Tuesday, February 18, 2014

OT #8 Living Righteously in a Wicked World

Gospel Doctrine lesson #8: Living Righteously in a Wicked World

Genesis 13-14; 18-19

My previous 2010 post on this lesson may be found here.  It brings up several ancient documents on Abraham and Melchizedek to help us understand who they are, and the priesthood, better.

Given what I've written at my previous post, I wanted to add only a few key thoughts.

First, it is amazing how the world has drifted further from God in just 4 short years.  As noted, Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed because of the homosexuals living there.  It was destroyed because wicked people were imposing their will upon good people.  They insisted on having Lot's guests, whether they were willing or not.

Today we have questionable laws and requirements being placed upon us in the United States and elsewhere, because the wicked believe their behavior must not only be considered acceptable, but honorable and preferred.  While marriage has struggled for decades due to divorce and infidelity, it is now being replaced by new definitions of marriage.  While abortion has been legal for decades, religious people and organizations are now being forced to financially pay for the "right" to contraceptives and abortifacients. Youthful rebellion against modesty, chastity, and righteousness are now part and parcel of all of society.  Our media cherishes and promotes sexual promiscuity, the cheapening of women as sex toys, and replacing commitment and true love with sex and pleasure.  Society is destroying itself, and they don't seem to notice.

Today's heroes are Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke.  Modern society crowds into its great and spacious building in the air, pointing fingers and mocking the few who eat at the tree of life.

We are to be in the world, but not of the world.  It is now that we as Latter-day saints and other Christians must show ourselves holy, even if it means we are not popular.  We cannot partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life and then shamefully slink away into forbidden paths.  We cannot be like Lot, who placed himself in the path of destruction, and then delayed until the last minute - having angels literally pushing him out the walls of the city.  We cannot drag our feet when it comes time to choose. We cannot have one foot in Zion and one in Babylon.

Our choice is to dwell safely in the wilderness, as did Abraham, building altars and worshiping God as we've been taught.  Then, when the time comes, Melchizedek, the King of Righteousness and Prince of Peace will come to take us to the city of Salem or the city of New Peace (Jerusalem) to go no more out.  But we now must decide just which side of the fence we will be on. There is no more time to sit on the fence, as did Lot.  We cannot have our tent facing towards Sodom, while serving God.

The Lord has called upon us to prepare the world for the last days.  It is our responsibility to begin harvesting the wheat and separating out the tares.  We must choose God all the way, or as with Lot, we will find ourselves standing amidst the devastation of the last days.  It is easy to pretend it will not happen in our day. Yet, whether the end comes via commotions in the world, or our own death at old age, we will eventually meet that point of decision.

I recall as a youth my stake patriarch William Maughan sharing his testimony and special experience with the stake, which I will share here. This was an event that took place about a century ago.  As a young man, he was strong and worked hard. He decided to get a second job, so as to make twice as much money for his young family.

However, one night as he slept, an angel came to him. The angel guided him outside, where the world was all white and light. As he described it, all things were in there place, nothing was out of place. They entered a large building in which was a very large room. In the back, he saw many of his loved ones that had previously died.  Before him were two stands, with a man on each.  The angel told him to choose between Jesus and Satan.  Initially he thought that would be an easy choice. However, as he looked at them, he could not tell them apart.  He feared to make a choice, and collapsed on the floor. He awoke in his bed, so weak he was unable to leave his bed for a week.

He then chose to spend his life getting to know Christ and be a true follower.

For the world today, they have a difficult time distinguishing between Satan and Christ. The devil has wrapped up his lies in pretty packages that can even deceive the elect if they are not careful.  In our effort to not judge or offend, we can be swept up in the things of the world.  We spend our lives doing normal things that do not seem bad: work, play, etc.  However, we do not seek out God, and leave his work to be done by others.  We choose the easier path of Lot into the fertile plains, rather than the tough climb through the highlands like Abraham.  We cannot look back, as did Lot's wife.  We cannot waffle between right and wrong, as did Lot.

