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Writing on an open canon, line upon line

One of the foundational principles taught in scripture is that we are given “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little”, but many overlook the magnificent implications of this profound principle.

The unstated, but astoundingly clear premise of this principle is simply “what I have given you, is not all I have to give” and “what I have taught you, is not all I have to teach”, followed with a resounding and exhilarating “…there’s more”.

What beautiful and compelling doctrine, for at its heart is the promise of continued revelation, and the assurance that what he has already taught us, will be added upon.

That refreshing realization revitalizes our search for truth and renews our need for a religion whose philosophy embraces the ideals of ongoing communication from God.

For God has always communicated with Man, through prophets, an ancient and historically proven  pattern.  And as he does so, they record his words, as they did in Ancient Isreal which brought us the Bible.

And within the Bible Christ himself declared that he had other sheep that should hear his voice, other people to visit and teach.   Those too heard his voice, and recorded his words, bringing us the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, and another witness that God gives man line upon line, precept upon precept.

And finally, the Lord restored his pattern of prophets to the earth, through Joseph Smith, thus renewing the ongoing availability of prophetic guidance and instruction to the true followers of Christ, that our divinely outlined “line upon line” instruction may be endlessly fed by inspired leaders of God.

That’s the miracle of Mormonism, wholeheartedly embracing the principle of progression, line upon line, precept upon precept, ever looking for that next line, that next precept, rather than the devestatign proclamation that “we’ve had enough”.

Rusty

P.S.  Click here “Discussing an open canon” for further reflection and discussion on the subject.  See also a video of Jeffrey R. Holland discussing an open cannon on “Gods words never cease

Is there Biblical Precedence for Polygamy?

In the recent post “A quest for spiritual knowledge“, the comments quickly became centered around two distinct topics.  The one being blacks and the priesthood, which was thoroughly covered within the comments on that post.  The other was regarding the practice of polygamy early in the church.  It was to this point that Matt G. asked:

Rusty, I looked up polygamy and polyandry in the Bible and didn’t find any other prophet teaching the practices. Could you show me where the prophets were teaching these as God’s inspired word?

Rather than answering within the already lengthy comments of that post, I’ve decided to address them in a fresh post, so as to allow the natural divergence of comments around these two separate topics, and since the topic is important enough to deserve higher exposure.

In response:

Matt,

Thank you so much for asking.  There are few things I enjoy more than to expose the scriptures, for as we see here, it becomes incredibly problematic that people don’t study the scriptures more thoroughly (which coincidentally was the topic of the originating post).  So many have made such a fuss over polygamy in the early days of the church, either about why it was practiced, or why it was revoked, and then turn around and profess belief in the Bible.  I say to them, you may believe in it, but you don’t understand it.

There are numerous scriptural precedents regarding polygamy taught biblically, and I’ll cover several of them.

There’s no better place to start than with the Lord himself, who in Deuteronomy gives instructions on how to successfully manage a plural marriage… (Deut. 21: 15-17).

15 If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:

16 Then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved firstborn before the son of the hated, which is indeed the firstborn:

17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.

The Lord cannot tolerate sin, so if Plural marriage were to be accounted as sin, why then would he here choose to counsel in how to do it successfully, wouldn’t he instead be condemning the practice?  Yet interestingly (but not coincidentally) there are times in the bible where he has said it was not to be, even earlier in Deuteronomy, he said:

Deut. 17: 15, 17

15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

It could either be that the Lord was unable to make up his mind, or that there is a time and season for all things.  And what he has commanded once, is not necessarily to be for all times.  I find the latter far more likely, which therefore not only provides precedence for His commanding Polygamy in the early days of the church (at a time when this particular commandment served a particular purpose for the Lord to try the saints), but also sets precedence for the commandment of the practice to later be retracted.

At one point in the Bible the Lord told his disciples only to preach to Israelites.  He later told the prophet (Peter) to preach to all people.  Again, was it that the Lord couldn’t make up His mind?  The thought makes reason stare.  Rather, there is a time and a season for all things, and what matters, is that we follow the current set of commandments as clarified by the current, living prophet.  Another sound confirmation of the importance of a living prophet.

But let’s not stop there.  Let’s talk about David.

In  2 Samuel 12:1-27, we find some important scriptures in this regard.  One of which is vs. 7 and 8:

7  And Nathan said to David…Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;

8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.

