thought, feeling, and action. Our minds become more receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ.10 We embody Christ not only in what we say and do but also in who we are.

Peter continues, “Add to [your] virtue, knowledge.” As we live virtuous lives, we come to know our Heavenly Father and His Son in a special way. “If any man will do [the Father’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine.”11 This knowledge is personal testimony, born from personal experience. It is knowledge that transforms us so that our “light cleaveth unto [His] light” and our “virtue loveth [His] virtue.”12 By our virtuous living, we make the journey from “I believe” to the glorious destination of “I know.”

Temperance, Patience to Godliness

Peter exhorts us to add “to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience.” As temperate disciples, we live the gospel in a balanced and steady way. We do not “run faster than [we have] strength.”13 Day by day we move forward, undeterred by the refining challenges of mortality.

Being temperate in this way, we develop patience and trust in the Lord. We are able to rely on His design for our lives, even though we cannot see it with our own natural eyes.14 Therefore, we can “be still and know that [He is] God.”15 When faced with the storms of tribulation, we ask, “What wouldst Thou have me learn from this experience?” With His plan and purposes in our hearts, we move forward not only enduring all things but also enduring them patiently and well.16

This patience, Peter teaches, leads us to godliness. As the Father is patient with us, His children, we become patient with one another and ourselves. We delight in the agency of others and the opportunity it gives them to grow “line upon line,”17 “brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”18

From temperance to patience and from patience to godliness, our natures change. We gain the brotherly kindness that is a hallmark of all true disciples. Like the Good Samaritan, we cross the road to minister to whoever is in need, even if they are not within the circle of our friends.19 We bless them that curse us. We do good to those who despitefully use us.20 Is any attribute more godly or Christlike?

I testify that the efforts we make to become disciples of our Savior are truly added upon until we are “possessed” of His love.21 This love is the defining characteristic of a disciple of Christ:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”22

It is faith, hope, and charity that qualify us for the work of God.23 “And now abideth … these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”24

Brothers and sisters, now more than ever, we cannot be a “part-time disciple”! We cannot be a disciple on just one point of doctrine or another. The constellation of characteristics that result from faith in Christ—including the ones we have talked about today—are all necessary to our standing strong in these last days.

As we earnestly strive to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, these characteristics will be interwoven, added upon, and interactively strengthened in us. There will be no disparity between the kindness we show our enemies and the kindness we bestow on our friends. We will be as honest when no one is looking as when others are watching. We will be as devoted to God in the public square as we are in our private closet.

I testify that everyone can be a disciple of the Savior. Discipleship is not constrained by age, gender, ethnic origin, or calling. Through our individual discipleship, we build up a collective strength to bless our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Now is the time to recommit ourselves to being His disciples with all diligence.

Brothers and sisters, we are all called to be disciples of our Savior. May He bless us in our eternal quest to become devoted and valiant disciples.

 

Gospel Teachings: Easter Story, Plan of Salvation, and 3 gardens

Gospel Teachings:

Easter Story, Plan of Salvation, and 3 gardens

The Three Gardens of God

Bruce R. McConkie (1915–1985)

Join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement.

jesus-adam-eve-gethsemane-resurrection-3-gardensI feel, and the Spirit seems to accord, that the most important doctrine I can declare, and the most powerful testimony I can bear, is of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.

His Atonement is the most transcendent event that ever has or ever will occur from Creation’s dawn through all the ages of a never-ending eternity.

It is the supreme act of goodness and grace that only a god could perform. Through it, all of the terms and conditions of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation became operative. …

In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets.

True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard His voice and know His word. …

May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement.

We must cast aside the philosophies of men and the wisdom of the wise and hearken to that Spirit which is given to us to guide us into all truth.

We must search the scriptures, accepting them as the mind and will and voice of the Lord and the very power of God unto salvation.

As we read, ponder, and pray, there will come into our minds a view of the three gardens of God—the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Garden of the Empty Tomb where Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.

In Eden we will see all things created in a paradisiacal state—without death, without procreation, without probationary experiences.

