Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Suffering Christ, Our Repentance, and Our Exceedingly Great Joy

Eugene England (1933-2001), Mormon writer, teacher, and scholar, taught:
 "The most terrible human reality is that we sin, and the most crucial human problem is what to do about it."  Then added, "Of course we cannot understand all that happened in Gethsemane, especially how it happened. Yet we can feel the impact in our hearts of the love Jesus and his Father both expressed here...Jesus Christ has created the greatest possibility we can imagine: that our common feelings of meaninglessness and separation from God can be removed, that we need not suffer if we would repent." (excerpt from the book "Rediscovering the Book of Mormon")

            Polish Wood-carving featuring the Ark of Noah, in the hands of a solicitous and weeping God

Hebrews 4:15  "We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities."
Scripture records God wept over the fall of Lucifer, and on other occasions.

Terryl and Fiona Givens state "If the heavens wept over Lucifer at his fall, how much more must God's heart beat in sympathy with those children whose presence on earth is proof they are neither rebels nor exiles from His love." (The God who Weeps, page 27)

D&C 19:16, 18  For behold, I, God have suffered these things for all...which suffering caused myself, even tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit--and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink---

D & C 19:19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

                      Unknown artist, Descent from the Cross, 13th C. at the Louvre

Alma 34:14  And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law [of Moses], every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea infinite and eternal.

     Michelangelo's Pieta at St. Peter's, Vatican City

Isaiah 53:
He is adespised and rejected of men; a man of bsorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we cesteemed him not.
 ¶Surely he hath aborne our bgriefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
 But he was awounded for our btransgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his cstripes we are dhealed.
 All we like asheep have gone bastray; we have turned every one to his cown way; and the Lord hath laid on him the diniquity of us all.
 He was aoppressed, and he was bafflicted, yet he copened not his mouth: he is brought as a dlamb to the eslaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

     Caravaggio, "The Incredulity of Thomas"  at the Sansoucci

3 Nephi 11: 14  Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.

    Brian Kershisnik, Halo Repair

Alma 34: 15 And thus he shall bring asalvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance

Mosiah 3:9, 11-13 "And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name...for behold...his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam" and for he that "rebelleth against God" who repents and has faith on the Lord Jesus Christ..."And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Proclaim Peace

In scripture we read "Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace, and seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and ther hearts of the father to the children; And again, the hearts of the Jews unto the prophets, and the prophets unto the Jews; lest I come and smite the whole earth with a curse, and all flesh by consumed before me." (Doctrine and Covenants 98:16-17)
What a provocative two verses. I think I understand the "renounce war" part. War is --what is a strong enough word--"hell (?)."
But what can we do to proclaim peace. It seems to me that this ought to be an active and constant concern of every good person on the earth. Peace in our own hearts; peace in our families; peace in our neighborhoods; peace and goodwill in our halls of government; peace between nations and peoples of all creeds, persuasions, religions, colors, languages, and locales.
How can one proclaim or promote peace? When the Lord asks us to proclaim peace, I think He wants us to be Peacemakers, and emualte Jesus Christ. But what does that mean for you and for me in our daily lives? To promote peace requires thoughtfulness, wisdom, open-mindedness, discernment, and an ability to speak calmly. It seems to me we ought to earnestly seek for those gifts and for the ability and interest to proclaim peace. What would you add to this list?
We could talk about when peace efforts fail but I'll leave that for another time. Instead, what does the Lord mean when He asks us to seek diligently to turn hearts--children to fathers, Jews to prophets, and vice versa? This may be simplified (but isn't that what blogs are?). To me it means to create harmony by looking for that which is best in our families, and what will be best for the future. It also means to share the good news to all that the promises of the Lord will be fulfilled--all the promises the Lord made to the House of Israel anciently and all that He ever has made. When we see ourselves as children of God--all of us as His children--and that He has a plan of happiness for us all, that should turn our hearts! And Peace will reign. The Prince of Peace will be our model, and our Savior.
What can you do today to proclaim peace?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Apocrypha

Doctrine and Covenants 91 is a revelation given to Joseph Smith in answer to his question regarding whether or not he should, through inspiration, revise the Apocrypha. He was in the process of making what we call "the Joseph Smith Translation" of the Bible.
The Lord's answer: "There are many things contained therein that are true...there are many things contained therein that are not true" reminds us to be cautious and prayerful as we seek enlightenment and understanding from these ancient sources.

Here is the link to a very interesting and helful article on the Apocrypha, mentioned in class.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Symphony of Seers

The new year is a perfect time to renew one's determination to study the scriptures. Studying the scriptures increases the likelihood that one will have a gospel conversation, and that the conversation will be substantive, spirit-filled, uplifting.

Elder Neal A Maxwell said "The disciple, through the living scriptures, hears the strains of immortal music played by prophets, a symphony of seers." (from Things as they Really Are, p. 109)

When are you most likely to "hear the strains of immortal music played by prophets?" When does your experience with the scriptures strike you as "a symphony of seers?" If you can remember when your scripture study has been thrilling, satisfying, soul-filling, then you might be able to figure out how to invite that experience more often. Otherwise, our minutes reading dutifully might be more like hearing a jingle advertising a product--which we deliberately tune-out--than immortal music that heals, guides, and enlivens.

So, think back on a time when the scriptures excited you. Why did that happen? What can you do to feel that way again?

