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Friday, June 27, 2014

268: 170 YEARS AGO TODAY


One hundred and seventy years ago today, the Prophet Joseph Smith at the age of thirty-eight, and his brother Hyrum Smith (age forty-four) were both shot while confined at Carthage Jail just 20 miles away from the unfinished Nauvoo Temple. I just returned from visiting all of these sacred sites starting in Independence Missouri and ending on the banks of the Mississippi. In the next few posts, I hope to share some of my thoughts and photos as well as share my love and appreciation to these two brothers, men of God, and best friends.

 
Photo taken on the Summer Solstice on June 21, 2014

Here are just a couple of thoughts on the Nauvoo Temple:

On January 19, 1841, Joseph Smith recorded a revelation from the Lord commanding the Saints to “build a house to my name.” (D&C 124:27.) The Lord stated "the fulness of the priesthood" had been "lost unto you, or which [The Lord] hath taken away." (D&C 124:28) To "restore" it the Lord needed to personally come to a Temple that He was required to be built within a limited time frame.

William Weeks was appointed architect and superintendent of the temple construction. He was guided by the Prophet Joseph Smith,who said: “I have seen in vision the splendid appearance of that building illuminated, and will have it built according to the pattern shown me.” (History of the Church 6:196-97).

photo taken on June 2, 2014

On April 6, 1841 the foundation stones were set and a cornerstone ceremony was held. 

By November 1841, the basement rooms were enclosed. A temporary wooden font resting on twelve wooden oxen was used for baptisms. Baptisms for the dead were conducted in this temporary structure starting on November 21, 1841. By October 30, 1842, the temple walls were four feet high and a temporary floor was put on the main story. About 3,000 people gathered for the first official meeting held in the temple. 

In the time between January 1841 and the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in June 1844, the Nauvoo Temple was not completed. The walls were only complete to the second floor.. During July, 1844, the Saints again committed themselves to completing the sacred building. However, an obvious structural change was made. It is called the "Martyr Line". Different sized bricks were used after the death of Joseph Smith. Instead of the standard sized, smaller brick that were used when the Prophet was alive, larger bricks were used to complete the walls faster. (It has been my experience as a kid when building blocks that it is not wise to stack larger bricks on top of smaller ones)

As we know the Nauvoo Temple build by the early Saints was destroyed. We built and dedicated a replica of Nauvoo Temple in 2002. To keep the building authentic to the original they replicated the "Martyr Line".


 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

267: INTERCESSORY PRAYER

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Intercession is the act of interceding (intervening or mediating) between two parties. In Christian religious usage, the term intercession is usually associated to a prayer to God on behalf of others. Some religions claim that praying for somebody who is sick can have positive effects on the health of the person being prayed for. Adherents of those religions 'believe' that prayer, like forgiveness, has a positive effect on the health and well-being of the person doing the prayer or forgiveness. It is an entreaty in favor of another, especially a prayer or petition to God in behalf of another. Probably the most well known intercessory prayers is recorded in John 17 when the Lord is in the Garden of Gethsemane.

In some of my recent studies I came across some commentary on the book of Mormon that records intercessory prayers given by some of the Book of Mormon prophets. Here are some quotes:

Lehi’s inquiry to the Lord was based upon the warnings underway at that time in Jerusalem. Lehi heard “many prophets, prophesying” a warning to Jerusalem it was about to be destroyed. These prophets would, no doubt, have included Jeremiah, who was a contemporary of Lehi’s. Lehi heard and believed these warnings, and was praying on behalf of Jerusalem as an intercessor. .

In the stone altar, we see another symbol of ancient religious practice. From Adam to Abraham to Lehi, building stone altars to petition the Lord was a common religious act. Lehi’s prayer for Jerusalem was such a petition. As Lehi offered his intercessory prayer for wayward and condemned Jerusalem, he stood before the very symbol of the Redeemer’s sacrifice. That stone altar testified of the coming sacrifice which would eventually redeem Jerusalem from her sins.