We will come to know that such a creation, now unknown to man, was the only way to provide for the Fall.

We will then see Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman, step down from their state of immortal and paradisiacal glory to become the first mortal flesh on earth.

Mortality, including as it does procreation and death, will enter the world. And because of transgression a probationary estate of trial and testing will begin.

Then in Gethsemane we will see the Son of God ransom man from the temporal and spiritual death that came to us because of the Fall.

And finally, before an empty tomb, we will come to know that Christ our Lord has burst the bands of death and stands forever triumphant over the grave.

Thus, Creation is father to the Fall; and by the Fall came mortality and death; and by Christ came immortality and eternal life.

If there had been no Fall of Adam, by which cometh death, there could have been no Atonement of Christ, by which cometh life.

jesus-repentanceAnd now, as pertaining to this perfect Atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that He is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.

I am one of His witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in His hands and in His feet and shall wet His feet with my tears.

But I shall not know any better then than I know now that He is God’s Almighty Son, that He is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through His atoning blood and in no other way.

God grant that all of us may walk in the light as God our Father is in the light so that, according to the promises, the blood of Jesus Christ His Son will cleanse us from all sin.

Judeo-Christian Culture: Teaching Children about Easter with Object Lessons for Kids

Judeo-Christian Culture:

Teaching Children about Easter with object lessons for Kids

Teach with an Easter Bag

Object lessons are the best, and this one is a great family home evening for the Monday before Easter. Start with the song “He Sent His Son.” Put the following items in a bag: (1) three coins, (2) small cup, (3) knotted string, (4) soap, (5) small piece of red fabric, (6) small toothpick cross, (7) white cloth, (8) cinnamon stick or other spice, (9) small stone, (10) folded white cloth, (11) picture of Jesus. As you read the scriptures below, have your kids take the matching items out of your Easter bag. It’s a different way to talk about the Resurrection, and it provides yet another opportunity to share your feelings of gratitude and gladness for a Savior.

  1. Matthew 26:14–15
  2. Matthew 26:36, 39
  3. Matthew 27:1–2
  4. Matthew 27:22, 24
  5. Matthew 27:28–29
  6. Matthew 27:31
  7. Matthew 27:59
  8. John 19:40
  9. John 20:1–4
  10. John 20:5–7
  11. John 20:10–20

 

Remember when “Spring Break” was called “Easter Vacation?”

Read Birthright, help restore Judeo-Christian cultural values

 

Easter Messages: The Living Christ

Easter Messages:

The Living Christ

The Testimony of the Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , 2000

As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.

He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.

He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.

We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.

He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Eph. 1:10).

Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3–4).

Of Him the Prophet also declared: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth—“built upon the foundation of … apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20).

We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isa. 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.

We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.

Easter Messages: Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us Strength

Easter Messages:

Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us Strength

The Enabling Power of Jesus Christ and His Atonement

David Bednar

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). “Though we all have weaknesses, we can overcome them,” says President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. “Indeed it is by the grace of God that, if we humble ourselves and have faith, weak things can become strong.”1

Our Savior says in the Doctrine and Covenants, “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).

“Nephi is an example of one who knew, understood, and relied upon the enabling power of the Savior,” says Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “Nephi’s brothers bound him with cords and planned his destruction. Please note Nephi’s prayer: ‘O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound’ (1 Nephi 7:17; emphasis added).

Atonement of Jesus Christ gives us Strength to overcome our Circumstances

“… Nephi did not pray to have his circumstances changed. Rather, he prayed for the strength to change his circumstances. And I believe he prayed in this manner precisely because he knew, understood, and had experienced the enabling power of the Atonement.