Here the prophet Nathan himself tells David the it was the Lord that “gave thee… thy master’s wives”.  What’s more, the Lord would have given him more of such political power, wives, and wealth.  If plural wives were a sin, why then were they a gift from God, and why would Nathan, who had arrived to condemn David for killing Uriah, not have condemned him then (or earlier) for plural marriage?

Let’s now talk about Solomon.  (1 Kings 11:1-8),

1. BUT king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;

2 Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love…

7 Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.

8 And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.

Here the Lord accuses Solomon not of having plural wives, but of allowing them to turn his heart away from Him.

There are other instances as well, such as when Abraham married Hagar (Genesis 16:3), Keturah (Genesis 25:1) and other unnamed concubines (Genesis 25:6).  Or Jacob (Genesis 29:21-30Genesis 30:3-4Genesis 30:9).  Abijah had fourteen wives (2 Chron. 13:21) and yet he is described as a righteous king of Judah who honored the Lord (2 Chron. 13:8-12) and prosper in battle because of the Lord’s blessing (2 Chron. 13:16-18) to name a few.  It’s also interesting that Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute as a sign to Israel (Hosea 1:1-3).

In short, it is clear from a true study of the bible that polygamy is not only not immoral, but (at times) sanctioned of the Lord, and a blessing from righteous living.  Having studied the scriptures, I do not find it odd that at one time the practice is taught and sanctioned, and at another time it isn’t.  Wasn’t the Law of Moses also done away, in place of something else?  Was the Law of Moses therefore bad, or merely tailored for the specific needs of the specific people alive at the time?

The prophet Joseph Smith once addressed this very issue with tremendous eloquence and inspiration with which I cannot compete.  It is therefore with his quote that I’ll conclude:

This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted-by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed…in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness-and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has-He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances

– Joseph Smith

Rusty

God’s words never cease…

Yesterday I posted “Writing an open canon, line upon line” and “Discussing an open canon“.  As a continuation of this important topic, I thought that today I would present you with a special treatment on the topic by an apostle of the Lord, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.

 

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tz3rggCnhxQ&feature=related

 

Rusty

A quest for spiritual knowledge

Lehi’s landmark vision of the Tree of Life is one of the most well known revelations from the Book of Mormon.  It’s a beautiful depiction of life, and embodies numerous eternal principles with profound depth.  One of which is the importance of pursuing spiritual knowledge.

The Tree of Life, a synopsis:

Since many of my readers are new to the Book of Mormon, here’s a brief synopsis of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life.

In it, the prophet Lehi finds himself in a “dark and dreary wilderness”.  He travels for a time, and upon praying for assistance, beholds a large and spacious field, on the other side of which, stands a tree, whose fruit was exceedingly white, sweet beyond all other fruit, and caused his soul to be filled with exceedingly great joy.

Compelled to share this joy, he looks up to find his family, and notices the rest of his surroundings.

He sees a river of water, and next to it, a rod of iron with a “strait and narrow path” leading along the bank of the river, so as to protect one who held onto it from falling prey to the current and being swept away.

This path led through the great and spacious field, wherein “numerous concourses of people” were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path, which led to the tree. But in the field, there arose a mist of darkness, so that those who would not cling to the rod of iron, would lose their way, some drowning in the depths of the river, and others becoming lost along forbidden paths.

He spoke also of a great and spacious building on the other side of the river, which seemed, as it were, to float in the air, and in which there were many people who were pointing their fingers at, and mocking those who were partaking of the fruit. There were many who partook of the fruit of the tree, and feeling ashamed, left in search of the building, and were lost. After a time, the building, which lacked a foundation, fell to the earth, causing the destruction of all who were within.

The tree of Life, an interpretation:

Upon hearing his father speak of his vision of the Tree of Life, Nephi, a soon-to-be prophet, sought the Lord for understanding. He too was then given the same vision, but in expanded form, complete with interpretation of its symbolic meaning.

To Nephi it was revealed that the Tree of Life, and the fruit thereon was representative of the Love of God, which fills the soul with joy. The Rod of Iron was the word of god, the great and spacious field was the world, and the great and spacious building was the pride of the world.

The pursuit of spiritual knowledge

Amongst the many lessons taught in this vision, one of those that stands strongest for me is that of the rod of iron. Often within the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints (the Mormons), the phrase “hold to the rod” has become cliché. It has sort of come to represent the vague notion of righteous living, our need to “choose the right”.

