Why ordinances are physical?

Well, I don’t know.  But after some thought, I have some ideas of why, at least, I’m grateful that they are.

First, let me differentiate between ordinances and covenants.  Covenants are the promises we make with Heavenly Father, they’re sacred compacts, or agreements wherein we promise to do certain things in return for certain promised blessings.

Ordinances are the sacred ceremonies that often accompany such covenants, and I’ve frequently marveled at why there would be a physical component to these crucial acts.  After all, if God knows our hearts and minds, why couldn’t we simply agree silently, or mentally?  Why, for instance, be physically baptized to demonstrate our acceptance of the Savior?  Why eat bread and water to remember him?

I have found that the physical component of an ordinance helps bring solidarity, and substance to what would otherwise be merely intellectual and conceptual.  They physical aspect of an ordinance somehow makes the covenant to which it is associated more tangible.

As it is, the ordinance becomes a physical embodiment of the principles and promises we make in our covenants.  It’s an act of substance demonstrating our desire, rather than simply some mental milestone.

It allows for much stronger symbolism, which helps the human mind more completely grasp and appreciate the meaning and reality of these commitments. 

Covenants are usually made at crucial times during the process of progression towards exaltation, and these accompanying physical components add a more memorable encapsulation of the teachings principles leading up to that point.

In short, we are physical beings.  We sacrificed and risked much to gain this mortality, and as such, may we more fully appreciate the opportunity to physically express our commitment to our Father who gave us these beautiful bodies.

Rusty

Unbaptized babies will be saved

If you are one who has suffered the loss of a child that was not baptized, and have been coldly told by your church that your child is damned, and will go to hell, I testify to you in the name of Christ that this is false doctrine.  It’s simply not true.  What’s more, they are still your children, and you will have the chance to be with them again.

Indeed, little children are born mortal, which means they’re subject to sin.  But that doesn’t mean they’re born into sin.  Sin is when we willfully transgress the laws of God.  If you at least had the chance to hold your little child before they were taken from you, and looked into their little eyes, and felt the unmistakable bond of love with them, then you too know that they are pure, that there’s no way their little spirit had willfully transgressed the laws of God.

Nobody can tell me that a little child, least of all an infant, is capable of truly understanding the laws of god and willfully disobeying them.

Little children are alive in Christ.  The Savior taught that we too, must become as these little children.  Little children are naturally full of hope, they believe, their eyes speak of their innocence, they’re full of love and life, not sin and iniquity. 

What terrible, mutated doctrine it is to say that these little spirits will be cruelly cast into hell.  How cold and calculating is that belief, a belief born out of commercialized religion.  Marketing to fear has always been successful, but it’s a shame it had to be put on you, in the name of religion, to compound your grief.  And how incongruous is that teaching with the notion that Christ’s mercy is somehow sufficient to save man from their sin, but somehow insufficient to save a baby from something over which they had no control, and who is incapable of sin.

But the true doctrine of Christ is that your child is not in hell, no, his doctrine is one of hope.

1 Corinthians 15:29 says “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?  Why are they then baptized for the dead?”  Why indeed would there be baptism for the dead, if after you died it was too late?

But such is not the case.  They are your children still, and there will come a time when they will be with you again.  You will hold them again, look into their eyes, and feel that unmistakable bond of love. 

Sure, they will need to be baptized for their eventual exaltation, such is clear in scripture, but baptism for the dead as spoken of in Corinthians happens this very day in Mormon temples around the world.  Direct fulfillment of the words of both ancient and latter day prophets, making possible the salvation of souls who have gone before, without the opportunity to be baptized by one who has the proper authority of the priesthood of God.

I testify to you that this is true, and invite you to learn more about the miracles of Mormonism, and the clarity of pure doctrine.  May god bless you with strength, and bring your family together again in eternity.

