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Monday, September 30, 2013

204: FROM IDAHO FALLS TO LOGAN... a 24 hour solitary journey


photo of the Idaho Falls Temple on September 28, 2013

photo of the Logan Temple on September 29, 2013

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After attending a funeral on Saturday afternoon, I packed my camera, scriptures, and some food, and then drove up to Idaho Falls to hear a friend speak. I arrived moments before the lecture started and left immediately after. That night, I went for a walk along the Snake River contemplating all that I had heard during the 3 hour talk. I appreciated the time alone to think. I slept for a few hours that night and then I got up at 4:00 AM and drove over to see the sunrise and then hike in the Grand Tetons Mountains.  A friend sent me yesterday the following quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.


"Earth's crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God:
but only he who sees takes off his shoes."  

I bare record that God is the Creator of this world. "And God saw everything that  He had made, and, behold, it was very good."  Genesis 1: 31. In gratitude to Him, here are a few photos from a solitary journey yesterday in the Grand Tetons.


photo of the Grand Tetons on September 29




 




 









Tuesday, September 24, 2013

203: LIFE AND DEATH... HOPE AND TRAGEDY.

 This past weekend was the Fall Equinox. It is one of two days during the year when everything is in balance, the light and dark. Wherever you might live, we all receive the light equally; twelve hours of light and twelve hours of dark. To observe this day, for years I have been hiking various mountain peaks to watch the sunrise. Waking up early while it is still dark and then ascending a mountain, is balanced with seeing the sunlight and then enjoying the hike downhill. Balance of all things.

Saturday and Sunday of this fall equinox weekend, this balance of “light” and “dark” was very profound for me. We live in a secluded cul-de-sac with wonderful neighbors. When you live in a circle, you tend to have closer relationships with your neighbors then if you live on a normal street. This past Saturday, on September 21, our neighbor to the right gave birth to a baby girl. The baby was born at home, two weeks earlier than expected. When new life enters the world, it is beautiful. There is renewed hope for humanity. The location is sacred especially when the baby is born at home instead of a hospital. Life and Hope. 

The following day on Sunday, September 22, our next door neighbor on our left went out for an evening bike ride. He never arrived back home. He was tragically killed after being hit by a car. A father of four, his sudden death is tragic. Death and Tragedy. In my life, this fall equinox was not only a balance of light and darkness, but also a balance of life and hope, with death and tragedy.

These two extremes of birth and death is a reminder of our mortal existence. It is a reminder that our mortal life can be interrupted at any moment, and we can be called home. Thus.. Live every moment as if it was your last. If you do, death does not have to be a tragedy. The birth of the newborn is a reminder that there is always hope of new life and new beginnings.

In a related story, a few weeks ago I received a late night call around 11:00 PM from our elderly neighbors who live a few houses down from us. The wife called for help with her husband who has Alzheimer's. He had fallen and needed help to get him back into his bed. He has declined rapidly this past year and he will more than likely be receiving hospice care in the next month or so. The husband has a difficult time talking, and can no longer remember who people are as well as he can no longer control a lot of his bodily functions. After helping him back into his bed, the wife walked me to the door. She wanted to tell me of a special experience that had just happen when their daughter came to visit earlier that day. Their daughter no longer attends church and doubts many things pertaining to God. While the wife and daughter were on the couch talking, the husband who doesn’t communicate very much began to speak. They turned to look at him. He had tears rolling down his cheek, and he exclaimed, “It is so beautiful, I have never seen anything as beautiful as this”. At that moment, my neighbor had passed through this thin veil of mortality, and “bore testimony” to the reality of what awaits us on the other side of this telestial hell. His time is not yet, and returned back into his aged mortal tabernacle.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

202: PRE-FIRST VISION


A vital preliminary to Joseph Smith's First Vision was another vision that prepared the way. The  following quote is the 1832 recital of the First Vision as dictated by Joseph Smith to Frederick G. Williams. (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith by Dean C. Jessee (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1984), 5;
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"For I looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their majesty through the heavens and also the Stars Shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in majesty and in the Strength of beauty and my heart exclaimed all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent being. I also pondered the situation of the world of mankind the contentions and divisions the wickedness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind."
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 Below are some photos that I took today on September 19, 2013 The top two photos are of the planet Venus. The bottom two are of the Harvest Moon as it was rising in the East. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox, which marks the beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere. This year, the equinox falls on Sunday (Sept. 22), and the moon reaches its full phase in North America overnight from Wednesday to Thursday (Sept. 18-19). This full moon is called the Harvest Moon because many fruitsand vegetables tend to ripen in the late summer and early fall in the Northern Hemisphere

 

Here are a few more photos that I took last week. I took my daughters on Labor Day to the zoo. Out of all the creatures to see, I enjoyed seeing the birds. Truly birds are beautiful creatures that we should envy.


