The Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart and core and center of revealed religion.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie Christ and the Creation

February 23, 2017

C.S. Lewis, Humility

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How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing (and perhaps, like you, I have met it only once) it is irresistable. If even 10% of the world’s population had it, would not the whole world be converted and happy before a year’s end?

C.S. Lewis
Letters to an American Lady, page 19

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February 22, 2017

Uncategorized

Comments Off on Light Blogging for a Few Days

I’ll be traveling for the next few days and blogging will be lighter than usual.

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February 21, 2017

Christmas, General Authorities, Nelson, Resurrection

Comments Off on Jesus Descended Below All Things in Order to Rise Above All Things

Now, two millennia later, though we don’t know all the details pertaining to His birth, we certainly understand the unique parentage of this Babe of Bethlehem. We declare solemnly and with conviction: Jesus was born of an immortal Father and a mortal mother. From His immortal Father, Jesus inherited the power to live forever. From His mortal mother He inherited the fate of physical death.

Those unique attributes were essential for His mission to atone for the sins of all mankind. Thus Jesus the Christ was born to die (see 3 Nephi 27:13–15). He died that we might live. He was born that all humankind could live beyond the grave. His Atonement was wrought in Gethsemane—where He sweat great drops of blood—and on Golgotha, or Calvary, where His body was lifted up upon a cross above the place of the skull, which signified death.

This infinite Atonement would release man from the infinitude of death (see 2 Nephi 9:7). His Atonement made the Resurrection a reality and the gift of eternal life a possibility for all who would obey His teachings. His Atonement became the central act of all human history.

Our recollections of Christmas are enriched by these realities. Each one of us with a testimony of the Lord has the privilege in faith to know of His divine parentage and to testify that Jesus is the Son of the living God.

Jesus descended below all things in order to rise above all things. He expects us to follow His example. Yoked with Him, we can rise above all challenges, no matter how difficult they may be (see Matthew 11:29–30).

Elder Russell M. Nelson
Christ the Savior Is Born“, New Era, Dec. 2006, 2–5

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February 20, 2017

General Authorities, General Conference, Justice, Mercy, Scott

Comments Off on The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness

Peace and happiness are the precious fruits of a righteous life. They are only possible because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I will explain.

Each of us makes mistakes in life. They result in broken eternal laws. Justice is that part of Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness that maintains order. It is like gravity to a rock climber, ever present. It is a friend if eternal laws are observed. It responds to your detriment if they are ignored. Justice guarantees that you will receive the blessings you earn for obeying the laws of God. Justice also requires that every broken law be satisfied. When you obey the laws of God, you are blessed, but there is no additional credit earned that can be saved to satisfy the laws that you break. If not resolved, broken laws can cause your life to be miserable and would keep you from returning to God. Only the life, teachings, and particularly the Atonement of Jesus Christ can release you from this otherwise impossible predicament.

The demands of justice for broken law can be satisfied through mercy, earned by your continual repentance and obedience to the laws of God. Such repentance and obedience are absolutely essential for the Atonement to work its complete miracle in your life. The Redeemer can settle your individual account with justice and grant forgiveness through the merciful path of your repentance. Through the Atonement you can live in a world where justice assures that you will retain what you earn by obedience. Through His mercy you can resolve the consequences of broken laws.

The Atonement was a selfless act of infinite, eternal consequence, arduously earned alone, by the Son of God.  Through it the Savior broke the bonds of death. It justifies our finally being judged by the Redeemer. It can prevent an eternity under the dominion of Satan. It opens the gates to exaltation for all who qualify for forgiveness through repentance and obedience.

Pondering the grandeur of the Atonement evokes the most profound feelings of awe, immense gratitude, and deep humility. Those impressions can provide you powerful motivation to keep His commandments and consistently repent of errors for greater peace and happiness.

I believe that no matter how diligently you try, you cannot with your human mind fully comprehend the eternal significance of the Atonement nor fully understand how it was accomplished. We can only appreciate in the smallest measure what it cost the Savior in pain, anguish, and suffering or how difficult it was for our Father in Heaven to see His Son experience the incomparable challenge of His Atonement. Even so, you should conscientiously study the Atonement to understand it as well as you can. You can learn what is needful to live His commandments, to enjoy peace and happiness in mortal life. You can qualify, with obedient family members, to live with Him and your Father in Heaven forever.