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Highway to Happiness

In July I found myself, along with three grandkids and my husband, driving along a familiar stretch of road, not unlike the one pictured, between Seattle and Salt Lake City. The grandchildren pointed out several signs that said "You're on the Hiway to Happiness." That was comforting to them, as they had left their parents behind in SLC and were on their way to spending a month with us. What they didn't notice was that the signs about "the Hiway to Happiness" were advertising our approach to the Wild Horse Casino which promised non-stop fun, gain, and happiness.
Mother that I am, I thought for a long while--even to this day months later--about what real happiness is and what road takes us there.
There are many trivial things that add to my happiness--playing with a child, growing something beautiful or edible in my garden, winning a tennis match, singing, baking something delicious, participating in a conversation with a friend or family member, and so on. All of these, and more, are part of the road to happiness.
For me, though, the thing that makes it all meaningful, all marvelous, all happiness, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news that Christ was born, the He lives, that He is our Savior, that we can be His sons and His daughters, that His grace and mercy elevate, transform, forgive, guide, and redeem us.
I think of the path that leads to the Tree of Life. "I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy...And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit....And it came to pass that I beckoned them...And it came to pass that they did come...and partake of the fruit also." (1 Nephi 8)
To me, that is the Highway to Happiness--partaking of the Love of Jesus Christ--with my family, with loved ones, with all who will come and partake.
Merry Christmas! And Happiness in the New Year!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Atonement of Jesus Christ

In March 2008, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published in its monthly magazine, The Ensign, a collection of marvelous articles on Jesus Christ--his life, his ministry, his atonement. If you own that issue (or can access it online) now would be the perfect time to read it again. Christmas is a time to reflect on the life of our Lord and Savior.

One article, written by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, begins by telling of a sacred experience, a dream, had by a young man on his mission. Years later the young man became an apostle.

As you read this selection from Elder Holland's talk, consider the following questions so that you might take this message and apply it to yourself:

How do you think Elder Whitney was affected by this dream?

How does one develop this kind of love for Jesus Christ and this kind of knowledge of His character?

What do you think it would mean in your life if you could feel that way about the Savior?

What are you doing now to develop that kind of love and awareness of your need for His atonement?
Perhaps you already have a deep and lively love of the Savior. Have you recorded those feelings? Have you, through inspiration, shared them with others?

In the Garden of Gethsemane
As a young missionary, Elder Orson F. Whitney (1855–1931), who later served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, had a dream so powerful that it changed his life forever. He later wrote:

“One night I dreamed … that I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. … I stood behind a tree in the foreground. … Jesus, with Peter, James, and John, came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, He passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed … : ‘Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt.’
“As He prayed the tears streamed down His face, which was [turned] toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I wept also, out of pure sympathy with His great sorrow. My whole heart went out to Him. I loved Him with all my soul and longed to be with Him as I longed for nothing else.
“Presently He arose and walked to where those Apostles were kneeling—fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least show of anger or scolding, asked them if they could not watch with Him one hour. …
“Returning to His place, He prayed again and then went back and found them again sleeping. Again He awoke them, admonished them, and returned and prayed as before. Three times this happened, until I was perfectly familiar with His appearance—face, form, and movements. He was of noble stature and of majestic mien … the very God that He was and is, yet as meek and lowly as a little child.
“All at once the circumstance seemed to change. … Instead of before, it was after the Crucifixion, and the Savior, with those three Apostles, now stood together in a group at my left. They were about to depart and ascend into heaven. I could endure it no longer. I ran from behind the tree, fell at His feet, clasped Him around the knees, and begged Him to take me with Him.
“I shall never forget the kind and gentle manner in which He stooped and raised me up and embraced me. It was so vivid, so real that I felt the very warmth of His bosom against which I rested. Then He said: ‘No, my son; these have finished their work, and they may go with me; but you must stay and finish yours.’ Still I clung to Him. Gazing up into His face—for He was taller than I—I besought Him most earnestly: ‘Well, promise me that I will come to You at the last.’ He smiled sweetly and tenderly and replied: ‘That will depend entirely upon yourself.’ I awoke with a sob in my throat, and it was morning.”1

You may wish to read the above entry again, with greater imagination and inspiration. And you may wish to read the entire article by Elder Holland in the March 2008 Ensign. Make it part of your Christmas celebration.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin passed away last night, at age 91. Much will be said in the coming days as those who loved Elder Wirthlin reflect upon his life. I want to say a few words as well.
I had the privilege of meeting Elder Wirthlin a number of times, in a variety of settings. His daughter--whom I love--was married to my brother (my brother is now deceased). I have been in the Temple with Elder Wirthlin as he performed marriages--most recently just a few months ago in what I consider to be one of the most sacred yet simple marriage ceremonies I have ever witnessed. Temple sealings are always a time of purity, happiness, and holiness. I have stood by him in a hospital room by the bedside of my ailing brother--a time of great sorrow and grief. I have seen Elder Wirthlin and visited with him in more casual settings--in someone's backyard or living room. I also had some contact with him as a businessman, a family man, and a friend to my parents.
What I am trying to say is this: I can say with great confidence that this was a man who was true to the faith. This was a man who was unfailingly kind. He was honest, whole, happy, solid, faithful, thoughtful, dependable, and selfless. He was a man who could be trusted. His example was stellar, his words were inspired. Elder Wirthlin patterned his life--as best a man can--after the Savior's example. He lived what he believed and taught.
He will be missed by the Church, the community, his family, and all who knew and loved him.