 
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

201: REGIONAL CONFERENCE for 116 STAKES in Salt Lake

Last Sunday on September 15, I took my family down to the Conference Center for our Regional Conference. It was special Regional Conference for 116 stakes that live in the heart of the Salt Lake Valley. (See footnote at bottom of post)  Elder Russell M Nelson presided and spoke in the meeting. I wanted to share much of what he said on this blog post. As many of you might be aware, Elder Nelson presides over the Strengthening the Members Committee, as well as a member of the Council on the Dispensation of Tithes. His wife just recently published a book that has been gaining much attention and promoted to be used in Family Home Evenings.

He began his talk by telling the congregation of the importance of their financial contributions for the building up of the Church throughout the world. He said, that those of us who live in the Salt Lake Valley are the "heart" of the Church and much of the burden falls on us to sustain the growth worldwide.

 “Each one of you is an important part of the Church , I love a good strong heart. A heart works better if each muscle fiber works in sync with the others. I also know that if they don’t work in unity that the heart will stop pumping. A large heart is needed to support a large body. And the body of this church gets larger every day.... At this moment, there are 3,033 stakes in the church. Three more are being created today. As the Church continues to grow, it will bless the lives of more people around the world. So a larger heart and greater resources will be needed. From where do those resources come? It comes from you… the faithful tithe paying members in the heart of the Church. You dear members bear much of the burden of the growth. President Packer and I are members of the Council on the Dispensation of the Tithes. We can assure you that those resources are carefully budgeted and appropriated. As we are all under covenant to obey the Lord’s commandment to go unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, Yes we need to keep the heart of the Church strong in order to keep pace with the growth elsewhere. That means we rescue those among us that are not currently participating as actively as they might. We need their strength and more importantly they need the blessings that will come to them and their families."


He then went on to talk about how his own dear parents were among the many third generation members that had let other interests take a higher priority in their lives. He said that they had lost their anchor. (Sidenote: I will post more about this later) He spoke about his deep concern, even anguish over the eternal welfare of his beloved mother and father. He wanted to teach them about the glorious truths of the gospel. Decades later, he said, they learned the doctrine and became truly converted, and sealed in the temple. He went on to say:

"Yes, loved ones in our own families and neighborhoods in the heart of the Church, are just a precious in the sight of the Lord, as those who live far away. Missionary work in the Lord’s Kingdom is a rescue effort. We love to bring people back to their previous covenants just as we love to bring them to their first covenants. We do that best with caring love. Caring love means loving care. Genuine care for their eternal welfare. They need to be nourished by the good word of God. That good word is spelled. D.O.C.T.R.I.N.E. "

"May I focus a little of the word doctrine. In the church do we use it as a singular noun or as plural noun? Scriptures refers to the Doctrine of Christ and the Doctrine of God. We also hear references to important doctrines, plural, of the Church such as tithing, chastity, the atonement, the Word of Wisdom, caring for the needy and more. One day, I wanted to find out just how many doctrines there really are. So I searched the scriptures. This is what I found."

"Whenever a scripture refers to the Doctrine of God, or the Doctrine of Christ, the word Doctrine was used in its singular form. In contrast, when a scripture used the word in its plural form, doctrines, it was used in its negative connotation, such as doctrines of men, the doctrines of devils, or diverse and strange doctrines. Now I wouldn’t want anyone to be overly concerned or offended for a word, but this information has given me a new appreciation for the power of the singular form of the word doctrine.. as in Doctrine and Covenants."


Elder Nelson then compared what he referred to as the Doctrine of God or the Doctrine of Christ to a diamond with many facets.  He explains that there is 9 definable facets or doctrine, which is the same  9 topics to be taught each month in the new Youth Curriculum.

