Sunday, April 27, 2008
I began watching this video with scepticism, and when Brother Meldrum took a few pot shots at evolution at the beginning of the presentation I became even more skeptical. However, much of the rest of his information he presents is almost irrefutable. Most exciting is the inexplicable discovery of European/Middle Eastern mitochondrial DNA in groups of North American Indians.
I warn you that this video may change the way you think about Book of Mormon geography. (Of course this had to come out after I had spent thousands of dollars traveling to the Yukatan looking for Nephi's house.) It is yet another reminder that we should not hang our testimonies of the Book of Mormon on any archeological, geographical, or scientific “discoveries,” as our knowledge from these sources is constantly changing and progressing. (And I don't plan on hanging my testimony on this video either.)
The video is about 4 hours long (compared to the 45 minute anti-Mormon video “DNA vs. the Book of Mormon) and costs $19.95. I just purchased 10 of them which should be coming in the mail any time. If any of you are from the Legacy Park Ward or live here locally in Utah and don’t want to buy it yourself, I will be happy to loan out these copies to anyone who wants to watch it.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
"Ye Shall Be Called the Children of Christ"
A. Today we will be continuing the sermon of King Benjamin. My mission president used to tell us that the sermon of King Benjamin in the Book of Mosiah was the "greatest political speech ever given." He would tell us this as an introduction to what he felt was the "second greatest political speech of all time", the Gettysburg Address. He would then recite the entire Gettysburg Address to us. I must have heard him do this 3 or 4 times. He never went into why he thought King Benjamin’s talk was the greatest political speech. I had never thought of it as a political speech. When I prepared this lesson today I tried to read King Benjamin’s discourse as a political speech. In what ways was in political. Obviously he was a leader and he was speaking to his subjects, so in the strict sense in was a political speech. But it sounds more like a religious sermon than something we would hear at a political convention. As I tried to see it as political, I was most impressed with how the discourse contrasts with most political speeches.
B. One of the reasons it doesn’t sound political to us today is that we have grown up in a country where there is a separation of religion and state. Throughout most of human history there has been no such separation. So political speeches in the past would be kings and rulers reminding their subjects that God wanted them to do what he said.
C. Also, today’s political speeches are self serving. In this election year, we have heard more political speeches than we want to, all letting us know how great the speaker is and how he or she is the only one that can effectively rule our country.
1. I remember watching a former president when he was finishing his last term of office at his party’s convention. As he was introduced he walked down the isle of the stadium as a big screen listed all of his accomplishments and all the good things that had happened during his presidency that he took credit for. As he walked down the Iles he pumped his fist in the air as people cheered madly.
2. In contrast, King Benjamin says, "And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I also am of the dust." This was not the feigned humility we see in may politician today.
D. Hugh Nibley says the describes King Benjamin’s discourse as a "Great Assembly."
1. He says, "Throughout the pagan world the main purpose of the Great Assembly, as has long been recognized, is to hail the king as a god on earth; Benjamin is aware of this, and he will have none of it." Mosiah 2:10-11.
2. He also says, "the king at the Great Assembly everywhere requires all who come into his presence to bring him rich gifts as a sign of submission." But Benjamin says he has "not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you."
3. Also, King Benjamin gives some of the most straight forward and specific instructions on giving to and caring for the poor in the scriptures. Notice that he does not say, "give me your money and I’ll take care of you." He tells them they are required to take care of each other.
E. So, King Benjamin’s farewell address is a great political speech in how different it is from all other political speeches in ancient and modern history.
F. What has King Benjamin taught so far in chapters 2 and 3. Mostly he is talking about the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how it is necessary to receive salvation.
II. "Less than the dust of the Earth."
A. Read Mosiah 4:1-2
1. Fallen to the earth. In many cultures of the ancient world and even today, prostration was a manifestation of reverence, respect, or overwhelming awe. This seems strange to us today. We don’t all fall flat on our face during Stake Conference.
2. Fear of the Lord. Were the people here just terrified of the judgements and punishments of God? Fear in Hebrew is Yirah - reverence or respect.