“I do not think the bands with which Nephi was bound just magically fell from his hands and wrists. Rather, I suspect he was blessed with both persistence and personal strength beyond his natural capacity, that he then ‘in the strength of the Lord’ (Mosiah 9:17) worked and twisted and tugged on the cords, and ultimately and literally was enabled to break the bands.”2

 

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Gospel Teachings: Righteous Living amid Evil Ways of the World

Gospel Teachings: Righteous Living amid Evil Ways of the World How to Live Well amid Increasing Evil  Richard G. Scott As you continue to center your mind and heart in [the Lord], He will help you have a rich and … Continue reading

Culture Wars: Critical Thinking and Christian Character Education

Culture Wars:

Critical Thinking and Christian Character Education

 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” ~Romans 12:2

Think. . .  it’s counter-cultural

Teddy James

March 2017 – In 1970, the average American was exposed to 500 ads per day. Today that number has risen to over 5,000, according to Jay Walker-Smith, president of the marketing firm Yankelovich.

“This has had a huge impact on our behavior,” Phil Cooke (philcooke.com), a Christian film producer, told AFA Journal. “The result is massive changes to our behavior and the way we process information. Recent studies from the Wall Street Journal and others have revealed that when you meet someone for the first time, you decide what you think of them in under eight seconds.”

It goes beyond deciding whether to like a person or not. People today make many important decisions at breakneck speeds.

This makes perfect sense considering the number and methods of messages bombarding the average person. There isn’t enough time to thoughtfully consider what is important and what can be ignored. This can be good because it forces the development of a strong mental filter. But this strong, proficient, secure filter comes at a cost.

And for the believer, that cost can be a spiritual one.

Recognizing the 30-second culture
America recently underwent one of the most vitriolic and sensationalistic elections in living memory. Ten-year-old sound bites and broken sentences from leaked emails flooded news programs, radio shows, and social media feeds.

The dust from one scandal hardly settled before a new one exploded. Even in the presidential debates, there seemed to be more energy devoted to headlines, tweets, and sound bites than to issues.

A study released by the Media Insight Project (3/17/14) reveals how much thoughtful attention average news consumers actually devote to the details of news stories. The MIP is a platform of the Associated Press-National Opinion Research Center.

The study revealed that a third of the American population keeps up with news throughout the day (33%) and others prefer a dedicated time slot in the morning (24%) or evening (26%).

But no matter when they get their news, few details are considered. Only 41% reported watching, reading, or hearing any news story beyond the headlines in the last week. Additionally, nearly 60% said they read news headlines and nothing else.

Why it works
The 30-second culture exists because it works. Snappy headlines and catchy commercials are designed with one goal in mind: get attention.

A short video, image, or message can be powerful not because of the words contained in it, but because of the emotions generated by it. “The Influence of Implicit Attitudes on Consumer Choice when Confronted with Conflicting Product Attribute Information,” a paper by professors Melanie Dempsey (Ryerson University) and Andrew Mitchell (University of Toronto), shows that people often make irrational consumer choices based on conscious or subconscious manipulation through products, logos, or advertising.

In a telling experiment, participants were given a choice between two pens. Pen A was described as better in every way including its grip and the fact that it would not smear like Pen B. But before participants were allowed to make a choice, they had to watch a screen flashing images of Pen B and positive words. Over 70% of participants chose Pen B.

This illustrates why headlines and short news segments are so powerful, and why news consumers rarely seem to go beyond a surface understanding: the first few lines evoke strong emotions, and few people continue reading or listening after the initial feeling has dissipated. Most quickly click away from one news story looking for the next story and another high experience of emotion.

This desire for positive feelings from advertising and entertainment impacts consumers outside the realm of products and advertising.

According to statisticbrain.com, a website dedicated to compiling applicable statistics for everyday life, the average current attention span is at 8.25 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. To understand that in actionable terms, the website states 17% of Internet page views last less than 4 seconds, only 4% of page views last longer than 10 minutes, and people read only 28% of the articles they click on.

But all hope is not lost for the discipline of focus and attention.

Not all bad news
“It is hard, but we must become incredibly intentional,” Cooke said. Cooke is the author of several books, as well as executive producer of the movie Hillsong: Let Hope Rise. He is also producer of The Insanity of God, a movie based on the book of the same name by Nik Ripken.

“What that intentionality looks like from a practical standpoint is to make sure we are reading,” Cooke continued. “But not just reading whatever comes into sight. We have to be intentional about reading books of substance, long-form articles, and listening to lectures and sermons. We have to fight everything battling for our attention and do the work of focus.”