[digg=http://digg.com/world_news/Your_baby_is_not_going_to_hell]

Rusty

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Researching Mormonism – a Lutheran Bishop’s advice

A lot of non-Mormons find my blog through search engines, and I’m often surprised at the search phrases they use that lead them here.  Many are derogatory, some surprise me (e.g. can Mormons swim in a public pool?),

But many I get illustrate a complete lack of understanding about what Mormons truly believe, which is why I dedicate so many posts to providing them answers.  I hope that some, at least, are doing so because they are genuinely curious about Mormonism, and want accurate answers.

To them, and truly to all, I support the following recommendation, provided by a very wise and prominent Lutheran, Krister Stendahl.

Krister Stendahl was a Swedish theologian and New Testament scholar.  With a doctorate in New Testament studies, he was a professor (and later the dean) of the Divinity School at Harvard University, before being elected as Bishop of Stokholm in 1984.

In 1985, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) wanted to build a temple in Stockholm Sweden, there was a lot of vocal opposition, a large part of which seemed to be based on inaccurate understandings about Mormonism.  In response, Krister Stendahl presented Stendahl’s three rules of religious understanding at a press conference.  These were his 3 rules:

  1. When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion, and not its enemies.
  2. Don’t compare your best to their worst.
  3. Leave room for “holy envy” (willingness to find elements in another’s religion that you admire and would like to adopt).

To his points, I would suggest that if you’re trying to learn more about Mormonism, then ask a Mormon.  And don’t think that the worst Mormons you hear about are an accurate representative sample of all Mormons.  And finally, be genuine – don’t just seek to reprove/refute, but to understand.  Otherwise, all you’ll discover is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  After all, you may just find something you like.

In support of Stendahl’s rules, I’m creating a new page “Ask a Mormon”, where you can feel free to ask me (an actual Mormon) anything you wish to know about Mormonism.

Rusty

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Is your testimony based on emotion?

Often, because we learn that the Holy Ghost speaks to our heart, we confuse the divine communication of the spirit with the far more fickle fancies of emotion.

But not every “warm fuzzy” we feel has the depth of divinity or is the substance of the spirit.

Emotion is like paint.  Sure, it adds color to whatever it touches.  You can splash paint on a rock, for instance, and it will colorize the rock well.  Or you can splash some paint in a bucket of water and the paint droplets will swoosh around a bit and form a flimsy film of color on the surface.  But disrupt the water at all, and the color rapidly dissipates.  Paint doesn’t add or provide substance, it just makes things pretty.

In the same way emotion makes experiences enjoyable, but by itself, is an unreliable means of measurement in determining truth and right.   While indeed, some emotion is deeply rooted, and can naturally emanate from poignant and pure principles, emotion can also be surprisingly superficial. 

But we must learn to differentiate and distinguish the substance of the communication of the spirit.

I’m no expert, to be sure, but from my searching to understand the feelings of the spirit, I’ve found the following that perhaps might be of help.

Those warm tingly feelings, warm fuzzies, goosebumps, or that rush up your spine?  Beware.  Those are commonly nothing more than a rush of emotion, and can be equally found while watching a touching movie, hearing a good song, or gazing out at a magnificent vista.  It’s the simple result of a release of endorphins from the brain. 

But feelings from the Holy Ghost are likely to be far more substantial (or are at least accompanied by additional feelings of greater substance then these by themselves).

It seems that communication from the Holy Ghost is more commonly associated with knowledge, understanding, and comprehension.  Like when you turn the light on in a darkened room, and suddenly you “see” and “understand”.   Or like when you find something you’d been searching for after a very long time.  When you’re found, after having been lost.  Like figuring out the answer to an important problem you’ve been pondering for a very long time. 

This kind of “rush of understanding”, or increased comprehension, or as Joseph Smith describes “when it feels like pure knowledge is flowing into you”, these are far more certain to be the “feelings” created by the Holy Ghost, and often seem to be followed by a burning desire to engage, to learn more, and to share.