B. They have just said they were "less than the dust of the Earth." Today we would say they have major self esteem problems. If one of your children came home from school and said "I stink at everything" what would you tell them. You’d build them up, try to make them feel better about themselves. But what does Benjamin do. He seems to rub it in. In vs. 5 he says "God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state."
C. In what way are we "less than the dust of the earth"? Read Helaman 12:7-8.
D. But far from feeling depressed about finding out their own worthlessness, they were filled with joy. Read Mosiah 4:3. Why were they filled with joy. Maurine Jensen Proctor said of this chapter, " It is more joyful to be transformed through Christ, than believe we are self-made and sufficient. It is happier to see our weaknesses and overcome them, than hide them from ourselves. Nothing tastes sweeter than the atonement or is a more healing balm of Gilead. Only when we understand how much we need forgiveness, can we comprehend the extent of God’s goodness and love toward us."
III. How did the people of King Benjamin receive salvation and forgiveness of their sins.
A. Read Mosiah 4:6-10.
1. Must have knowledge of the goodness of God and of the atonement.
2. We must trust in the Lord.
3. We must keep his commandments.
4. Believe in God.
5. Be humble.
6. Repent and forsake our sins.
B. How can we know when we have been forgiven of our sins? Harold B Lee wrote: Some years ago, President Marion G. Romney and I were sitting in my office. The door opened and a fine young man came in with a troubled look on his face, and he said, ‘Brethren, I am going to the temple for the first time tomorrow. I have made some mistakes in the past, and I have gone to my bishop and my stake president, and I have made a clean disclosure of it all; and after a period of repentance and assurance that I have not returned again to those mistakes, they have now adjudged me ready to go to the temple. But, brethren, that is not enough. I want to know, and how can I know, that the Lord has forgiven me also.’ What would you answer one who might come to you asking that question? As we pondered for a moment, we remembered King Benjamin’s address contained in the book of Mosiah. Here was a group of people asking for baptism, and they said they viewed themselves in their carnal state: " and they viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness or our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of god, who created heaven and earth and all things; who shall come down among the children of men. And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come....’ That was the answer. If the time comes when you have done all that your can to repent of your sins, whoever you are, wherever you are, and have made amends and restitution to the best of your ability; if it be something that will affect your standing in the Church and you have gone to the proper authorities, then you will want that confirming answer as to whether or not the Lord has accepted of you. In your soul-searching, if you seek for and you find the peace of conscience, by that token you may know that the Lord has accepted of your repentance. Satan would have you think otherwise and sometimes persuade you that now having made one mistake, you might go on and on with no turning back. That is one of the great falsehoods. The miracle of forgiveness is available to all those who turn from their evil doings and return no more, because the Lord has said in a revelation to us in our days, ‘...go your ways and sin no more; but to that soul who sinneth [meaning again] shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.’ Have that in mind all of you who may be troubled with a burden of sin."
IV. What to do after you have received forgiveness of your sins.
A. The Nephites have just had a mass "born again" experience. "What follows is not a list of do’s and don’ts, but rather a characterization of individuals who have been born of the Spirit." So, another way to know if you have been forgiven of your sins is to look at yourself and see if you do the things King Benjamin talks about next.
B. He says that those who have repented "will not have a mind to injure one another, but live peaceably, and to render to every many according to that which is his due."
C. He also talks about providing for and teaching our children appropriately.
V. Giving to beggars.
A. Read Mosiah 4:16-22.
B. Whenever we read these scriptures it is a bit controversial exactly what King Benjamin means here. Are we required to give to every single person who asks of us if we have the means? I don’t have the answer to this.
