28 April 2012

Knowledge as the Principle of Salvation

The means by which we make our “step-by-step ascent into the Eternal Presence” is not based directly on our actions. It is easy to see why this is so. Were it otherwise, the Final Judgment would require nothing more than a mechanical assessment at the end of our probation as to whether we had gone through the proper motions in every life situation. However, the terms of the New and Everlasting Covenant are much more demanding—as Jesus Himself taught when He contrasted lower and higher kinds of obedience in the Sermon on the Mount. The scriptures teach that the purpose of this life is much more than outward compliance with divine law. Ultimately, it is to prepare us to be “spiritually… born of God,” having received a “mighty change in [our] hearts” and “his image” in our countenances. Emphasizing this fact, Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained that the “the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become.” The final effect of our choices can be seen both in what we want and also in what we know.

One night at a reception, Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War in Abraham Lincoln’s administration, remarked to a friend that a certain man passing by was “a pretender, a humbug, and a fraud,” and said that he disliked his face. “But the poor man isn’t responsible for his face,” retorted the friend. “A man of fifty is responsible for his face!” countered Stanton.

Though it is easy to find exceptions to Stanton’s generalization, there is eternal truth in the words of Proverbs 23:7: “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.” President David O. McKay often quoted James Allen’s comment that: “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.” In light of these things, we may certainly say that the powerful presence of a good man or woman is not acquired in an instant, but in the gradual transformation enabled by pure knowledge, righteous desires, Christlike deeds, and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost.


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25 April 2012

A Christ-Centered View of the Plan of Happiness

The figure above shows what Nathan Richardson calls the “location view” of the Plan of Salvation—or, as Alma calls it, the “great plan of happiness.” There is nothing factually wrong with the figure. It is a clear and easy to understand diagram of where we have been and where we are going. However, as Richardson observes, something essential is missing: there is no mention anywhere of Jesus Christ and His role as Savior and Redeemer.This is a way of thinking about the Plan that, regrettably, leaves out its very heart.

The Three Pillars of Eternity
It was Elder Bruce R. McConkie who brought attention to the fact that there is a different, Christ-centered way of presenting this Plan that appears several places in scripture. It emphasizes what he called the “three pillars” of the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

“The Fundamental Principles of Our Religion”
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the basis for every essential element of our religion. Indeed, we might say that our religion is nothing more nor less than an application of the results of this Atonement to the lives of individuals and families. The Atonement is the means by which we are saved and exalted, and without it our Church would be nothing more than a social club. The Prophet Joseph Smith said it this way:
The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.

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12 April 2012

Why Do We Participate in Temple Ordinances?

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has expressed the concern that sometimes “Church members focus on what the Lord wants them to do and how to do it, but forget the why.” Further explaining his feelings, he said:
While understanding the “what” and the “how” of the Gospel is necessary, the eternal fire and majesty of the Gospel springs from the “why.” When we understand why our Heavenly Father has given us this pattern for living, when we remember why we committed to making it a foundational part of our lives, the Gospel ceases to become a burden and, instead, becomes a joy and a delight. It becomes precious and sweet.
Why do we participate in temple ordinances? Three main reasons come to mind:

  • A first reason is personal communion with the Lord. I have often gone to the temple to seek help with the particular challenges of the moment. That help has always come when the time was right, and when I was sufficiently prepared to receive it. However, if personal communion with the Lord were the only reason to go to the temple, He could just as well have had special-purpose rooms for meditation and prayer built in every local meetinghouse. Members would have been spared considerable time, expense, and travel.
  • A second reason is to receive required ordinances for ourselves and for our ancestors. The importance of providing these ordinances for each one of God’s children cannot be overstated. However, if performing the necessary ordinance work for others were the only reason we were invited to return to the temple frequently, the Lord could have designed the experience in a way that would have allowed us to complete the essential elements in behalf of each person much more efficiently, in minutes rather than hours.
  • A third reason—sometimes forgotten, though equally essential—is to participate in instruction on the plan of happiness and our place within it. For example, each time we join in an endowment session, we benefit from approximately an hour and a half of divinely-prepared and carefully-executed lessons about the most important matters in the universe. This is the graduate school of spiritual instruction. Here we are taught not only as we reflect on what we see, hear, and do, but also as we receive enlightenment directly from the Holy Spirit, custom-tailored to our current needs and to our state of personal readiness, in a quiet setting free from inner and outer distractions.


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