He said, "We employ the knowledge that the list to be memorized and for its components to be understood and taught. Then we can teach them to relatives, friends and neighbors who would like to know more about the true Doctrine. Real and expensive diamonds may have many more than nine facets, but my leaner model might be more affordable."

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He then went on to outline each of the nine facets of this "leaner model diamond that is affordable".
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Facet 1: Godhead: Three separate personages comprise the Godhead. God the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost, They are separate and distinct beings.

Facet 2: Plan of Salvation:  In the premortal existence, Heavenly Father introduced a plan to enable us to become like Him and obtain immortality and eternal life. The scriptures refer to this plan as the plan of salvation, the great plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, and the plan of mercy. The plan includes the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection, the Final Judgment, and all God-given laws, ordinances, doctrine, and commandments.

Facet 3: Atonement of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ was the only one capable of making a perfect Atonement. His Atonement included His suffering for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane, His death on the cross, and His Resurrection from the tomb.

Facet 4: Dispensation, Apostasy, and Restoration. All of the previous dispensations were limited in two ways. They were limited in time, because each ended in apostasy. They were limited in location to a small segment of planet earth. In contrast, this last dispensation, the dispensation of the Fullness of Times will not be limited in time or place. It will not end in apostasy, and it will fill the entire earth. The Church has been restored to accomplish three major objectives. To gather scattered Israel, to seal the families of gathered Israel in the Holy Temples, and help prepare the people of the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.

 Facet 5: Prophets and Revelation: A prophet is one who is called of God to speak for Him. Throughout history, prophets have testified of Jesus Christ and have taught His gospel. Through prophets, revelation is communicated through God to his children. And where the entire Church revelation comes from through his prophets and apostles. For each worthy member, revelation comes from the Holy Ghost for one’s personal guidance and blessing. Sacred scripture are priceless revelation to previous prophets. President Packer and I and others have seen portions of the original manuscript of the book of Mormon. Rare are the marks of editorial correction. This amazing Book is a record of revelation as the words flowed from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith to his scribes. And we know that present and future revelation will come according to the will of God and the needs of His children.

 Facet 6: Priesthood and Priesthood Keys. Priesthood is the authority and the power that God has granted to men on earth to act for Him. Adam held the Priesthood, which is without beginning or end. Keys are given to bearers of the Priesthood to direct the work of God’s Kingdom on Earth. There are two orders to the Priesthood, the Aaronic and the Melchizedek, each with specific offices and quorums. The Priesthood and its’ keys were restored by heavenly messengers specifically John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, Moses, Elias, Elijah, and Moroni. The Priesthood was restored so that ordinances of salvation and exaltation could be performed by proper authority. And the priesthood was restored to provide blessings to all of God’s sons and daughters along their challenging journey in mortality.

 Facet 7: Ordinances and Covenants: An ordinance is a sacred, formal act of spiritual significance. Ordinances are accompanied by covenants. A covenant is sacred agreement or promise between God and a person. Ordinances and covenants of salvation pertain to an individual such a baptism, sacrament. Ordinances and covenants of exaltation pertain to families such as sealings in the temple.

Facet 8: Marriage and Family: Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the family is central to His plan of salvation and to happiness. The highest responsibility of a man who bears the priesthood is to love and care for his wife. Brethren on each day that God’s lends you breath, with that breath tell your dear wife that you love her. She is most precious to you here and here after. God’s glory of eternal life allows for the (continuation) of the family throughout all eternity. That is why we have temples. So that families can truly be together forever.

 Facet 9: Commandments : Commandments are given from God to man to protect and to bless his children. We show our love of God by obeying his commandments. We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to have Christlike love for others. The ten commandments have never been rescinded. They are still in force today. Other commandments include fasting, praying, tithing, observance of the Sabbath day. Keeping the Word of Wisdom. The Law of Chastity.. and more. Such as caring for those in need. We are invited, even commanded, to emulate the example of the Savior in all that we think, and do.

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 He closed by apologizing to the congregation and then closed with his testimony. He said,

"Dear Brothers and Sisters those are nine facets of our diamond of Doctrine. No doubt you can think of others. I apologize if you feel that I have given you a heavy load of doctrine this morning. But the truth, if you know the doctrine and live by it, your load in life will be much lighter and easier. You won’t have the burden of guilt to way you down. You won’t be bothered by decision that could have been made once well in advance. Yoked with the Lord you will have faith needed to endure whatever challenges you face in life.

