Saturday, March 29, 2014

Christ's Grace is Sufficient for All of Us

I'm going to be perhaps a little too autobiographical in this post. But that statement always reminds us we should never apologize too much for personal experiences, since those are the only ones any of us has.

That said, I was sent an e-mail last night by one of our sons. This was his message:

"I wanted to share this with everybody. This is a great message that was recommended to me by a member of my elders quorum and it really resonated with me tonight.

"I know I am not the only one in this family who has a tendency to beat himself up over mistakes I've made (continue to make) so this talk helps me see how unfair I am being to myself when I hold myself to that false standard and wallow in the pain of my imperfections. Christ's grace through His atonement is truly miraculous - I don't understand it but know that I must simply accept it and be grateful for all that it is.

"I love you all. I pray for each of you and your happiness...


It was a BYU Devotional given on July 12, 2011, by Brad Wilcox. His title was "His Grace is Sufficient". If you've got thirty minutes, it will be time well-spent. Here's the transcript of his talk.

After watching his talk this morning I was reminded of something I wrote years ago. I titled it "The Impossible Gospel" and included it as Chapter Ten of our book, Power and Covenants: Men, Women and Priesthood. I titled that chapter "No Power in the Law". We wrote that manuscript back in 1996, so I must have written my article years before that. I submitted it for possible publication in the Ensign, but it may have been a little ahead of its time. It was before we started to see articles it the Ensign about child abuse, divorce, pornography, gays and lesbians - you know, before we admitted to ourselves in the Church that we were failing miserably under the rigorous demands of the law of Moses. So they politely declined to publish it way back then. Perhaps today it would be better received.

I wrote back to Steve and the rest of our family in response to his e-mail last night. This is what I told them:

"I endorse this. Thanks Steve for the great reminder. I grew up in a home where false doctrine in the form of strict compliance and outward behavior was preached and required. Always there were constant reminders that we were the family of a prophet of God and we must set an example of perfection (yes, perfection) before the Church. Even Grandfather Lee told us on more than one occasion, 'My sermons will never be more effective than the lives you live.' It was a heavy burden to bear as his oldest grandson.

"I was spared from the effects of that false doctrine and rescued in my embrace of, and my personal need for, the grace of Christ. I knew I could never measure up, even though for years I tried my very best. It was never enough. I kept failing in even the simplest of carnal desires. My natural man was well-developed at an early age.

"In later years, I have come to love and accept my father wholly and without judgment for who he is - a devout Pharisee. I've even lovingly joked with him about it. There really isn't anything terribly wrong with being a Pharisee because they are so observant. The only weakness is they (my dear father included) won't live long enough to have mastered all 613 points of the law of Moses. The sum of all the knots in the Jewish prayer shawl is 613, because that is traditionally the number of mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah. Unfortunately, as witnessed by Steve's observations in his e-mail, some of you have inherited this false tradition despite my diligent efforts to banish such heresy from our family.

"Many years ago I wrote an article I submitted for consideration to be published in the Ensign. They politely declined my unsolicited submission (it was when a former missionary companion, Giles Florence, was one of the editors). I have now lived long enough that it might be better received today. I titled it 'The Impossible Gospel'. Search for it on Goates Notes, you'll find it there. I've written about this subject extensively. I read it again this morning, and it's still timeless in my humble opinion.

"Embrace it. Accept the grace of our Savior for you. He loves you in your imperfection. Don't think you have to wait to go to Him for help until you are 'worthy enough' or until you 'know enough'. He will bless you with an abundance of His grace, His enabling power, to make of you something far in excess of who you are today if you will partner with Him today. Don't wait. His grace is sufficient because you never will be worthy enough, you will never know enough, you will never have enough money, and you will never be righteous enough. . . you'll have to think about that, perhaps. I will say this, however, you are all good looking enough ;-) Thank God for good genes.

"I had a 'shower revelation' years ago - that's where I receive a lot of great inspiration. A voice whispered to me, 'Teach your children the gospel of Jesus Christ so well that when they hear it taught in power and authority years later it will merely be an echo, not some strange new sound.' Now that you all have children of your own, I pass that torch along to each of you.

