Monday, December 17, 2007

Elder Ballard on Bloggin'

Sometimes I wonder about doing this blog and its obvious LDS positioning that I lay out. I don't like things to be contentious, but I do like different schools of thought to way out the different sides of an issue. (I feel that I can be pretty open because I don't have to worry about some future employer googling me and not hiring me because of my personal opinions, thus I don't use an alias). Along those lines Elder Ballard has recently encouraged LDS people to "use the Internet — including blogs and other forms of “new media” — to contribute to a national conversation about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Furthermore,"He said [people] should consider sharing their views on blogs." (emphasis mine)...we cannot stand on the sidelines while others, including our critics, attempt to define what the Church teaches...Talk honestly and sincerely about the impact the gospel has had in your life, how has it helped you overcome weaknesses or challenges, and helped define your values.

Full transcript available here and a newsroom press release.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

"..neither are your ways my ways"

Over the past couple years, I have heard many complaints and criticisms of the LDS church and it’s leaders from people I interact with. My thoughts and experiences from these past couple of years have led me to write this post on Carson’s blog as a guest editor.

I have recently been accused of being intolerant and insensitive for my comments regarding the response to Sister Beck’s talk. I apologize for using the word retarded, but felt that it was in fact an accurate portrayal of the spiritual state of those who signed the rebuttal. I should have used the word “hindered” instead. I hope my poor selection of words hasn’t turned anyway away from my point. But the actions taken by those who signed the letter have in fact hindered their spiritual growth, and I would like to explain, if I can, how they have done so.

In Isaiah 55:8 it says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”

The world often tries to discount the LDS church because of their “logic” and “wisdom”. They say things like, “It is not logical that God would call a 14 year old boy to restore His work” or, “It’s not reasonable for God to expect 10% of my income when I am so poor.” But as the ancient prophet Isaiah taught, our ways are not the Lord’s ways. Using the world’s logic and reasoning, it is impossible for us to come to an understanding of God’s methods and works.

I am not saying that we should blindly follow God or his prophets. God wants us to think things through, but there is a big difference between thinking things through with a temporal mindset and thinking things through with a spiritual mindset. As a doctor (officially in 5 months) I have been trained to look at the evidence and base my decisions off of that. For any critics to say that I don’t think things through or that I am blindly following my leaders is ignorant and silly. After many years of school, questioning the evidence has been trained to be a part of my nature. I contest that I have done more research regarding church topics than the church’s critics give me credit. I am not an ignorant defender of the church. The critics are often of the opinion that if I haven’t arrived at the same conclusion as them, then I am clearly wrong. I claim that many people can follow the prophet in all that he says, and they do so having thought things through carefully, praying about it and contemplating about it.

2 Nephi 9:28-29 “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”

The Lord wants us to be learned. He wants us to understand his commandments and the mysteries of heaven. These mysteries of heaven that are referenced often in the scriptures refer to the spiritual truths of God that are hidden from the world. When we refuse to follow the pattern the Lord has given us to obtain spiritual truths, we will not understand His mysteries. This is why many of the Lord’s counsels (and those of His prophets) go unheeded by people. They don’t understand why they need to do such things.

I suggest that we follow Adam’s example of obedience if after much thought and prayer we still don’t understand. In Moses 5:6 it says, “And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord: And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.”

Any Christian would have to agree that Adam is an example to be followed and because of his obedience he was given exaltation. Will we be so critical of him and claim that he is wrong in his attitude? It is important to note that after he exercised the faith to follow God’s commandment, he was instructed as to why it was commanded of him. The angel then explained that it was in similitude of the only begotten of the Father. Adam had faith that what God had instructed him had to be good for him, and was allowed to understand why, but not until after the trial of his faith. If we exercise faith, the Lord will afterwards reveal the mysteries of heaven.

Often people feel the need to counsel the Lord or his prophets. We have been warned against doing so. It is unproductive.

Jacob 4:10 “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.”

Those that argue with the Lord and his chosen leaders remind me of the scripture in Acts 9:5 when the Lord was speaking to Saul “…it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” President Kimball mentioned this attitude in a February 1976 New Era article by saying, “In our own day there are many people who form their own conclusions, and do their own rationalizing, and calculate and evaluate and develop their own opinions, and “kick against the pricks,” and close the door to their own opportunities.” The illustration of pricks that the Lord and president Kimball spoke of are in reference to the farming traditions of the Savior’s era. A large percentage of people in the first century were tillers of the soil. Oxen were used to work the soil. The prick or goad was a necessary devise. The prick was usually a wooden shaft with a pointed spike (prick) at one end. The man working the ox would position the goad in such a way as to exert influence and control over the ox. You see, if the ox refused the command indicated by the farmer, the goad would be used to jab or prick the ox. Sometimes the ox would refuse this incentive by kicking out at the prick. As result, the prick would be driven deeper into the flesh of the rebellious animal. The more the animal rebelled, the more the animal suffered. Hence, the statement to Saul: "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."

I have heard some critics claim that the prophet, President Hinckley, is mistaken in his approach to certain moral issues simply because they are not in the Book of Mormon. This attitude is erroneous. Yes, the Book of Mormon was written for our times. But that does not mean that if a topic was not mentioned in it that the Lord didn’t intend for us to take caution. Just because the Book of Mormon doesn’t mention homosexuality as a sin does not lessen the severity of the sin. The Book of Mormon doesn’t mention anything about temple ordinances. The temple is only occasionally mentioned, and even then only as a gathering place for the people when they needed to hear the word. Does that mean that the Lord didn’t intend for us to attend the temple and renew our covenants? Of course not! There are myriad other moral and social issues that we are forced to deal with today that are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon. As the prophet Mormon said in Words of Mormon 1:5 “…and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.” The Lord didn’t include in the Book of Mormon every single problem that we will face in our lives, but we can still use it as a guide for the issues that we face today. We can follow the pattern the Lord taught his people and we can learn from their mistakes. Anyone that attended high school seminary should be very aware of the Pride Cycle that has been demonstrated in the book of Mormon as a source for the downfall of the Nephites. We should learn from that, humble ourselves, and turn to the Lord. We know that regardless of the challenges that the people of the Book of Mormon faced, whether it were wars, pestilences or unbelief of the children, the people always had spiritual peace and happiness when they followed the prophets.

Acts 5:38-39 “And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught:
But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; be careful, therefore, lest ye be found even to fight against God.”

The Church continues to roll forth as prophesied by Daniel and Joseph Smith. As the scripture in Acts just said, if this work be of men, it will come of naught. In the 177 years since the restoration of the gospel, the church has grown tremendously. Just like Daniel said in Daniel 2:35, the church (stone) has “...become a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” This is God’s work, and he has called righteous men and women to lead us today. If we follow their counsel, we will be guided back to our Heavenly Father’s presence. If we are confused, all we need to do is read the scriptures, pray to the Father for understanding, and look to the prophets that God has called to lead us. They will not lead us astray. This pattern is what will allow us to understand the mysteries of God. Humbly following the Lord’s prophets will help us to understand His ways, and see that the ways of the world are not the same as His ways.