A witness from God can be relied upon. As you read our thoughts, beliefs, and experiences, we invite you to obtain a witness for yourself. If something we say or imply does not ring true, then you should feel no obligation to accept it. Life is an individual and unique journey with God. Although we can help and encourage each other, we need to be careful not to come between God and another person.

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Road Not Taken



Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain! #5

When the first chapter of Nephi opens, Lehi is among those who listened to "many prophets prophesying" about the coming judgments against Jerusalem. (1 Nephi 1:4) Their message was not Lehi's. Their message was apparently upsetting to him because he responded by praying on behalf of Jerusalem. (1 Nephi 1:5) His prayer is interesting. He offers it on behalf of what he regarded as "his people." (Id.)

The result of his compassionate prayer for others was a calling by God the Father, delivered by His Son, Jehovah. (1 Nephi 1:8-13) God takes note of those who have compassion for others and whose charity seeks the best interests of their fellow-man. Such people possess love, and it is "unfeigned." (D&C 121:41) It is precisely because of their love of their fellow man that they are called to render priestly service. (Id.)

Lehi was a man like Christ. Just like Christ, Lehi would intercede on behalf  of "his people" and did so "with all his heart." (1 Nephi 1:5)

In response to this, Lehi's vision endowed him with knowledge about the Lord's great plan of mercy. He knew that the Lord would overrule everything for the good. Even the suffering that would be inflicted on the inhabitants of Jerusalem would be merciful, and would be predicated on the "goodness" of God. (1 Nephi 1:14) Lehi understood. Because he had this knowledge, he was able to see how God's plans were always done for the benefit and ultimate salvation of man.

Before this encounter with God, Lehi was in the audience listening to the prophets cry repentance. After this encounter with God, he joined the prophets and also "began to prophesy and to declare" a message to Jerusalem. (1 Nephi 1:18) He could not "begin" to prophesy if he had been among the prophets previously. If that were the case, he would have "resumed" or "continued" to prophesy. He "began" only after encountering God. Therefore, we can know Lehi's ministry to call others to repent did not start before encountering God and receiving his commission from the Lord.

This is what true prophets do. They do not advance their own agenda. They do not volunteer. They do not deliver a message of their own. They don't look for witty quotes, or clever stories to retell. They receive a commission from God, and the result of their work is to offer those who will listen a chance to repent and return to God.

These individuals do not take the Lord's name in vain. They cannot. They have been authorized to speak in the Lord's name, and therefore their words are His. (D&C 1:38) He will vindicate the words of His servants because they do not speak an idle thing in their own behalf. They speak with His authority, and deliver His message.

So with the first chapter of the Book of Mormon we also get an example of how prophets are called: alone, in God's presence, with an endowment of knowledge of God's ways sufficient to enable them to deliver a message of repentance.

And this is only the first chapter! Imagine if we took the entire book to heart what we might find!

Source:  (DS 7-11-12)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain! #4

2 Nephi 33:10: "And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good."

After the conditional statement warning the gentiles of their need to be reconciled to Christ, Nephi speaks to his "beloved brethren" and the "Jews," but omits specific mention of the gentiles. Instead he refers to "all ye ends of the earth." This would include all those who are neither Jew, nor Israelite, nor gentile. This is a lot of people who are called "heathen" because they have little direct prophetic mention. Nephi, for example, only refers to them once in his writings. (2 Nephi 26:33) In that single reference Nephi promises all, if they will repent and return to Christ, can be saved. All are invited. All can come. Everyone may learn of Christ, find Him and be saved.

There is a distinction between God's absolute willingness to accept all who will come to Him, on the one hand, and the prophetic foreknowledge of who would accept the invitation, on the other. The opportunity is open for all. There will be few who will accept.

Nephi's testimony is based on Christ and employs both Christ's doctrine and teachings. He assures us as readers that if we are willing to accept his writings we are, in fact, accepting the words of Christ. If you believe Christ, you will believe Nephi. For almost everything Nephi has written comes directly or indirectly from Christ. To believe in Nephi's words is to believe in Christ, and to believe in Christ is to accept Nephi's words.

Think about that for a moment. Nephi does not leave you wondering if the message will save you or not, whether he has some special inside information or not, or whether he has seen the Lord or not. He is direct and does not require you to guess. He has not adopted any equivocal or carefully studied words or phrases to tell you about Christ. He is blunt, even plain. His words offend those who are unwilling to surrender their sins and repent. He says what he has written "are the words of Christ." This means that before he taught, before he wrote, before he concluded his testimony, he consulted with and obtained approval from Christ.

