Less Wi-Fi, More Nephi.

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Leonardo da Vinci, born in 1452, was a polymath of the Italian Renaissance whose interests and talents included painting, sculpture, architecture, engineering, science, mathematics, anatomy, and much more. He is arguably history’s most notable Renaissance man, or in other words, he was knowledgeable and proficient in a wide range of  studies. He is known for his paintings, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, which is the most reproduced religious painting of all time according to Art through the Ages, 1970, pp. 450–56. He is also known for his creation of flying machines, adding machines, his work in a hospital dissecting human corpses for his anatomical studies and detailed drawings of muscles, tendons, and other visible features of the human body. As an engineer, he devised a system of movable barricades to defend Venice and also created a method for diverting the flow of the Arno river. He also produced a schematic for a single-span 720 ft. bridge for Beyazid II of Constantinople. The invention of the parachute and the crossbow have also been attribute to him.  He is quoted to say, “Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.”

Another Renaissance man was Galileo, who was a noted mathematician, physicist, musician and artist. Ibn al-Haytham, an Arab physicist, astronomer, mathematician, ophthalmologist, engineer, and inventor is sometimes referred to as the “father of modern optics.” A more recent historical figure and one of America’s first Renaissance men was Thomas Jefferson who was an architect, author, lawyer, musician, botanist, and an inventor. He played the violin, spoke at least five languages, was one of America’s Founding Fathers and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. He also served as the third president of the United States between 1801 and 1809.

There are some remarkable Renaissance men alive today. One such man is Brian May, one of the founding members of the rock band Queen. Brian is a musician and world-renowned guitarist and songwriter who as a teenager with his father, designed and built his first electric guitar, which he named “Red Special” and still uses today. He is also a mathematician and an astronomer with a PhD in astrophysics and serves as a NASA consultant with its New Horizon Pluto mission. He also has a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in physics. In 2019 he was awarded the Lawrence J. Burpee Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society for outstanding contributions to the advancement of geography. This Bohemian Renaissance man was told by a fellow astronomer during the 700th episode of BBC’s astronomy documentary The Sky at Night, “I don’t know a scientist who looks as much like Isaac Newton as you do.”

There is one more polymath I would like to credit as a classic Renaissance man. His name is Nephi and he lived in Jerusalem approximately six hundred years b.c. Nephi was a bowyer, fletcher, archer, hunter, orienteer, metallurgist, smelter, blacksmith, coppersmith, goldsmith, silversmith, carpenter, craftsman, shipwright, mariner, builder, colonizer, founding father, ruler, teacher, historian, poet, psalmist, and historian. This is not all, though. What separates Nephi from almost all other Renaissance men was his discipleship and devotion to Jesus Christ. Because of his complete fidelity and precise unwavering obedience to the Lord, which resulted in the manifestation of the Lord to this man, we add prophet to his résumé. Or as Nephi wrote:

2 Nephi 9:29 But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.

For as Nephi lamented in the verse before:

28 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.

In other words, no matter how learned–or educated–a man is, his learning cannot save him. It only has the power to enrich him while he is in this world. And so he must perish. Don’t let scholars fool you either. Scholars may know all there is to know about God in as far as their learning about all that prophets have ever expounded, but that is not at all the same as knowing God. Knowing about God and knowing God are very different. Nephi may have known about God in his youth, but he did not begin to know God until his father, Lehi, became a visionary man. It wasn’t until the Lord revealed Himself to Lehi that Nephi thought to inquire for himself whether his father was receiving revelations from God. Nephi was initially uncertain about his father’s claims, but not quite so dubious as his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel. What separated Nephi from his brothers was his own desires.

1 Nephi 2:16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.

It wasn’t until Nephi cried unto the Lord that his heart was softened. And because the Lord softened his heart, he did believe his father Lehi. But it was Nephi’s desires to know the mysteries of God that pleased the Lord. This is our first big clue in developing a relationship with the Lord. This was Nephi’s first encounter with the Lord. His second encounter with the Lord came by way of intercession for his brothers who would not believe their father or Nephi. When Nephi cried unto the Lord in their behalf, the Lord condescended to speak to Nephi.

1 Nephi 2:19 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.
20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands…

The Lord is inclined to bless us when we seek to bless others. Just as Lehi had interceded for the people at Jerusalem, Nephi interceded for Laman and Lemuel. Nephi’s desires, his faithfulness, and his diligence to seek the Lord proved fruitful. This is how we begin to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ. But critical to improving our relationship with Him is knowing and obeying His commandments. When we have developed a sufficient trust in the Lord, our faith must be demonstrated by our obedience, for it is our obedience that is a demonstration of our faithfulness and fidelity to His will and His work, which is simply to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. After hearing the voice of the Lord, Nephi’s faith was firm:

1 Nephi 3:And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

Contrast Nephi’s resolve with Laman and Lemuel’s murmurings:

1 Nephi 17:21 Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.
22 And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him. And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us.

