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Spiritual Entropy

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The Mormon Miracle

As I mentioned earlier in my post about distinguishing between the superficial fluff of emotion and the divine communication of the spirit to our hearts (here), we need to beware of emotions.  We need to strive diligently to learn the specific ways the Spirit speaks to us.

For emotion can be a dangerous thing.  It can be wonderful, sure.  It’s what gives life its flavor, after all.  But like most wonderful things, the adversary has found a way of twisting it and using it against us.

Talented leaders know how to leverage emotion to their advantage.  Learn to tap into the superficial springs of emotion in the souls of men, and you can easily get people to follow you.

Why do you think so many religious meetings are accompanied by live bands, shouting and gregarious displays of emotion, and led by charismatic, high-energy preachers who are adept at holding an audience in the palm of their hands?  They walk around, grip the congregation with compelling prose and strong vocal fluctuations that often escalate into very “high-volume” orations.  Most of the time, the better the entertainer, the greater their following (one of the problems due to the economics of a paid clergy, or the commercialization of religion, which I explore here).

But it’s also one of the miracles behind the explosion and sustained momentum of the Mormon Church.  We’re not well known for our highly engaging and entertaining sacrament meetings to say the least.

Mormon bishops (our local leaders who run the weekly church meetings and the local affairs of the church) are not professional religionists, nor are any of the local church leaders – it’s a lay ministry.  They didn’t seek their positions; they didn’t one day wake up and decide they wanted to lead a congregation because they were adept at such things. 

Rather, one day they were simply called by a stake president (also unpaid and who himself was called in a similar manner) to serve as a bishop for their local congregation for a period of time. 

They each come from different walks of life, and since they’re not paid, they still have to keep their jobs to provide for their families.  They’re asked to do much, and sacrifice much, with no monetary reward.  They’re not professional orators.  And even if they were, they don’t often speak to the congregation.

Instead, instruction for Mormon Sacrament Meetings is provided by the general membership of the church.  The bishop will call and ask certain members to speak on an upcoming Sunday, ranging throughout the congregation so that all who are willing and able might have the experience of teaching the gospel.  Our youth, even as young as 12 years old are called to participate and give short talks on subjects provided by the bishop to the whole congregation.

As you can imagine, these talks aren’t always terribly compelling in their delivery.  But the Mormon Miracle, as I call it, is that it doesn’t matter.

It’s the difference between superficial emotion elicited by a talented orator, and the pure accompaniment of the Holy Ghost that naturally surrounds the teaching of true principles and the administration of true ordinances.   

The membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints flourishes not because of a structure built from talented public speakers whose sustenance is derived from their ability to hold a congregation and keep them coming back.

No, instead, our leaders earn their wages independent from their congregations, and the congregations return and grow because their meetings are rich with the pure doctrines of Jesus Christ, undiluted by the teachings of man, and not ornamented with fancy delivery.

If you have never been to a Mormon Sacrament meeting, then click here to find your closest chapel, and I invite you to witness the Mormon Miracle for yourself.   If you go with an open heart, and not in the spirit of contention, you too will recognize the beauty behind the simplicity, and feel the power of pure principles.

Rusty

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Self-imposed limitations

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Seeking for evidence

Recently the topic of evidence-seeking has come up frequently in comments on my posts, and I decided it warranted further exploration.

Is it weakness or folly to believe without evidence as Larry suggests in the comments here?  Or is it weakness or folly to require evidence to believe?

Must one have physical proof in order to believe something, or does that illustrate a crippled faith? 

Certainly the carnal man prefers evidence, as solid and irrefutable as we can get, for our minds seek naturally for such proof.  To proceed without proof, or evidence, is risky.  As such, throughout biblical history we find such sign seekers… those unwilling to believe without some sort of evidence or sign. 

But of these sign seekers we read… “And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, this is an evil generation:  they seek a sign” (Luke 11:29).  And in Mark we find that when the Pharisees came questioning Jesus, they sought from him a sign from heaven, and Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, why doth this generation seek after a sign?” (Mark 8:11-12)

So should we seek for evidence?  In Hebrews 11 (the great dissertation on faith by Paul), we find that faith IS evidence:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

Clearly, we need not see to believe. 

