Saturday, October 31, 2009

Phillipians 2

Verses 4-6 talk about the ultimate possibilities for every person. Paul tells us if Jesus, who's body was in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God, that every person should be like-minded. We all have the potential and to become as He is and this does not diminish (rob) God in any way. President Lorenzo Snow addressed this poem to the apostles Paul and John and is worth reading and thinking about.

Dear Brother,
Hast thou not been unwisely bold, Man's destiny to thus unfold?
To raise, promote such high desire, Such vast ambition thus inspire?
Still, 'tis no phantom that we trace Man's ultimatum in life's race;
This royal path has long been trod By Righteous men each now a God:

As Abra'm, Isaac, Jacob, too, First babes, then men - to gods they grew.
As man now is, our God once was; As now God is, so man may be, -
Which doth unfold man's destiny.

For John declares: when Christ we see Like unto him we'll truly be.
And he who has this hope within Will purify himself from sin.
Who keep his object grand in view, to folly, sin, will bid adeiu,
Nor wallow in the mire anew;
Nor ever seek to carve his name High on the shaft of worldly fame;
But here his ultimatum trace: The head of all his spirit race.

All, well: that taught by you, dear Paul, 'Though much amazed, we see it all;
Our Father God, has ope'd our eyes, We cannot view it otherwise.
The boy, like to his father has grown, Has but attained unto his own;
To grow to sire from state of son, Is not 'gainst Nature's course to run.

A son of God, like God to be, Would not be robbing Diety;
And he who has this hope within, Will purify himself from sin.
You're right, St. John, supremely right: Who'er essays to climb this height;
Will cleanse himself of sin entire- Or else 'twere needless to aspire.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Phillipians 1

Philippi was named after its founder King Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great. Located in Northern Greece, it became a prosperous Roman colony whose citizens prided themselves in Roman customs. It was prosperous because of its strategic location and the nearby gold mines. It lasted as a city for about 1600 years.

Paul writes to the Philippians during his first imprisonment in Rome. It is 61-62 A.D. and he is under house arrest for two years. During this time, he is living in a rented house where he is allowed to receive visitors and teach the gospel. According to verse 13, he is evidently free to go about and teach in all places including the palace meaning the praetorium. The praetorium was a very large building that was the commander's house. The Philippians are evidently very faithful as this is Paul's most positive and happy epistle.

Paul's sure knowledge of the Savior is indicated when he says that he can't decide between staying in mortality or dying and being able to be with the Savior. He would prefer the latter, but hates not being with the people of the church, especially those like the Philippians.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ephesians 6

The first verses give good counsel to children with the promise of a long life if they are obedient and honor their parents. Parents are counseled to use a soft voice; the Lord's voice is a still small voice. Then he urges servants to be obedient to their masters. About 30% of the Roman population was slaves. The church did not attempt to change that tradition. Things were disastrous enough with the Roman empire.

Paul urges us to put on the armor of God. In his day, armor would have been the greatest protection against injury to the body. He urges us to protect ourselves because we are at war, spiritually, with Satan and all of his hosts, with principalities, powers and the true rulers of darkness in this world, and with spiritual wickedness in high places. This tells me that Satan's efforts are highly organized, not just random acts of temptation. Here is what Paul wants our amor to protect:

Our loins: They are the vital organs and represent our virtue, integrity, and chastity.

The heart: It represents the center of our feelings which corresponds to our actions. We protect it so that our lives will be righteous and continually repentant.

The feet: They represent the goals in our lives, being prepared so that we don't fear.

The head: It represents our intellect. "As a man thinketh... so is he." It means we control our thoughts and keep them above the world. And because we protect it with the helmut of salvation, we do not allow the things of this life, its disappointments and tragedies, to destroy our hope.

Our chief weapons are the sword and shield, the word of God and faith. The sword and shield work together as we wage this spiritual, and very personal war.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ephesians 5

No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. Paul teaches that we must give up all morally unclean acts or we have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. No sin or addiction is excusable because it removes the Spirit from our lives and left unattended to will cause us to lose what knowledge we have gained. To me this is why the media presents such a problem. It places immoral activity in a highly entertaining setting, makes it acceptable and desirable, and weakens the moral resolve. It does this with attractive people whose looks and personality appear to be the kind we wish we were like. But this is never real life, never reality. Actors who portray immorality are usually immoral in their own lives and so there few successful marriages and families among them. They are never fulfilled and so to gain a sense of fulfillment, they heap honor and attention on each other as a sign of achievement. But this sense of achievement isn't lasting or fulfilling because the only true achievements in life are those that result in the elevating of another person's life and character.