As with Abraham and Melchizedek, we must seek diligently the priesthood and its power in the ways God would have us receive them. We must become the true seed of Abraham, willing to sacrifice all on the altar of God.  We must flee to Zion, her stakes, and her temples.  We must flee Sodom while it is still safe to flee it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

OT #7: The Abrahamic Covenant

Gospel Doctrine Old Testament lesson #7: The Abrahamic Covenant

I've written to previous articles on this at these two posts:


On these previous lessons, I discuss some of the ancient stories found outside the scriptures regarding Abraham.

Abraham's Search for the Priesthood

The Book of Abraham gives a very detailed and concise introduction.

 In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my fathers, I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence;
 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.
 It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundation of the earth, down to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers unto me.
 I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.
 My fathers, having turned from their righteousness, and from the holy commandments which the Lord their God had given unto them, unto the worshiping of the gods of the heathen, utterly refused to hearken to my voice (Abr 1:1-5)
 You can read in the above links some of the reasons why Abraham was forced to find another residence.  His battles with Nimrod over who held the true power of God are a key to this.  Whenever a people become very wicked, the righteous are often removed by God and sent to a Promised Land. The whole people, including his fathers had turned from righteousness and towards idol worship. In Abraham's time, Ur of Chaldea was a large city set on the banks of the Euphrates river and on the Persian Gulf as a mighty port (it is now inland). It was a major economic center centuries before Abraham. The Deity of Ur was Sin or Nanna, the Moon.  However, there were many gods worshiped within the walls of the city by the various peoples in the area.

For many, the variety of gods provided a comfortable living.  Abraham's father was one of those known to make idols to sell to the people.  For many, personal wealth guided worship, it seems.

However, Abraham discovered that true happiness came through seeking out the real God. He sought for the "blessings of the [righteous] fathers" (Noah, Melchizedek, etc).

Through faithful and righteous living, he gained many of his desires in his life, however many were left to be fulfilled after his death.

The revelations he received, such as his understanding of Creation and Cosmos that we find in Abraham 3-4, allowed him to teach the Egyptians, who developed intricate math algorithms to build their cities, pyramids, and other magnificent structures.  It seems that being a "father of many nations" is tied to having a greater knowledge of the things of God.  Interestingly, even though Ur was founded 1-2 thousand years before Abraham, he sought what he believed was an even more impressive timeline of priesthood power going back to the first father, Adam.

Right of the Firstborn
With this came the "right of the Firstborn" (Adam).  Abraham saw Adam and Eve as the first children born of God into mortality.  In reaching back to the beginning of time, he stretched forth into the Meridian of Time to the second Adam, where Jesus Christ became the Firstborn of the Father in the flesh, and to the end times when Christ will bring together the Church of the Firstborn: all those who (as with Abraham), have sought the blessings and power of the priesthood and fulness of the gospel, have received through revelation an increased knowledge of the things of God, and through faith and righteousness have gained the power to do all things necessary to return back to God's presence.

For us today, as we seek the rights of the Firstborn, and do so in the correct manner (as many seek to obtain God's power for unrighteous purposes), we become as Abraham and Adam: among those counted as the First born of God.  The firstborn received a bigger portion of the inheritance than did others who were not given this blessing.  For Abraham, this included being the father of many nations, to have innumerable descendants. To rule over more than just a few water holes in the desert, but to rule with God over all things.

As we seek the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, we will also be blessed with being one of the first born, receiving all blessings promised to them and more.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

OT #6: Noah Prepared an Ark to the Saving of His House

Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #6: "Noah Prepared an Ark to the Saving of His House"

You may read my 2010 post on this lesson here.

Sons of God vs Sons of Men

Ancient texts tell us that angels fell from heaven, bringing with them the secrets of heaven to corrupt and use for selfish purposes here on earth. According to scholar Margaret Barker, these fallen angels were once righteous men who were considered divine beings (angels), but then mixed with the sons of men and became animals (mortals). In one sense, Adam went from being a man to an animal when he fell and was cast out of the Garden.  Yet, because of his repentance, he was again saw as an angel or Son of God.