"Love and blessings,


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Your Most Precious Object

In recent years I've enjoyed helping my father edit his semi-annual missive to his former missionaries in the California Arcadia Mission. This is his way to keep in touch with them after these many years since their service together. Many of these missionaries have raised families of their own by now, sent their own sons and daughters into the mission field, seen them married in the temples, and now those children have children of their own too. His has been a long legacy of faithful service to the Church, as he outlines in this latest edition of "Heartlines" - 

April 2014

              We were greatly blessed –

- to be able to raise our family in a comfortable, large and spacious home on the Avenues of Salt Lake City, not far from my work at the L.D.S. Hospital. The three-level home had multiple exits on the second story level, some more dangerous than others. It was important to us that our children knew where to go in case of an emergency. So, on one occasion we devoted a Family Home Evening to conducting a fire drill to teach this possibly life-saving lesson.

Besides the life-saving preparation there was another very important outcome to be realized. A searching test question was added asking each person to decide which object they would choose to preserve, above all others, if they had but one, not more than two, minutes to quickly take possession of it before the menacing flames would envelop them. The answer to that question would declare this chosen object to be their most-prized possession. It was then, and still is, a most perplexing question. I could imagine that my daughter might choose her violin; her mother, maybe a diamond ring, but it would, of course, vary with each person and the decision might change as values are altered by maturity. But in my case, my choice has been unchanged over most of my life, for reasons I will explain.

Les Goates family as Brent
prepared to leave on his first mission
In 1942, I was called to serve in the Texas Mission. I had just completed my sophomore year at the University of Utah. Economic times after the Great Depression of the 1930s were still difficult and employment had just begun to improve with the stimulation of World War II.

My father, Les Goates, was employed by the Deseret News as sports editor. It was difficult for him to financially meet the expenses necessary to send his first boy on a mission. When it came time to provide for my scriptures, he gave me his own Triple Combination which had his name, Lesley Goates, embossed on the cover.

All through my two-year mission I studied from this sacred book and found therein the truths of the gospel which gave me a testimony of its divine message. Therefore, every page was treasured, and most of them were marked up with my notes in the margins. This same Triple Combination was with me through the next 23 years as my gospel scholarship broadened. It had been an instrument through which true revelation flowed. Therefore, it was to me priceless.

During the years of 1964-67, I served as a member of the General Priesthood Home Teaching Committee, traveling to teach the program with General Authorities at weekly stake conferences. In the Fall of 1967, a new level of general leadership was announced and many of us serving on one of the four General Priesthood Committees were called to be among the first appointed Regional Representatives of the Twelve. We came to the closeout of our last Home Teaching Committee stake visits on the weekend of September 23-24, 1967. Because the Brethren were reluctant for me to be far from the hospital on weekends, most of my assignments had been to nearby Utah stakes. But on this last appointment I asked to be sent to the most distant stake assigned to a conference. It turned out to be the Taber Stake in Western Canada. I was to accompany then-Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Council of the Twelve, who would preside at the conference.

We left on a Friday, spent that night at the Country Club Motel in Great Falls, Montana, then on Saturday we rented a car and drove about three hours to Taber. The assignment was one of the most satisfying and memorable experiences ever, and after completing our work at the Taber Stake we retraced our route and boarded a plane for home at Great Falls.

When our flight was underway, I brought out my scriptures to read. Seated next to me was Elder Monson, who noted the dilapidated condition of my Triple Combination. He turned to me and said, “Brent, your scriptures are falling apart and are hardly hanging together. If you will let me have the book for ten days I will recondition it and return it to you looking like new with a new binding and cover.” Elder Monson’s profession was in the printing and publishing field. He had previously been president of The Deseret Press, and still had connections there. So, reluctantly, I parted with the book.

Elder Monson was true to his promise. He returned to me a completely restored book neatly bound with a beautiful new leather cover, this time bearing my own name embossed in gold letters.

Almost every day in the subsequent 47 years, I have turned these pages seeking guidance and revelation for my life’s journey. This book has become my precious companion, and has endured a lifetime of scrutiny and research, accompanied by prayer. How can one put a price on a treasure like that? It is truly irreplaceable, and still is the most precious object which I would first of all preserve from the flames.

And now, what about you? What is your most precious object? If all else were to be destroyed, what would you choose first to save?

Always your friend,

          President L. Brent Goates

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Is There Life After Death?