Contrast this with what Paul teaches about a relationship between a man and a woman who have Christ at the center of their lives. Paul counsels them to submit to each other and to Christ. Submit as taught in the scriptures isn't talking about base servitude. It means giving our hearts, devotion, our loyalty and allegiance to each other and to God. Wives should be able to look to their husbands as someone who is clean and pure, someone who will lead them to salvation. In this sense, men are expected to be saviors of their families just as Christ is the Savior of the church. In Paul's words, this will be "a great mystery" to men until they have their minds opened by the power of the Spirit. Only when a man is leading by righteous acts and example is a woman expected to follow his spiritual lead. Male chauvinism has no place in the gospel. D&C 121 spells that out very clearly.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ephesians 4

Because every person has knowledge of some truth, the world teaches that there are many sources of truth and there cannot be one source of truth. It would have you believe that truth is relative, that what is true for one person is not true for someone else. But if that were true, then there would be no truth. Something that is true stands independent of all that is around it. Whether a person believes it is true or not does not change the fact that it is true. Just because a blind person cannot see light doesn't mean there isn't light. They have only lost their ability to perceive it. If a person who isn't blind tells them there is light, then the blind person must decide if that person is a telling the truth. Deciding that he isn't telling the truth does not change the fact that light exists.

When it comes to religion, the first thing a person must decide is whether or not they are going to believe the scriptures are true. Chapter 4 of Ephesians 4 puts forth some statements of truth and there is no different way to interpret them. The chapter says what is says and each person has to decide if they are going to believe it. To decide not to believe does not change the fact that it is true. What Paul says is clear and unequivocal.

1. There is a body and there is a spirit.
2. There is one faith that is true, not many
3. There is one form of and source for baptism
4. There is one God who is the Father.
5. There is one God who is Christ.
6. Christ descended from heaven and was on the earth and ascended back to where he was.
7. Christ organizes his church with apostles, prophets and other officers.
8. Christ organizes his church this way for specific purposes. These are:
a. to help the members live as perfect a life as possible
b. to administer the affairs of the church
c. to be a source of truth so all people can come to a unity of faith and belief
d. so all can come to be Christlike in their attributes
e. so people won't be confused by every teaching that is contrary to truth
f. when all people speak truth, loves abounds

There is more instruction in these verses, but that is what the chapter teaches. Believing the scriptures is a great source of strength and confidence. It give your feet solid ground to stand on. It gives your life purpose and direction and the ability to see through all the fog that life throws up in your face. It gives meaning and purpose to all you do. And whether or not we believe the truth that is in them will never change the fact that they are

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ephesians 3

In verse 8, you can get a sense of Paul's humility. He's a prisoner in Rome and but that's all we know. He doesn't complain of his conditions but only expresses concern for the members of the church. Verses 14-21 are a prayer for them. I think verse 15 indicates how everyone on this earth is God's family. Until Christ's birth, the responsibility of the gospel rested with a particular family and for the 1500 years until Christ, that family was Israel and the Jews. With the church in Christ's time, now the responsibility for the gospel goes to the whole family of God's children on the earth. To not be a Christian at that time and be told they were no longer the chosen people, but all people could become a part of Israel, must have been an insult to the non-believing Jews.

The first thing Paul prays for is that the people would have the Spirit. In the Book of Mormon, when the 12 apostles prayed, "They did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given to them." (3 Nephi 19:8-9) And you probably remember that when Joseph Smith appeared to Brigham Young after the saints were in Utah, he said the most important thing for the members of the church was to have the Spirit. Paul is praying that the saints will have the Spirit so that they, through their faith, will have Christ in their hearts. If they do, they will be rooted and grounded in love, they will "know the love Christ, which passeth all knowledge." That is a something worth seeking.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ephesians 2

Surrounding the temple in Jerusalem was a wall that was about four and a half feet high. On the wall was an inscription that forbade foreigners to pass that point. Only Jews could enter further. So when Paul says that Christ has "broken down the middle wall of partition between us" he saying that all are welcome. The word "foreigner" was on the inscription which gives more meaning when he says "ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God."