C. When I was a second year medical student in San Antonio they let us start taking histories and physical on patients to practice. We did these mostly on "professional patients" or patients who were in and out of the hospital a lot. About half of the patients I practiced on were alcoholics with cirrhosis of the liver, many of them homeless. One of these gentleman had obviously worked with a lot of medical students and had his history down. He told how he got money for alcohol by walking around town and asking people for bus fair to get home. He told me that there was no reason for anyone to go hungry in San Antonio because there were enough soup kitchens in the town to feed everyone. He said anyone in San Antonio that was begging for money wanted it for alcohol or drugs. To the North in Austin the food banks told people in the community not to give money to beggars because there was plenty of food for them there. So there is a legitimate reason to be cautious giving to these people. But at the same time King Benjamin says we can’t judge them and says "they brought it upon themselves."
D. We have resources for providing for the hungry and homeless. I would like to put in a plug for the LDS Humanitarian fund. It’s easy to give to them. You can either just do it on your tithing slip or you can go to LDS.org and give by credit card. When I give to the L.D.S. Humanitarian fund I am confident that all of it is going to feed, clothe and shelter people in need. I would also like to give a plug to the perpetual education fund, which I believe to be very inspired. Helping people in developing countries who have served missions get an education is not only the best way to better their lives and make them self sufficient, but it strengthen’s the church by grooming leaders.
VI. Becoming Sons and Daughters of Christ.
A. Read Mosiah 5:1-2. Another way you can tell if you have been forgiven or received the spirit is if you "Have no disposition to do evil and to do good continually."
B. Read Mosiah 5:7. In what way do those who are born again become "sons and daughters of Christ? This can be a bit confusing, because we know that we are all sons and daughters of God the Father, but we don’t usually talk of being Christ’s children.
C. Joseph Fielding Smith answered that question: "What is a father? One who begets life. What did our Savior do? He begot us, or gave us life from death, as clearly set forth by Jacob, the brother of Nephi. If it had not been for the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the spirit and body would never have been united again...If there had been no redemption from death, our spirits would have been taken captive by Satan and we would have become subject to Satan’s will forever. What did our Savior do? He begot us in that sense. He became a father to us because he gave us immortality or eternal life through his death and sacrifice upon the cross. I think we have a perfect right to speak of him as Father."
D. Particularly those of us who have ben "spiritually begotten" of the Savior, through faith in His atonement, can be called his children.
E. Read Mosiah 5:9-12. What does it mean to take upon us the name of Christ? One of the reasons I will always call myself a Christian, no matter how "traditional Christians" want to catagorize me. It is one way I take upon myself the name of Christ. Just as we take upon us the last name of our father, we take upon us the name of Christ when we have been spiritually begotten of him.
1. This is also an example of Chiasmus.
A. Although I used to role my eyes when my mission president used to say it, after preparing this lesson I agree with him that King Benjamin’s discourse is one of the greatest political speeches ever given. I believe this now because King Benjamin used his final address to teach his people the most important thing he could teach them - the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This is more important than how we are going to win or end the war in Iraq, it is more important than health care reform, it is more important than the economy. He did not talk about how the government had made their lives easier; instead, he encouraged them to take care of each other. He did not glorify himself, but glorified the Lord. This is the most important message I can leave you today, that salvation and forgiveness come only the Jesus Christ and his Atonement.
Nibley, Hugh - An Approach to the Book of Mormon.
Proctor, Maurine Jensen - Meridian Magazine.
Smith, Gordon - Times and Seasons.
Like I said earlier, I eat 1,250 calories a day (5 smallish meals) spaced three hours apart. This has proven most efficiant for me, as I never feel hungry.
8:30 Slimfast (200 calories) w/ 8oz skim milk AND 4oz water. I just love this stuff!
But if I'm trying to build muscle I drink Muscle Milk w/ 1/2 banana (250 cal).
Crystal Lite or water
9:30 Water and salt, GO RUNNING!!, then drink about 10 oz more of water.
12:00 Lean Cusine (I never buy ones over 290 calories)
or white egg omlet with olives, onions, spinich, and Chalula sauce.
That stuff's goooood!
Crystal Lite or water
3:00 Either a protein bar (Zone or Pure Protein) 200 cal.,
or yogurt (NOT light or fat free)
or tomato soup with hot pepper sauce in it and some cheese on toast.
