The Christus

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Entry # 3 - A message of Service

The LDS General Conference has really got me thinking about service. Several stories have been told, and scriptures recited that have related to service. One of these was the story of Ammon in the Book of Mormon. Ammon was one of the most successful missionaries in the Book of Mormon, but it wasn’t because he was a great speaker, or because he caused great miracles, but instead it was because he served others.

In Alma chapter 17 Ammon when among the people of King Lamoni. He was captured and taken to the King. King Lamoni questioned Ammon about what he was doing in the land. Ammon could have said anything: “I am just a traveler” “I got lost” or even “I have come to teach you about the true God”; but instead his reply is rather surprising:

“And the king inquired of Ammon if it were his desire to dwell in the land among the Lamanites, or among his people. And Ammon said unto him: Yea, I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die.”

Ammon declares that he simply wants to be part of the people of Lamoni. He doesn’t come in to say that they should repent, or even tell them to release him. Ammon’s goal here is not to be deceiving or lie. It is the simple truth, he desires to live with them, and that hopefully by some way he can be an example unto them of the true God. And he gets that chance.

King Lamoni makes Ammon a servant over some of the King’s flocks. As time passes the King see that Ammon is a good servant and hard worker. Then a group of robbers comes from the wilderness to steal the some of the king’s flocks. The rest of the king’s servants run and hide as the robbers come upon them, but Ammon stands strong, he contends with the men and is able to drive them out. The other servants are so impressed that they go to the King and tell him the story. The men and the King become convinced that Ammon must be more than a man, maybe even “the Great Spirit”. When Lamoni asks where Ammon is now, the servants respond that he is “feeding the horses”. Lamoni is amazed at the dedicated service of Ammon and Lamoni responds:

“Surely there has not been any servant among all my servants that has been so faithful as this man; for even he doth remember all my commandments to execute them.”

Even after hearing of the heroic acts of Ammon, Lamoni is most impressed with Ammon’s service. Lamoni calls Ammon to him. King Lamoni is in awe in front of Ammon, and even has trouble talking to Ammon. I would say that at this moment Ammon could have asked the King for anything and he would have given it to him, but instead of thinking of his own gain Ammon begins to teach Lamoni the gospel, they become close friends, and many are baptized.

Now, teaching and conversion, is not hardly the only reason to serve people. But the point is that true selfless service can change lives.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Entry #2 - An Easter Message

The main theme of the Book of Mormon is Christ. If I remember the numbers correctly Christ is mentioned about every 1.7 verses throughout the Book of Mormon. His teachings as the God of Israel, his teachings and life on earth, and his teachings after his death and resurrection are all therein. His visit to the Americas after his death and resurrection is beautifully told in 3 Nephi 11, and this is one of the greatest Easter stories that one could read.
However, today I would like to focus on one small verse in chapter 33 of 2 Nephi. It is a verse that, if read in sequence with the verses around it, can be easily missed. It flows so simply and beautifully that it can gracefully pass right through ones attention. It is verse six:

“I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.”

Nephi, knowing that these are some of the last words he will ever write, struggles very diligently to say what is most important to him – and what he feels will most benefit man. Of all the things he could put in this simple list he decides to tell us that he “glories in”: plainness, truth, and Jesus. The question is “Why these three”, and I will give here one reason.

Nephi has worked hard to teach all that he can to those who would read his words, to give them history in the context of the gospel, prophecies, and in depth doctrinal discussions. But in the end, it is the plain truth, the simple part of the gospel, that gives him joy and that plain truth is: “Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.”

For a moment forget the law, forget the prophecies of the future, forget the doctrine that eludes scholars, clear your mind and listen to those simple words: “I glory in Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.”

What a beautiful line, plain and full of truth. Hell, in its several forms, is real. Weather we suffer a hell in our mortal life or we suffer, in the next life, for the lessons we did not learn in this life, either way – Jesus hath redeemed our soul. His work is done. The gift sits, as it were, on a table in front of us. All that we must do is reach and partake of the gift. We all need redeemed, for one reason or another, and Christ has paid that price – so let us partake of the glorious atonement that we celebrate on Easter, let us receive that most precious gift.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Entry # 1 - A Wrestling Before God

There are many places that one can start reading in The Book of Mormon. Page one is a great place, following the chronological chain of events from there is very educational, the 3rd book of Nephi in chapter 11 is also a great place. This chapter records the visit of Christ to people here in America shortly after his Resurrection and Ascension in Jerusalem. But there is one book that has always been important to me, it is the Book of Enos.