Elder Richard G. Scott

The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness,” Liahona, Nov 2006, 40–42

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February 19, 2017

Fall, Roberts

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“Adam fell that men might be;”  (2 Nephi 2:25)

B. H. Roberts wrote the following about this scripture and the doctrine of the Fall that springs from it:

“The effect of this doctrine upon the ideas of men concerning the great Patriarch of our race will be revolutionary. It seems to be the fashion of those assuming to teach the Christian religion to denounce Adam in unmeasured terms; as if the fall of man had surprised, if indeed, it did not altogether thwart, the original plan of God respecting the existence of man in the earth … it logically follows that the fall no less than the Atonement or redemption must have been part of God’s plan respecting the earth probation of men. The Fall, undoubtedly, was a fact as much present to the foreknowledge of God as was the Atonement, and the act which encompassed it must be regarded as more praiseworthy than blameworthy, since it was essential to the accomplishment of the divine purpose.”

Elder Brigham Henry Roberts
The Seventy’s Course in Theology, Fourth Year, p. 37

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February 18, 2017

C.S. Lewis, Pride

Comments Off on A proud man is always looking down on things and people

A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.

C. S. Lewis
Mere Christianity, p. 96.

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February 17, 2017

Forgiveness, Grace, Humility, King Benjamin, Mercy, Service

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King Benjamin teaches precisely how the redemptive process works and can be maintained. First he proclaims the essential and primary reality of the atonement, by which Christ extends unconditional love to us, even in our sins.

Consistent with Amulek and Alma, he teaches that we can be moved by Christ’s unconditional love to overcome the demands within ourselves, placed there by our God-given consciences, to punish ourselves and others. This breaking the bands of justice, he claims, enables us to accept Christ’s mercy and forgiveness and become new creatures.

Intensely moved by learning of Christ’s love, the group of Nephites being taught by King Benjamin actually go through that saving process and begin to rejoice that they are indeed changed, that they “have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).

King Benjamin also reveals the only way to maintain change, to retain “a remission of your sins from day to day” (Mosiah 4:26). The key is humility, the abdication of imitative desire through recognizing that we are “all beggars” (Mosiah 4:19).

Just as God does not reject us for our sins, does not refuse to love us or to extend his healing grace and continual blessings because we sin, so we must respond to those who beg help from us though they do not “deserve” it. We must never judge their desires or condition; we must never think that “the man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore . . . his punishments are just” (Mosiah 4:17). If we do so we have “great cause to repent,” and if we fail to repent we have “no interest in the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 4:18). Instead, we must constantly recognize our own weakness and our own position of dependence on God, judging no one else but engaging constantly in specific acts of sacrificial love: “feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (Mosiah 4:26).

The point the Book of Mormon makes much more clearly than I find made in the Bible is this: To continue experiencing the atonement of Christ after we have received his grace, we must extend grace to others.

Christ makes us into new creatures, into persons strong enough not to act contrary to what we know-that is, not to sin- if we will merely accept Christ’s merciful, undeserved love; he gives us power to repent, the “means” by which we can “have faith unto repentance” (Alma 34:15). But if we then continue judging others, we will unconsciously judge ourselves. We must constantly give mercy to be able to accept it. We must never exact revenge, even in the name of perfect justice. We must not take vengeance, even upon ourselves, the sinners whom we inwardly know most certainly deserve it.

Eugene England
A Second Witness for the Logos: the Book of Mormon and Contemporary Literary Criticism
included in By Study and Also by Faith v2, Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday
John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds.
Deseret Book Company, (1990)
(paragraph breaks added to improve online readability)

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February 16, 2017

General Authorities, Hafen, Maxwell, Repentance

Comments Off on Joshua didn’t say choose you next year whom you will serve

One of his conference talks was addressed to those who “fully intend, someday, to begin to believe and/or to be active in the Church. But not yet!” In his tender but piercing invitation, Elder Maxwell said: “If, however, you really do not wish to commit now,” then let me warn of the following:

“Do not look too deeply into the eyes of the pleasure-seekers about you, for if you do, you will see a certain sadness in sensuality, and you will hear artificiality in the laughter of licentiousness.

“Do not look too deeply, either, into the motives of those who deny God, for you may notice their doubts of doubt. …

“Do not think too much about what you are teaching your family, for what in you is merely casualness about Christianity may, in your children, become hostility; for what you have not defended, your children may reject angrily. …

“Do not think, either, about the doctrine that you are a child of God, for if you do, it will be the beginning of belonging. …

“Joshua didn’t say choose you next year whom you will serve; he spoke of ‘this day,’ while there is still daylight and before the darkness becomes more and more normal.” (Ensign, Nov. 1974, pp. 12–13.)

Elder Bruce C. Hafen
Elder Neal A. Maxwell: An Understanding Heart“, Ensign, Feb. 1982, 6
[Elder Hafen was president of Ricks College, Rexburg, Idaho, when he wrote this article]

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February 15, 2017

Forgiveness, General Authorities, General Conference, Hanks

Comments Off on To Really Forgive, To Really Forget, and To Really Rejoice

As I observed two of our lovely grown daughters that night an incident from the past came to mind that forms the burden of my brief message today. I still think of it with a tendency to tears. Another little girl had joined our family and was of course much loved. Occasionally I had called her older sister “Princess,” but had thought about that, and, since the second young lady was equally deserving of royal treatment, had concluded that it would be well for her to share the title, if it were used at all.