The next words are important, "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." If you want to find the true church of Christ, you must look for one with a foundation of apostles and prophets. In Chapter 4 of Ephesians, Paul says why these officers are needed, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets... For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Then he says these leaders are necessary to keep the church unified and to help the saints become like the Savior. Without them, he says the church would be carried about with every kind doctrine and easy to be deceived. This is why I believe that the true church must have apostles and prophets who receive revelation for its members. That is why I believe that if this church isn't the true church, there isn't one. I'm grateful this is the true church as I have no doubt concerning the divine calling of our leaders.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ephesians 1

Ephesians was written by Paul during his first imprisonment in Rome. It is a letter that talks about many of the great and good things of the gospel. Unlike some of the other epistles where Paul must admonish the saints for their failure to live the gospel, this one is has a positive spirit that makes it enjoyable to read.

In chapter one, there are two important things taught, maybe three, that stand out to me. One is the principle that we were foreordained before we came to this life. When talking about the premortal life, Paul uses the words "before the foundation of the world." When he talks about foreordination, the Bible translators chose the word "predestination" rather than the Greek word foreordination. That was a bad choice of words because God never imposes on our free agency. We were foreordained to some things in this life, but whether they transpire or not is entirely up to us. Outcomes were never predetermined to automatically happen even though God, knowing all things, knew what the outcomes would be. Our patriarchal blessings sometimes indicate some of the things involved in our own foreordinations. These can include, talents, gifts of the Spirit, callings, places of birth, and achievements.

The second thing is that Paul emphasizes twice that God the Father and his son Jesus Christ are two separate beings. They are identified as separate beings. Never in the scriptures is it said that they are two different manifestations of the one God.

The third important teaching to me in this chapter is the dispensation of the fullness of times. In the scriptures, there are different dispensations of the gospel. These are periods of time when there are prophets on the earth, priesthood holders who teach, organize and the lead the people. Each of the dispensations are followed by periods of apostasy when the people refuse the prophets and their teachings. For example, before Christ was born, there was a period of about 600 years when there were no prophets on the earth. We had one of the longer periods of apostasy from the about 61 BC until 1820 when Joseph Smith was called as a prophet. The scriptures teach that in the last days prior to Christ's coming, there will be a final dispensation of the gospel when all things that were previously taught will be gathered together. For there to be a dispensation just like all others throughout history, a prophet had to be called, revelation had to be given, and men with authority chosen to administer the gospel. All scriptures will be gathered together, all ordinances will be revealed and practiced. This is the dispensation we are in.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Galatians 6

The church is not a place for the perfect person, but is a place where those who struggle with the challenges of life meet to learn the blessings of repentance, to feel the support and acceptance of each other. It should be a place where those who have fallen feel comfortable and loved until they are more on equal footing with their brethren and sisters. If we all recognized that we fall short, that we can only be successful as we rely on the Lord, we would not look down on anyone, period. When someone who is not keeping their covenants, or who has been inactive comes back to church, it is natural for them to feel uncomfortable and sense a difference between themselves and those who are more active. But if those who are active will be accepting and loving, and treat them as equals, that feeling will have a much better chance of quickly changing into a desire to live on a a little higher level. The purpose of the church is to administer the ordinances and to take of each other. If we're not blessing each other's lives, we are using the church for our own selfish purposes. We should never assume we are better. As Paul says, "For if a man thinketh himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself."

According to Elder McConkie, the Galatians are not trying to keep the whole law of Moses, but keeping the law of circumcision to avoid persecution. He tells them that this is hindering them spiritually and they should be willing to bear the persecution. He points to the marks on his body from the beatings, whippings and stonings he has endured as his witness of the atonement.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Galatians 5

I like that Paul says that all of the commandments are fulfilled in one, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." If you allow anger to rule over you, even if you are right, it can still consume and destroy you. Then he urges us to walk in the Spirit. If we do, we will avoid the things that drag us down and cause us unhappiness. He lists the fruits of the Spirit and you have wonder why any of us wouldn't want any one of these in our lives: peace, love, gentleness, joy, goodness, meekness, self-control, and faith in our lives. At some point in, we have to learn that life is about of overcoming. There isn't one of us that doesn't have our own personal list of things to conquer. Some we can do right now if we put our mind to it. Others, are more long termed. And the promise is, if we live by the Spirit, we'll enjoy the fruits of the Spirit. Since I have been in the church, I have noticed that those who have found the secret of letting the Spirit guide them are happy. They don't seem so easily bothered by things and people. They handle their challenges and afflictions with grace. They seem to get along with just about everyone and everyone senses something in them that they admire. Sometimes they can't quite figure out what it is that is so different about them, but I believe it is the Spirit.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Galatians 4