 What are my hopes for you, members of 116 stakes. I hope you will love the Lord, and yoke yourselves to him. Be one of his true disciples. Accept his sweet invitation, Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. And ye will find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. I hope you will learn of the Lord and learn of his doctrine. You learn best by teaching it. Teach your families, your friends. We invite you on occasion to meet with the missionaries, teach the doctrine as your rescue your loved ones. As you do so, my loving prayers will be with you. 

God lives, Jesus is the Christ, this is His church that he directs through his prophets and apostles. President Thomas S Monson is His senior and presiding Apostle on the Earth today. This testimony I leave with an expression of gratitude and love for each of you in the sacred of Jesus Christ. Amen."


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 Footnote: I find the number 116 to be quite symbolic. When I think of the number 116 , I associate that with being lost.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

200: REPENT



Tomorrow, starting at sundown, begins the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. It is Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement.  It is very unusual for it to be this early in the year. This is the year in the 19th year cycle that the High Holy Days are as early as can be.  These fall Holy days usually occur closer to the Fall Equinox.

The Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashanah, began at sundown last Thursday on Sept. 4. Yom Kippur starts at sundown Friday, Sept. 13 and ends at sundown Sept. 14. These two dates are extremely important. They mark a 10-day period when the Book of Life is opened. It is an opportunity to change a course correction. A time to acknowledge weaknesses and mistakes. It is a time to make things right. It is a time to repent. It is a time to return to the Lord. It is a time to prepare, an opportunity to have your name written in the Book of Life. It is an invitation to meet the Groom prior to the symbolic Wedding Feast.
 
How symbolic would it be if during this 10 day window of a time to repent, a critical decision was made that was contrary to returning back to the Lord. A lost opportunity to acknowledge weaknesses and mistakes. The opportunity to course correct, and admission of past failures and wrong doing. Unfortunately due to pride, arrogance and fear, we choose to rely on the arm of flesh, and remain in sin.


Here is a past blog post entitled: Wo, wo, wo

Nephi spoke of the "Zion" of our time and said: "Wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost." (2 Ne. 28: 26.)

Now having one "wo" pronounced upon a people is a warning of condemnation in this life. Their ways do not prosper and they suffer setbacks because they listen to the precepts of men. They fall back. More concerning is when three "wo's" are pronounced upon a people. The connotation being a condemnation which will last beyond this life and into eternity. So I take the following statement with some considerable seriousness:

"[T]hey have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men. O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell." (2 Ne. 28: 14-15.) Three "wo's" pronounced and three names of God used to make that warning. False doctrines and whoredoms are an equivalent in this passage. That is, you are "whoring" after other false gods, and betraying the true Lord God Almighty, when you preach false doctrines which assure you, in your pride, that you are safe, elect, chosen and better than others. Such teachers are condemned three-fold.

What an interesting problem we have in front of us. No-one can trust in any man or men. All of us are required to hear God's voice, and follow Him.

Monday, September 9, 2013

199: THE TRUTH IS NEVER APOSTASY


Can the Truth ever be considered Apostasy?

No. Truth is truth and any deviation from that truth is apostasy.

I received an interesting email yesterday from one of my friends.   He shared with me that his Sunday School teacher defined apostasy as, and I quote, "Apostasy is the act of choosing not to follow the counsel of the prophets and priesthood lines of authority."

However, past centuries have always defined the word apostasy as the "abandonment or neglect of Truth, or God's word,"  There is a constant battle for us to distinguish between what we as mortal men consider to be "true" and what is Divine Truth.  We error and fall into apostasy as the result of ignorance, a lack of doctrine, adding to and or deliberately adopting some views in history that is not correct. But most importantly, we fall into apostasy when we lose our connection with heaven and we rely upon the precepts of man.

In this world, We are either gathering and gaining more light, or losing light.  Gaining and receiving light is restorative, losing light is apostasy. The devotion to a leader, or to an Institution rather than devotion to God and learning via heaven would be considered apostasy.

Here are a few excerpt from a blog post entitled, "The Trick to Apostasy"

"The trick to successfully pulling off an apostasy is to distract people into thinking there hasn't been one. The "believers" need to think everything remains intact.