So one day I called to her, “Come on, Princess. Let’s go to the store for mother.” She seemed not to hear. “Honey,” her mother said, “daddy is calling you.”

“Oh,” she answered, with a quiet sadness that hurt my heart, “he doesn’t mean me.”

In memory I can still see the resignation on her innocent child face and hear it in her voice, when she thought that her father didn’t mean her.

I am one who believes that God loves and will never cease to love all of his children, and that he will not cease to hope for us or reach for us or wait for us. In Isaiah it is written:

“And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you” (Isa. 30:18).

And yet over the earth, across the years, I have met some of God’s choicest children who find it very difficult to believe in their hearts that he really means them. They know that he is the source of comfort and pardon and peace and that they must seek him and open the door for him and accept his love, and yet even in their extremity they find it difficult to believe that his promised blessings are for them. Some have offended God and their own consciences and are earnestly repentant but they find the way back blocked by their unwillingness to forgive themselves or to believe that God will forgive them, or sometimes by a strange reluctance in some of us to really forgive, to really forget, and to really rejoice.

. . . .

“Holocausts,” it has been written, “are caused not only by atomic explosion. A holocaust occurs whenever a person is put to shame.” (Abraham Joshua Heschel.)

It is good to remember what Joseph Smith wrote a long time ago to the Saints scattered abroad:

“Let everyone labor to prepare himself for the vineyard, sparing a little time to comfort the mourners; to bind up the broken-hearted; to reclaim the backslider; to bring back the wanderer; to re-invite into the kingdom such as have been cut off, by encouraging them to lay to while the day lasts, and work righteousness, and, with one heart and one mind, prepare to help redeem Zion, that goodly land of promise, where the willing and obedient shall be blessed. Souls are as precious in the sight of God as they ever were; and the Elders were never called to drive any down to hell, but to persuade and invite all men everywhere to repent, that they may become the heirs of salvation.” (History of the Church, 2:229.)

My child at first did not understand that my invitation was meant for her. She thought it was for someone else. “He didn’t mean me.” If any within the sound of my voice today need assurance that God’s call to repentance and his invitation to mercy and forgiveness and love is for them.

.

Elder Marion D. Hanks
He Means Me

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February 14, 2017

General Authorities, Humility, Maxwell, Pride, Tests

Comments Off on Eight Traps of Mortality

I should like to suggest some traps into which we can fall, if we are not careful, as we try to meet the challenges that life delivers at our doorsteps. The first temptation that we must resist, brothers and sisters, is the Jonah response, in which we sometimes think we can escape the calls that come to us, that we can somehow run away from the realities that will press in upon us. Jonah, you recall, had been called to go to Nineveh. He didn’t want to go to that urban center that was so big. We are told it took the people hours to walk across that city. He tried to find a ship going to Tarshish. He “paid the fare thereof,” hoping to leave the presence of the Lord. You and I will one day know, if we do not know now, there is no way we can escape from God’s love, because it is infinite. However many times in our lives we might rather go to a Tarshish than a Nineveh, he will insist that we go to Nineveh, and we must pay “the fare thereof.” . . .

second trap into which we can fall is the naïveté that grows out of our not realizing that the adversary will press particularly in the areas of our vulnerabilities. It ought not to surprise us that this will be so. The things that we would most like to avoid, therefore, will often be the things that confront us most directly and most sharply. Some of you may recall that the British military planners who built the fortress of Singapore, which was supposed to be invincible, fixed the guns of Singapore so that they would fire only seaward. The Japanese very cleverly came from behind on land. Churchill and others were stunned that this citadel and fortress had fallen so quietly and so simply. Some of us have guns that fire only in one direction. We are vulnerable, and our vulnerabilities will be probed by the vicissitudes of life. One of the great advantages of life in the Church (in which the gospel is at the center) is that we can overcome these vulnerabilities; otherwise, we shall be taken by surprise and swiftly.