Paul continues to teach the Galatians the error in turning back to the Law of Moses. He tells them that through Christ they are adopted into the family of Christ and they become joint-heirs with him to all that the Father has. He uses the story of Abraham to illustrate this by comparing Abraham's two wives to the Law of Moses and the Gospel. He compares the Law of Moses, the old covenant, to Hagar who was a bondwoman or slave. When her son Ishmael was born, he was born into bondage. He compares the Gospel, or new covenant, to Sarah who gave birth in freedom under miraculous circumstances to Isaac. The bondage is the bondage of sin, and freedom comes from being made free from the bondage of sin. Ishmael never received the promises given to Abraham, but the children of Isaac do. (Muslims are the descendants of Ishmael. The children of Israel are descendants of Isaac.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Galatians 3

It is through the covenant of Abraham that all nations will be blessed. The covenant of Abraham is the system through which the gospel is taken to the nations of the earth in an orderly fashion. The covenant of Abraham is all the promises made by God to Abraham, that he would receive all things and through him, his posterity would also receive all things. He was promised that through his seed the Messiah would come. He was promised that he would be exalted and have his wife and family for eternity. The fact that each of you were born under the covenant because your parents were sealed in the temple means that you are heirs to the same promises. Because we are direct descendants of Abraham, you are also.

It was through Abraham that the House of Israel came into existence. Abraham had Isaac, Isaac had Jacob, and Jacob's name was changed to Israel. Israel (Jacob) had 12 sons and each of those sons stands at the head of his own tribe of descendants and they are called the 12 tribes of Israel. Judah was one of the 12 sons. At the time of Christ, the Jews were a mix of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. They were the only descendants of Israel still living as a nation because the other ten tribe were scattered throughout all the nations of the earth by the Babylonian and Syrian occupations. This was because of their disobedience and their killing of the prophets. We are descendants of another son of Israel, Joseph through his son Ephraim, and it is through Joseph that the scriptures say the restoration of all things would come in the latter days . Those who are no direct descendants of any of the sons of Israel can be adopted into the house of Israel and receive the same promises of the covenants made to Abraham.

The 12 sons of Israel lived in Egypt with their families until they became a large nation, but they were kept in bondage by Israel. Moses led them to freedom and through Moses the Lord offered the fulness of the gospel to Israel but they rejected it. So Moses gave them a group of lesser laws to bring them back to a level of obedience that would enable them to enjoy the ordinances and blessings of the gospel. This became the Law of Moses. It did not contain the saving ordinances and that is why Paul is preaching in this chapter that doing the works of the Law of Moses cannot save them, only the gospel of Christ can.

In our own lives, we can live lesser laws that protect us and keep us out of harms way, that lead us to do good and treat our neighbors well. These can be laws set up by the government as well as moral laws that make sense and keep us living a high standard. But obedience to those laws will not help us in the life to come. Once we die, we have to rely on the promises that Christ has made that he will save us from death and lift us to exaltation. His is the only way, but it is a great way.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Galatians 2

Peter has been taking the gospel to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles. Jewish converts in Jerusalem were still keeping the Law of Moses in some ways and were critical of the gentile converts who were not. The Jewish converts insist that Titus, who has been with Paul, should be circumcised and Peter evidently agrees with them. Paul is adamant that he shouldn't be and a disagreement arises between the two apostles. Paul stands firm and is right. It's good to see that these two great men and apostles are human, that they can disagree while carrying on the work. And in this case, it is a matter of perspective. Peter has been in Jerusalem with the Jews continually. Paul has been away and among the gentiles. And eventually, the matter is be settled between them.

Paul talks of justification and works saying that works will not justify us. The works he is specifically talking about are the works of the Law of Moses. Justification is where Christ states that where we were once guilty we are now innocent. We cannot justify ourselves, it can only come through Christ because the his mercy (grace) he grants us. Justification isn't earned through the ritual of doing works of a law. But some action is expected. We do have to accept the gospel, accept Christ and strive to live righteously if we want to experience that grace because more is involved than justification. Nephi says, we are saved by his grace after all that we can do. While justification pronounces us innocent, it does not change our natures. Sanctification by the Holy Ghost is what changes our nature so these two, justification and sanctification, must go hand in hand. One is a pronouncement, the other is a process. One says we are worthy while the other makes us holy. That is why living righteously is so important because it is through our righteous living that the Holy Ghost enters our lives and sanctifies us from all unholiness.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Galatians 1

