Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Abundant Life and Government Prosperity

I awoke this morning to news that a threatened midnight shutdown of the government had been avoided. The politicians on both sides were claiming that a monumental achievement had been accomplished.
Last week, the much-anticipated 2012 budget labeled “The Path to Prosperity” was rolled out by Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee. It’s certainly better than Obama’s version of the future, but it still is woefully short of what is required.
The Balanced Budget Amendment is favorable to all this posturing, where we put government in a spending straight jacket of our own choosing.
I awoke with a scripture ringing in my head this morning: ". . . I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10).
It is distressing to me that politicians of late have so badly mangled that scripture in attempting to deliver man-made economic philosophies. I see government promising more and more and requiring less and less to realize its version of the abundant life, and it is little more than empty rhetoric.
Obama Claims Huge Budget Cut Victory
As the nation emerged from the Great Depression of the Thirties, the slogans were not dissimilar to what we hear today: "We stand for a full dinner pail," and "We stand for a chicken in every pot," and still later, "Two cars in every garage," then more recently, “Every American should be able to realize the great American dream of owning their own home.” I remember LBJ’s anthem in putting forth the dream of the Great Society, "Full employment for everybody in America and a pint of milk for everybody in the world." 

The more things change, the more the rhetoric remains the same, but the promises are now more reckless and more frantic, and less true than ever.

After running the biggest deficit in this nation's history, and spending more in two years than Franklin D. Roosevelt did in four whole terms as president, Obama stepped to the microphone last night to proudly announce this budget deal to cut spending is the largest in history. Even House Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are trumpeting their grand collaborative achievement. Just to put it in perspective, the government debt mounted to $54 billion in the eight days covered by the last continuing resolution to create savings of something in the range of $38 billion over the next six months. 

We're still talking a few crumbs here, not much to get excited about. 
In commenting on this page about my belief in the role of America in the days that lie ahead as we continue to lay the foundation of Zion in preparation for the Lord’s Second Coming, make no mistake that I am deeply concerned about the fictions that abound in our political solutions. This wrong-headed ideal of endless comfort with little or no effort required to achieve it will never be realized as a new world order because we can never be comfortable enough, we can never have enough things, and this ideal will be destroyed by the divisions it produces. I see no peace or prosperity in that course.
I fear no contradiction when I state we may never have seen a time in the world’s history when so much has been said about the abundant life and so little effort has been expended in preparing to obtain it.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10:1, 7, 9).
And then He closed His lesson with this statement: ". . . I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10, emphasis mine).
To His disciples on another occasion He said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6).
It was the same message that He gave to Nicodemus, who asked what he must do to be saved, and in reply the Master answered: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5).
The way the Savior has laid out in the gospel plan is His way. Anybody who tries to lay out a different definition comes to you "as a thief and a robber," to use the Savior's words. Poverty will always follow those who would take the true abundant life from you. They will be left desolate in the day of their greatest spiritual needs.
Paul urged: "Therefore not leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection. . . ." (JST Hebrews 6:1).
In explaining what salvation means, the Prophet Joseph Smith declared:
Joseph Smith
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. . .  (TPJS, 297).
The full realization of the abundant life, of course, comes later, as the Prophet Joseph Smith reminds us: "Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full." (D&C 101:36).
Peter gave us the true Path to Prosperity, not Paul Ryan:
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-11, emphasis mine).
We do not obtain temporal gratuities in counting the essentials for the abundant life, for the Lord declared: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21).
Before he was Paul the Apostle, Saul of Tarsus was one who had been persistent in his attempts to stamp out early Christianity. He was a zealot until that day around noon:
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (Acts 9:3-6).
Ananias, a humble man of God, was the messenger to Saul and taught him the way to an abundant life. He baptized him and then sent him to the apostles, where he received his commission that sent him out to be one of the greatest missionaries among the gentiles, and we know him from that time forth as the Apostle Paul.
As a prisoner on his way to Rome later in his life, Paul and his shipmates put out from an island in the Mediterranean Sea. He had the impression all would not be well, and they were hardly out of sight of land when a furious storm broke, and for fourteen days that frail ship was tossed about, and when, as the scriptures say, "neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away." (Acts 27:20).
Then it was that the Apostle Paul went down into a place by himself and prayed, and here are the words that are recorded in the scriptures which describe his experience:
. . . after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, . . .
And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship.
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
Then Paul quieted his shipmates with this testimony: "Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me." (Acts 27:21-25).
Paul found the abundant life in what could only be described as ironic circumstances.
So it is for each of us. The first step is to live the kind of life that permits us to receive the light of heaven, and a testimony that Jesus is a living reality and that He can speak to us. One possessed of such testimony, then, from the depths of his heart will say, as did Paul: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
We could all determine better whatever in our lives would lead best and quickest for the welfare of Zion by asking, "Heavenly Father, what wilt thou have me do?"
We may only be one, but together of like mind we are many and we are powerful beyond our wildest imaginations.
When we pray in real sincerity and faith, there will come back to us the answer to that prayerful inquiry. The answer has come oft repeated, time and time again, that all that we do should be done "with an eye single to the glory of God." What is the glory of God? The Lord told Moses, ". . . this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39).
With that goal always before us — seeing every act of our lives, every decision we make, as patterned toward the development of a life that shall permit us to enter into the presence of the Lord, our Heavenly Father, to gain which is to obtain eternal life — how much more wisdom there would be in the many things of life.
If all our selfish motives, then, and all our personal desires and expediency would be subordinated to a desire to know the will of the Lord, one could have the companionship of heavenly vision. If our problems be too great for human intelligence or too much for human strength, we too, if we are faithful and appeal rightly unto the source of divine power, might have standing by us in our hour of peril or great need an angel of God.

One who lives to glean a testimony that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, and who is willing to reach out to Him in constant inquiry to know if his course is approved, is the one who is living life to its full abundance here and is preparing for the celestial world, which is to live eternally with his Heavenly Father.

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