This description would suggest Lehi was outside the city walls, in a private place, petitioning the Lord. The subject of Lehi’s prayer would drive the need for privacy. Asking for the Lord to forgive and save Jerusalem, to pour out his heart on behalf of these condemned people, would not be something for public display. This private setting would also have been suitable for the Divine manifestation which came to him. One has to wonder if this event occurred, as is so often the case, at a spot which would then acquire later significance. Was it in Gethsemane? Or at Golgotha? Or in a stony spot which would later prove suitable for carving a tomb in which to lay the temporarily deceased Messiah? Or the place on Mt. Olivet where the Risen Lord would ascend to heaven? We cannot know the exact spot except by revelation. We should not be surprised to learn Lehi’s stone where a pillar of fire rested would later become the very spot where another sacrifice and another pillar of fire also rested. As the final events unfold, there will yet be another pillar to rest there.

We see this example of giving intercessory prayer by Nephi as well. Although his brothers rejected his testimony and were disbelieving, he continued to pray to God for mercy toward them. Nephi moves from his concern for "the welfare of his own soul" to the welfare of others. His concerns are selfless, sacrificial and intercessory. He has become a man of charity and full of love for others. These whom he calls his "beloved brethren" and his "people" are, in fact, those who will destroy and supplant his own descendants. Charity is the end result of this consecrated life.

My family recently saw the play Les Miserables. It contains a beautiful intercessory prayer that is sung by Valjean. Here are a few of the words:

God on high, Hear my prayer. In my need, You have always been there
Bring him home, Bring him home, Bring him home.
You can take, You can give. Let him be, Let him live
If I die, let me die, Let him live
Bring him home, Bring him home, Bring him home



 And another beautifully sung song of an prayer given to bless another:




Some wise counsel given to us from a friend of mine:

"We must make intercession on behalf of others, even our enemies, if we are to have a hope in Christ. We must lay down the burden of sin to enter into His presence. Much of that "sin" in each of our lives has been the offenses against us, and the resentment and anger we hold from these abuses. There are people who have done you wrong. There are some who did so intentionally. When you forgive them, and plead on their behalf for the Lord to also forgive them in sincerity and love, you are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. Your Lord did this. You must do as He did to be like Him. It is the only way to understand your Lord. In this, you must suffer as He did, choosing to forgive offenses rather than to seek justice. When you show mercy, you merit mercy. The beginning of repentance is found in forgiving others. "

Intercession for your fellow man, including those who give offense to you, is one of the hallmarks of the saved soul. This is who Abraham was, and why he became a friend of God. . No one wants to comply with the rule. The higher way is, however, found in following the rule. It should be an absolute sacrifice, and a painful one at that, for the exception to be applied in your life. If an inspired condemnation is required at your hand and by your voice, then immediately afterwards you should make intercession with the Lord for those condemned. That is the way of those who know the Lord. Those who have been forgiven much—including those who have been forgiven everything—always love much in return."

Thursday, June 12, 2014

266: STAND FAST WITHOUT FEAR IN FACING THE ONCOMING WAVE

In a dream I saw myself in the middle of the ocean at night. The water and waves were black as tar. I wasn't on a ship, necessarily,.. but I WAS the ship trying to navigate through the waves and the black ocean water. I felt a sense of uneasiness and through the light from the moon I could see a HUGE massive wave approaching.





I knew that I didn't have alot of time, and I knew that the wave had the power to destroy and or capsize any ship in it's path. The only way I knew that I would be able to survive the oncoming wave was to face the wave straight on... without deviation and without fear despite the fact that the wave was visibly more powerful and bigger than I was. I knew that if I was off just one degree to the left or to the right, I would not be able to withstand the power and force of wave... but instead be tossed over and capsize.

