Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fathers Day and Abrahamic Tests

With all the political chatter recently, Fathers Day 2010 slipped past without so much as a whisper from me, but there were some thoughts I captured four years ago that are worth preserving here.  The following is taken from my journal of that day:

On Sunday morning, Father's Day, 2006, I awoke with three distinct "bullet points" for my upcoming talk about service in the Woodland Ward that day. In the mercy of the Lord, and yet another demonstration of the marvelous economy of the Spirit, it seemed a personal message to me in addition to forming the foundation for what I was to say in my talk.

Here are the three points, lest they be forgotten:

1. Do not fear the hike up the mountain of preparation.
2. Embrace the Abrahamic tests in your life.
3. Accept the invitation to come in at the front gate of the church of the Firstborn.

Having just finished that fabulous book about Abraham, The Blessings of Abraham, by E. Douglas Clark, I suppose my reading must have laid the foundation for my talk -- all I got early in the morning was the outline.  It was left to me to fill in the detail around those three points.  (That's not a misprint on the price, but it's worth every penny, trust me).

I began by expressing the wish to elevate our thinking about service. I suggested that no one is opposed to the notion that service is a desirable trait for all disciples to have. I started discussing Abraham's preparations for answering the call to be prepared for the complete consecration of his life by answering the call to go to the land of Moriah to a mountain he was told he would be shown to sacrifice his only son.

It was a three day journey. He began immediately to make the preparations, and he did as he was told to do -- cut the wood for the pier upon which Isaac was to be offered.

Imagine the thoughts that went through his mind on that three day journey. Imagine what Isaac was thinking. What is unknown from the account in Genesis is what Sarah was thinking. Imagine that faith on the part of all three! Because he knew God was in it, he did not hesitate.

He was led by the Spirit to Mount Moriah (what is today known in Jerusalem as the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock now sits). His preparation and his willingness to carry out the required sacrifice is what tested him to the limit.

Joseph Smith once said if there had been a more severe test God could have devised to thoroughly try the heart of Abraham, God would have given Abraham that test instead. The whole idea of Abrahamic tests in our lives is to test the depth of our commitment to God -- to infuse us with the desire to consecrate our lives to God's work.

In order to serve our fellowmen, it would seem, each of us must bow to the demands of consecration -- the sacrifice of all earthly things and desire.  Simultaneously, we are offering the only thing to God that is truly ours to give -- our free will.

These are high and holy objectives, even "dangerous doctrines" in the eyes of some. But that was the example Abraham set before us as aspiring disciples.

Then I suggested each of us would have similar tests if we sought fellowship with the saints of former ages. How would you feel if invited to sit down to dinner one night with luminaries like Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek, Alma, Paul, Elijah, and others like them if in your own right you had not been willing to offer the same commitment they demonstrated? To think we would someday inherit an equal portion with them without a similar measure of sacrifice would be haughty indeed! I can't imagine meeting Paul someday in the realms ahead, but when I do I want to be able to look him in the eye, shake his hand, and feel adequate.  That's all.  And I realize only the atonement of Christ can level that playing field for me. 

I know I'm not even a freckle on Paul's nose, but through Christ and His sanctifying blood I want to at least be able to hug him without being embarrassed at my lack.

When those Abrahamic tests come to each of us (and surely they do), I suggested rather than blame God for our hardships and trials, we must embrace the chastening and accept the tutorial as a gift from God to help reveal ourselves to ourselves. Finding God in the fiery furnace is what it appears to be all about.

To conclude, I suggested that fellowship in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, begins at the gate of baptism. Fellowship in the church of the Firstborn, however, is outlined in D&C 76, and is found beyond the gates of the temple within in the covenants we make there.

Many come in at the gate to the outward Church (capital "C"), but few seem to find the fellowship of the inward church (lower case "c") outlined in the revelations.