Paul is concerned that the Galatians are being taught and accepting false doctrine. In this case, it was false doctrine about keeping the Law of Moses as part of the gospel. His message is, the gospel of Jesus Christ, its beliefs and doctrines are not things that are determined by man. True religion comes to man from God through revelation. In the first chapter of Acts, we saw how God directs the church by revelation to the leaders he had ordained. I do not doubt the sincerity of a person who earns a degree in religion at a seminary and decides to become a pastor. But the authority to teach the gospel does not come by earning a degree. It comes through the way God ordained. He established the pattern for who truth was to be revealed and taught. He did it so there wouldn't be confusion over what is true and what isn't, to avoid differing religions about him. So Paul's message is, the gospel he preached to them didn't come from himself or another man; it came by revelation from Jesus Christ. He says that unless the gospel is preached to them by a man who has authority or by an angel sent from God, it cannot be true.

I think one of biggest challenges for people comes from the fact that God chooses servants who are human, who have their own weaknesses and faults, who sometimes make mistakes, offend or say something wrong because of their weaknesses. What we have to remember is, in the church, individuals do not determine the doctrine or saving ordinances. Those come by revelation. There is security in having a quorum of 12 apostles who cannot act or proclaim anything for the church unless it is unanimous and then agreed upon by prophet who holds all of the keys. Even the prophet does not act upon a revelation he receives without the unanimous agreement of the 12. He will wait until all of them have a confirming revelation of their own regarding what he has received before he will move forward on it. An example of this is the revelation President Kimball received on the priesthood being available to all races of men. He did not pronounce that revelation and act on it until he had met with the 12 and they all knew by revelation it was of God.

Monday, October 12, 2009

2 Corinthians 12 and 13

One of the signs of the true church is that its organization is inspired, patterned by God. Christ's church will have apostles and prophets and if they are true apostles and prophets, they will have visions and revelations. In this chapter, Paul tells of his vision of the three degrees of glory and specifically the celestial kingdom. Every apostle and prophet, ancient or modern, who have had such visions have said that what they saw was so sacred, so beyond the description, that they were forbidden to write about it just as Paul is forbidden here. And I believe that is a good thing. I should not desire for them to tell me, but should desire and seek to see it for myself. Sacred knowledge such as this is always given to an individual and not to the body of the church.

Paul has some weakness, a thorn in the flesh, that torments him continually. We do not know if it is a physical ailment or something else. But Paul has learned to accept it, and learned that the weakness causes him to be humble and teachable. Weaknesses help us to rely on the Lord. If we excelled at all things, how would we ever develop humility? Moroni says that God gives men weaknesses so they will be humble. Rather than deny, or be angry or disappointed in ourselves because we have a weakness, perhaps we should be grateful for it and allow God to strengthen us in spite of it.
Chapter 13
Paul exhorts us to examine ourselves. One of the great lessons in life is to learn to be honest with ourselves. I think the greatest indication that we are being honest with ourselves and living the way we ought is the presence of the Spirit in our lives. When we have the Spirit, we eventually learn to recognize it, and the promptings it gives us. We have to be willing to pay the price to have it and I have found we also have to have patience and allow ourselves to grow into it. There are some who speak as if they have automatically felt the Spirit as if it came out of the blue in one blinding experience. I am sure there are times when the Holy Ghost manifests something to someone and in a spontaneous experience. But I have also found that those who have experiences like this, are often later troubled because of a lack of the Spirit. When we live each day to have and follow the Spirit, its presence grows slowly but surely until it becomes an undeniable actuality. Its presence can become so strong and so much of a permanent part of our lives that should we lose it, as the Lord told Joseph Smith, we feel as if it is the greatest of all punishments.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

2 Corinthians 11

There are two things that impressed my mind while reading this chapter and I'll talk about them in reverse order. I'm impressed with what Paul went through. Without the vision, without the divine calling, I don't think anyone would put themselves through what he did for something he knew was false. When threatened to the point of the loss of life, those who purposely teach falsely or lie, will admit to the truth if it will save their life. Paul was beaten with a rod five times, four of those were for forty stripes. He was in prison more than that, three times he was ship wrecked and one time spent a day and a half in the sea. He says he has been exhausted, in pain, in hunger and thirst, cold and naked. At some point, unless you were demented in some way, you would say it isn't worth it. But Paul knew he had the truth. He knew he had seen a vision, and he knew he was called of God and having accepted that calling, his integrity would not allow him to deny it.