When the wave was directly on top of me, I desperately navigated to be perfectly perpendicular to the wave to face it head on. In doing so, the bow of my ship pierced the wave, cutting and splitting the wave in half allowing my ship to stand fast and not being overtaken. 

For a brief minute as the wave passed over.. I was completely helpless and at the mercy of the Lord after all I could do. I had to surrender and allow whatever was to happen, to happen. As this huge wave passed over, I was relieved to find myself still afloat....however, I was surprised to see more giant waves in the distance that I still needed to navigate through.


The following advice was recently given at lecture about courage:

"Live this life nobly, fearlessly. When you take the wounds that come your way make sure that they come to your front! Don't let them shoot you in the back. Go about your life boldly, nobly, valiantly. Because it is only through valiance in the testimony of Jesus Christ that you can hope to secure anything. Not valiance in your fidelity to anything other than Jesus Christ. The fact of the matter is that faith must be based in Him, and in Him alone.

We are on this earth to learn about the power of godliness. This place, this terrible fallen world, this glorious opportunity in which sacrifice is actually possible. You don't avoid it, and you don't necessarily seek it out. But when it comes upon you, you face it down bravely. You stand where God places you.  And it's time now we stop running away from the conflict. It's time for us to be valiant once again. Do not be fearful. Cowardice and fear are the opposite of faith."


May we all be brave in the coming days, and standup for truth despite the consequences.
May we all be faithful and valiant once again.



Personal Sidenote:  About five years ago I became friends with a Salt Lake Police officer. We shared a common love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We exchanged books, and talked with each other about what we were learning. We would met for lunch and had him over to our home. One time, I saw him downtown Salt Lake helping a couple with a small child. He gave them a few bags of clothes that he had brought from home. He wanted to change the perception of the stereotypical police officer. He truly loves people and wants to serve the less fortunate. He stands firm in what he knows is right. A few days ago he was asked to turn in his badge and his gun for asking to be reassigned to a different police assignment instead of participating in a motorcade in the annual Salt Lake City Pride parade. He is currently under heavy fire by the media nationwide. I am grateful for friends who stand up no matter the cost.

We live a in world where right is wrong and wrong is right. Each of us...sooner or later will have to brave and face the consequences by those who have temporary power over this world.

Monday, June 9, 2014

265: RESTORATIONS, REFORMATIONS. AND REMODELINGS.

 
Below is a painting entitled "View of Scheveningen Sands." by the 17th century Dutch master Hendrick van Anthonissen. For the past several months, this masterpiece has been under restoration at a museum at Cambridge University. For centuries, art historians have wondered why there are clusters of people gathered on the beach and on the nearby cliffs in obviously unpleasant winter weather looking at nothing.



It wasn't until the painting under went a restoration that there was something missing from the painting. The true subject of painting slowly emerged after the varnish and heavily daubed overpaint was painstakingly scraped away. The process took months. Not only were the original brilliant colors restored, but the central figure of the painting was uncovered. Of all things.. the discovery was a beached whale. It had been painted over years later by others who thought that the whale was a distraction and an eyesore. Yet to the original painter, it was the main focal point.

Here is the "restored" painting with the whale uncovered. To read more about this recent discovery , here is the link to the news article: ( LINK )


I use this story about this painting to illustrate the difference between three R words
Restoration, Reformation and Remodeling.

  • A Restoration is returning something to the former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition.

  • A Reformation is the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory. It is to change to a better state or improve by alteration, substitution, abolition, etc.

  • A Remodeling is to change or alter the structure, style, or form of something.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ we believe in a restoration of the Church. Yet over time it seems like we have reformed the ancient religion that Joseph tried to restore. Recently it seems that their is a remodeling taking place.


In my opinion there seems to be huge gulf today between what Joseph Smith revealed and the religion that we practice today. Like this painting that covered over the whale, we have discarded, changed, modified, added to, abandoned, ignored, and forgotten much of the original religion of the Restoration. But as we all know, history repeats itself.   I recently read a commentary on specific verses from the Book of Mormon (18 of them to be exact) that included the following observation.