But while these too are good, the specific, inspired translation of that symbol, as revealed to the prophet Nephi, is that the rod of iron, that thing to which we are to “cling” is specifically… the “word of God”. And cling to it we must.

There’s nothing casual about the word cling. It is defined as “to hold tightly, to grasp or embrace, to cleave”. It is an active word that depicts active behavior.

It’s no mystery where we can FIND the word of God. It is to be had in abundance, in the scriptures, in inspired teachings by the prophets today as well as in times past. And it is to be had by direct revelation to you, as an individual, according to your faith and effort.

In the chapter preceding Nephi’s vision of interpretation, he comments:

“And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father… was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever… For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them by the power of the Holy Ghost…” (1 Nephi 10:17-19)

Here Nephi communicates the primary ingredient for receiving revelation: diligent seeking. This is how we cling to the word of God. By diligently seeking it. We must become singularly focused on obtaining, understanding, and internalizing the word of God.

We are told through modern revelation to do “all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:19). And what is the Glory of God? “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36).

The prophet Joseph said “No man can be saved in ignorance”. We must therefore reflect upon the urgency with which we search the scriptures, seek divine revelation, and work to obtain the word of God. For this is how we cling to the iron rod, this is how we obtain the fruit of the tree… the Love of God, this is how we plunge through the mists of darkness (confusion of the world and the adversary).

Only by clinging to the word of God can we obtain the tree. As the angel told Nephi of the Great and Spacious building “behold the wisdom of the world”. Great was the fall thereof, for it was founded upon the pride of men. But our foundations must be built upon the solid ground of true doctrine, entrenched in the fertile soul of divine revelation, from which eternal lives may grow.

So cling to the rod, and begin your own quest for spiritual knowledge, that the fruit of the tree, or the love of God, will be yours.

Rusty

Behold not the filthiness

Earlier, I’d posted “A quest for spiritual knowledge”, wherein I talked about Lehi’s grand vision of the tree of life. Still studying my way through that section of 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, today I stumbled accross the following passage that struck me as important, but that I’d simply read over countless times before.

Nephi had just returned from being carried away in the Spirit, receiving his own vision of the Tree of Life. Upon returning to his camp, his brothers, Laman and Lemuel began asking about the meaning of Lehi’s dream. They had just asked “What meaneth the river of water which our father saw?”

1 Nephi 15: 27

And I said unto them that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.

It struck me that living in the world, we too are surrounded by filthiness, even as prominent as was this river of water in Lehi’s vision. But we can choose our focus. We can choose what thoughts occupy our minds.

Indeed, so much can our minds be swallowed up in the good that surrounds us, in the opportunities, in the service of others, and in the light of the Lord that we too can become impervious to the filthiness of the world.

At such a point, we live in the world, but not of the world. And then, our minds become single to the glory of God.

Doctrine and Covenants 88:67

And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.

Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you, and it shall be in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his will.

Rusty

Spiritual Entropy

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/spiritual-entropy

The grand panorama of scripture

Once upon a time there was a man who was given a map, and was told that if he followed the instructions on this map, he would find treasure untold.  Excited by the prospect of this treasure map, he set out one day to find the buried treasure.

The instructions on the map were many, and some were very difficult.  One of the instructions conveniently directed him to a tree under which there was much shade.  He was happy to see this instruction, for the day was hot, and he sat under the tree expectantly.  After a while, another man came to the tree, enjoyed the shade momentarily, and then made to move off.

“Where are you going” said the first man?  “I’m following the instructions in a treasure map” said the second.  “But I’ve got the same map said the first, and the instructions say to come to this tree, under which there is nice shade”.  “Ah”, said the second man, “Indeed this is nice, but there are more instructions on the map than just this one, and to reach the treasure, I must follow them all.” 

The scriptures of God contain many instructions.  But they cannot be cherry picked.  This man can sit under the tree as long as he wishes, completely fulfilling one of the distinct instructions, but he will get no closer to his desired treasure than this.  And because of the convenience of this particular instruction, it is easy to cling to it alone; justifying to himself that this was sufficient, for indeed it was instructed on the map.

Often as we discuss principles of religion on this blog, I seem to find this recurring theme.  Someone will quote to a certain scripture, justifying a particular belief or behavior, but in doing so ignoring so many other scriptural instructions that must also be taken into consideration to paint the full picture.