Evidently there are false teachers attempting to lead the people and Paul is urging them to not be beguiled by Satan like Eve was. The world would have you believe that there cannot be one true church. Plain and simple, that would mean they are wrong and the true church is right. No one likes to be wrong. Good people are killed for telling the truth. Martin Luther King told the truth about racial injustice and there were those who were so sure he was wrong, and so threatened by what he said, that they murdered him. In ancient and modern times, prophets are killed for telling the truth. Something that is true always stands apart from everything else around it. When truth bears its light, it is hard for some to see light shine on, and make obvious and clear, that they have believed is false. Truth will always stand in and of itself. It is something to embraced or to break ourselves against.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2 Corinthians 10

Being a gentle person doesn't mean are you weak. The Savior was the perfect example of strength, but he was also kind and gentle. "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."

Too often, we barrage ourselves with self-doubt, "I'm not smart enough, I'm not strong enough, I'm not spiritual enough, I'm not good looking enough." Those feelings come when we rely solely on our own strength. Paul is evidently being ridiculed by some in Corinth. They say his letters are strong, but when people see him person, he is just this small person who is a weak speaker. Paul acknowledged his weaknesses but says he does not rely on or boast in his own strength, but in the Lord's. Ammon said, I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever." We can make much of ourselves through our own work and determination, but it seems like there are always those nagging doubts. If we let him, the Lord will make us all that we can possibly become or be.

Friday, October 9, 2009

2 Corinthians 9

This chapter can be summed up in "God loves a cheerful giver." With the gospel in our hearts, money is no longer the master but the servant, and we give to help the less fortunate, not because and the Lord expects us to but because we feel compelled to, not because we want the blessing, but we want to bless them. He promises what we give will also return to us. The amount isn't important, but the willingness is. The widow's mite was considered a far larger donation than those of the wealthy Jewish leaders because hers came from the heart and theirs was done for show. And though it was small in amount, it was all that she basically had. The Lord promised that great would be her reward in heaven and I like to think good things came to her in her life also.

The Lord doesn't expect a major sacrifice with every donation. We're counseled to do all things in wisdom and order, and not run faster than we are capable. A small, but consistently given fast offering adds up to a great deal over time. And over time, as our lives improve, we are gradually able to give more. So in times when can't give a lot, the Lord is satisfied if in our hearts are the words, "I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give. And now, if ye say this in your hearts, ye remain guiltless." In that same chapter 4 of Mosiah is a very interesting promise: "for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day... I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor." Giving with the right condition of heart has a sanctifying affect.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

2 Corinthians 8

One of the great evidences of Christ's Godliness was his willingness to forsake all that he had as a God, and come to earth into the lowest conditions for our benefit. Paul is teaching that the evidence of our godliness is the willingness to share of our abundance, however big or small that may be, with those who have less. When I was a bishop, I marveled at the welfare program of the church. It amazed me how the money received from fast offerings blessed those in need, helped them maintain their dignity, and put them on their feet towards being self-sufficient. And it has amazed me how those who gave generously were blessed in an equal manner, not necessarily with material wealth, but with a change within their hearts that Moroni described as the Lord's gift of charity, of having the love of God fill our hearts.

When I was a bishop, I had a single mother with three children who were from Brazil. She was going to BYU on a scholarship that paid for her schooling, but beyond that, she had nothing. They had no car so they had to walk to the grocery store, the doctor, any place they needed or wanted to go unless a ward member happened see their need and took them. The church kept them in food so the kids wouldn't go hungry, although the mom often did. Because of the generosity of others, she eventually ended up with a used car. It was a clunker, but to them it was beautiful. Throughout it all, she learned the grace of humility, but never lost her dignity. She was determined to be successful so that she could help others in the same manner she had been helped. She completed a degree in nursing and got a good job in Salt Lake and then went on to a masters degree in another area of medicine. She ended up marrying a successful man and now has realized all of her dreams. It is my experience that those who willingly give of what they have to others, eventually end up with far more than they would have anticipated in both material and spiritual things.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