Like these outward ordinances God offers to us with a promise of someday obtaining as joint heirs with Christ all that He possesses, too many members of the Church conclude that nominal membership in the Church is all there is, never looking beyond and deeper into what can only be termed as the "mysteries of godliness," which I feel I am just beginning to understand in part (I'm slow).

I suggested there is a church within a Church we must each discover by doing the works of Abraham, embracing his example and following the same path he laid out for us. Abraham and Sarah represent the path of true discipleship in modeling concern, service and lovingkindness for all our Father in Heaven's children. This awareness is anchored in humility, kindness and love for others.

I remembered that years ago during the time of President Lee, President Kimball and President Benson, the prophets used to answer the reporters' questions about why the Church wasn't doing more to lift the burdens of the millions around the earth who were suffering with expressions that we simply didn't have the resources to do as much as we would like, although we would do more if we had the resources. Now we do.

I concluded with these inspired words from President Hinckley:

"In the last ten years we have supplied in cash and commodities hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to those not of our faith.
"We have traveled the earth bearing witness of this, the work of the Almighty. During these same years I personally have traveled nearly a million miles visiting some 70 countries. My beloved companion traveled with me until a year ago when she passed away on the 6th of April. It has been lonely since then.
"Our hope concerning the future is great and our faith is strong.
"We know that we have scarcely scratched the surface of that which will come to pass in the years that lie ahead." (Ensign, May 2005, 4).

When it comes to service, we have barely begun as a Church and individuals to do the works of Abraham. We must enlist all "our substance" (as King Benjamin described it -- not just money) but everything we have and are, or ever will have or be, to fulfill that ideal to truly consecrate our lives for the building up of the kingdom of God on earth and for the establishment of Zion.

I don't know if anyone else in the audience learned anything in that talk, but I know the Lord certainly enlarged and expanded my vision.

On another occasion, President Hinckley reminded us: "We must reach out to all mankind. They are all sons and daughters of God our Eternal Father, and He will hold us accountable for what we do concerning them. . . May we bless humanity with an outreach to all, lifting those who are downtrodden and oppressed, feeding and clothing the hungry and the needy, extending love and neighborliness to those about us who may not be part of this Church." (Ensign, November 2001, 6).

I concluded by testifying there is a living prophet among us. He is no small thinker, this man Gordon B. Hinckley. Indeed, he is a man like Abraham, and we can do no less if we would claim our own place with them in the church of the Firstborn. As "firstborns" in the church of THE Firstborn, only by doing the works of Abraham will we claim our rightful place as a joint heir with Jesus Christ, the Firstborn Son, inheriting all that the Father hath.

Now that he's gone, I could easily say the same of his successor, President Thomas S. Monson, whose example of Christian service and love for his fellowmen knows no boundaries.  Said he recently:

"I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish — and in effect save their lives."  ("What Have I Done For Someone Today?", Ensign, November 2009, 84-87).

And yes, these are all thoughts beyond my feeble attempts to understand or adequately explain, underscoring the source of it all.

I have always loved the words of Nephi.  Some have called it "the psalm of Nephi:"

“My soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard," Nephi stated. (2 Nephi 4:16).

And yet, as all of us have sinned and "come short of the glory of God," (see Romans 3:23) Nephi, too, explored those feelings:

"Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily best me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted." (2 Nephi 4:17-19).

Through all of the trials and tribulations Nephi had been through, he had come to know the Lord. "And having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God..."

Nephi truly does know the Lord. He has seen him (2 Nephi 11:2,3). He has been taught by angels many times. He has been supported and strengthened by the Lord through the terrible ordeal of the wilderness crossing and the ocean voyage to the Promised Land.

I have always wondered how I could possibly be weighed in the balance with Paul and Nephi and not found wanting.  Then I have remembered, "Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted."


  1. Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

  2. Revelation 18:4-5 -- read the whole chapter. We know the final outcome: "Babylon (the world) the great is fallen, is fallen. . ." (verse 2)