Others agree with Cooke. The number of physical books purchased has increased for two consecutive years according to Nielsen BookScan which tracks around 80% of print sales in America. Over 652 million physical books were sold during 2015.

Top Fifty Best-Selling Nonfiction Books In 2015 Were Adult Coloring Books.

Of that 652 million, more nonfiction than fiction books were purchased. While the gross numbers may seem encouraging, it must be noted that eight of the top fifty best-selling nonfiction books in 2015 were adult coloring books.

This is illustrative of the fact that people are hungry for a break from the constant messaging barraging their minds. Cooke said mindfulness is a trending word describing this desire.

Mindfulness is becoming really popular today,” he said. “It means to take a second, breathe, and think thoroughly about what you are doing and where you are in life. In the Christian life, mindfulness can be carried over in a really powerful way. It used to be called meditating on Scripture or quiet time.”

John Piper, on his podcast Ask Pastor John, was recently asked why it is important to think deeply about God. He echoed Cooke’s comments by quoting Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

Christians have always been called to be counter-cultural. One of the most important ways Christians can and should stand apart from the world today is in their ability to think systematically and thoroughly about an issue. That can come only from having their minds transformed by the power of the gospel.

Piper said, “If we are going to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, Paul assumes it comes through a renewed mind. And what minds do is think.”

Suggestions re: training yourself to think
▶ Read and meditate upon long passages of Scripture.
▶ Research a news story using several sources.
▶ Read a book or listen to a lecture about improving your mental focus.

▶ Recommended: John Piper’s Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God. The book is available as a free ebook download or for purchase at desiringgod.org.

Judeo-Christian Culture: Push Back Against the World

Judeo-Christian Culture:

Push Back Against the World

Dallin H. Oaks

God has provided a way to live in this world and not be contaminated by the degrading pressures … spread throughout it. ~Richard G. Scott

Christ has not called us to be nice but to be good. Nice people never confront evil, but good people do. ~Bryan Fischer

I. Don’t reject the Word because of Fear of Man

As is traditional on such occasions, [college graduation]I will give some advice to graduates. I have titled my message “Push Back Against the World.” By pushing against “the world” I obviously do not mean all that the world has to offer in modern conveniences, prosperity, and security. When I say, “Push back against the world,” I mean push back against that part of the world’s values and practices that draw us away from the Lord’s teachings and our covenant obligations.

At the beginning of this dispensation, the Lord warned that “every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world” (D&C 1:16).

The Apostle Paul gave the same warning in one of his New Testament letters: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Those warnings not to be spoiled by the “likeness of the world” and “the tradition of men” apply to all of us. But they apply most particularly to graduates who are about to leave the protection of their alma mater, which means their nourishing mother, and venture forth into a world full of temptations and troubles.

There is nothing new in such advice to one who is just setting forth. The Lord warned the young Prophet Joseph Smith that he should not go on “in the persuasions of men” (D&C 3:6). And again, in connection with his loss of the 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon, the Lord rebuked the Prophet with these words: “And now I command you, my servant Joseph, to repent and walk more uprightly before me, and to yield to the persuasions of men no more” (D&C 5:21).

The cares and temptations of the world are very real to all, especially to those who have accepted the doctrines and made the covenants of the restored gospel. Prophetic teachings often run counter to the popular ideas and prejudices of the world. Church members must, therefore, take special care to avoid the mistake of James Covel, an early convert, who rejected the word and the way of the Lord because of “the fear of persecution and the cares of the world” (D&C 40:2).

II. We cannot change evil, but we can increase our power to deal with it

But as serious as all of this is, we must worry just as much about the rising tide of evil in the world around us. Though some of us may feel isolated from the physical and political threats I have just mentioned, all of us are surrounded with evil in literature, music, movies, videos—on the internet, in our schools, and in the marketplace.