There is nothing vague in Nephi's warnings, nor unclear in his message.

He openly invites the gentiles to repent. He does so repeatedly. He tells us that with the exception of only a few, we are condemned and will fail in our dispensation. As to those few, he warns us that we will be prone to err because of the things we are taught. (2 Nephi 28:14) He offers us a clear, light filled body of teachings that will clarify for us the body of doctrine that will save us. However, we must take his warnings seriously and study them with care.

Imagine how much effort and thought went into preparing to carve into the metal plates. Imagine the amount of thought he employed before undertaking the final, permanent etchings to complete his ministry. His brother commented about how arduous the process was during his writing on the same plates. (Jacob 4:1)

Nephi saw our day, and knew how difficult it would be for us. He wrote a message to be preserved and available no matter who would lead us, no matter what messages we would hear, no matter what confusion would develop. He gave us a message to announce the conditions of salvation over the heads of any foolish, vain or false teachings. They are a lifeline extended to the gentiles, as well as his beloved mixed blood descendants (the remnant), and the Jews.

Nephi knows his words will teach anyone who accepts them "to do good."

The gentile problem is not in reading his words, but in "believing in them." Gentile interpretation almost always involves unbelief. We do not let his words hold their "plain meaning" but want to construe them, read into them praise, and remove from them the blunt warnings given us. We want to make ourselves justified by the words that warn, condemn and challenge us to do more. Our unbelief separates us from Nephi's message even as we read his words.

It does no good to argue with him. It does no good to juxtapose his words of counsel and warning with other words of comfort and reassurance. He is alarmed by our condition and warns us to flee from error. We want to read into these words other ideas Nephi never intended.

When we began back with Alma, Chapter 13, it was with the idea we would let the words speak for themselves. We were going to try and see what was being said apart from our own desires or hopes.  We've been trying to let Nephi have his own words and meanings as we've been looking at his teachings, as well.

An inspired teacher will not offer their own words and pretend they come from Christ. They are not going to dare speak in the name of Christ if they offer only their suppositions, hopes, and understanding. They know, as Nephi, that to do so is to take the Lord's name in vain, and to preach for doctrines the commandments of men. It is often the case, however, that men will urge their own views hoping to make them more convincing, while using the name of Christ. Surely every such teacher will be held to account before Christ for every idle word spoken in His name without His authority or approval.

Nephi knew this doctrine. Nephi understood how weighty a matter is was to use the Lord's name in connection with teaching doctrine. Nephi writes in the full confidence that the Lord has approved his message, inspired his words, and will vindicate them to those who will believe them.

Personally, I would hardly dare to teach doctrine if I did not know what I say to be true. Nephi's example is perhaps more important in this respect than in any other. He is surely worthy to be called a "teacher and a ruler" by all of us. (2 Nephi 5:19)

Source:  (DS 9-7-10)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain! #3

2 Nephi 28: 15:
"O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!"

Now we reach a terrible point. Nephi records an inspired condemnation. For a person in Nephi's position, recording words of condemnation holds terrible significance. They are not written unless they are instructed to do so, because their words will be fulfilled. I've explained this in Beloved Enos.

Nephi pronounces three "wo's." This is a three fold condemnation. It goes beyond this life. It will follow them into the hereafter.

Associated with the three "wo's" are three names used for God: "Lord God Almighty." It is a three fold assertion of divine authority. "Lord" refers to the Savior as Guide. "God" refers to Divine right and authority. "Almighty" refers to the irrevocable nature of the word used by God, and in turn the words given to Nephi. When you are confronted with all three, the "wo's" are pronounced by a power that cannot be altered.

This is more than a setback in the hopes of the "learned, and the rich" who are being condemned. This is a condemnation which reaches into hell itself. It is so significant a pronouncement that when you read it you should pause and think of the dreadful import for anyone who fits into the curse.

Those, who in their pride, use the precepts of men as the basis for their "preaching false doctrines," are not just wrong, they are damned for this perversion of the religion entrusted to them to preach in purity and truth.

In effect, they were given a precious and eternally significant treasure, and they have diverted it into something that makes them rich, puffed up, and powerful. It is tragic. It is pitiful--meaning it should inspire pity in each of us. These could be well meaning people who have fallen into this error. But they claim to preach the truth, using God's name in vain, while they spread a vain religion which cannot bring people to the knowledge of Christ.

Who would wish such a condemnation upon others? Who can read these words and not be moved with compassion and alarm for those who have fallen under this condemnation? Who would not remove it from those who are condemned if they could?