In Noah's world, most of the sons of God escaped by entering into Enoch's city, a cosmic ark, and being translated into heaven. Noah, however, did not have the great power to move mountains as did Enoch. His strength was in preparing the ark so that a remnant of the sons of God could remain on earth after its destruction.

However, even with the children of Noah's sons were problems.  They were starting to go astray, marrying themselves to the sons of men.  These are the same ones whose giants tried to kill Noah, and now were marrying and giving in marriage to those outside of the faith.  Worse, their daughters were marrying those who served and kept secret combinations.
And when these men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, the sons of men saw that those daughters were fair, and they took them wives, even as they chose.
 And the Lord said unto Noah: The daughters of thy sons have sold themselves; for behold mine anger is kindled against the sons of men, for they will not hearken to my voice. (Moses 8:14-15)
Two trees: the tree of life versus the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Two Gods: Jehovah and Lucifer. Two covenants: faith in God or faith in the devil. Two lifestyles: righteous or wicked.

Why would Noah's granddaughters and others reject his teachings and embrace the world? Because they became convinced that it was not wicked.  They could see good things in the world that made them feel special or important. Pretty clothing enticed them, and the inventions of the Watchers (the fallen angels) made life easier and more exciting.  Their period of time was as confusing and challenging as today's world.  Youth today do not think that sex outside marriage is sinful. Sex and violence are ever present in the world today in movies, video games, music, and tweets.  Putting oneself in the center of the universe seems better than losing oneself in service to God and others.  The knowledge of this world makes God's wisdom seem foolish and antiquated. 

Our world has tasted of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil and now are convinced they may be as the Gods knowing good and evil.  Sadly, the fruit of that tree places them in the path of physical and spiritual death, as the concepts learned can easily be corrupted and used for evil and selfish purposes by anyone and everyone.  For the sons of men in Noah's day, their lives caused them to mock and hate Noah the prophet. They refused to enter the ark, and so forfeited their only chance at life, because they thought they were smarter.

Noah's ark becomes a tree of life, filled with animals and birds, food to eat, and with salvation and new life at the end of the Flood. Only those within the ark would survive the ordeal - and it was an ordeal as life is extremely difficult.

After the Flood, the animals moved off the ark and into a new world, representing the presence of God.  It was like stepping through the veil and into the celestial room of a temple, where all was pristine and life was new and fresh.  It was a new Creation, as the ark passed through the Chaos of the waters, its passengers baptized by the giant waves crashing against the little ship. The Chaos dragon was conquered again, as the ark settled down.  A dove returned with an olive branch, showing that the tree of life preceded them to the new Eden.

The Nations

Gerhard Von Rad tells us that the establishment of the 70 Nations by God, each receiving its own divine Lord to rule over it, may seem out of place in a story focused on the Creation of the people of God.  Jehovah would reserve Israel for itself, and yet Israel would not be a people for several more centuries!  This story seems to contradict a second story, wherein the Tower of Babel still has the people gathered together, suggestive of two different writers (Documentary Hypothesis).

At this point, the Lord seems pleased with the re-population of the world through the 70 Nations.  Yet if we are to combine the two stories, we find that with Nimrod, the Nations suddenly seem to gather together to again establish secret combinations.  It is in confounding the languages at the Tower of Babel that God prevents mankind from uniting again in the great violence and evil they once did before the Flood.

And yet, we see that the people of Babel are eager to use their knowledge of construction, war and other talents to  cast God out of heaven.  This is a second attempt at a war in heaven, as Satan tries to use humans as his army to cast down God.

With the Table of Nations, Jehovah has chosen Israel as his own. Yet, as I noted, Israel does not yet exist. The Lord will choose Abram as his only son in beginning a path that would one day flood the earth with the Bible and the story of God's people.


The Tree of Life: The Fragrant Tree, Margaret Barker in The Tree of Life: From Eden to Eternity, ed John Welch and Donald Parry

 Old Testament Theology, vol 1. Gerhard Von Rad.