I have several dear friends who are not currently members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I frequently have conversations with them about their religious beliefs, and invariably the question will come up whether life goes on after the grave. They are always astounded at my answers and my assurance that life does continue after death. So many in the world have an innate belief in life after death because it is so plausible. How can a lifetime of association with those they love simply end at the edge of the grave? They don't want to accept the finality of death. They want to believe there is more, but believing in life after death presupposes there must be a God who can make such hopes a reality.

Over the years I have spoken at many funerals. I always make a statement about how optimistic I am about death and the reality of life after death. I have come to believe and to KNOW there is life after death. In this post I will dive a little deeper into WHY I believe the way I do.

I accept that God gives good gifts to all His children, and He is no respecter of persons because He has told us as much in His Holy Word. (See Romans 2:11; Acts 10:34). In this context we are assured there is no partiality or favoritism. All are alike before the bar of eternal justice. Mercy and grace are extended to those who comply with God's commands, but all who accept the terms and conditions of repentance are treated alike.

If we accept that God is capable of giving only good gifts because His very nature is goodness, then we have this blessed assurance: If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God. (D&C 14:7). Notice the quid pro quo: If you do this, I will do that. And there you have the exact definition of a covenant.

Salvation is the greatest of all the gifts of God. It is synonymous with eternal life. It is the gift bestowed by God upon those who come to think as He thinks, to believe as He does, to act as He acts. In time those who are faithful to their covenants will come to experience what He experiences. To become as God now is will put us in position to be a joint heir with Jesus Christ, the Firstborn and Only Begotten Son, our Savior and Redeemer. We become equal with the Lord in power, might, and dominion, as the scripture declares: "Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High." (Psalms 82:6).

We receive from our Heavenly Father the gift of immortality through His Son, Jesus Christ. That gift is to have the power to live forever. It is one of the wondrous gifts we receive through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Our spirits are already immortal as a conscious personality shrouded by a mortal body now in mortality which will never cease to exist. Our spirits are the spark of divinity within each of us. The spirit within each of us will live everlastingly. Death is simply the temporary separation of our eternal spirit from our mortal body. The scriptures make it clear, however, that immortality is associated with the resurrection where spirit and body are inseparably reconnected and reunited, destined for a kingdom of glory in the life after this mortal life. Resurrection is a reality for all. I love the way the Apostle Paul expressed it:

"Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." (Romans 6:8-10).

To my friends who are not currently of my faith, I invite you to request a copy of The Book of Mormon (click the link to obtain a free copy). One of the prophets in that book of scripture was Amulek, who describes the resurrected body and uses the word spiritual synonymously with the word immortal. This usage is identical with all prophets of all ages, denoting a state which is not subject to death. (See also 1 Corinthians 15:44; D&C 88:27; Moses 3:9).

Immortality, life after death in a resurrected body, is a free gift to all men and women who have ever lived upon the earth. It is a supernal gift of God's grace, requiring no obedience whatsoever to God's laws, "for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). "All" in this expression means "all" without exception. Amulek said it best: "Now, this restoration [of body and spirit] shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous" (Alma 11:44; emphasis mine).

Eternal life is synonymous with God's life (see Moses 7:35). It consists of two components: 1) inheriting, receiving, and possessing the fulness of the glory of the Father; and 2) a continuation of the family unit in eternity (see D&C 132:19).

Immortality comes as a free gift to all. Eternal life, may also be received as an additional gift to those who qualify through faithful obedience to the covenants we make as provided in the plan of salvation. Both of these conditions are made available through our Lord's suffering in Gethsemane and on Calvary, followed by His resurrection from His borrowed tomb on Easter morning.

We are all partakers of that blessing. When I visited the Garden Tomb at the foot of Calvary outside the city walls of Jerusalem, a small plaque memorialized the words of the angel to the grieving Mary and others as we turned to exit the tomb: "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen." (Luke 24:5-6). The tomb that stands empty still to this day is ample evidence of His resurrection. President Harold B. Lee and President Spencer W. Kimball, each serving at the time as President of the Church, when they visited there independently declared that tomb was the place of the resurrection of our risen Lord Jesus Christ. It is sacred and hallowed ground.

In the Lord's own words: "And thus did I, the Lord God, appoint unto man the days of his probation - that by his natural death he might be raised in immortality unto eternal life, even as many as would believe" (D&C 29:43; emphasis mine).

Paul described our Lord thusly: ". . . he who hath abolished death, and hath brought [eternal] life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10).

