The Fifth Mission

The Fifth Mission

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Dealing with adversity

Insight from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court reflects decades as a judge:

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts speaking at his son’s middle-school graduation, June 3:
From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Preach My Gospel

LDS missionaries study and use the book titled Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service. It's online here. https://www.lds.org/manual/preach-my-gospel-a-guide-to-missionary-service?lang=eng

It's an outstanding guide, but there's an interesting aspect of it.

The book never uses the word Zion.

This strikes me as a strange omission.

In several places the guide encourages missionaries to refer to Moroni 10:3-5 when they teach investigators about prayer and how to gain their own testimony of the Book of Mormon. Lesson 2 suggests investigators read chapter 10 because "Moroni invites all to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him." Lesson 3 cites Moroni 10:7.

Chapter 4 of the Guide is titled "How Do I Recognize and Understand the Spirit?" It explains, "In Moroni’s concluding testimony, he wrote “a few words by way of exhortation” (Moroni 10:2). Read Moroni 10 and write in your own words what Moroni exhorts the reader of the Book of Mormon to do." Later, that chapter encourages missionaries to read Moroni 10:8-18 to understand the gifts of the Spirit.

But nowhere does the guide discuss or even mention Moroni's summary of the global purpose of missionary work, found in verse 31: "31 And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled."

It seems to me that missionaries ought to know that Joseph Smith said, "We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object."

This ultimate objective would give more coherence to the missionary message. Yes, we teach people about the restoration, the plan of salvation, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the commandments and the laws and ordinances, but to what end?

In verses 31 and 32, Moroni explains clearly the objectives are to (i) establish Zion and (ii) come unto Christ and be perfected in him. After all, Moroni sealed the book with these words.

Everything else the missionaries teach leads to those objectives.

Wouldn't it be clearer for both missionaries and investigators (and members) to have this two-fold objective spelled out the way Moroni expressed it?

I would include the establishment of Zion and coming unto Christ in every one of the lessons.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

If ye are not one

One oft-quoted scripture on the topic of consensus is this:

"I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine." D&C 38:27

I've heard this quoted many times to support the idea that people should agree on doctrinal matters, including interpretations of geography of the Book of Mormon and Church history. And that's fine, provided the agreement is on something that is true.

But look at the first part of the verse:

"Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine."

What is the Lord referring to here?

Verse 26 is the parable, but it refers,in turn, to the preceding verses.

Verse 26: "For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?"

In the preceding verses, the Lord explains that he created the Earth, that he has taken "the Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom," and that "all flesh is corrupted before me, and the powers of darkness prevail upon the earth." 

Then the Lord says, "And for your salvation I give unto you a commandment, for I have heard your prayers, and the poor have complained before me, and the rich have I made, and all flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons. And I have made the earth rich, and behold it is my footstool, wherefore, again I will stand upon it.... And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me. And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself."

This principle is so important that the Lord repeats it twice, right before giving the parable of the unjust father.

In my view, Section 38 teaches about the basic Zion principle of equality; i.e., it is not just that some people are rich while others are poor. The Lord clarifies that he has made the rich; they may think they have "earned" it and therefore "deserve" it, but it is God who has given them the gifts and opportunities to become rich. 

A few months later, on June 15, 1831, the Lord explained further. 

"Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!"

The parable of the unjust father who tells one son to be clothed in robes while the other must be clothed in rags applies to the Latter-day Saints who seek to establish Zion. 

The Lord has told us that he has made the rich, and he has told the rich that they must give their substance to the poor. Enabling some of his children to create wealth is the Lord's way of providing for the poor. As D&C 104 puts it, "this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low."

This is what D&C 38 means. 