So the issue of "apostasy" becomes a discussion about individuals and individual conformity to the expectations of the group. The subject can then be a topic that polite, fellow-believers can discuss without ever searching into the overall condition of a fallen people.

The Jews mocked efforts to tell them they were apostate. They thought it was humorous when Lehi preached the idea. Because they were so very religious, so devout, so unassailably active in following God, the idea was absolutely laughable that they were apostate.

To pull this off Satan must be concerned with the "macro" institutional failure, not just individuals falling away. It is the small, minor spirits who follow Lucifer who engage in petty tempting of individuals to sin. Success for the Adversary is not accomplished in petty enterprises. He wants failure for the whole, so none can be saved. For that, apostasy must be universal.

He has never succeeded by admitting there has been a failure. The trick is always to have the apostasy come unnoticed, unacknowledged and from within.

The topic is worth studying. When apostasy is noticed, acknowledged and exposed, then it is possible to repent and return. Until then, it progresses apace, discarding and rejecting what might have been given. All the while being happily ignored by "believers" whose devotion will not save.

Since Christ predicted that at some point the latter-day gentiles would reject the fullness,  we probably should consider what the Book of Mormon has to say about the subject.

To finish the thought about the "trick to apostasy" the D&C has a remarkable statement. Lucifer succeeds when he manages to get us NOT to reject ordinances, but to change them. As soon as they are changed, they are broken.  That is an important step. Because then religious people can continue to claim they follow a true religion, while practicing one that has been broken. These practitioners become like the ancient Jews, who mocked Lehi because they knew they were still righteous. They knew Lehi was foolish, even fraudulent. They still had the truth, the ordinances, the temple, and the priesthood. Lehi was just a mistaken crank."

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To avoid apostasy we need to communicate with heaven. The heavens want to communicate with us, but so few can hear, so few pay attention, so few understand the language. Too few look up in the heavens any more. Instead, too many seem to be "looking down".. mostly at their electronic devices for the latest text message, the latest email response, or the latest blog post. 

"There is so much to be seen, so much to take notice of with all these goings on, and so few that will actually be paying attention." Quoting from a friends email that I received this morning.

We don't need to go far to see the wonders in the skies. While it is preferable get out from the city the lights to see the wonders in the heavens... you only need to walk outside your own front door. Here are 3 photographs that I took yesterday from my house. In case you didn't see it, there was a beautiful crescent moon last night that was aligned with the planet Venus. This "morning/evening star" was as close to the moon as I have ever seen it. These two heavenly spheres were for a brief moment.. side by side.
 
 
Photographed at 8:00 PM on Sunday, September 8, 2013
 


 Despite the incredible storms that occurred over the weekend, starting on Friday. There were moments  that the peaks of the mountains could be seen through the storm.
 
Photographed as the rain storm was starting to clear up at around 2:00 PM on Sunday, September 9, 2013
 



Sunset at around 7:30 PM on Sunday, September 9, 2013





Friday, September 6, 2013

198: HERE I STAND. I CAN DO NO OTHER. (continuation from the post 197)






 Martin Luther said, “I would never had thought that such a storm would rise Rome over one simple scrap of paper." Luther never intended for his 95 Theses to create the tumult they did. But in Rome, the headquarters of the Catholic Church, they caused outrage and horror, not just because they criticized the pope, but also because they were massively popular. 

What Luther had wrote touched people for several reasons. He questioned,  What is salvation? What do people have to do to be saved? And it’s that combination, in a time when people were really resenting the way in which the Church was taking advantage of that desire to be saved, all that came together and made these something that people talked about.

But the Church had a name for people who spoke like this outside the hierarchy. It was heresy and they were apostate. And heresy called for a swift response. The first victims were Luther’s books. And the next would be Luther himself. The ultimate punishment for a heretic was that they could be cut off from the Church.. and handed over to lay justice, which would sentence them to death.. in a rather hypocritical phrase that they used, “without the shedding of blood,” which usually meant burning or drowning.

 Only 100 years before, a man named Huss had criticized the Church for much the same reason as Luther. Huss was promised a safe hearing, only to then be roasted alive. The papacy can crush, there’s no two ways about it. It’s an amazingly efficient machine for detecting discontent and "error" through the Inquisition and through the elimination of individuals.