I see all of these challenges as a fulfillment of Father Lehi’s prophetic teaching that there must be “an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). We cannot change the evil influences that surround and press upon us and our families, but we can increase our power to deal with them as we push back against the world. We must try to carve out personal islands of purity and serenity and strengthen our barriers against the forces that besiege us in these protected spaces.

Following the Lord’s way is not easy. The Lord has warned us again and again, directly and through His servants, that the world will hate us for being different, for doing things the Lord’s way. In the concluding days of His ministry, He told His Apostles, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19).

 The good news is that when we do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way we are assured of His blessings to help us. “I will go before your face,” He has said. “I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).

III. Effective Ways to Push Back

Honor the Sabbath

One of the most effective ways we can go forward with faith and push back against the world is to observe the Sabbath day in an appropriate, positive way. The Sabbath day of worship and rest from worldly labors is the divinely appointed anchor to hold us fast in the storms of life. Properly observed, the Sabbath will help us and our families develop the spiritual strength we need to stand firm against temptation and to stay unspotted from the world.

By modern revelation the Lord has commanded that on the Sabbath we “rest from [our] labors” and “pay [our] devotions unto the Most High” and that on this day we “do none other thing” (D&C 59:10, 13). When we keep this commandment of our Creator, we qualify for His promised blessings. He who created us knows what patterns of behavior will allow us to achieve our maximum physical and spiritual performance, and He has given us commandments designed to guide us into that behavior. When we honor the Sabbath day, we separate ourselves from most of the world, but we are blessed richly for it.

Avoid Hate

Another way to push back against the world is to stand clear from the current atmosphere of hate and to refrain from participating in the contentious communications that are so common today. Partly such contentious communications result from modern technology, which fosters conflicts by expanding the audience and the speed of dissemination. Careless charges, false representations, and ugly innuendos are instantly flashed around the world, widening and intensifying the distance between different parties and different positions. I am not referring to differences in policies, which need to be debated publicly, but to the current ugliness and personal meanness of the communications.

Don’t be part of such communications. As followers of Christ, we know that all of the inhabitants of this earth are children of God. Use that knowledge to push back against the worldly prejudices that preach hate or hostility toward other nations, ethnic groups, or even political parties.

Remember our Savior’s teaching that “he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Nephi 11:29). In our discourse, public and private, we should all follow the gospel teachings to avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. But beyond this we should remember and follow the Savior’s teaching: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). Just this month President Monson taught us:

“If we would keep the commandment to love one another, we must treat each other with compassion and respect, showing our love in day-to-day interactions. …

“Love is the very essence of the gospel, the noblest attribute of the human soul. Love is the remedy for ailing families, ill communities, and sick nations.”1

Stand for the Right

Of course this counsel to love, to avoid contention, and to be examples of civility is not meant to discourage us from participating in discussions, debates, and even taking adversarial positions against what we believe to be wrong or inadvisable. Within the limits of our own resources of time and influence we should take a position, make it known, and in a respectful way attempt to persuade others of its merit, at least for us. Positive action is essential to our responsibility to push back against the world.

Good examples of those kinds of positions where our voices need to be heard are the importance of religion and religious freedom for all citizens, believers and nonbelievers alike.

As to the importance of religion, we can be alert to insist that its importance in the founding of this nation and the progress of our civilization is given fair treatment in our public schools. This is needed because some influential leaders and many educators have come to consider it bad taste or even illegal for public schools even to mention religious influences and motivations.

The American Textbook Council, which surveys the most widely used American and world history textbooks, gave this report two decades ago: “The strength of religion in shaping human thought and action is not often explained, and its role as a motivating agent of culture, politics, and ethics often remains under examined. … Religion in the contemporary world is discussed by region, out of context, and often in oblique and misleading ways.”2

We should push back against such incomplete and inaccurate portrayals of our histories and our people.

Under the banner of Jesus Christ, we should also go forward in coalitions of like-minded persons to protect and advance the strength of our precious freedoms of speech, conscience, and the free exercise of religion. I have spoken often on this subject, in this country and other countries. This subject is important, but not needful of further emphasis to this audience.