Appearing to Moses, the premortal Jehovah described His mission:: "For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39; emphasis mine; see also John 11:25).

Joseph Smith
"Salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power, and dominion which Jehovah possesses and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him." (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, 7:9). Both Joseph and the Apostle Paul taught Christ had gained salvation because He had put all enemies under His feet, the last enemy being death. And so it is for all of us. (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 297, 301, 305; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 2:8).

Salvation is eternal life. It is life in the highest degree of celestial glory, it is life among Gods and angels. The word salvation means exactly the same thing as eternal life. Exaltation is another word we use to describe the same things associated with the glories of the celestial kingdom. Exaltation has the same meaning as eternal life, and it is the same meaning as salvation. To be saved is to be exalted and to enjoy eternal life. Elder Bruce R. McConkie elaborated:

"We are ofttimes prone to create artificial distinctions, to say that salvation means one thing and exaltation another, to suppose that salvation means to be resurrected, but that exaltation or eternal life is something in addition thereto. It is true that there are some passages of scripture that use salvation in a special and limited sense in order to give an overall perspective of the plan of salvation that we would not otherwise have. (2 Nephi 9:1-27; D&C 76:40-49; 132:15-17). These passages show the difference between general or universal salvation that consists in coming forth from the grave in immortality, and specific or individual salvation that consists of an inheritance in the celestial kingdom....

"Since it is the prophetic purpose to lead men to full salvation in the highest heaven of the celestial world, when they speak and write about salvation, almost without exception, they mean eternal life or exaltation. They use the terms salvation, exaltation, and eternal life as synonyms, as words that mean exactly the same thing without any difference, distinction, or variance whatever." (The Promised Messiah, 129; 306; also, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 144-54; emphasis mine).

Once again, Amulek equated the two terms eternal life and salvation. He described the coming of the Messiah: "And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else." (Alma 11:40; emphasis mine).

The Savior said, "If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation." (D&C 6:13; emphasis mine). Now notice this parallel meaning in another revelation given two months later: "And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God." (D&C 14:7; emphasis mine).

Salt Lake Temple
Eternal marriage is the crowning covenant for those who seek eternal life, since bringing to pass the "immortality and eternal life of man" is contingent upon the creation of the mortal body by a man and a woman. Marriages are "solemnized" in temples. We call it "sealing," implying an eternal welding link forged by priesthood authority that binds families together forever. Death may intervene and temporary partings may ensue, but life continues even after death, and love never ends. "In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees. And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase." (D&C 131:1-4).

Said the Lord: "Except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection. But those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life, and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory." (D&C 132:22-25). Eternal lives indicates the right of a worthy man and woman to enjoy "the continuation of the seeds," the everlasting perpetuation of the family unit. (TPJS, 300-301; emphasis mine).

We started by stating God is no respecter of persons, implying explicitly there is no "cap" in eternity upon the number of saved beings. The design of God's "great plan of happiness" is to save all who will be saved in compliance with the requirement to repent. With the Mormons it is an article of our faith: "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." (Articles of Faith 1:3; emphasis mine). Again, when the Lord says "all" He means "all".

No person was promised eternal life in our premortal spirit state on an unconditional basis, and conversely, none was condemned forever as an irretrievable reprobate either. (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., 238). Lehi declared to his son Jacob, "Salvation is free" (2 Nephi 2:4). The plan of salvation turns on mercy, and His purposes are available and accessible to all without restriction. Nephi taught: ". . .the Lord God worketh not in darkness." Further, "He doeth not any thing save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation." Nephi declared: "Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance." (2 Nephi 26:23-24, 27). Mormon missionaries, totaling some 85,000, now dot the globe proclaiming these truths. I encourage everyone who hasn't yet to invite them into your homes to learn more.

We learn in the scriptures about a "strait gate" and a "narrow way" which lead to eternal life. "Strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and the continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me." On the other hand, "broad is the gate, and wide the way that leadeth to the deaths; and many there are that go in thereat, because they receive me not, neither do they abide in my law." (D&C 132:22, 25; see also Matthew 7:13-14).