2 Corinthians 7

Evidently those who needed to repent in 1 Corinthians have repented and Paul is stating how thankful he feels and how much he loves them. Every one of us sins, falls short, we all do things we regret. But if we can understand repentance, we will realize that it is one of the most wonderful, if not THE most wonderful, principles of the gospel. Repentance makes it possible for every person to have their transgressions, their weaknesses, their sins, expunged. I like that word. It means to be completely erased or totally removed. When a sin is expunged, the burden is gone, lifted completely, and the relief, the happiness is unparalleled. This kind of repentance comes from having Godly sorrow. With Godly sorrow, we acknowledges the wrong, not because we have been found out and suddenly realize the trouble we're in, but because in our hearts, we truly sorrow and freely acknowledge that what we have done is wrong. When we have this kind of sorrow for what we've done, and we change our lives so that we do it no more, the Lord not only removes the sin and all of its scars, he also promises he will never mention them to us again. "I, the Lord, remember them no more." It is true that we will always remember them, but not with the kind of regret that depresses us and continually causes us to condemn ourselves. As Alma says, we will remember them with the kind of memory "that brings us down to repentance," meaning a desire to stay clean, on the right road, never returning to our former actions. And after this life when we meet the Savior, he promises us that if we repent and change our lives by turning away from our sins, "and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right... All [our] transgressions that [we] have committed, they shall not be mentioned unto [us]," no matter how small or large the sin.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2 Corinthians 6

Paul makes one of his most impassioned pleas in this chapter. He first pleads with the Corinthians that now is the time to change their lives. To wait could be everlastingly too late. As ministers of the gospel, he lists the attributes they have had to have: patience, pureness, knowledge, longsuffering, kindness, love unfeigned; and what they have gone through: afflictions, distresses, stripes, imprisonment, being dishonored, being alone and unknown, near death. He then says to not be equally yoked together with the world. If you put a yoke on two animals that are not equal in size and strength, when they pull the wagon, one will be injured. You can't keep one foot in the world and one foot in the gospel without being spiritually hurt. If one foot is kept in unbelief while another is tries to keep a footing in belief, unbelief will loom as the larger animal and destroy belief. So Paul says, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing."

Belief isn't a feeling or something that exists without cause or source. People used to say they wished they could play the piano like me. I would think to myself, "If you would practice the hours and hours I did, you could." Belief is the same. It comes as the result of our effort. If we live righteously, if we pray and read some scriptures each day, with each day of effort comes a gradual increase in belief and faith. Gradually, our faith in some things will increase to a point to where we can say, "I know." But it should be remembered, faith and belief is what this life is for. Our faith is to be tested and tried and we must prove ourselves worthy of it.

Sometimes it is harder to have faith than it is to know. It is harder to go forward in faith when the world assaults our it, when doubt creeps in and can put a stranglehold on our belief. But if we do go forward, our faith is eventually rewarded and strengthened. When we are faithful, the Lord does grant us knowledge to the point where we can say "I know." But that knowledge will be qualified. We may know "this," but we don't know "that" yet and so we have to have faith and believe that "that' is true. As Isaiah and the Book of Mormon says, knowledge is given "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" until the day after this life when we will know all things. Until then, we must have faith in and hold fast to those things we don't know, but believe to be true. If we're willing to make the effort, and "to touch not the unclean thing," the Lord says, "I will receive you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Almighty." That knowledge, knowing we are his, is one we can be sure he will give us as we struggle and fight to maintain our faith. That is the knowledge that helps see us through all things.

Monday, October 5, 2009

2 Corinthians 5

It is important that we seek to return our hearts to the condition it was in before we came to this life. In our pre-mortal life, we lived in Heavenly Father's presence and gained a high level of righteousness through our choices there. By coming to this life and possessing a mortal body, we were automatically separated from God and no longer in his personal presence. But with this separation came the opportunity to prove to God and ourselves that even though we are separated from Him, we would still remain faithful and grow in spiritual strength so that we could eventually not just live in his presence as we once did, but we would be able to live as he lives with the same power and glory that he possesses. We are promised that we will inherit all that the Father has.

So Paul tells us that in this mortal condition, our spirits long for an immortal body clothed in the glory our spirits were designed for, a united spirit and body that is worthy to be in God's presence again, but also worthy to receive His glory. Christ's redemption will bring about our resurrection and the type of person we have become in this life, will determine the type of resurrected body we will receive after this life. Until that day, Paul says that we must be reconciled to God, meaning that we are at one with Him. We have power to return to his presence in this life through the companionship of the Holy Ghost who makes it possible to become alive to things of righteousness, things of the Spirit.

The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith in the Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants that it is important that we gain light and truth from the Spirit through righteous living, that our hearts be rooted in spiritual things, because our "bodies must be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory. For after [our body] hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of the Father..." That's why Paul says it's important that we not live as the world lives. If we live as the world lives, the Holy Ghost can't sanctify us. "And they who are not sanctified... must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom (or telestial)... For he who is not able to abide the law of the celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory... If we strive to live a righteous life then our bodies are prepared for a celestial glory. "They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same (glory in a resurrected) body... your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened." If we strive to live a celestial life, while in this life, we will receive a portion of that celestial glory through the Holy Ghost with a promise that we will receive a fulness of celestial glory after this life. "Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall receive of the same, even a fulness."