Verse 7:  “By faith Noah, being bwarned of God of things not seen as yet, cmoved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house;”

Did Noah require evidence before building the ark?  When God told him that it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights, did he say “prove it”?  He didn’t need to, for his faith was sufficient for action.

Verse 8:  “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Did Abraham require proof, or evidence before he acted?  Or was his faith sufficient?

What about Sarah in v.10, did she require evidence to have a child?  Or in v. 17, when Abraham was told to sacrifice his very son, did he require evidence that this was necessary, or did he move on faith alone?  In v. 29 when Moses approached the Red Sea, did he need evidence that he could part the sea or did he simply believe?

Were these people weak for not requiring evidence, or strong for not needing it.

In life we progress line upon line, precept upon precept.  While the need for evidence might be a suitable start, there needs to come a time in our spiritual progression where we graduate from the requirement of such a crutch, where our faith becomes like that of Moses, Abraham, and Noah, enabling us to act based on nothing more than faith alone.  Enabling us to act based on a witness from the spirit, and not some physical manifestation that our path is sure. 

But even those who have asked such questions are coming close without knowing it.  For as the Lord said to Thomas, who doubted his resurrection “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou has believed:  blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Here the Lord not only confirms that more blessed are they for whom faith is sufficient, but that they themselves, having not seen Jesus, yet who believe in him, have shown themselves capable of belief without proof.

While God may find it within His wisdom to provide evidence where he may, far be it from me to require it of him. 

True faith does not require evidence.  And while the wisdom of the world might find this imprudent, or call it weak, the wisdom of the world is not what I seek, but the strength of the faith of Noah, Moses, Abraham, and of all the great prophets, for God hath made foolish the wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 1:20).

Rusty

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God grant me wisdom

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The 3 D’s of Exalted Living

Decisions Determine Direction.  The point is that everything matters, even the small things. They matter to God (he’s Omnicaring), and it should matter to you, because every decision you make impacts the direction of your life.

If, for instance, you’re heading on a course due north, in a perfectly straight line, and then you vary, if only by a portion of 1 degree… over time, that tiny variation of your course will equate to a monumental change in your destination.

It all happens by degrees.  Every decision matters.

In a jet, if a pilot is flying around 500 mph and drifts by only one degree, he will be miles off course in a matter of only a few minutes.

Today, life flies by us at blazing speeds.  We live in an age of unprecedented momentum and make countless decisions, most of them, almost unwittingly.  In such an environment, we cannot be too vigilant about the impact of our actions. 

Let’s consider, as an example, the following illustration of a vehicle heading due north.  Pretend the vehicle represents you and a completely righteous course of life – with your entire focus on godliness.  But notice what a dramatic change only a few recurring alterations can make in your vision.

car_view.jpg

This is how Satan works.   He doesn’t really think he can get us to make radical changes all at once, because such an abrupt change of our vision would certainly be noticed, and we’d self-correct our course. 

Instead, he tries to get us to make slight changes in our course, changes that seem a “natural extension” of our current course, and that only slightly alter our vision.

In this way he “lulls us away into carnal security” (2 Nephi 28:21).  It’s all about change by degrees.  That’s how he works.  I call it “Spiritual Entropy” (blog post).

Every decision we make alters the direction we’re heading, so we cannot be cavalier about the decisions we make, and must be terrifically tuned to alterations in our course.

But how do you do that.  How do you know when you’re being lulled off course?  I submit that there are two primary ways we can stave off this tactic.

First, we must implement within our lives the regular recurrence of mechanisms that sharpen our vision of Godliness.  Regular scripture study, daily prayer, weekly church attendance, etc.  These simple things are those that most clearly reinforce that vision of Godliness.  The more regularly we do them, the more habitually they become a part of our lives, the more crystal clear that vision of Godliness becomes, and the starker are the events when our vision shifts beyond where it should.

That’s how we “stay in tune” (blog post). 

Secondly, we must subject ourselves to frequent course-correcting criticism.  We must regularly check ourselves, analyze our lives, look around us, at where we’re heading, at what we’re doing, and compare that with the vision of what we would have that to be.