In relation to the world's population, perhaps Mormons will forever be a minority, and "few" among the masses of humanity of 7 billion in the world today, but there is room for optimism in these verses. Many of our spirit brothers and sisters, perhaps a number approaching infinity, will be saved. Think of all the children who died before the age of accountability, perhaps billions of little ones from the days of Adam to the time of the Millennium. Add to that billions who never had the opportunity to hear the gospel message in mortality, but who afterwards received the glad tidings in the spirit world prior to their resurrection. Don't forget the innumerable hosts who qualified for exaltation from Enoch's city, from Melchizedek's Salem, or from the "golden era" of the Nephites after the resurrected Lord's visit to the Americas, as cited in The Book of Mormon. Continue adding the billions of children who will be born during the Millennium, a time when disease and death are non-existent. (D&C 45:58). Think about all who will yet live when Earth is "renewed" and paradisiacal glory reigns. Can you begin to catch a glimpse of the number of saved beings in eternity? God, our Eternal Father in Heaven, who is the Author of the plan of salvation will save many more than our finite minds can imagine.

As Mormons, we are a patient lot, and we accept salvation and exaltation as a process over time. We align ourselves in this life to the degree we can with eternal verities we accept and know to be true. We accept our imperfections and those of others, while simultaneously doing all we can to become sanctified and holy in this life and encouraging one another to do the same. Learning to forgive others freely is to learn the attributes of godliness in this life, since each of us falls short of perfection in mortality and stands in need of forgiveness ourselves. Gaining salvation and attaining perfection is a lengthy process that certainly must transcend time and space in this life and continue beyond the grave. (See D&C 93:19).

I cherish and commend to you these words of Elder Bruce R. McConkie to college students at BYU:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie
"We do not work out our salvation in a moment; it doesn't come to us in an instant, suddenly. Gaining salvation is a process. Paul says, 'Work out your salvation with fear and trembling' (Philippians 2:12). To some members of the Church who had been baptized and who were on the course leading to eternal life, he said, 'Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed' (Romans 13:11). That is, 'We have made some progress along the straight and narrow path. We are going forward, and if we continue in that direction, eternal life will be our everlasting reward. . .'

"We say that a man has to be born again, meaning that he has to die as pertaining to the unrighteous things in the world. Paul said, 'Crucify the old man of sin and come forth in a newness of life' (Romans 6:6). We are born again when we die as pertaining to unrighteousness and when we live as pertaining to the things of the Spirit. But that doesn't happen in an instant, suddenly. That also is a process. Being born again is a gradual thing, except in a few isolated instances that are so miraculous that they get written up in the scriptures. As far as the generality of the members of the Church are concerned, we are born again by degrees, and we are born again to added light and added knowledge and added desires for righteousness as we keep the commandments. . .

"So it is with the plan of salvation. We have to become perfect to be saved in the celestial kingdom. But nobody becomes perfect in this life. Only the Lord Jesus attained that state, and he had an advantage that none of us has. He was the Son of God, and he came into this life with a spiritual capacity and a talent and an inheritance that exceeded beyond all comprehension what any of the rest of us was born with. Our revelations say that he was like unto God in the premortal life and he was, under the Father, the creator of worlds without number. That Holy Being was the Holy One of Israel anciently and he was the Sinless One in mortality. This shows that we can strive and go forward toward that goal, but no other mortal - not the greatest prophets nor the mightiest apostles nor any of the righteous saints of any of the ages - has ever been perfect, but we must become perfect to gain a celestial inheritance. As it is with being born again. and as it is with sanctifying our souls, so becoming perfect in Christ is a process. . .

"As members of the Church, if we chart a course leading to eternal life; if we begin the processes of spiritual rebirth, and are going in the right direction; if we chart a course of sanctifying our souls, and degree by degree are going in that direction; and if we chart a course of becoming perfect. and, step by step and phase by phase, are perfecting our souls by overcoming the world, then it is absolutely guaranteed - there is no question whatever about it - we shall gain eternal life. Even though we have spiritual rebirth ahead of us, perfection ahead of us, the full degree of sanctification ahead of us, if we chart a course and follow it to the best of our ability in this life, then when we go out of this life we'll continue in exactly that same course. We'll no longer be subject to the passions and the appetites of the flesh. We will have passed successfully the tests of this mortal probation and in due course we'll get the fulness of our Father's kingdom - and that means eternal life in his everlasting presence.