Keep the Commandments of God

Of course, pushing back against the world includes as one of its most important elements keeping the commandments of God. Graduates, I plead with each of you not to seek happiness in the glittering temptations and attractions of the world. As the scriptures teach, wickedness never was happiness. Those who yield to the enticing of Satan may, as the scripture says, “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25), but that kind of pleasure can never lead to lasting happiness or eternal joy. Over time, yielding to the influences of Satan will only halt eternal progress and bring feelings of darkness, anger, hate, and misery.

Push Back against Cultures that are Contrary to the Gospel

While speaking of sin, I will also speak of the dangers of some elements of national and ethnic cultures, and even family cultures, that come from the traditions and practices of men. When the practices of these cultures are contrary to gospel covenants and culture, we must push back and separate ourselves from them. We must do this with cultural practices that accommodate dishonesty or dependency or tolerate sexual relations outside marriage. The Apostle Paul warned:

 “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Push Back against Dependency

We should also push back against the worldly practice that has been described as the culture of dependency—the expectation that the extended family or the community or the government will provide what you desire with a minimum of effort on your part. As required by the spiritual growth that is the purpose of the plan of salvation, the gospel teaching of self-reliance pushes back against the idea or culture of dependency.

Serving others is the gospel way of pushing back against the worldly attitudes of dependency.

Don’t be part of the worldly attitude described in the characterization of your generation as the “me generation,” interested only in “what’s in it for me.” Always be willing to cooperate and even sacrifice in cooperative efforts for the benefit of the larger community.

Push Back against Pollution of the Moral Environment

We hear much about cleaning up the physical environment—air, water, and other essentials that are being polluted in a way that is poisoning the physical environment for all of us. We may choose to join in such efforts. But we who are responsible to push back against the world should be at least equally concerned about forces that are poisoning the moral environment. I refer to such moral pollutions as pornography. I also refer to language that pollutes public communications with profanity, vulgarity, and morally degrading coarseness. Push back against these kinds of pollutions also.

In all of these efforts, we can trust in the great promises of the Lord. He has taught us, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30). He has also taught us that He does not ask anything of us except He prepares the way for us to accomplish it (see 1 Nephi 3:7). He has shown us that while He may not immediately answer our prayers for relief, He will strengthen us to bear the burdens placed upon us (see Mosiah 24:14–15).

IV. Lifelong Learning and Cultural Enrichment

Robert Schumann music room

I have been speaking about pushing back against worldly values and practices that are contrary to gospel teachings and covenants. I now conclude by urging you to practice one worldly value that is consistent with the gospel culture. It is the importance of lifelong learning, which for us is promoted and directed by eternal priorities. Beyond increasing our occupational qualifications, we should desire to learn how to become more emotionally fulfilled, more skilled in our personal relationships, and better parents and citizens. There are few things more fulfilling and fun than learning something new. Greater happiness, satisfaction, and even temporal rewards come from this.

Our education should not be limited to formal study. Lifelong learning can increase our ability to appreciate and relish the workings and beauty of the world around us. This kind of learning goes well beyond books and a selective use of new technology, such as the internet. It includes artistic endeavors. It also includes experiences with people and places: conversations with friends; travel; visits to museums, plays, and concerts; and opportunities for service.

Graduates, expand yourselves and enjoy the journey. Remember the great counsel of our dear Elder Richard G. Scott, who said: “Now [look at] the brighter side. Despite pockets of evil, the world overall is majestically beautiful, filled with many good and sincere people. God has provided a way to live in this world and not be contaminated by the degrading pressures … spread throughout it.3

1 Thomas S. Monson, “As I Have Loved You,” Ensign, Feb. 2017, 4–5.
2 G. T. Sewell, “Religion in the classroom: What the textbooks tell us, a report of the American Textbook Council” (1995), 17. Also see M. H. Romanowaki, “Addressing Christianity in American history: Are textbooks improving?” Mid-Western Educational Researcher, (2001), 21, 23–24. (“They simply mention religion … creating the impression that religion and faith have little to do with the development of U.S. history.”)
3 Richard G. Scott, “How to Live Well amid Increasing Evil,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 100.