"As the New Testament unfolds, we find just how entirely possible it was to be devoted to the religion, and yet so unenlightened to the truth that people would reject God. This gulf between religious people and their God highlighted Christ’s ministry. Christ’s teachings attempted to bring people back to God by focusing on what was truly important.

 Christ came to end the Mosaic Dispensation and begin new forms of worship. The religious leaders of His day were so steeped in their form of religious observances they viewed Christ as a threat to the order of things. These were not irreligious people. Quite the opposite was true. They were devoted to the faith they practiced. It was their security, their tradition, their identity. Through it, their place in the world was established. The entire Roman Empire knew of the Jews. Their religious peculiarities were well known. Their synagogues were spread from Jerusalem to Antioch, from Alexandria to Rome. Paul’s later missionary efforts would use the local synagogues throughout the Mediterranean as places to preach. The Jewish faith was the seedbed from which Christianity sprouted. The leaders of this faith were justifiably proud of their religion’s successes. However, whatever light may have been possible to gain under this religion, the leaders were so opposed to Christ they conspired to have Him killed. The religion established through a prophet of God became the superstructure used to kill the Lord who first revealed it to Moses. As these devoted followers of Moses’ law were killing Christ, they were satisfied their judgment was more than justified by their religion. Religion and the religious were the ones who opposed the Lord. The sinners and irreligious were His followers.

 At the time of Christ, the Jews were completely devoted to their religion, and yet so unenlightened to the truth that they rejected Christ. There was a gulf between religious people and what they perceived as truth. Christ’s teachings attempted to bring people back to God by focusing on what was truly important. However, the Pharisees and other religious leaders of His day were so steeped in their form of religious observances they viewed Christ as apostate and a threat to their power and authority. These Jewish people were devoted to the faith they practiced. It was their security, their tradition, their identity. Through it, their place in the world was established. The leaders of this faith were justifiably proud of their religion’s successes. Religion and the religious were the ones who opposed the Lord."

Furthermore,

"All religions are prone to drift from what matters most to what matters not at all. Particularly in a hierarchical church, there are always those who confuse the expediency of having a hierarchy with the truths which save. Attention is distracted away from God and enlightenment and onto the hierarchy. God, knowing this great weakness of mankind has caused the slide into darkness among His people in all prior dispensations, warned in revelation about this very issue. He revealed: “Hence many are called, but few are chosen. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—” (D&C 121: 40–42.) Salvation does not come through a hierarchy. It never has. It never will. Salvation comes as individuals are brought to have their hearts changed so they sing with joy the songs of redeeming love. People may help bring others to sing this song. And an enlightened hierarchy may lead others along that path. But it is up to each person to individually choose to have their hearts change. However good or bad leaders or others may be is irrelevant to individual salvation. In any church with an orderly hierarchy, there are those who have sought for a position of authority to prove to themselves they are accepted by God. More often than not they have been dismayed, when their ambition is realized, to find they’ve accomplished nothing. God is just as distant from them as He was before. He is not found in popular acclaim or public recognition. His is the still, small voice which is available to the obscure and the meek. Generally speaking, leadership interferes with, and does not promote, contact with the Holy Spirit."
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Sidenote:  I was sent a recent email that I also wanted to share.


“We have forgotten that it is either all about Him or not at all about Him. We've sought to make Jesus a mere "feature" and not the driving force of our lives. We've remade God and the Gospel into a simple means to selfish ends -- our own wealth and pleasure. Too many have made prayer something we do when we're in trouble, or when we're buying lottery tickets. Fellow Christians are suffering and dying around the world and we fill our minds and mouths with the latest news about people we don't even know.

The modern church is miles wide and inches deep. We try to convince the world that they should accept us because we are like them, not because we have the Answer or because we stand for something greater.”  LINK

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