Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Gratitude, New Law, Consecration, Repentance

Reading through the Isaiah sections of 2Nephi, and Nephi's commentary has provided new insights that I should have been recording, but have neglected.

I have written in the margins some of the commentary on the passages I have thought important in the past, but in reading this time other thoughts came to mind.

First, in chapter 20 Isaiah sees that the people are gathering and hoarding wealth for the sake of wealth and then being prideful about it. He asks the rhetorical question: "Shall the ax boast itself...shall the saw magnify itself...? As if the rod should shake itself... or the staff should lift up itself." The Lord then tells Isaiah that there will be famine and fire to remind the people from whom the blessings come.

Sometimes I think we concentrate on our problems to the exclusion of remembering our blessings. We may not be guilty of the pride of accumulation, but may be guilty of the pride of our personal situations. We have healthy bodies, bright minds, pleasant personalities, families with all their quirkiness, assets sufficient for our needs and then some, shelter, food, and the list goes on. Our thoughts, however, seem to turn primarily to the problems, some of which are serious and demand our attention. Should then demand our attention, solely? Gratitude keeps us grounded. When we are grateful, the Holy Ghost is more available, we find solutions faster, and in a joyful context.

In the 25th chapter, Nephi begins his commentary and shares some of his vision regarding the coming of Christ, his teachings, suffering, death and resurrection.  It is here that he writes that it is by the grace of Christ that we are saved after all we can do. (v. 23) I have expounded on that elsewhere. Here he also states that we emphasize (talk, rejoice, preach, prophesy, write of) Christ so our children may know to whom they should look for a remission of their sins. (v. 26)

In Chapter 26, he points out that the law is fulfilled in Christ. Some have assumed that means there is no law; that we go on by our best judgment or by the promptings of the Spirit for our guide. Nephi disabuses us of that notion in a simple sentence: "And after Christ shall have risen from the dead...the words which he shall speak unto you shall be the law." (v. 1) A quick reading of 3Nephi 11 and the chapters that follow show that not only do we still look to the 10 Commandments, but that our obedience should be on a much higher plane.

In the same chapter he makes the following statement: "...the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish." (v. 31 emphasis added) In context, he is talking about priestcraft, but it is striking that those who have accepted the ordinances of the temple have also become "the Lord's annointed" who have consecrated themselves for the building up of the Kingdom of God and the establishment of Zion.

I don't know of any priesthood officer who is guilty of preaching for gain, as the Levites  sometimes did, but if we consider ourselves a consecrated people (as we should) we look to our responsibilities, and our opportunities as stewards of the Lord's assets. We are laboring with our families, our wards and stakes, our jobs and professions, our lands and homes for the purpose of building up the Kingdom of God and establishing Zion.

It is, in the end, an invitation for us to repent. "None of these iniquities come of the Lord...he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him..."
A good reminder of where we are, who we are and whose we are.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Elements to the Eternal Plan of Deliverance from Death

2Nephi 11: 5

In the previous chapter, Nephi's brother Jacob ends with the admonition to choose eternal life or everlasting death. The chapter then states that we must reconcile ourselves to the will of God. It goes on to point out that even doing so still requires the grace of God to be saved. 2Nephi 10: 23-25 emphasis added.

The elements required for "...the eternal plan of deliverance from death" (i.e. salvation) that was received by covenant of the Lord (i.e. Christ see 3Nephi 15:5) to the fathers are His grace, justice, power, and mercy. All of these come by the mission of Christ.

The order in which Nephi arranges these elements is interesting. If I were writing this, I would have put "power" first and "grace" last. I, obviously, am not a prophet who is intimate with Christ, as Nephi and Jacob were. On reflection, none of the elements are either relevant or possible without the grace of Christ. It should come first.

Grace: His grace is the result of the atonement of Christ. Without the atoning sacrifice, justice could never be satisfied, His power would be limited; certainly not adequate to save, and mercy would not be brought to pass. The incomprehensible act brought to us the possibility of life eternal. Because of it justice, an immutable law requiring eternal consequences for every breach of God's laws, could be satisfied by proxy, that is by Christ's suffering for us, then dying and being resurrected.

Power: His power certainly included the power to lay down his life and to take it up again (John 10:18). It was even more, however, because, as is pointed out in 3Nephi 15: 5, for example, He states that He has the power to "...give eternal life."

Mercy: Mercy can now be extended to the faithful who accept the saving ordinances and abide by the associated covenants. Always? We will fall short, of course, but mercy allows for us to repent and by so doing return to the path that leads to eternal life.

Therefore, Nephi goes back to the first element in verse 6, and states that without Christ (implying His willingly accepting the atonement) all men must perish.

Elder Patrick Kearon in our recent Stockholm Stake Conference stated that Christ gives us opportunities for another chance again and again. Then he said, "We must claim them!"

I have heard the advice to claim blessings and have been somewhat uncomfortable with the idea. It seems to imply that because of some degree of personal righteousness we can demand some blessing from God. King Benjamin points out that no matter how righteous we become, we will still be indebted to God because of the blessings received without even qualifying for them.(Mosiah 2:21-25).

Elder Kearon's perspective rings true. There is no greater blessing than repentance because it allows us to obtain eternal life which is the greatest gift of God. I pray for that increased commitment to overcome the lazy, natural man that holds me back from all the promised blessings.