Thursday, July 24, 2014

Power in the Priesthood (General Conference Power)




Sometimes I take for granted the blessing of having a bi-annual General Conference for my church. I have been guided and enlightened by the talks on countless occasions; they have guided my thoughts and heart closer to my God and my Savior. I acknowledge the man behind the mouthpiece. The delivery may be imperfect, in one way or another, but I will not, nor cannot, deny the power of the word.

There have been a couple poignant occasions when I have specifically turned to the General Conference talks, looking and hoping for the power to curb my temptations and unrighteous desires that I might redirect my thoughts and feelings toward God and away from the shadows. What a blessing the General Conference talks are! What a protection! It is not as if it causes the temptations and the battle over my desires to cease immediately or even entirely--though sometimes this is the case. The peace and power I receive from the talks, however, is undeniable--in spite of the instrumental imperfections :) And I am so, so grateful for the power therein!

I am so, so grateful that as I see more of the imperfections in myself and others, that my experience with the power of the priesthood increases as well--in addition to my appreciation and admiration of its unparalleled beauty.

I have come to appreciate the irony of perfection in imperfection--in myself and others. I really do believe that in this life we were meant to experience opposition in order that we might know joy. How can one develop faith, the first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and receive his or her reward, if there were no reason to trust in Christ--to trust that by the atonement of Jesus Christ, that which is wrought in imperfection may be made whole, and be given power wherewith to enlighten and sustain through redemption of the soul?

What is more of a miracle?
  • To experience the power of the priesthood as shared by a completely perfect mouthpiece of God? When the power can be just as easily attributed to the instrument itself--man?
  • Or to experience power in the priesthood as shared by an imperfect mouthpiece/instrument of God? When the power can only be attributed to a higher power--God.
What charity does God have to share His power with imperfect people, with sinners who humble themselves before Him, to faithfully live His gospel, making and keeping holy covenants--that they might have His Spirit to be with them? Faithfulness is more than belief, but it is daily loyalty to God through exercising the faith to keep His commandments, and to repent and give up sinful entertainment, actions, habits and thoughts as one becomes aware of--or is reminded--of them, and to make and keep sacred covenants with God to take upon the name of His Son and live as a disciple of Jesus Christ that one might enter into the gates of His peace and love, where they can be guided and protected by the gift and power of His Holy Spirit, as they remain worthy of His power through their endurance to the end.

Perfection is in the process. of becoming. like God, and His Son Jesus Christ. in becoming Saints and disciples who are worthy of the name they bear--the name they take upon themselves when they enter into a covenant with God to serve Him and to keep His commandments that they might have His Spirit to be with them. Herein lies perfection. The perfection of God's grace and His mercy and judgment, whereby His charity is exercised that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we who imperfectly strive to learn of Him and become as He is, are helped and saved again, and again, and again, and again, until the perfect day when we will have conquered all, and will be, as He is, the Great I Am.

Perfection is seen as those who sincerely, albeit imperfectly, strive to become as He is, are deemed worthy instruments to bear His priesthood, and to use His power to heal, to comfort, and to save, as Christ asks them to do as His disciples--having the example of His life here on Earth, and of His servants, the prophets. The more I see, the more I am grateful for His charity and love on our behalf.

Without witnessing His power, the power of His priesthood, I would surely be lacking in the faith necessary to understand and appreciate all He provides for me and for His children here on this Earth--for I tend to have selective hearing for that which is apparently and wholly logical and respectful and/or sensitive of myself and others. And I would surely be lacking in the faith, perspective, and desire necessary to take up the cross when it would be easier to succumb, or to continue to succumb, to temptation and sin. It is because of the power of His Holy Priesthood--to enlighten my understanding, to encourage, correct and empower me, to change my heart, bit by bit, and fill it with Christ-like love--that I believe. Otherwise we are all just imperfect men (and women :), and everything else becomes a nice, albeit intangible and thus somewhat/really annoying, thought.

In closing I would like to share some inspiring words from Linda Reeves--the Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, the church's charitable organization for women--spoken at the last General Conference in April, 2014, in Salt Lake City. The intent of her talk was to help us develop better internal filters to discern and sift through that which is harmful and helpful--in order to protect ourselves from the immorality in media that is more prevalent and accessible today than ever before.

Said Sister Reeves: "Filters are useful tools, but the greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal internal filter that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father's love and our Savior's atoning sacrifice for each one of us."

Sister Reeves described that as she and her husband came to understand this better in their marriage, they chose to change their focus "and tried not to worry about the less-important things"--following instead the example and counsel of ancient and modern prophets: ". . . We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins" (2 Nephi 25:26).

"Our focus became to talk, rejoice, preach, and testify of Christ," she said, "by striving to daily pray and study the scriptures and have weekly family home evening."

"These are the very practices that help take away stress, give direction to our lives, and add protection to our homes. Then, if [when]. . . challenges do strike our families, we can petition the Lord for help and expect great guidance from the Spirit, knowing that we have done what our Father has asked us to do."

It is my testimony that this is true :) I would love for everyone to know it too <3 Of course, so far as others desire to know :)

Happy Pioneer Day! Thanks to all the pioneers, past and present, who sacrifice to create a better way for themselves and others. I love you all!!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Marriage and Government









It makes sense to me that government marriages would only be for time: "until death do we part". The order of society in the next life is unknown to most. Governments can only really make and keep contracts for that which they have a certain amount of control. A government would only make a contract for both this life and the next if it was truly believed that it will have some sort of continuing power in the afterlife.