A third trap into which we can fall, if we are not careful, is to fail to notice that at the center of many of our challenges is pride, is ego. In most emotional escalations with which I am familiar, if one goes to the very center of them, there is ego asserting itself relentlessly. The only cure for rampant ego is humility, and this is why circumstances often bring to us a kind of compelled or forced humility–so that we may recover our equilibrium. Humility can help us to dampen our pride. Ironically, for those of us who most need to serve to develop our capacity to love, our very egos often make us unapproachable so far as others are concerned. We, therefore, are underused and we wonder why. And this is typical of the trials that we impose upon ourselves.

fourth trap into which we can fall is that we may at times assume that the plan of salvation requires merely that we endure and survive when, in fact, as is always the case with the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is required of us, not only that we endure, but also that we endure well, that we exhibit “grace under pressure.” This is necessary, not only so that our own passage through the trial can be a growth experience, but also because (more than we know) there are always people watching to see if we can cope, who therefore may resolve to venture forth and to cope themselves. Every time we navigate safely on the strait and narrow way, there are other ships that are lost which can find their way because of our steady light.

fifth trap, and a major one, is the trap of self-pity. One man has said that “hell is being frozen in self-pity.” Indeed, at times when we think our lot is hard or when we feel our selves misunderstood, it will be so easy for us to indulge ourselves in feeling some self-pity. A contrasting episode comes to us out of ancient Greece: Several hundred Spartans were holding the pass at Thermopylae, that narrow pass, and the Persians came in overwhelming numbers and urged the Spartans to surrender. Hoping to intimidate them further, the Persians sent emissaries to the Spartans, saying they had so many archers in their army they could darken the sky with their arrows. The Spartans said, “So much the better. We shall fight in the shade.”

sixth trap into which we can fall quite easily, brothers and sisters, is the trap in which we sense that something special is happening in our lives but are not able to sort it out with sufficient precision and clarity that we can articulate it to someone else. That is so often true of the gospel. Its truths are too powerful for us to manage on occasion. Let me give you this simple illustration of how we can know something and yet not be able to communicate it fully without the help of the Spirit. If I were to bring one of you into this hall and if, instead of all of you, it were filled with fifteen thousand mothers and if I were to say to you, “Somewhere in that audience is your mother; find her,” you could do it, and I suspect it wouldn’t take you very many minutes. But if I said to you, “Wait outside. There are fifteen thousand mothers in there and one of them is your mother. Now, you describe her to me with sufficient precision and clarity so that I can go find her,” you couldn’t do it. You would still know what she looked like, but tongue could not transmit what you knew. It is that way often with the gospel. That is why we are so in need of the Spirit–so that knowledge can arc like electricity from point to point, aided and impelled by the Spirit–aid without which we are simply not articulate enough to speak of all the things which we know.

seventh trap, brothers and sisters, is that some of us neglect to develop multiple forces of satisfaction. When one of the wells upon which we draw dries up through death, loss or status, disaffection, or physical ailment, we then find ourselves very thirsty because, instead of having multiple sources of satisfaction in our lives, we have become too dependent upon this or upon that. How important it is to the symmetry of our souls that we interact with all the gospel principles and with all the Church programs, so that we do not become so highly specialized that, if we are deprived of one source of satisfaction, indeed we are in difficulty. It is possible to be incarcerated within the prison of one principle. We are less vulnerable if our involvements with the kingdom are across the board. We are less vulnerable if we care deeply about many principles–not simply a few.

An eighth trap to be avoided, brothers and sisters, is the tendency we have–rather humanly, rather understandably–to get ourselves caught in peering through the prism of the present and then distorting our perspective about things. Time is of this world; it is not of eternity. We can, if we are not careful, feel the pressures of time and see things in a distorted way. How important it is that we see things as much as possible through the lens of the gospel with its eternal perspectives. . . .

Now, brothers and sisters, may I prepare to close with these thoughts: The Church is fully Christ-centered. The Church is also Christ-powered, and it is also designed to help its members become more Christlike. Since the gospel of Jesus Christ focuses on the truths that deal with everlasting things and not on obsolescent realities, it is very important for us, brothers and sisters, to recognize that the truths in which we traffic as members of the kingdom pertain to eternity as well as to this life.

I am surprised (I would be amused if the cost were not so great) that people think they can remove the foundations of our social structure–things like work, chastity, and family and then wonder why other things crumble. You can’t remove the foundation of a building while standing inside and not be hit with falling plaster. We are now in the interesting position in the kingdom of trying to warn about what is happening in the world and, at the same time, of keeping ourselves personally secure. We must be Christ-centered individually. We must have his and God’s power to do our work, and we must take seriously the challenge of becoming more Christlike. You’re soon going to go out into a world full of marshmallow men. Like the act of putting a finger into a marshmallow, there is no core in these men, there is no center, and when one removes his finger, the marshmallow resumes its former shape. We are in a world of people who want to yield to everything–to every fad and to every fashion. It is incredibly important that we be committed to the core–committed to those things that matter, about which our Father in heaven has leveled with us through his Son, Jesus Christ, and his prophets.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell

But for a Small Moment

Later a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Maxwell was an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when this fireside address was given at Brigham Young University on 1 September 1974

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