Now of course, God expects us to live a life full of little twists and turns, that’s why he sent His Son.  But the farther we depart from the path of exalted living, the path pre-trodden by the Savior and countless others, the more difficult life becomes, and the more difficult it is to return.  So it’s far easier to hold counsel with the Lord in regular intervals, and look upon your life for areas in need of correction.  Just don’t dwell on your past unhealthily (see “beware the rear view mirror“).

So remember the 3 D’s of Exalted Living – Decisions Determine Direction. 

Rusty

A windshield wiper for life

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What do Mormons really believe, part 4

See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

(Disclaimer: These views are all based on my knowledge and interpretation as an active Latter Day Saint, or “Mormon”, only the actual article of faith I list should be considered “official”.  Still, I try to be accurate and do my homework 😉

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are:  first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Gost.
4th Article of Faith

I can’t help but think back to one of the many things I’ve had to build in my life, you know, one of those projects that come with a list of instructions… furniture, doll houses, bikes, whatever it may be.  Being a guy, and the sort of person I am – a moron (that’s moron, not Mormon, although I am that too), I’ve often simply set to out trying to put it together… without looking at the instructions.

In truth, usually I glance at them and see how simple they appear, and then, confident in my ability to just figure it out, I often get several steps into the process before I realize that something is wrong.  The pieces just don’t fit together, or it doesn’t look quite right (which usually means I’ve been trying to just compare it to the picture on the box). 

Anyway, my first inclination is to curse the manufacturer.  It’s funny how often I’ve done this; you’d think I’d learn.  Now, forced into a corner, I end up going back and reading the instructions, usually only to find I missed some small, simple (but crucial) step.

So often this is the case with the gospel.  The first principles and ordinances are indeed simple, and because of their simplicity, they’re overwhelmingly overlooked. 

It’s the attitude of “Yeah, yeah, faith… I get it.  Repentance, Baptism, the Holy Ghost – great, now let’s get on with something more interesting…” that’s what dooms us.

These first principles and ordinances are foundational – that’s why they’re first.  They’re the basis upon which ALL other principles and ordinances rely.

When we’re so quick to move past them without the benefit of a thorough understanding, appreciation, and testimony of them, then how often we find ourselves, long after, realizing that something is not fitting.  We come upon a principle or doctrine or an event in life that just doesn’t “look right”, and finding ourselves in a corner, we blame the manufacturer.

When in reality, it was simply that we had failed in the first step, to understand the simplest points of the gospel. 

It’s much like the people of Moses, as they were set upon by serpents.  He raised the serpent staff and told his people that if they’d but look upon it, they’d be saved.  But so simple was the task that alas, many did not, and perished.

So too must we continually remember to focus on the core – faith, repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost, if we want to be saved from the serpents of life.  Let not the simplicity or commonness of these betray our judgment – a foundation is only as valuable as it is solid.

So we should ask ourselves… how well do we understand the immeasurable power of faith, and how often do we implement it in our lives, and in the lives of others?  How often do we find ourselves in the process of sincere repentance, and how clearly do we understand and appreciate how it is even possible?  Have we been baptized and born of God, and if so, how regularly do we renew those covenants and how serious do we take them?  What role does the Holy Ghost play in our daily life?  How sensitive and perceptive are we to its promptings and communication?  How well established is our capacity to recognize His promptings?

These are the things that we must return to regularly, for all the remaining steps of life rely on how firmly we’re able to grasp these few things.

Rusty

P.S.  Because of the tremendous importance of these foundational elements of the gospel, I’m going to dedicate a post to each of them, both because each are worth an individual exploration, and also because there are bound to be numerous responses to each of these.  This organization will better allow us to explore each one independently. If you have comments about one of these in particular, please add them to the specific post to which they apply, and reserve comments on this post to the general direction/commentary about this article of faith.  I’ve gone ahead and added the post skeleton for each of these so you can go ahead and add comments now if you already know what they are (hehe), and I’ll fill in the commentary today and tomorrow.  Thanks, and I hope to enjoy some more healthy discussion on each of these!

Here you’ll find Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Gift of the Holy Ghost

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Cycle Time – the power of frequency

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