Nephi could not make a greater plea for the salvation of all those involved. The pronouncement is terrible and its implications eternal. Yet this verse seems to have escaped notice.

Who alone claims they are speaking for God Himself when they preach?  Who could possibly qualify for this level of condemnation? This should make all of us think long and hard about any utterance we speak before we make our assertions "in the name of Jesus Christ." The thoughtlessness which accompanies that expression among the Saints is contrary to the seriousness of the condemnation we invite if we preach false doctrine while puffed up in pride; thereby perverting the right way of the Lord.

In an example which is chilling to read, the first anti-Christ we encounter in the Book of Mormon (Sherem) uses this phrase to justify his preaching. He accuses Jacob of "perverting the right way of God." (Jacob 7:7) He brings himself under Nephi's curse. It was a small thing, therefore, for Jacob to reiterate the condemnation of Nephi against Sherem. (Jacob 7:14) Jacob was merely repeating what Nephi had already pronounced. And since Nephi had sealed the condemnation, it would be Nephi, not Jacob, who was responsible for the cursing.

This three fold wo, and use of three titles for God all suggest that teaching false doctrine and using man's learning, while being filled with pride is so grave an offense that great care should always be taken before teaching, preaching or expounding on the Gospel. Only a fool would undertake to do so without knowing their words are approved of God. You cannot take cover using a Correlation Department, or a commentary, or a scholar's words, or a selected bibliography. When you presume to preach the truth, you need to realize how serious a matter you are undertaking. Joseph Smith wrote from Liberty Jail: 

"The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. 

“How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world!"  (DHC 3:295-6)

When we speak about Christ and His Gospel with others, we should do so with a sense of terrible awe and fear. If we have doubts about our message, we should remain silent rather than risk proclaiming what may be an error. It is a burden to be carefully undertaken.

As Nephi warns about our day, there will be many who will teach vain, foolish and false things coming from the precepts of men.

Source:  (DS 7-30-10)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain! #2

1 Nephi 14: 5: "And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me, Nephi, saying: Thou hast beheld that if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with them; and thou also knowest concerning the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel; and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish."

Again a reminder that Nephi's teachings come from an angel. He's not on his own errand in making these things known. I doubt a person of good faith and common sense would ever dare to make declarations as Nephi does unless he had received the message from such a source. Joseph put it this way: "None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world!"  (DHC Vol 3, pp. 295-96.)  Nephi was no fool. He wanted us to understand these teachings came from a higher source, and not man's wisdom. Indeed, what man can open up the mysteries that have remained hidden? Either God makes them known or they remain a mystery!

I believe the wisest course would have been for all our teachers, from Joseph till today, to either declare what the Lord and His angels have made known to them or to remain silent. Had that been the practice our libraries would undoubtedly be sparse. But what few books that remained would be the "best books" worthy of study. (D&C 88:118) I understand that not all have faith. But teachers do a profound disservice whenever they pontificate about something they do not understand. No-one is an "authority" who has not received intelligence from the Lord or His angels. They are simply trying to be helpful, or seeking to magnify a calling, but they are not on His errand. Alas, the full extent of this problem cannot be known. All those who have spoken in His name, but without His instruction and direction, have indeed taken His name in vain. This will be a great burden for those who have chosen to use His name in violation of a fundamental commandment to the contrary. (Exodus 20:7)

The happy news is that "if the Gentiles repent"-- is always a condition for moving forward. We can't get through carrying on our backs the false, vain and foolish traditions men have handed to us. We must lay them down. Unless we do so we wind up exactly at the point when this Dispensation began: suffering under doctrine which consists merely of the commandments of men, having a form of godliness without power. (JS-H 1:19)

What must gentiles do to "repent?" All gentiles, including those who have accepted the Restoration and who claim to believe the Book of Mormon... What must they do? To answer that look again carefully at the Lord's condemnation of us:

"And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.  And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.  And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion." (D&C 84:54-58)

Then Nephi's angel-minister reminds Nephi of two different thoughts: 1) There are covenants with the house of Israel. So they will be remembered.  2) Whoever repents will find things will be well. Nephi was told: "thou also knowest concerning the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel; and thou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish." The result is that even though the gentiles are not given a covenant status, they are nonetheless included within the promise that it is well with whoever should repent. Accordingly, if they will repent, the gentiles will not perish but will have eternal life.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who declare that God reigneth and will deliver His people. How merciful it is that the Lord God will accept all those as His people who will repent and come unto Him.

Source: (DS 7-6-10)