They did not care about learning the mysteries of God or seeking after Him. Their hearts were solely set upon their possessions. Furthermore, Laman and Lemuel believed that keeping the statutes and judgments of the Lord justified them. They considered themselves righteous like the people back in Jerusalem. They did not understand that the law has no power to justify. It is the law that condemns sinners for breaking it. Or as Paul declared to the Galatians:

Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

But Nephi could not have learned what he did without his father first receiving revelations and experiencing his own theophany, and then disseminating his revelatory experiences to his family. This has been the pattern from the beginning. In the Lectures on Faith, we read in the second lecture:

31 Adam thus being made acquainted with God, communicated the knowledge which he had unto his posterity; and it was through this means that the thought was first suggested to their minds that there was a God. Which laid the foundation for the exercise of their faith, through which they could obtain a knowledge of his character and also of his glory.
32 Not only was there a manifestation made unto Adam of the existence of a God, but Moses informs us, as before quoted, that God condescended to talk with Cain after his great transgression, in slaying his brother, and that Cain knew that it was the Lord that was talking with him: so that when he was driven out from the presence of his brethren, he carried with him the knowledge of the existence of a God: and through this means, doubtless his posterity became acquainted with the fact that such a being existed.
33 From this we can see that the whole human family, in the early age of their existence, in all their different branches, had this knowledge disseminated among them; so that the existence of God became an object of faith, in the early age of the world. And the evidences which these men had of the existence of a God, was the testimony of their fathers in the first instance.
34 The reason why we have been thus particular on this part of our subject, is, that this class may see by what means it was that God became an object of faith among men after the fall; and what it was that stirred up the faith of multitudes to feel after him; to search after a knowledge of his character, perfections and attributes, until they became extensively acquainted with him; and not only commune with him, and behold his glory, but be partakers of his power, and stand in his presence.

With the pattern established anew in Nephi’s family, Nephi is able to grasp the weight of his unique opportunity and take advantage of it.

1 Nephi 11:For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot…

Nephi had already proven true and faithful to the Lord in risking all his worldly possessions and even his own life in obtaining the brass plates, withholding nothing. His obedience and diligence evidenced his fidelity to God. In the Lectures on Faith, lecture six, we read:

7 Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.

Nephi had proven himself, just as Moses and Isaiah and now his father Lehi before him had proven themselves faithful. And now Nephi was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord until he found himself upon an exceedingly high mountain where the Lord grants his desire, which is to see and understand his father’s vision. It wasn’t until the previous chapter where Lehi taught concerning a Messiah that Nephi even considered such a concept. And now he is taught concerning the condescension of Jesus Christ. When the Spirit of the Lord said, “Look!” He departed and an angel came in His stead to teach Nephi further. Neither Nephi nor Lehi were the first prophets in the record of the Book of Mormon to whom the Lord manifested Himself in the spirit. The brother of Jared had a similar experience:

Ether 3:14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.
15 And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.
16 Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.

Nephi’s entire life experience from departing Jerusalem to traveling in the wilderness to reaching the promised land and walking with the Lord is a perfect fit of the symbolism of the vision of the tree of life and also the temple endowment ordinance. The entire first book of Nephi, in essence, is an endowment parallel with Adam and Eve’s exit from the garden of Eden and making their way through the lone and dreary wilderness, learning and obeying the commandments of the Lord in their efforts by trial and error to be brought back to converse with the Lord through the veil. We see the same with the brother of Jared and company. We see the same with the exit of the Israelites from Egypt and their journey to their promised land of Jerusalem with Moses as a true messenger. The pattern is always the same. In the New Testament, we read:

John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

And so we see this exemplified in Nephi’s life. Both the Son and the Father had made their abode with Nephi:

2 Nephi 31:11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.
12 And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
14 But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.
15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.
16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

Nephi exhorts the reader to walk that same path that he did and follow Jesus Christ diligently, obeying precisely everything the Lord commands, seeking His mysteries and seeking to be taught by Him who is no respector of persons, but gives to all liberally and does not upbraid. To the reader he declares:

2 Nephi 32:And now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way. But, behold, why do ye ponder these things in your hearts?
Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?
Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.
Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh, the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do.

