Friday, December 30, 2011

Out with the Old, and In with the New

As one of our Christmas traditions, we design and print a new tee-shirt that has some family significance for The Goates Kids. This year, as always, the tee-shirts were opened on
Christmas Eve and are usually put to use that first night as pajama tops.

This year was typical, and in the design process with everyone's name printed on the back, I counted the grandchildren (it's a task in our family). With the recent birth this week of Clara Grace, we now have 38 grandchildren with two more expected in the next three months.

There is something wonderfully energizing and exciting about the birth of grandchildren. Maybe it's because Patsy and I no longer have to do the "heavy lifting." She's up in Washington state this week tending grandchildren. It's her thing to be a Grandma. She's almost as good at it as she has been being a mother. Nothing gives me greater joy than watching her in that role.

It was Carl Sandburg who famously said: "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on."

A baby, like a new year, is a fresh beginning. We are reminded in scripture:

Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.
For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
Light and truth forsake that evil one.
Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. (D&C 93:29-38).

Melanie, the mother of our newest grand-daughter, reminded me last night that everyone walking around on planet Earth today was birthed in the same way as her new infant. Everyone, think of it!, everyone has a mother, and we owe them our lives. I revere my mother, and my memories of her are as real and fresh as if she were still living here among us. Strange that such a common experience doesn't bond us all together as a human family, isn't it? So universal, this matter of birth and death, yet we take it so much for granted that we discount the miraculous nature of it.

We are commanded to "bring up your children in light and truth." (D&C 93:40). These precious innocent children are given to us as a gift, but also as an inheritance. The same blessings promised to Abraham in God's covenant with him are universal to all Abraham's posterity, if we will live for them:

My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;
And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. (Abraham 2:8-11).

All the families of the earth today are being blessed by the seed of Abraham, as the fulness of the gospel spreads forth across the world. Whatever sins of the past have been committed in violation of the agency that has been ours since the foundations of this world were first laid, even since we were first organized as "intelligences," can be swept away in repentance. All that is required of God's children, then, now and always, is the recognition of Christ's atoning redemption for each of us.

The beginning of a new year is a renewal of life, a chance to begin again, to forsake past sins and bad habits, and to cast out the old way we've done things, and to bring in the new. Indeed, the meaning of repentance in Greek translations is literally "to think differently after." Are you capable of doing things differently next year after witnessing the disastrous results of this past year that have brought sorrow to yourselves and others? Can you think differently? Can you act differently? Robert Louis Stevenson said, "You cannot run away from weakness. You must sometime fight it out or perish. And if that be so, why not now and where you stand?" According to King Benjamin, your salvation depends upon your ability to be consciously aware of your need to change:

And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.
But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not. (Mosiah 4:29-30).

The birth of a child symbolizes perfectly our individual and collective preparations for one day living in a Zion society. Indeed, the birth of Zion is prefaced and likened to a woman bringing forth a baby and enduring the travail of her labor pains to produce the birth. Becoming Zion-like begins with each of us and following the example of Abraham. To inherit what Abraham has inherited is the quest of a lifetime of righteous living and doing.

There are some who subscribe to the satanic notion that the world is such a wicked place it is irresponsible to bring more children in to it. Could it be possibly as wicked a place as it was in Abraham's day when children were being routinely sacrificed on a pagan altar? Satan came into this world in the garden with the sole purpose of destroying the family. His inroads are deep and he has had great success since then. He will always have an opponent among the Latter-day Saints, however, who believe the family is at the center of the universe because God designed the plan of happiness in such a way we could all participate in the joy of creation.

So on the eve of another new year, let us all put away the old and begin afresh.

Let us make a pact that we will resist believing all the political punditry coming from the prophets of doom and gloom who are predicting the end of America. We will hear it in a cascading cacophony of escalating decibels all next year in the run-up to the November presidential election. The Iowa caucuses kick things off next week. At this writing, no one has a clue how Iowa will conclude until all the votes are counted, and so it will be state by state until the final election on the second Tuesday in November.

Let us agree to do all we can and dial down the false predictions, since no one really knows until all the votes are in. No matter what you think is going to happen this next year, God's promises and His plan for the establishment of Zion in the last days extend far beyond the here and now. These promises resound in my ears:

I have sworn, and the decree hath gone forth by a former commandment which I have given unto you, that I would let fall the sword of mine indignation in behalf of my people; and even as I have said, it shall come to pass.
Mine indignation is soon to be poured out without measure upon all nations; and this will I do when the cup of their iniquity is full.
And in that day all who are found upon the watch-tower, or in other words, all mine Israel, shall be saved.
And they that have been scattered shall be gathered.
And all they who have mourned shall be comforted.
And all they who have given their lives for my name shall be crowned.
Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.
Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.
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 all these things that the prophets might be fulfilled. (D&C 101:10-19).

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