For Martin Luther, the mounting fury of the Church would inspire not doubt and fear, but an extraordinary courage.. that would only grow stronger with every attack he faced.  Luther squared up to the Church with a style of opposition it had never encountered before. He was utterly dismissive of its threats. The pope demanded that Luther disown the 95 Theses. Luther refused. The pope sent a cardinal to interrogate him. Luther was unimpressed. And then Luther was charged with heresy. Luther replied. “I demand they show me absolutely, not respectively, distinctly and not confusedly, certainly and not probably, just what is heretical."

 I think the difficulty that Church faced was this: the more it tried to silence Luther, the greater Luther became convinced that he had a vocation which needed to be seen through. Quote: “I desired to believe freely, and to be a slave to the authority of no one, whether council, university, or pope. And I was bound not only to assert the truth, but to defend it with my blood and death.”

 In Rome, Luther’s writings were causing mounting fury, Pope Leo X now turned to the mightiest weapon in his arsenal: excommunication. With this, Leo could condemn Luther to an eternity of hell in the next world and make him an outcast in this. To the average Christian, papal excommunication meant that if you died without being reconciled to the Church, you spent eternity in hellish torment.

Luther was discovering that he had a new and powerful weapon on his side. For movements to spread, their ideas need to spread, and for Luther, it was providential that a means of disseminating these ideas had suddenly become available through the printing press. In our own day and age, we’re very award of how much things have been changed by the Internet. What the internet is to our day, printing was to Luther’s day. It meant that ideas could travel. They could not be stopped.

Luther had watched as the printers had spread his 95 Theses across Germany. And he had realized that their presses could offer him a vast new audience. Martin Luther is said to have been the first propagandist, the first person to really exploit this new medium. He perceived that he could gain an audience that was far larger than he could have done without it. Luther penned and  wrote that not just the clergy, but every Christian, had a stake in their church.  Ordinary people, ordinary Christians – not just the priests – , have a God-given role to play in the running of the Church.

It was proposed that Luther should be allowed to argue his case before Charles, the Holy Roman Emperor, himself at his next parliament in the German city of Worms. It was a crucial moment. Luther was given the chance to present his case at one of the most influential gatherings in Europe. Luther states, “I was not trying to gain praise and fame with my writings and little books, for almost everyone I knew condemned my harsh and stinging tone. But I thought that, even if the present age condemned me, maybe the judgment of future generations would be better."

 And all the while, Luther’s writings were gathering an ever-larger audience. He wrote very well. In fact, he wrote very wittily. In fact, he wrote very rudely, and many people found themselves fascinated by this man who would use such crude language when arguing with the pope and with the Church. He’s very, very savvy. He’s grown up from a very young age amongst books and writings and bookishness, and he’s terrifically good at instinctively sensing what will work for whom. He is an incredible writer. He uses earthy, ordinary language. He’s just fun to read out loud. He’s sarcastic, he’s witty, he’s profound. He is a great comforter. If you get attacked by Luther, you’re just torn up one side and down the other. Printed along with Luther’s texts, for those who could not read were visual parallels.

  In the winter of 1520, Luther finally received the bull of excommunication from Rome. But is was already too late. With his words, Luther had unleashed a hurricane. You could say that these works are a revolutionary manifesto, to Luther the power of the pope now meant nothing. He hurled the bull of excommunication into a bonfire. Because you have corrupted God’s truth, may God destroy you in this fire. I am not afraid, and I rejoice to suffer in so noble a cause. In burning the bull of excommunication, he is in fact saying, “I will not give in. I am right you are wrong. Come and get me. 

Luther now braces himself for one final showdown with the powers of the Holy Roman Empire at the final counsel. Luther’s appearance before the powerful elite would stand as the pinnacle of this life.  

He was shown a pile of his books and asked if they were all his. Indeed, all the books are mine, and I have written more, if you want to read them. He would refuse to recant in terms both clear and simple. I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have all contradicted each other. My conscience is captive only to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything. For to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe. Luther tells us that Luther closed his address with one of history’s greatest declarations of exhausted defiance. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.

 Luther’s statement really marks the dawn of a new era, the era of the ordinary person standing up against authority. I am sorry but this is what I believe, My conscious tells me this. I cannot do anything else. That I think, is a defining moment.

These were the first steps of what would be called the Reformation. Luther simply taught, preached and wrote God’s word. He told others that they should be concerning themselves only with their souls and God.