And to the extent that we fall short of becoming one in terms of wealth, we are not His.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Relief Society at the United Nations

In case you missed them, these are great stories:

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/new-mormon-relief-society-president-speaks-un?cid=HP_TH_13-4-2017_dPAD_fMNWS_xLIDyL2-2_


"Our small and simple efforts are enhanced and multiplied by our collaboration with hundreds of partners, both global and local, including all of my fellow panelists. I have been humbled by their presentations today. Islamic Relief's "Day of Dignity" program has helped so many people raise their chins and look forward with determination to begin their new lives. Episcopal Migration Ministries’ emphasis on helping immigrants adjust to their new job markets has provided stability for individuals, families and future generations.
"When we reach out to other faith-based organizations, there is a certain affinity—a shared language, a common motivation—that allows our resources to complement each other. Our common purpose lends power to our work. Governments and UN agencies recognize it, and they rely heavily on faith-based organizations to extend the reach of their services.
...
"Faith motivates those who serve in our organizations to give not only of their substance, but to give of themselves — they bring a human factor to the work which governmental programs alone cannot provide.  We see a divine potential in those whom we serve, therefore our efforts are not limited to just providing relief — we strive to build their capacity and their self-worth, to increase their ability to meet the next challenge that occurs so that they can also, in their turn, experience the joys of service and life."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

knowledge “that [had] not been revealed since the world was"

Elder Neil Anderson of the 12 gave a wonderful talk at BYU-Idaho about the impact of the Restoration.

Here is a long excerpt:

The year 2017 is now upon us. Your days, these days in which you live are some of the most amazing that this world has ever seen. The appearance of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove in 1820 brought the Restoration of the gospel and the dispensation of the fulness of times. You know why you are here and what the Lord expects of you. You have the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the priesthood of God is upon the earth. The Lord indicated to the Prophet Joseph Smith that it would not be just a time of spiritual revelations but also a time of understanding and progress in all areas. The Lord promised knowledge “that [had] not been revealed since the world was.”4 4. Doctrine and Covenants 121:26.
The appearance of the Father and the Son to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove in 1820 brought the Restoration of the gospel and the dispensation of the fulness of times.
These wonders would include remarkable achievements in science, medicine, manufacturing, transportation, and communication.
William J. Bernstein, a noted financial theorist and neurologist by training (not a member of the Church), wrote about what he saw in the world’s economic history: “When we look at the [facts], it becomes crystal clear that something happened … in the early nineteenth century. … [Up] until approximately 1820, per capita world economic growth [the single best way of measuring human material progress] registered near zero. … Then, not long after 1820, prosperity began flowing in an ever-increasing torrent; with each successive generation, the life of the [child] became observably more comfortable, informed, and predictable than that of the father.”5 5. William J. Bernstein, The Birth of Plenty: How the Prosperity of the Modern World Was Created (2004), 3–4.


I hold in my hand an example of the amazing blessing of technology—my iPhone. This small device is a mobile phone, a planner, a GPS, and a digital camera. It includes videoconferencing, books and newspapers, a video and music player, and so much more. There are apps for banking, word processing, social media, video games, and a thousand other purposes. Just the other day I was skiing with my son-in-law. As we started up the chairlift for the last run of the day, he said to me, “Dad, I’m going to go ahead and warm up the car.” He pulled out his iPhone, and with the touch of his finger, his car more than a mile away started its heater, melted the snow off its windows, and prepared itself for our travel home.
Elder Neil L. Andersen holds up his cell phone during his address to BYU-Idaho students February 14.
Advances in science, medicine, manufacturing, transportation, and communication will continue throughout your lifetime. There will be variety in entertainment and innovation never imagined. These are your days, and it’s a beautiful time to be alive.
However, in this time of prosperity and advancement, there are also real challenges. You live in a world that is sometimes divisive and contentious. Information is everywhere, and with it, a host of enticing voices attempts to pull you one way and then another. There is confusion and commotion, with many moving away from God and His commandments and away from the Savior. Think about these U.S. statistics:


Believe in God: my generation—81 percent; your generation—64 percent6 
6. See “Americans’ Belief in God, Miracles and Heaven Declines,” Dec. 16, 2013, theharrispoll.com. Information is based on surveys of approximately 2,200 adults in the United States.
Believe Jesus is God or the Son of God: my generation—74 percent; your generation—58 percent
Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: my generation—72 percent; your generation—55 percent
You hear and read on your mobile devices the exact words of those who shot the arrows at Samuel: “It is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come”7—or that an angel would deliver the Book of Mormon to the Prophet Joseph. 
You hear and read on your mobile devices modern-day Korihors saying or texting, “[You] that are bound down under a foolish and a vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things?”8
Your days are a time of sifting in the Church. It will be very important for your eternal welfare that, as the Apostle Paul said, you are grounded, rooted, established, and settled in spiritual things.9
There are great privileges, possibilities, and opportunities in this wonderful time of life. I admire you and respect you for your worthiness and preparations in being here at BYU–Idaho.
Be wise in what you are learning. In today’s environment, you need to know how to think, adjust, and mold yourself to a changing world. Be disciplined in planning your courses to ensure a timely graduation. Whether you are a young man or a young woman, you should be sharpening your professional skills, strengthening your ability to work on a team, exercising your mind so it is adept at many subjects, disciplining your commitment to work, and fortifying your character so you can be trusted with responsibility. I would advise my own sons and daughters to prepare professionally. Women in this audience may be in a position to choose to use your unlimited intelligence, talents, and capacities full-time in strengthening your own children in your home, but in the event that is not your situation, you need to prepare to compete in the world should it be necessary.
Even more important than your professional preparation is your spiritual preparation: prayer; the word of God; the importance of honesty, purity, and faith.
As you seek to be grounded and settled, I repeat the advice given to you just one month ago by President Russell M. Nelson in his worldwide devotional for young adults. You will remember when he said this:


“How can you increase in your discipleship? I have an invitation for you that will help—it’s an assignment, actually—if you choose to accept it. Commence tonight to consecrate a portion of your time each week to studying everything Jesus said and did. …
“This may seem like a large assignment, but I encourage you to accept it.” Now, listen to his promise. President Nelson continues: “If you proceed to learn all you can about Jesus Christ, I promise you that your love for Him, and for God’s laws, will grow beyond what you currently imagine. I promise you also that your ability to turn away from sin will increase. Your desire to keep the commandments will soar. You will find yourself better able to walk away from the entertainment and entanglements of those who mock the followers of Jesus Christ.”10
10. Russell M. Nelson, “Prophets, Leadership, and Divine Law” (Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, Jan. 8, 2017), broadcasts.lds.org.
I add my witness to this counsel and promise given to you by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve—a man whom we sustain as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Follow his counsel and you will see the realization of the blessings he promised you.
The journey ahead will be a joyful journey if you will ground yourself spiritually and be diligent in your professional preparations. Oh, there will be challenges, but there will be tremendous happiness and beautiful satisfactions. There is no better time, no better place, no better conditions to live out your mortality than now.
I realize that you come from many countries and many different situations. What I have said applies to all here today.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Come to Zion

Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave an outstanding talk about Zion in the October 2008 General Conference:

In our families and in our stakes and districts, let us seek to build up Zion through unity, godliness, and charity.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; but they died without the sight; we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society course of study, 2007], 186).
Zion is both a place and a people. Zion was the name given to the ancient city of Enoch in the days before the Flood. “And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion” (Moses 7:19). This Zion endured for some 365 years (see Moses 7:68). The scriptural record states, “And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion; and it came to pass that Zion was not, for God received it up into his own bosom; and from thence went forth the saying, Zion is fled” (Moses 7:69). Later, Jerusalem and its temple were called Mount Zion, and the scriptures prophesy of a future New Jerusalem where Christ shall reign as “King of Zion,” when “for the space of a thousand years the earth shall rest” (Moses 7:53, 64).
The Lord called Enoch’s people Zion “because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). Elsewhere He said, “For this is Zion—the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21).
The antithesis and antagonist of Zion is Babylon. The city of Babylon was originally Babel, of Tower of Babel fame, and later became the capital of the Babylonian empire. Its principal edifice was the temple of Bel, or Baal, the idol referred to by Old Testament prophets as “The Shame,” given the sexual perversions that were associated with its worship. (See Bible Dictionary, “Assyria and Babylonia,” 615–16; “Baal,” 617–18; “Babylon, or Babel,” 618.) Its worldliness, its worship of evil, and the captivity of Judah there following the conquest of 587 B.C. all combine to make Babylon the symbol of decadent societies and spiritual bondage.
It is with this backdrop that the Lord said to the members of His Church, “Go ye out of Babylon; gather ye out from among the nations, from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (D&C 133:7). He called for the elders of His Church to be sent forth across the world to accomplish this gathering, commencing an effort that continues in full vigor today. “And behold, and lo, this shall be their cry, and the voice of the Lord unto all people: Go ye forth unto the land of Zion, that the borders of my people may be enlarged, and that her stakes may be strengthened, and that Zion may go forth unto the regions round about” (D&C 133:9).
And so today the Lord’s people are gathering “out from among the nations” as they gather into the congregations and stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that are scattered throughout the nations. Nephi foresaw that these “dominions” would be small but that the Lord’s power would descend “upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they [would be] armed with righteousness” (see 1 Nephi 14:12–14). The Lord calls upon us to be beacons of righteousness to guide those who seek the safety and blessings of Zion:
“Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations;
“And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (D&C 115:5–6).
Under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, early members of the Church attempted to establish the center place of Zion in Missouri, but they did not qualify to build the holy city. The Lord explained one of the reasons for their failure:
“They have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;
“And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom” (D&C 105:3–4).
“There were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances” (D&C 101:6).
Rather than judge these early Saints too harshly, however, we should look to ourselves to see if we are doing any better.
Zion is Zion because of the character, attributes, and faithfulness of her citizens. Remember, “the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary (1) to become unified in one heart and one mind; (2) to become, individually and collectively, a holy people; and (3) to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen.
Unity
As we consider the unity required for Zion to flourish, we should ask ourselves if we have overcome jarrings, contentions, envyings, and strifes (see D&C 101:6). Are we individually and as a people free from strife and contention and united “according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom”? (D&C 105:4). Forgiveness of one another is essential to this unity. Jesus said, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10).
We will become of one heart and one mind as we individually place the Savior at the center of our lives and follow those He has commissioned to lead us. We can unite with President Thomas S. Monson in love and concern for one another. In general conference last April, President Monson spoke to those estranged from the Church and to all of us when he said: “In the private sanctuary of one’s own conscience lies that spirit, that determination to cast off the old person and to measure up to the stature of true potential. In this spirit, we again issue that heartfelt invitation: Come back. We reach out to you in the pure love of Christ and express our desire to assist you and to welcome you into full fellowship. To those who are wounded in spirit or who are struggling and fearful, we say, Let us lift you and cheer you and calm your fears” (“Looking Back and Moving Forward,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2008, 90).