We should not let the world fool us. Paul says there are some who "glory in appearance, and not in heart." Proverbs says, "Let another man praise thee, not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips." And I like this verse in 1 Samuel: "The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh at the heart."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

2 Corinthians 4

In these first verses, I think Paul is talking about the importance of being open about the gospel so that every man can decide in his own conscience if it is true or not. The gospel is hid only to them who will not listen to their hearts, who have allowed themselves to be blinded by Satan and the thinking of the world. I like how the gospel is compared to light shining in our hearts and giving us the light of knowledge. Light always makes things clear and unmistakable. In darkness, we grope, we try to find our way without knowing where we are. So we blindly move trying not to stumble, fall or bump into something that would be painful. But in light, we see clearly every detail and know exactly where to go. And we can avoid the things that cause unnecessary pain. The worst darkness is the darkness that can cover the mind and the heart, clouding our understanding and lessening our ability to feel.

I also like Paul's positive attitude. He says that even though their preaching causes them to be troubled on every side, they are not distressed, perplexed but not in distress, persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed. It is important that in life, we do suffer some pain. It is necessary for our growth. There is a difference, though, between pain we suffer because of poor choices and pain that life's experiences provide for our growth. President Kimball said, "Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can makes saints of people as they learn patience, long suffering, and self mastery." Paul has such a positive attitude because he knows that Christ is the source of all true comfort. And the price Paul and we pay in suffering is very small, "but for a moment" (In D&C 121, the Lord says the same to Joseph, "but for a small moment"), compared to the eternal glory that we will eventually experience.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

2 Corinthians 3

There is some concern about people still trying to live the Law of Moses and Paul is having to remind them that it is no longer in effect. It would be similar to someone joining the church today and still trying to keep the traditions of their previous church. Paul explains that the letter of the law, the Law of Moses, will kill the Spirit, while the gospel will be bring life. The Law of Moses turns the heart to stone, but the gospel turns the heart into something that is alive, sensitive and feeling . When all is said and done, the gospel isn't something written on tablets of stone or in books of scripture, it is what is in the hearts of the members and they are its true epistles.

The word "testament" in verse 6 is a secondary translation of the Greek word diatheke. The correct translation is covenant. The old covenant, the Law of Moses is gone. The new covenant of the gospel is now in effect. When the Jews accept Christ, the veil that covers their minds and hearts will be removed, and it is the same with people who come to understand the restored gospel; a veil of doubt and confusion is removed.

Friday, October 2, 2009

2 Corinthians 2

Paul has made two journeys to Corinth and will make a third. Evidently the last one he made was difficult because he says it caused him much heaviness. Perhaps it's because someone had received church punishment. Maybe it was given by him and he is sorrowing for that person. Now he is telling everyone they must forgive that person and love them. It's the same instruction we have received in our day in the D&C: "My disciples, in old days, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened. Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." D&C 64:8-10

I like verses 14 and 15. God does not fail. He is the almighty and he will cause us to ultimately triumph. He didn't created us to see us lost or to see us fail. If he was willing to let his Son die for us, he's certainly willing to do whatever it takes to not only see us successful in all things here, but save us and eventually exalt us.

We are unto him a sweet savour. When something is savored, it is enjoyed completely, like I savour ice cream. That he finds this joy in each of us is a thought we should consider often and deeply.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

2 Corinthians 1

This letter is thought to have been written from Macedonia a few months after first Corinthians. Paul is defending himself as a teacher, leader and apostle. He explains why his travel plans changed and he has not yet visited them, that he and Timothy (and whoever else may be with him) nearly suffered death in Asia. The first verses teach that the Father and the Son are two separate beings. He says, "Grace be to you and peace from the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ..." If the Father and Son were one being, it wouldn't make sense to refer to them in this way, but more like, "Grace be to you and peace from the Father who manifested himself as the Lord Jesus Christ and gave birth to himself to become the Lord Jesus Christ." But Paul, presents them as two separate beings, just as they are always presented in the scriptures.

Verses 17-19 seem to say that there is no wavering back in forth in what they say; things will not be yea one day and nay the next. Verse 22 is talking about being sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise and knowing in our hearts that our souls are like earnest money, deposited in safe keeping until the time of our exaltation.