If a government is man-made, it seems a bit presumptuous for it to assume such power. I do believe that God can and does have influence in man's governmental affairs--though there is a difference between an institution of God that He designed to be eternal, and man's temporary institutions in which He has influence--for the good or bad of the institution. In this regard, it makes sense that only the marital contracts made under the authority of an eternal government would prevail beyond the veil of this life to the next, for the same authority would exist there to protect and nurture the marriage there as on this Earth.

But why only in the Celestial Kingdom would marriages exist?--the highest kingdom, the kingdom of the sun. Why in other kingdoms of glory would those 'marital' relationships be torn apart? Well, as I understand it, and as it makes sense to me as well, only in the Celestial Kingdom will married couples have continued children and posterity to raise up as God has raised/is raising us up. In the other kingdoms the inhabitants will enjoy blessings of a world far more wonderful than the one we cherish now, though there will be an end to their 'family making' powers, so to speak. I imagine that will come as a relief to some, though maybe not all, to be relieved of that responsibility. It is a rather large responsibility if you think about it. In many ways it is not glamorous to raise children and posterity--people who have their own identities, personalities, preferences and desires, etc. It can be really rough. I really don't know how God does it. How does He keep going? How do my parents keep going? I believe it's through the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ, through faith on His name.

Still I would imagine that in the other kingdoms of glory there will be relationships, and even intimate and devoted relationships--but if marriage is defined as the one relationship whereby man and woman are responsible for producing their own seed--for multiplying and replenishing the earth, so to speak--then it makes sense that only marriages contracted by God through His appointed authorities will continue beyond the veil. I've really no idea what name the other relationships will go by, where the couples choose to remain devoted to one another in the other kingdoms.

I imagine I would remain committed to my partner if I were in a lower kingdom and could not continue to raise seed, or create families. I imagine that if that were the case I would be content, if that were my choice. A better world, free from the heavy responsibilities that try us more than anything else. That doesn't sound all that bad. Though I hope to become the kind of person that can handle such responsibility well in this life, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and I hope to have the opportunity with my (future) spouse in the next life to continue to create seed and raise people up as God raises us up. Some day. I have a looooong way to go. I feel so far from where I want to be.

Sometimes you're cut to the core where your greatest weaknesses are most easily revealed to you. Since I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (I really do, despite my many questions :), I find myself at the core pretty frequently, but thank goodness God sees more in me, I hope, than that which I lack. I believe He does, and it is my belief in His love for me, and for all His children on this Earth, that propels me forward. Without this hope my religion would be pretty miserable indeed, but with love as the motivator, or at least a hope and firm belief in that love, well, anything is possible--and my heart is open to receive the joy that comes through following His word.

Where do the questions come from this week? Well, I did a topical guide search on "Marriage and Government" on lds.org, and discovered I had some pretty interesting questions as I was reading one of the references in the Doctrine and Covenants 132. The whole section is interesting, and brings a lot of questions to mind. I'll copy a verse or two here just for reference:

14 For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed.
 15 Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
I hope that in the other kingdoms the partners will be allowed to stay together, though I really do not know very much at all. The afterlife is one of those things that though, through revelation, we have many answers, those answers lead to many more questions. But I suppose the answers we have are enough to keep us moving forward on the path back to God.

And as a side-note, I just want to make sure that whoever reads this understands that the thoughts expressed in this post and the rest of my blog are my thoughts and ponderings, and that I am not claiming to know for a surety. But what I have written, in this post especially, is in many cases my attempt toward understanding the scripture that I have been given--in context. I do believe. And I believe very firmly in God and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. And I do believe in the restoration of His gospel in our day through modern prophets--Joseph Smith being the first in our day to restore the gospel as well as the authority to act in God's name and establish His government in preparation for the return of His Son, Jesus Christ, in all glory. I believe it and cannot deny. I do have a lot of questions. But I believe it. And that is enough to keep me going on this path I choose, I suppose. :)



BY ELDER HUGH B. BROWN
Of the Council of the Twelve

This concept of marriage, with its divine perspective, gives new meaning and adds importance, dignity, and glory to the idea of marriage. With this concept the thoughtful person will be more careful and selective in the choice of his eternal companion. Certainly before entering into such an eternal contract both men and women should be humble and thoughtful and should prayerfully seek for divine guidance.

When one accepts the conditions and obligations of this eternal partnership, he must realize that failure here is almost total failure. Whatever his successes may be in other fields of activity, if a man fails to discharge the obligations imposed by the eternal covenant, the appalling penalty will be the loss of celestial glory, accompanied by responsibility for the losses sustained by those with whom he made the contract and for whom he is responsible.


Follow-up:

Many governments have assumed power into the next life in one way or another. This is so intriguing to me. And if I had a wide enough readership, this is where I would invite people to contribute comments on various marital ceremonies and contracts throughout history. I find it intriguing to learn about them and to analyze them. If I had time I would do all the research myself :) I did do some research into Byzantine marriage contracts and ceremonies and discovered some interesting information. If it weren't 3:07 in the morning I might share, but I think I'll have to do that another time :)