Monday, February 19, 2018

Motive, Part 1

Recently, I watched a business consultant explain how visionary companies focus on why, not what, but most normal companies focus on what, not why.

Most religious people find themselves no closer to God in spite of all their efforts because they mistake the hamster wheel of tradition for progress towards God.

Tradition is static. It is a list of whats. Truth is dynamic. It is about the why. The why will inform whats, but those whats will be dynamic--they will depend on the individual, the situation, and the time.

Any religion that consists of a list of static rules must, by definition, be tradition and not truth. It doesn't actually matter if those traditions actually come from God's word at some point. Like a snapshot of a flowing river, a static recording of a dynamic system is only correct at one moment in time.

When you focus on the why, you can't get caught in the tradition trap like those who focus on the what. Those who focus on the what don't realize that their source of "God's" commandments is always a man (either someone else or themselves) and not God.

Contrast this perspective to that of Jesus during his mortal ministry. He said:

28 ...I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. (John 8)

Jesus' why was to please the Father. And how do we do that?

Most people rely on a list of whats because it is simple. Although a newcomer might struggle to get used to the rules, once you are there (or if you are born into that tradition), it is a piece of cake. All you have to do is coast your way into heaven. Keep the boxes checked, and you never have to think. You never have to change. You never have to rely on God, because your tradition provides all the security you ever need. You thank God that you are not one of those sinners over there instead of realizing that your lack of perception of custom commandments is a sign of your distance from God.

When you focus on the why, you can't ever rest on your laurels. You never know when God is going to ask you to sacrifice your son, marry a harlot, go live in a cave, threaten the irate king, be sawn in half, get stoned to death, cut off someone's head, or any other number of unexpected adventures lived by righteous men and women focused on the why.

Joseph Smith said "Every Man were st stimulated by a certain Motive, to act motive preceeds action & if we want to know ourselves this is the Key to Examin the motive what it is, & the fact will be manifest." (Words of Joseph Smith, 16 February 1841, McIntire Minute Book)

What is the motive of those who focus on the whats? Deep down inside, they do not trust God. They fear that he will ask them to do something that is not in their best interest. They would rather trust in a laundry list of commandments. They do not like the idea that they are in need of continual, progressive repentance. They do not have broken hearts and contrite spirits. They rely on their pride and their inflated self image instead of God. They trust in the carnal pleasures they enjoy that lie between the cracks of their static commandments. They do not want to put everything on the altar. They hold back what their hearts are focused on.

There are two principles that should form your motive if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. They are:
1. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matthew 22:37)
2. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Matthew 22:39)

Moroni 7 is a fascinating chapter. Have you ever wondered why he uses the word "good" instead of giving a list of things that are good? Or "evil" instead of listing the things that are evil? If you consider the idea of why, it will unlock the meaning of Moroni 7.

4 And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men.
5 For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.
6 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
7 For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
8 For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
9 And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.
10 Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.
11 For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.
12 Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.
13 But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.
14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
19 Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Seek Ye This Jesus - Free audiobook download

MP3 recordings of "Seek Ye This Jesus" are now available, free of charge, at this link.

Permission is granted for the no cost distribution of these MP3s. Please share them with friends.

I very large thank you to a friend for lending an incredible amount of time and her lovely voice to this recording. I can't thank you enough.

Affliction, Temptation and Knowledge

It is a common misconception that the gospel inculcates peace into the life of anyone who will live it to any degree. In fact, quite the opposite is true. This should not be surprising: an individual who knows nothing about construction, engineering, metallurgy, or the like will find himself much more at peace drooling along under a tree than he will enduring the study and practice necessary to come to the point where he is functional in the above-mentioned arts. However, once functional, he will find that he can leverage his knowledge to produce a much more peaceful habitation than his previous shade tree. The gospel is a lot like this simple analogy. As we undertake to acquire gospel knowledge, we will find that not only are we exposed to the same rain that falls on the just and the unjust, but that the hoards of hell in every fashion are after us in proportion to increasing knowledge of God's mind and will.

Peace can come from time to time when we experience an outpouring of the Spirit. However, the peace Jesus promises is rest in the Lord, which refers to the state one attains when their calling and election is made sure.

Now for the secret and grand key. Though they might hear the voice of God and know
that Jesus was the Son of God, this would be no evidence that their election and calling was made sure, that they had part with Christ, and were joint heir with him. They then would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. Then, having this promise sealed unto them, it was an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast. Though the thunders might roll and lightnings flash, and earthquakes bellow, and war gather thick around, yet this hope and knowledge would support the soul in every hour of trial, trouble and tribulation. Then knowledge through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the grand key that unlocks the glories and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. (TPJS p.298)

Jesus even goes out of his way to tell us that this peace is "not as the world giveth" so as to clue us in to expect the unexpected. And thus we see how Jeremiah could be at peace though he was neck high in a septic tank; how Peter could be at peace though he was being crucified; how Moroni could be at peace though he was hunted by every survivor in the land; how various others could be at peace though sawn asunder, burned at the stake, tried on spurious charges, etc.

God turns up the affliction and temptation knobs as fast as we can handle them. As we increase in favor with God, so he allows us to experience more and greater affliction. Consider the patriarchs and other exalted persons. Without fail, those who were promised eternal life by God were exposed to miserable hardships. These men lived out lonely lives filled with suffering. Yet, Jesus approached near unto them in accordance with their sufferings.

Pause for a moment and consider the last time you were in a great deal of pain. The pain need not be physical--emotional pain is just as effective. How close were you to God before the onset of that pain? And during? There are those who can cry out to God with just as much earnestness outside of suffering as in, but for most of us, this is beyond our current capability. Even Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;" (Hebrews 5:8)

The only way to approach God is through great suffering. Instead of rejoicing when times are easy, we ought to take careful stock of our lives. God only withholds trials from those who have demonstrated their inability to deal with them.

Salvation is nothing more nor less than to triumph over all our enemies and put them under our feet. And when we have power to put all enemies under our feet in this world, and  a knowledge to triumph over all evil spirits in the world to come, then we are saved, as in the case of Jesus, who was to reign until He had put all enemies under His feet, and the last enemy was death. (TPJS p297)

The ideal way to move through life is to be continually increasing the number of situations we have put under our feet. As we do, God will continue to send us as much hardship as we can bear, with temporary breaks as we need them. As he increases the heat, there will likely come a point in a day, week, month, or matter of years, where we hit a situation where we refuse to listen to his voice (mostly represented in our conscience). Note that it is our choice to fail, as he has promised to never send us more than we can handle. We lose some level of light and truth at this point, but if we mount up and take courage, we will eventually be given another opportunity to succeed where we have failed. This process does not have to take much time. If we completely turn over our will to God, as Jesus did, it can be very short indeed. It was a short period for Jesus, as he never withheld his will from God. Jacob and Mormon were both redeemed from the fall in their youth. It need not take a lifetime.

We should not pray to have God remove trials from us. Instead, we should reconcile ourselves to God's will and ask him to bless us with the knowledge we need to overcome our trials.

How does knowledge assist us in overcoming our trials? Temptations and trials have no power over us to the degree that we know and see things as they really are. The more we obey God's word to us on an individual level, the more he can reveal to us. The more he reveals to us, the more truth we comprehend. The more truth we comprehend, the less influence the flesh, money, armies, navies, false priests who oppress, and all other tools of evil are able to entice us. One who knows the end from the beginning cannot be enticed to walk down the wrong path.