In other words, if you desire to know more beyond what has been given to the general population, you have to ask and knock. You must diligently seek Him if you want to know His mysteries. You must be obedient to all His sayings. If you don’t, it is because of unbelief and slothfulness. Nephi’s final chapters carry the impact and weight of eternal salvation and damnation according to one’s faithfulness and diligence or lack thereof, which he seals up with finality.

2 Nephi 33:13 And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earth, I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust: Farewell until that great day shall come.
14 And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day.
15 For what I seal on earth, shall be brought against you at the judgment bar; for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey. Amen.

Nephi was the epitome of a Renaissance man. All the knowledge and skills, which he possessed were merely talents employed diligently and faithfully in bringing to pass a great work of the Lord for the eternal benefit of countless others.  More importantly, he was fearless and unwavering in keeping with exactness all the commandments given to Him by the Lord. And that is the real lesson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excess and Extortion

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I had a brief but edifying discussion with someone about my previous entry concerning Jean Valjean and Fantine, two characters in the popular historical novel Les Miserables. In my previous entry I said that it is by extortion that  makes thieves of beggars like Jean Valjean and harlots like Fantine who after selling her hair and her two front teeth in order to provide for her child, resorts in desperation to surrender her virtue by prostituting herself so that she might survive. I was told that “Valjean and Fantine were victims of the evilness in human hearts, which is universal, not economics per se.”

I replied by saying Satan’s sole purpose in taking ownership of the Earth was to bring the posterity of Adam and Eve into captivity. The Earth already belonged, by God’s decree, to Adam and Eve to use freely, even after they were driven out from Eden. The root of evil in men’s hearts is avarice, or the love of money. It is avarice, greed, etc, that motivated Cain to deprive Abel of Abel’s substance. Satan convinced Cain that such wealth would liberate Cain and so Cain assumed Abel’s property by extortion, or in other words, force of his death. Cain extorted from Abel Abel’s wealth by killing him. And when Cain acquired his ill gotten gain, he figured he would never have to live all the days of his life by the sweat of his brow.

Moses 5:32 And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.
33 And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.

Extortion means the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats. Fantine’s virtue was extorted by a man who otherwise could have provided for her through godly means–gifting. Instead, he took from her that most precious thing by threat of ultimatum. He lorded over her his power to provide for her freely, but instead he leveraged her virtue in order to satisfy his basest desires. She chose to finance her bread with her virtue. Of course this could also be viewed as a voluntary exchange. Nobody forced Fantine to submit to the man’s terms! But this is how our economy in this fallen world has been for a very long time. But to reiterate:

D&C 59:18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

More often than not, we tend to justify ourselves in accumulating wealth, a savings account, or in other words, “excess.” If I am a good and honest and hard working man, I deserve every penny I earned and it is mine to do with as I please. Isn’t free will great? But if my neighbor (see Luke 10:29-37) is not as cunning in his industry as I am, then he deserves to be poor or destitute.

Mosiah 4:17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remissions of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay…

If God offers forgiveness and salvation freely, why do we not likewise offer freely to the downtrodden? There is only one justification according to scripture for obtaining wealth:

Jacob 2:12 And now behold, my brethren, this is the word which I declare unto you, that many of you have begun to search for gold, and for silver, and for all manner of precious ores, in the which this land, which is a land of promise unto you and to your seed, doth abound most plentifully.
13 And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they.
14 And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.
15 O that he would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!
16 O that he would rid you from this iniquity and abomination. And, O that ye would listen unto the word of his commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!
17 Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.

Isaiah had something to say about this. What he prophesied would happen to his people would also come to pass in the last days. Concerning the covenant people at Jerusalem, he wrote:

Isaiah 3:¶ The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.
10 Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
11 Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.
12 ¶ As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
13 The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of hosts.
16 ¶ Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
21 The rings, and nose jewels,
22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils.
24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
25 Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.
26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.

In Isaiah chapter 1, the Lord addresses His covenant people: 10 ¶ Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah

I find this interesting. Zion denotes an elect people. The main archetypes in the book of Isaiah include “Babylon,” “Assyria,” “Israel,” and “Zion.” So it’s interesting to see the Lord address the Israelite men as “rulers of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah” and the women as “daughters of Zion.” But the women do not escape His judgment. Although we tend to view Sodom and Gomorrah as places where so much sexual activity took place, the Lord declared much more. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were proud, self righteous, vain, oppressors of the poor and needy, etc.