Crystal Lite or water
6:00 Chicken (200 cal.) a salad with beets and olives and fresh fruit,
or whatever I make KC except I only eat 250-290 calories of it.
(I have a book that helps with that, and I weigh everything).
9:00 2 mini York Peppermint Patties, or some Steven's cocoa.
This was the warmest week yet, although my arms were numb one of the days. I like to run past newly mowed lawns and other joggers and bikers. Can't wait until summer when I can go in shorts. I did good this week, and seem to be getting steadily faster with my runs. Weight continues to drop and I maintain 1,250 caloires, saving calories at night to have 2 mini- peppermint patties. I feel great and am currently looking for a hot (modest, but hot) dress to wear on our cruise next year. I look forward to buying it in a small size.
Starting ~ 163.5 lbs, 42% body fat
Week 1 ~ 161.0 lbs, 41% body fat, 2.5 lbs lost, 6.37 miles, ave minutes per mile 13:33, best minutes per mile 11:43
Weeks 2 & 3 ~ 159.5 lbs, 41% body fat, 1.5 lbs lost, 4.12 miles, ave mpm 13:31, best mpm 11:14 Also kayaked and swam.. not as effective.
Week 4 ~ 157 lbs, 40% body fat, 2.5 lbs lost, 9.98 miles, ave mpm 13:02, best mpm 11:21
Week 5 ~ 155 lbs, 40% body fat, 2 lbs lost, 18.31 miles, ave mpm 12:50, best mpm 10:32
Week 6 ~ 154 lbs, 39% body fat, 1 lb lost, 13.5 miles, ave mpm 12:31, best mpm 10:27
Week 7 ~ 151 lbs, 39% body fat, 3 lbs lost, 17.91 miles, ave mpm 12:07, best mpm 10:20
Overall Totals ~ 12.5 lbs lost, 3% body fat lost, 70.19 miles run
Saturday, April 12, 2008
"For a Wise Purpose"
A. Today we will be going through the short books of Enos, Jarom, Omni, and the Words of Mormon. These books transition us in history from Lehi’s family, the original colonizing group of the Book of Mormon, to the time of King Benjamin in the Book of Mosiah. This time period is roughly 350 years. So 350 years of Nephite history are summarized here in 9 pages of the Book of Mormon. Do you think we have a complete history here? The United States is only 232 years old. The pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower about 380 years ago. So these 9 pages, from a historical standpoint, are about equivalent to an American History that says, "The pilgrims came, then a lot of other people came, we had some wars, slavery was abolished, we made an atomic bomb, we put a man on the Moon, then George Bush was elected." Keep this in mind when we speculated about Nephite history, culture, geography ext - how little information we actually have about them from the Book of Mormon.
B. We are also finishing the Small Plates of Nephi today. You’ll notice that 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom and Omni are all in the first person. "I Nephi," and "I Enos." The Book of Mosiah starts Mormon’s abridgement. Most of it, until the Books of Mormon and Moroni, are in second person.
C. I want to spend most of the lesson on Enos. I just want to get a few important historical things out of the way from Omni. In Omni we learn about the Nephites finding the people of Zarahemla, who we later learn were descended from people lead by one of the son’s of Zedekiah who escaped the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. We also learn about the group that separated themselves from the other Nephite’s in Zarahemla to try to reclaim the land of Nephi. This is where wicked King Noah and Alma the Elder come from.
D. We will be spending most of our time in the Book of Enos. What I hope do is briefly go through the details of Enos’s prayer and subsequent life, then talk about what we can learn about prayer from the Book of Enos, and then talk about how the Book of Enos is a paradigm for a "good life."
E. Who was Enos? He was the son of Jacob, the grandson of Lehi, and the nephew of Nephi. At the end of the book of Enos, when Enos "began to be old," we learn that "179 years had passed away from the time our father Lehi left Jerusalem." What does this tell us? We know Lehi had Jacob when he was already pretty old. Jacob must have had Enos when he was already old. Enos probably never knew Lehi and only a slight chance that he ever knew Nephi.