At the end of July this year, young single adults from several countries in eastern Europe gathered outside Budapest, Hungary, for a conference. Among this group were 20 young men and women from Moldova who had spent days obtaining passports and visas and over 30 hours traveling by bus to get there. The conference program included some 15 workshops. Each person needed to select the two or three that he or she most wanted to attend. Rather than focus exclusively on their own interests, these Moldovan young adults got together and made plans so that at least one of their group would be in each class and take copious notes. Then they would share what they had learned with each other and later with the young adults in Moldova who could not attend. In its simplest form, this exemplifies the unity and love for one another that, multiplied thousands of times in different ways, will “bring again Zion” (Isaiah 52:8).
Holiness
Much of the work to be done in establishing Zion consists in our individual efforts to become “the pure in heart” (D&C 97:21). “Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom,” said the Lord; “otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself” (D&C 105:5). The law of the celestial kingdom is, of course, the gospel law and covenants, which include our constant remembrance of the Savior and our pledge of obedience, sacrifice, consecration, and fidelity.
The Savior was critical of some of the early Saints for their “lustful … desires” (D&C 101:6; see also D&C 88:121). These were people who lived in a non-television, non-film, non-Internet, non-iPod world. In a world now awash in sexualized images and music, are we free from lustful desires and their attendant evils? Far from pushing the limits of modest dress or indulging in the vicarious immorality of pornography, we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness. To come to Zion, it is not enough for you or me to be somewhat less wicked than others. We are to become not only good but holy men and women. Recalling Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s phrase, let us once and for all establish our residence in Zion and give up the summer cottage in Babylon (see Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light [1990], 47).
Caring for the Poor
Throughout history, the Lord has measured societies and individuals by how well they cared for the poor. He has said:
“For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
“Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment” (D&C 104:17–18; see also D&C 56:16–17).
Furthermore, He declares, “In your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld” (D&C 70:14; see also D&C 49:20; 78:5–7).
We control the disposition of our means and resources, but we account to God for this stewardship over earthly things. It is gratifying to witness your generosity as you contribute to fast offerings and humanitarian projects. Over the years, the suffering of millions has been alleviated, and countless others have been enabled to help themselves through the generosity of the Saints. Nevertheless, as we pursue the cause of Zion, each of us should prayerfully consider whether we are doing what we should and all that we should in the Lord’s eyes with respect to the poor and the needy.
We might ask ourselves, living as many of us do in societies that worship possessions and pleasures, whether we are remaining aloof from covetousness and the lust to acquire more and more of this world’s goods. Materialism is just one more manifestation of the idolatry and pride that characterize Babylon. Perhaps we can learn to be content with what is sufficient for our needs.
The Apostle Paul warned Timothy against people who suppose “that gain is godliness” (1 Timothy 6:5).
Said he, “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
“And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:7–8).
In much of the world, we are entering upon unsettled economic times. Let us look after one another the very best we can. I remember the story of a Vietnamese family that fled Saigon in 1975 and ended up living in a small mobile home in Provo, Utah. A young man in the refugee family became the home teaching companion to a Brother Johnson who lived nearby with his large family. The boy related the following:
“One day Brother Johnson noticed that our family had no kitchen table. He appeared the next day with an odd-looking but very functional table that fit nicely against the trailer wall across from the kitchen sink and counters. I say odd-looking because two of the table legs matched the tabletop and two did not. Also, several small wooden pegs stuck out along one edge of the worn surface.
“Soon we used this unique table daily for food preparation and for eating some quick meals. We still ate our family meals while we sat on the floor … in true Vietnamese fashion.
“One evening I stood inside Brother Johnson’s front door as I waited for him before a home teaching appointment. There in the nearby kitchen—I was surprised to see it—was a table practically identical to the one they had given to my family. The only difference was that where our table had pegs, the Johnsons’ table had holes! I then realized that, seeing our need, this charitable man had cut his kitchen table in half and had built two new legs for each half.
“It was obvious that the Johnson family could not fit around this small piece of furniture—they probably didn’t fit comfortably around it when it was whole. …
“Throughout my life this kind act has been a powerful reminder of true giving” (Son Quang Le, as told to Beth Ellis Le, “Two-of-a-Kind Table,” Liahona, July 2004, 45; Ensign, July 2004, 63).
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 186). In our families and in our stakes and districts, let us seek to build up Zion through unity, godliness, and charity, preparing for that great day when Zion, the New Jerusalem, will arise. In the words of our hymn:

Israel, Israel, God is calling,
Calling thee from lands of woe.
Babylon the great is falling;
God shall all her tow’rs o’erthrow.
Come to Zion, come to Zion,
And within her walls rejoice.
Come to Zion, come to Zion,
For your coming Lord is nigh.
(“Israel, Israel, God Is Calling,” Hymns, no. 7)

I bear witness of Jesus Christ, the King of Zion, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.