Isaiah goes to an extreme length to list all the varieties of dress and accessories that the women tend to wear. It isn’t too difficult to see the same today. I can’t remember if it was a family member or a neighbor that once explained to me why women have to have so many shoes and clothes and stuff. She said that when they’re little girls they dress up all their Barbies. But when they grow up, they become Barbie. Women seem programmed from an early age to “doll up” and accessorize. I’m not sure why. They seem to have to have an outfit for everything and their clothes have to be interchangeable, and match by colors or patterns or whatever.

As for men, we tend to compete to become Alpha males in our various circles. Even the Lord’s disciples kept bickering among themselves who should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven among them. It’s just a guy thing. We compete. I think that women are the same, but for a different reason. Women seem to tend to size each other up by how many more men they can attract than the next woman. They measure their worth by being able to attract the Alpha males and this can make them insecure and catty. I’m sure not all women are like this just like not all men have to be Alpha males. Obviously, women feel an innate need to feel beautiful and cherished and loved. It’s either that or perhaps women are just as vain as men are.

In any case, it isn’t difficult to conclude that when we carefully study the scriptures and liken them to ourselves, we are just like the people back then. We judge others by their looks and deeds, but we judge ourselves by our best intentions. We always have the best intentions, but our deeds don’t always measure up. They probably seldom do. So we ignore the scriptures and instead of getting gain for the sole purpose of lifting those who are powerless to lift themselves up, we use our increase to accumulate more wealth and substance, thus esteeming ourselves better than the poor. We define ourselves by our styles of clothing, our elaborate homes and vehicles and toys, or in other words, our excess. After all, having worked so hard to acquire them, we make ourselves worthy to possess them.

LesMis

 

 

The Economics of Gifting

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As one who speaks three languages, I find it interesting that the word gift is almost never used as a verb, though gift giving isn’t uncommon among friends. It is less common among acquaintances and even less so with strangers. I have heard it more commonly used in Spanish (regalar) and also in German (schenken) in daily use. But gift giving is detrimental to economics. How can you get people to pay you for what others give away for free? This also applies to religion and it’s why the Pharisees hated Jesus; He was bad for their business. Why pay ministers when the Son of God offers salvation for free? He gave the earth to Adam and Eve to cultivate freely without price.

Matthew 6:25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

But fallen man exacts a price and he over exacts much. Modern economics deals with the production, consumption, and transfer of wealth, or in other words, money. You can buy anything in this world with money. But you must first get gain. This cannot happen except by extortion. Man robs God, takes ownership of the earth, then with his ill gotten gain, he does not transfer it unless he profits thereby. God has forbidden this or as we read in Matthew 6:24, you cannot serve God and Mammon (Hebrew Mamonut=finance, Mamonai=financier, Mamoni=monetary, etc.). This is the way of the world, or in other words, Babylon. It is the continual exchange of substance. But God has something else in mind:

D&C 59:18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

It is by such extortion that  makes thieves of beggars like Jean Valjean and harlots like Fantine who after selling her hair and her two front teeth in order to provide for her child, resorts in desperation to surrender her virtue by prostituting herself so that she might survive.

A young man who wanted to follow Jesus, having kept all the statutes from his youth up lacked just one thing to become the Lord’s disciple. He needed only sell all his possessions in order to give of all his worldly wealth thereof to the poor. But the young man coveted his own substance and abandoned the Lord because his heart was set upon his worldly treasures. Such can never hope to become pure in heart for it is the pure in heart that constitute Zion. The pure in heart are pure, that is, unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed by any other substance or material.

D&C 101:18 They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion.

And who are the pure in heart that constitute Zion?

Moses 7:18 And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.

“There was no poor among them.”

Isaiah 14:32 What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.

And why does nobody suffer poverty in Zion? Because they are one. One heart and one mind. They are righteous, or in other words just. There is no injustice and there is no injustice because there is no excess and no extortion. Like the saints in the first  few chapters of Acts, they have all things “common” among them. All of it is God’s who multiplies and gives freely.

Acts 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common…

Acts 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

They embodied the two great commandments for they loved God and also one another as themselves. The same discipleship was found in the Book of Mormon after Jesus Christ’s visitation:

4 Nephi 1:And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.

Gift giving is kind. It is brotherly and selfless. It is faithful. Gift giving is Godly. Of such is the true disciple of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

Good Friday, Good Father.