II. The Book of Enos
A. Read Enos 1:1-3. What do we learn from these verses? Another lesson about how important it is to teach our children.
1. This probably happened after Jacob had died (although we aren’t told this). Yet his teachings still "sunk deep into my (Enos’s) heart."
2.President Harold B. Lee: "The Lord said that the power was not given to Satan to tempt little children, ‘until they begin to become accountable before me’ (D&C 29:47). This very significant statement follows: ‘That great things may be required at the hand of their fathers’ (D&C 29:48). Now, that means parents. Why is it that the Lord doesn’t permit Satan to tempt a little child until he comes to the age of accountability? It’s in order to give parents their golden opportunity to plant in the hearts of little children those vital things except for which, when that time of accountability comes, they may have waited too long."
3. This is sobering for me because I have very young children. We sometimes think that teaching them the gospel at 3-7 years old is futile. They won’t understand it anyway. We put it off until they’re older. It may be too late.
4. Also, we may not see the fruits of what we teach. The seeds of what we teach may lay dormant in our children’s hearts for years before they bear fruit, as they apparently did in Enos’s case.
B. Read Enos 1:4-6.
1. From these verses, what was the first thing Enos was praying for? Forgiveness of his own sins. "For his own soul."
2. "Each of you," declared Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, "has an eternal calling from which no Church officer has authority to release you. This is a calling given you by our Heavenly Father Himself. In this eternal calling, as with all other callings, you have a stewardship, and ‘it is required of the Lord, at the hand of every steward, to render an account of his stewardship, both in time and in eternity.’ This most important stewardship is the glorious responsibility your Father in Heaven has given you to watch over and care for your own soul. At some future day, you and I will each hear the voice of the Lord calling us forward to render an account of our mortal stewardship. This accounting will occur when we are called up to ‘stand before [the Lord] at the great and judgment day’ (2 Ne. 9:22).
C. Read Enos 1:7-8. How did Enos receive forgiveness of his sins? Through his faith in Christ. This is the only way we can be forgiven for our sins.
D. Read Enos 1:9-10. What did Enos pray for next? His people, family, posterity.
1. Just like Lehi after he had partaken of the fruit of the Tree of Life wanted his family to partake of it, Enos wanted his family and posterity to have the same joy he had received.
E. Read Enos 1:11-13. What did Enos pray for next? For the Lamanites. For his enemies.
F. Read Enos 1:14-16. Besides praying for the salvation of the Lamanites, what else is her praying for here? The preservation of the records - the plates of Nephi.
III. The Purpose of Prayer.
A. Perhaps more than any other scripture, the Book of Enos is used as an example of sincere and earnest prayer. After all, he prayed "all the day long" and "when night came (he) did still raise (his) voice high." When I have really wanted something I have attempted an "Enos like prayer", but I usually just end up repeating myself a lot. "Please help me to do well on the MCAT so I can get into medical school. Please, please, please help me do well on this test. I promise I’ll be good if you do. I’ve studied really hard. So please help me to do well on the MCAT." You can only say that so many ways and for so long before you get into vain repetitions.
B. My second missionary companion’s name was Elder Jacobs. He only had 2-3 months left in his mission when I was transferred to his area in McAllen, Tx. We were working hard, had some baptisms lined up for the next month, and he really wanted to finish off his mission there. But then transfer day came and he got a call to transfer to Laredo. That night he told me, "I’m going to have an Enos prayer tonight." So he stayed out in the front room of our apartment and I heard him finally come to bed at about 2:00 AM. The next morning he told me that he thought he had received an answer to his prayer and that he was going to call the mission president and ask if he could stay in McAllen for at least one more month. So he did, and the mission president said no, and he went to Laredo the next day.