They key is to always listen, and also take note.  For we won’t always get it right, but as long as we took note of how we felt, by writing it down preferably, then you can look back with the blessing of hindsight and begin to understand in very specific ways, how the Holy Ghost speaks to you.  In time, and with practice, you can grow into revelation and instantly recognize what is divine, and what is not.

It is my estimation, that the ability to receive and recognize revelation is one of the most important skills man can learn in this life, and the endeavor should not be taken lightly.

Rusty

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Four reasons why hope breeds success

I’ve moved this post to my new Life-Engineering blog, dedicated to motivating people to achieve their goals and change their futures by taking control of their lives.

You can now find this post here:

http://life-engineering.com/four-reasons-why-hope-breeds-success

Faith Fitness – Day 4 (Believe)

This post is part of a series called Faith Fitness – increasing our capacity to believe.  Don’t forget to see the intro, part 1 (Testimony), part 2 (Optimism), and part 3 (Hope).

At long last, we’re moving on to the next step in building our capacity to believe.  We’ve moved now from a testimony on pure principles (step 1 – Testimony), to the ability to see things not for what they are, but what they can be (step 2 – Optimism), to an active level of hope for those things to come to pass (step 3 – Hope), and we’re now ready to take the next step, again, this more active than the last.

If you haven’t truly gone through the first three steps, this step may be very difficult, but either way, I highly encourage you to keep working on those first 3 steps.  Reread them, keep working on them.  Like any exercise, after all, these are not one-time instances of exertion, but ongoing endeavors that must become an active part of our life.

Hebrews 11:1 says that “…faith is the substance of things hoped for…”, or other translations:  “…the assurance of things hoped for…” and “… the evidence of things not seen.”

Faith isn’t some wishy-washy fell-good sensation where we simply wish for something to come true.  It’s “substance”, “evidence”, these words convey something very concrete and real.  The power of faith is perhaps the most powerful principle in the universe.  By faith, all things were created.

If God can work such mighty faith, then surely we, as his spiritual children, can begin to work faith at a much smaller level.

When the Apostles woke the savior, fearing for their lives, he calmed the storm and then gently chastised them for being of such little faith.  When Peter attempted to walk on water, but started to sink, he did likewise.  When the apostles were unable to heal certain sicknesses he offered the same feedback.

Clearly the Lord knows we’re capable of affecting real, substantial, concrete change in our environment, in our lives, and in the lives of others.  

So, the first thing you must have faith in, is God.  You must take your testimony to an active use, and put your faith and trust in him.  Believe that he is all powerful.  Believe that he is all knowing.  Believe that he has a divine plan and purpose.  Believe that you are his child and are of limitless potential.

Once you can firmly say that you have faith in God, now you must believe in yourself.  How can you exercise faith to exert change if you don’t first believe in yourself?  This is not arrogance.  It’s not boasting in your own strength, this is believing that you can affect change, that you do not have to be some simple bystander, but that the Lord wants you to participate, and play a part. 

Now shift your focus to something else in your life that matters.  Clearly it must be a righteous desire, or at least with righteous intentions.  Remember the steps – look through the lens of optimism, see what it is that it CAN be, then actively hope for it to be that way, and now believe that it will come to pass.

And don’t worry, it’s not meant to be easy.  Belief is when the muscle is fully flexed, which is not often easy (although it does get easier).  When your muscles are fully flexed you quickly experience fatigue.  When you exercise your faith, you may find the same kind of experience.  But don’t worry, just like exercising, the more you exercise, the more your endurance grows.  Experienced distance runners are able to run great distances and feel minimal effects because they’ve toned their body for the endeavor.  Such it is with faith.  The more you work that muscle, the easier it becomes, the more you can do, and the less tiring it is.

Now, don’t let yourself stop believing, don’t succumb to fatigue and give in because it’s too difficult.  Faith is all about perseverance.  Be confident, trust in God, and believe.

Rusty

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