197: THE RELUCTANT REVOLUTIONARY

A few days ago, my wife and I watched a documentary entitled “The Reluctant Revolutionary”. I wanted to share some thoughts about it. I found that it contained many types and shadows as well as incredible symbolism. Most of what I will share on this post is transcribed directly from the documentary.

In the documentary, it describes the world in confusion and darkness, however, there was one great consolation. a Church with a promise of heaven. This promise had made the Church the most powerful institution on earth. However, This empire would be brought into question by one man. This man who would stand up for his convictions, which would challenge this world-wide universal Church. This documentary chronicles the life of this man, a reluctant revolutionary.

He came from a city where the Church reigned supreme. The Church was the “only game in town”. It was the only major story that was allowed to be told and it was told systematically, and it was embedded into the culture and lifestyle of the people.

It’s churches lay scattered across the country. The Church’s power lay in the one great comfort it promised: If you followed its rules and performed its rituals, you would escape the horrors of this worlds and find eternal happiness in heaven. But the Church exerted as much control over life on earth as it did in heaven. It’s rules and laws permeated every aspect of daily life.

Like so many around him, this man embraced the Church. He served in the Church, even sang in the choir. The man was well educated and studied to become a lawyer. He was sent to the best schools in the area and received a Masters degree. At age 23, he was returning home after a visit with family members, when suddenly he was caught in a massive thunderstorm. No one knows exactly what happened to him that night, but it struck him to his very soul. Suddenly surrounded by the terror and agony of death, he felt constrained to vow himself to God. He struck a bargain with God. He turned his life over to God.

Two weeks after the night in the forest, he became a monk. But much to his surprise, this man’s new home was as much as business as a spiritual retreat. The abbot was running a thriving trade in dyeing cloth. In addition, the monks had a brewery, distilling a rather popular beer. While the monastery owned land across the neighborhood, making a tidy income off of rent and tithes. In addition to its multiple businesses, the Church had the power to levy tithes. And people, on the whole, were willing to pay those tithes, because they were taught so firmly, right from their earliest childhood, that if they did not have the services of the Church, their souls would be in peril.

This profiteering of the Church would ultimately outrage and disgust this man. But for now, he was concerned only with his soul. He was increasingly concerned that he might never please God., that he would never make it to heaven. The greater sense of his despair, the more this man threw himself into the rituals of the Church. He dearly cared about being reconciled to the Heavenly Father and doing what God willed him to do. For five years, this man labored without relief. In 1510, he was sent on a mission to Rome, one of the Church’s greatest pilgrimages. Rome was the capital of the Church, and indeed, from the Western perspective , it is the capital of Christendom.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims flocked to Rome every year, all hoping the journey would bring them closer to God. This man arrived in Rome just as the Renaissance was reaching its height. Michelangelo was painting the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel. Raphael was hard at work decorating the pope’s private apartments. To the young monk, the Roman (the Eternal City) was a revelation. When he first approached Rome and entered into the city, he seems to have been absolutely overwhelmed by the idea that here he was in the Holy City. But soon the gloss to wore off.

Among the palaces and great churches, this man would now discover a very earthly institution. For this city was a much about money as religion. The Church as an institution for gathering in cash was really kind of a huge sink for brining in money from throughout the world. The Church may have taught that money is at the root of all evil, and to lend it at interest, for example, is a mortal sin. But in reality, of course, the Church dealt in millions.

This man had entered in the headquarters of a world wide corporation. Supported on the profits of their many businesses and on the donations of the faithful. The most important thing to remember about the Church is that it has been, for a few hundreds of years already, it has been basically a state, a state with all the characteristics of a state. It has bureaucracy, it has palaces, it has magnificent buildings, shopping complexes and commerce. It has everything that a great Renaissance prince has.

The kind of people who floated to the top in the Church tended to be people who would be pretty rough-cut businessman. And the need to have these sort of powerful managers and politicians explains why the Church was a spiritual place full of a lot of unspiritual people. The disappointment in Church was absolutely devastating to this man.

One of the biggest money makers for the church was the selling what was called “indulgences, which for a fee released you from time in purgatory after death. The chance to buy time off from purgatory was an extremely attractive offer for the faithful. And very profitable for the Church. But as the man trekked from one pilgrimage site to another, desperate to find salvation, he was overtaken by a steadily mounting fear; could all this really bring him closer to God? Until finally, it is said that this man collapsed, questioning for the first time the teachings of the Church for which he had vowed his life. “Who knows if it is really so?”