Only 2 1/2 pages long, it is packed with spiritual teachings applicable to the very nature of every one of us. Enos was a good young man with a good family. He had been taught many good and true things, but he was at that point in his life when he had to make the decision to believe for himself, and to find out if the teachings of the scriptures were true. One day as he was hunting in the forest he found himself alone with some time to quietly reflect and he says: "I will tell you of the wrestle I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins." This line, so simple is yet so powerful and it applies to each of us at least once in our life, for most of us – many more times than just once.

Now we don't know enough about Enos to determine whether he was a "great" sinner or a pretty good fellow that wanted to be better. I would suppose that he was generally a good, clean person. But his spiritual state up until this point is inapplicable to the principle of wrestling before God. It does not matter whether our sins are deep and painful, or if we simply need to improve a little here and there. The fact is that we each could improve, and as a general rule, we all feel good and have more joy when we improve in some way; especially when that improvement brings us closer to Christ.

Enos found himself in this very situation. He tells us that "My soul hungered" and that he entered into "mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul". And finally, after an entire night of prayer, that he heard the voice of the Lord say unto him "Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed." The story of Enos continues and we will visit that another day.

But now I want to backup to this concept of "wrestling before God". Notice that Enos did not say he wrestled WITH God, but BEFORE God. This is one of those spiritual intricacies that we must understand. If Enos was not wrestling with God, then who was he wrestling with? He makes no mention of another force or entity being involved, but instead lays the scene that he is alone in the solitude of the forest. The answer is quite simple: Enos was wrestling with himself. Why? Why would Enos need to wrestle with himself in order to receive the peace of God's Spirit? Isn't that something that you should have to wrestle with God for? The answer is a resounding "No".

The Lord told ancient Israel so many times that even though they would forget him and turn from him that his "hand is stretched out still". The Lord has no intention of keeping us from all his eternal blessings he desires for all of us to come unto him and partake of his mercy and love. His hand is stretched out, waiting, urging, even grasping for us. We have only ourselves to contend against. And this is why we wrestle BEFORE God. He must stand by and watch us overcome ourselves, with certainty he stands there eagerly cheering the good in us to victory, but ultimately it is our will and desire to be close to him that must win out.

This is by no means is ever an easy match. We are weighted evenly with our opponent, our skills are both well developed, and without fail there are those that would have either party win. However, when all is said and done, it is our heart - our divinely given Will -that brings us to conquer. Whether it be a full turning of our hearts to Christ from the stumbling of a dark path, or simply fine tuning ourselves to be closer to, and more like, Him. Either way, we must be willing to fight for it. Thankfully, we could have no better person rooting us on from the sidelines, no finer prize to win, to more glorious victory to accomplish, and certainly no better chance at succeeding then when we wrestle to become closer to God.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Welcome to "A Voice From the Dust"

On December 15 2007, Elder M. Russell Ballard urged the graduating students at BYU-Hawaii to use blogs and other forms of "new media' to become part of the international discussion about the church's beliefs. He said "“We cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches". Since then I have struggled to figure out how exactly I would be involved in this. Read more about the speech here

At first my inclination was to be a type of "apologetic" for the hot questions surrounding my faith; with the goal of helping others see the answers to these questions from a more rounded point of view. After some serious thought about this I came to the conclusion that it would not have the desired effect for others or any real level of personal spiritual impact for me.

But, one morning, during my reading of the Book of Mormon I was inspired on what to do. One of the most misunderstood parts of the Latter-day Saint faith is the Book of Mormon. I can testify and even argue all week about its truthfulness, but the effect would be minimal and the effort lost. Instead I am going to simply publish my thoughts about what I learn in my morning readings. It won't be anything fancy, just simple lessons that I feel others can benefit from.

Hopefully, as time passes, someone out there will see just how powerfully the Book of Mormon can be in a person's life - and pick up a copy for themselves.
Of course I will refer to other scriptures also as I attempt to provide some taste of the spirit that comes from reading all of God's words.

Why "A Voice From the Dust"?

In the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Nephi writes:

"And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day. And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come"

He knew that he was not writing these words for his people living at that time, but for people who would live long after he had finished his earthly mission - he wrote it for us. His words come from a long time ago, from the dust, but they could not be any more relevant for today's world.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said:

"The standard works are all indispensable to our understanding the things of God. The Bible provides the foundation of our faith: The Old Testament gives the word of Jehovah through His ancient prophets; the New Testament sets forth, in language beautiful and moving, the matchless life and sacrifice of the Savior of mankind. The Book of Mormon stands as an added testament of Jesus Christ. Through its pages march the testimonies of prophets of the New World. Majestic in its sweep of history, its chapters are filled with the tragedy of war, with divine warnings, and with God-given promises. It speaks as a voice from the dust to a world that needs to listen." [The Ensign, January 1989] The Order and Will of God

I only hope that someone reading this blog will find the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon, and take its words into their hearts.