C. When we really want something, do we sometimes pray trying to "talk God into it"?
1. In Romans 8:26-27 it says, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
2. In the movie Shadow Lands, Anthony Hopkins plays C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis was an old bachelor professor at Oxford who falls in love with and marries a younger, American woman a few years before she dies of cancer. When she was sick he has a discussion with some of his colleagues, (one of them a vocal agnostic) about why he still prayed for her when it was obviously hopeless that she would recover. He said, "I don’t pray to change God, I pray to change me." I don’t know if C.S. Lewis actually said that, and I’ve searched in vain for that quote. But I’d never thought of that before, and it completely changed the way I approached prayer.
3. Notice that Enos does not wrestle with God, but the wrestles "before God." He was struggling with himself, mustering faith in Christ, before he received a remission of his sins.
4. Another quote I could not find the source for says, "the wrestle Enos had before God was with himself. Sometimes the greatest effort is put forth when a person contends with himself before the Lord. Such wrestling is the struggle to find and express one’s real desires which are sometimes hidden behind sin, evasion and cover-up. Wrestling with oneself involves deep thought, meditation, and concentration. It means going beyond the cliche level of prayer to the point that one truly puts his soul into words and offers them to God. Repetitions cease to be vain, trite, or unfelt. Instead, each phrase is an expression of a yearning desire to do God’s will. Such prayers are assisted and guided by the Holy Spirit.
5. In Enos 1:15 it says, "Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it." But the things we ask for in faith will comply with the will of God.
IV. Enos as a paradigm for a righteous life.
A. In addition to being an example of prayer, Enos is also an example of a righteous life. Specifically, the book of Enos tells of his spiritual rebirth, his dedication of the rest of his life to the spiritual welfare of the Nephites and Lamanites and enduring to the end, and the last days of his life when he had the assurance that he would be granted eternal life. This is the type of life to which all of us should aspire.
B. Enos’s spiritual rebirth. There were several steps that went into Enos’s being "born again."
1. An awakening. He says the words of his father "sunk deep into (his) heart" and that his "soul hungered." He had a desire first - an awakening to his own guilt.
2. Correct Doctrine. Enos needed to have been taught correct doctrine, namely faith in Jesus Christ, to be born again.
3. Repentance. We saw what Enos went through to receive forgiveness of his sins. It was more than just being sorry. It was more than just asking for forgiveness.
a. Elder Theodore M. Burton of the Seventy described this in these terms: "Just what is repentance? Actually, in some ways it is easier to understand what repentance is not than to understand what it is. As a General Authority, I have prepared information for the First Presidency to use in considering applications to readmit repentant transgressors into the Church and to restore priesthood and temple blessings. Many times a bishop will write, ‘I feel he has suffered enough!’ But suffering is not repentance. Suffering comes from lack of complete repentance. A stake president will write, ‘I feel he has been punished enough!’ But punishment is not repentance. Punishment follows disobedience and precedes repentance. A husband will write, ‘My wife has confessed everything!’ But confession is not repentance. Confession is an admission of guilt that occurs as repentance begins. A wife will write, ‘My husband is filled with remorse!’ But remorse is not repentance. Remorse and sorrow continue because a person has not yet fully repented. Suffering, punishment, confession, remorse, and sorrow may sometimes accompany repentance, but they are not repentance. What, then, is repentance?" Elder Burton then examined both the Hebrew and Greek words translated from "repentance." Both words mean thoroughly changing or turning from evil to God and righteousness. So repentance is a completely change in soul. That is what Enos had here.
4. Forgiveness. Forgiveness comes from the Lord when we truly repent.
5. Faith in Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is granted only through the atonement of Christ.
C. Enos Endured to the end.
1. Just being "born again" is not enough to ensure our salvation. What did Enos do after he was born again? Enos 1:19. He spent the rest of his life doing good and helping others.
D. Enos is ensured eternal life.
1. Read Enos 1:26-27. This is how we should all hope to end our lives; with a complete personal satisfaction that we will return to God. And Enos, in his short book, tells us exactly how to do this.
V. Conclusion. The Book of Enos is very short, but it teaches us as much about prayer and the plan of salvation as any book of scripture. I pray that I can use Enos as an example to help make my prayers more meaningful and endure till the end to receive salvation.
Bill Beardall GD
Bruce Satterfield - Meridian Magazine