This man was clearly very disillusioned by the Church in Rome, not simply by the spiritual superficiality, but also by the way in which he felt that Rome simply did not reflect Christianity as he understood it. His trip to Rome had brought only disillusionment and doubt. And life in the monastery now offered even less consolation that before. There is something about himself who felt that he never can quite do it, and yet he has to do it. He threw himself into the scriptures, studying not only the standard Latin texts of the Church but also reading them in new Greek and Hebrew editions. And as he pondered, noted and reasoned his way through his faith, this man was struck by a building revelation, a revelation that questioned everything he has been taught about his church. This man had been brought up to believe that the person who was saved is the person who went out and achieve salvation. He now began to realize that to receive salvation, you simply put out your empty, open hands and received this gift which God wanted you to receive. So what this man is saying is that you don’t need the intercession of priests, you don’t need these great papal ceremonies to get to heaven. This whole thing is not about you and the Church – it’s about you and God. It was a revolutionary moment.

For his whole life, this man believed that is was through the rituals of the Church that he would achieve salvation. But now he realized that salvation could only take place directly between God and the individual. No earthly institution could believe for you, atone for you, or stand between you and your God. He states “At this, I felt myself to have been born again and to have entered through open gates into heaven already.”

Seven years had passed since his visit to Rome. In that time, the previous Pope had died. He was succeed by a new pope, and this pope was a man devoted to the pleasures of the world. Within two years, this new pople had emptied the papal treasuries. He was forced to halt work on the Church’s greatest extravagance yet, the glorious basilica of St. Peter’s. One of the greatest building projects in European history, and all the great artists, sculptors and architects of the Italian Renaissance, without exception took part in this expansion. It just sucked in money, as building projects do suck in money.

To refill his treasuries, he turned to one of the Church’s most proven methods for raising money, charging the faithful for entry into heaven. This indulgence was basically a piece of paper sold for a very appropriate sum of money, incidentally adjusted to your means, which promised to pay the bearer on demand forgiveness of sins. You could buy one not just for yourself but also for your dead relatives. Here was salvation in exchanged for a sum. The new pope brought in a marvelous advertising executive named called Johann Tetzel who was gifted in promotional jingles and slogans. He almost invented the advertising jingle. He would say, “When the coin in His coffer rings, then the soul heavenward wings.”

The new pope waited for his empty coffers to fill with the donations of the faithful. But for the man, his moment of revelation had left him with one simple message. “Salvation was a gift from God, a gift received through faith. “ and that meant that Church had no right to sell redemption. The assurance given to the church members that they are saved because of their piece of paper, he thought was totally an illusion… and that they’re likely to be damned as a result of this. So for him, this is a very serious matter. He’s angry, because this really counts. Peoples’ lives are at stake. If they get this wrong, they can go to hell. This monk who had once been the Church’s most devoted servant, now turned on the institution to which he had vowed his life.

This man, this reluctant revolutionary, we all know come to know as Martin Luther.

On the evening of the 31st of October, 1517 Luther sat down and penned a furious litany of criticism – 95 stinging bullet points, or theses that lashed into the pope and the trade in indulgences. Then he nailed them to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church. It was a blistering attack on the greatest power of the day.

There is still much discussion of how much trouble Luther actually wanted to cause, since it was standard practice to pin texts for academic discussion to the church door. They weren’t intended to be published. They’re in Latin, They’re technical. They are difficult to understand in places. But at the same time, it’s hard not to think that he had at least the threat of going public in his mind. In the end, other people did it for him.

Luther was about to become one of the first widely read authors in history. Less than 70 years before, another German, Gutenberg, had perfected the world’s first printing press. Already printers were running off countless books and pamphlets. And now Luther’s outspoken work was copied down and set for printing.

The Theses would spread like wildfire across the country setting Luther and all Europe on a path no one could have anticipated. Luther really didn’t anticipate the consternation that this would arouse at the very highest level. But it was not for nothing that the Catholic Church had held power for over a thousand years. It had a name for people like Luther. They were apostate. (heretics). And the penalty for heresy was death. The stage had been set for the Church’s greatest conflict in its history. A battle between the most powerful institution on earth and one solitary monk. 

To be continued…