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I’ve spent the last year rehabilitating my Father-in-law’s garden, pulling up a jungle of weeds, tilling the soil, making countless trips to collect truck loads of shredded wood chips offered freely in my community, mixing the chips with many bags full of lawnmower clippings, and creating compost over the summer and winter. And now that it has finally quit snowing (crosses fingers) and after many rainstorms, the sun has begun to finally shine for a while. I turned over one of the piles of compost that had been decomposing over the winter and with all the recent rainstorms, percolating all that natural goodness to the bottom, I discovered earthworms as fat as my thumb and at least twice as long doing their thing, making rich brown gold to spread all over the garden. I am eager to see how big our vegetables get this year! As I mowed the lawn today, to begin making new batches of compost, I thought about all those earthworms and how beneficial they are to soil. It’s an odd thing to think about how much life is created from death with last years lawn clippings, dead leaves, and dead tree trimmings that have been processed, etc. When you mix it all in just the right proportions, you get worms, flowering plants, bees, butterflies, vegetables, and so on.

And now Good Friday is upon us. This Friday, those who believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him, commemorate the day that His death brought about life. His death makes all things new (Revelation 21:4-5). The process of destroying and breaking down trees, grass, leaves, and other living things to create an environment where life can begin anew and thrive, although violent, is a beautiful thing to consider when you think about the new birds singing, bees buzzing, pollinating new vegetable plants, and flowers blooming. Jesus Christ suffered violently as He was broken down by Roman soldiers and unjustly condemned to die brutally on the cross. He did not deserve to die, yet He, an innocent man, paid a price that was not His to pay. Since the sixteenth century, Lady Justice has been depicted wearing a blindfold suggesting that justice should be applied regardless of one’s wealth, status, or power. This image suggests impartiality. But this only works properly in a moral society. In the case of our sinless Lord, justice had been robbed. Jesus Christ came into the world knowing it would be so.

Alma 34:For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.
10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
11 Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.
12 But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.
13 Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.

The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) but because Jesus was sinless, and being God, having eternal life, what was unjustly taken from Him was His life, which is eternal and infinite, having no end. And while God’s own justice must reject evil, which has no place in His kingdom, His own sacrifice makes possible His right of mercy. Lady Justice can demand of us death, and rightly so, for the wages of sin is death. But Jesus Christ who is our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) and our intercessor (Hebrews  7:25) with the Father can, in effect, hold back the blindfolded Lady Justice and say to her, “you took from me my life, which is endless and infinite. Therefore, in restoring to myself what is infinite, I can claim ALL life.” Justice is necessarily satisfied. And because He suffered all things in the flesh, including temptations, and all manner of afflictions (Hebrews 2:18, Alma 7:11-12), He is able to succor His people according to their infirmities.

This is how Jesus Christ has created the environment where life can begin anew and thrive just like the bees and butterflies and flowers in our gardens. Our lives begin anew as His children, for He is the Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).

John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name…

Those who believe in Jesus and believe Jesus will keep His sayings and do His will (John 7:17). This is how we come to know Him–by doing His will. Those who do His will are those who love Him. Personally speaking, I love Him because He first loved me.

Ether 3:14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.

Mosiah 15:1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—
The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—
And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.

It was necessary for Him to take upon Himself flesh, a son of man (Mark 10:45) with the capacity to die. And it was necessary for Him to die unjustly so that He could reclaim His life and all who believe in Him, repenting continually, drawing near to Him, becoming His children through His grace and mercy. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! Worthy is the King who conquered the grave! He is worthy of our love! He is worthy of our discipleship! For while we were yet sinners, He died for us (Romans 5:8). This is amazing grace!

Lamb

 

Believe Jesus.

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My writings have been a labor of love. Because this blog has been receiving visitors from all around the globe on a daily basis, I have decided to upgrade it to remove all advertisements so that everyone may read without the distraction of all the banner ads. As a side note, the primary purpose of this blog is to persuade all visitors to believe in Jesus Christ, but not only to believe in Him, but also to believe Him. Believe His words as found in the scriptures. And if you do believe, please go and do the things that He has said to do. May your faith be demonstrated by good works, not in order to be saved though, for it is only by the grace of Jesus Christ that one may be saved, but that your good works bear witness to Him that you believe the words He has taught. Find His words in Matthew chapters 5 through 7 where He explicitly teaches us how to live and Matthew chapter 25 where those who keep His sayings find themselves at the last day.

And to the Lamanites of these last days, I reiterate what the prophet Mormon wrote specifically for you:

Mormon 7:1 And now, behold, I would speak somewhat unto the remnant of this people who are spared, if it so be that God may give unto them my words, that they may know of the things of their fathers; yea, I speak unto you, ye remnant of the house of Israel; and these are the words which I speak:
Know ye that ye are of the house of Israel.
Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved.
Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you.
Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up…
10 And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. Amen.

Believe. Be baptized with water and with fire. Demonstrate your belief by your good works.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.