Much like a large oil painting, when you stand up close to the picture, with your eyes mere inches from its canvass, all you see are brushstrokes.  And while you can determine the color of each brush stroke, and it’s individual beauty, it’s not until you step back and consider the canvas as a whole that the true glory of the painting becomes clear.  From this vantage point, each brush stroke is seen in context, in conjunction with all the rest, for a clear picture.

As we work daily to increase our understanding of the scriptures, may we more diligently step back and consider the work as a whole, and see each principle in its proper place, that we might more completely abandon the short-sightedness of mortality, in favor of the grand vista of divinity.

Rusty

Video – Christ in America

Here’s a video from YouTube, a collection of beautiful works of art, with music and an overlay of spoken scripture (some of my favorites).

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhbrR2FtP1o

 

How wonderful to have access to the full record of Christ’s visit and teachings to the ancient inhabitants of the American continent.

To get your own Book of Mormon, or to learn more about it, click here.

Rusty

Discussing an open canon

As I describe here “Writing an open canon, line upon line“, one of the foundational principles taught in scripture is the notion that we are instructed line upon line, precept upon precept. 

The premise of this principle is that we don’t have it all.  That there is more to come and it will be distributed by degrees (the subject for a future post).

It’s the assumption of “what I have taught you, is not all I have to teach… there’s more.”

But most traditional Christian denominations believe that there is no more, accepting instead the idea of a closed canon. 

What a dreadful thought, at least to one who has witnessed the incredible clarity gained through additional scripture (which is why “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, shall every word be established”).    

But because this comes up so frequently in discussions here, I decided it was worthy of a dedicated post, so that we could explore it together.  Hopefully we will each gain appreciation for the other’s views.  I can only assume I am egregiously ignorant in understanding the notion of a closed canon, for the premises upon which it is based just seem so rejectable.

It seems to me, that in order to accept a closed cannon, you must accept at least one of the following:

God has already told us all there is to tell

Under this premise, I could accept that perhaps additional scripture is unnecessary. 

But I can’t get past the mere idea of this.  First, if we had been given it all, we would not be given line upon line, but rather the whole truth all at once, which seems absurd, realistically, to assume that the sum-total of God’s knowledge could somehow fit within a single volume of scripture.  My goodness, even if it were a bazillion pages long, it couldn’t even come close to containing the full breadth and depth of God’s eternal knowledge.  To assume that “well, this is all there is” seems shockingly arrogant. 

I cannot accept that somehow God has run out of things to say.

God is unable to speak to man today

Surely, if he were simply unable, this could account for the ongoing silence anticipated by accepting a closed canon.  But that contradicts the very notion of an omnipotent God.

I cannot accept that God has run out of ways or the ability to communicate.

God us unwilling to speak to man today

Perhaps if he’s not unable, then he’s unwilling, but why would that be?  Why would he so clearly establish a pattern of prophets and others who record the revelations of God, and which become known as scripture.  Why would he be unwilling to communicate through revelation today, for the bible said that it is “upon this rock” the rock of revelation that his very church shall be built, and in countless references has he instructed man to turn to God, to ask God, to Knock, and in return he will answer, and open.

I cannot accept that God is simply unwilling to communicate.

God’s words today are less important

If you accept that there’s no way on earth or in heaven that the Bible can contain the sum total of all God’s knowledge, and that he HAS told us he’d continue to instruct us line upon line, precept upon precept… if you accept that god is neither unable, or unwilling to speak to man today, then it seems you must accept the principle of revelation.

But if you accept the principle of revelation, to say the canon is closed, is to say that the words he says today are somehow less important than those he said in the past, as if they’re somehow drowned out by words he spoke some 2,000 years ago.  Why would his words to man spoken 2,000 years ago be worthy of canonization, but the words he speaks to man today, are not? 

If God lives (and I attest that he does), then he speaks, and if he speaks, then his words are of equal, if not greater importance for us today, for they are given directly TO us, in our time, for our benefit, and in consideration of our specific needs and circumstance.

How is man somehow able to decide which of his words should be “canon” and which of his words are unworthy?

But I have a testimony that the words of God are all true, and that there is no end to his instruction, and that all instruction from God must be considered equal, eternal, and ongoing, and as such, am happy to belong to a religion that embraces an open canon, that it may never be found saying “we have enough”.

Rusty

P.S.  See also a video of Jeffrey R. Holland discussing an open canon, and “Writing an open canon, line upon line

How to solve the “unemployment” problem

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/how-to-solve-the-unemployment-problem