"The Prophet told us that there are many things that people have to do, even after the grave, to work out their salvation. We're not going to be perfect the minute we die. (TPJS, 189; see also, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:61). But if we've charted a course, if our desires are right, if our appetites are curtailed and bridled, and if we believe in the Lord and are doing to the very best of our abilities what we ought to do. We'll go on to everlasting salvation, which is the fulness of eternal reward in our Father's kingdom."

Elder McConkie then observed: "I think we ought to have hope; I think we ought to have rejoicing." ("Jesus Christ and Him Crucified," 1976 Brigham Young University Devotional Speeches of the Year, 398-401; also see, "The Seven Deadly Heresies," 1980 Brigham Young University Devotional Speeches of the Year, 78-79; Conference Report, October 1976, 158-59, emphasis mine above).

We have hope to rejoice for those who will yet forsake the ways of the world, enter the gate of baptism and walk along the strait and narrow path with the Holy Ghost as their guide, whether in this life or in the next. It is always better the sooner we can embrace truth and live accordingly. I take great comfort in knowing there will be "an innumerable company" of the just (see D&C 76:67; 138:12), who do so.

Our Lord declared, ". . .he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come." (D&C 59:23). Centuries ago, Isaiah wrote: "And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever" (Isaiah 32:17). Though we pass through "hard things" in mortality, we can know peace in this life "which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). We can come time through all the tests and trials, taught the Prophet Joseph, to a point where we have made our callings and elections sure. (TPJS, 149-51). For these the day of judgment has been advanced and blessings associated with the glories of the celestial kingdom are assured. They receive what the Prophet Joseph called "the more sure word of prophecy," which the Lord explained to him, "means a man's knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priest hood. It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance." (D&C 131:5-6).

President Marion G. Romney
Though it is true, as President Marion G. Romney observed, that "the fulness of eternal life is not attainable in mortality, . . .the peace which is its harbinger and which comes as a result of making one's calling and election sure is attainable in this life." (Conference Report, October 1965, 20).

The Prophet Joseph extended this invitation: "I would exhort you to go on and continue to call upon God until you make your calling and election sure for yourselves, by obtaining this more sure word of prophecy, and wait patiently for the promise until you obtain it." (TPJS, 299; see also Mosiah 18:8-9; D&C 14:7; 53:7; 2 Nephi 31:20; Mosiah 5:15). Remember, "But blessed are they who are faithful and endure, whether in life or in death, for they shall inherit eternal life." (D&C 50:5; emphasis mine).

I conclude with these words from Elder Bruce R. McConkie at the funeral of Elder S. Dilworth Young:

"If we die in the faith, that is the same thing as saying that our calling and election has been made sure and that we will go on to eternal reward hereafter. As far as faithful members of the Church are concerned, they have charted a course leading to eternal life. This life is the time that is appointed as a probationary estate for men to prepare to meet God, and as far as faithful people are concerned, if they are in the line of their duty, if they are doing what they ought to do, although they may not have been perfect in this sphere, their probation is ended. Now there will be some probation for some other people hereafter. But for the faithful saints of God, now is the time and the day, and their probation is ended with their death, and they will not thereafter depart from the path. It is true as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, that there are many things that have to be done 'even beyond the grave' to work out our salvation, but we'll stay in the course and we will not alter from it, if we have been true and faithful in this life." (From an address at the funeral service for Elder S. Dilworth Young, 13 July 1981, typescript, 5; emphasis mine).

Of course there is life after death! That includes life after death for EVERYONE. In this life we choose the quality of our life after death, through the exercise of our agency in obedience to God's commandments. For those of us who are living in mortality, we must exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer, repent of our sins, recognizing He has already redeemed us from sin and death, enter the waters of baptism and be baptized by those authorized servants holding the priesthood, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those in authority.

Then throughout our mortal probation we endure in those principles and ordinances in order to claim the blessings of salvation and exaltation.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

"All Men Are Created Equal" But How?

We belong to a marvelous Church in which we all get invitations from time to time to teach, lead, participate and grow and learn.  We are all amateurs, but we do receive incredible instruction on how to do things better.

David M. McConkie
Here's a sampling of the instruction teachers in the Church have received, as recently as last General Conference from David M. McConkie, 1st Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency. He titled his remarks "Teaching with the Power and Authority of God". Seriously, if we aren't teaching this way, why bother?

"First, it means that you are on the Lord’s errand. You are His agent, and you are authorized and commissioned to represent Him and to act on His behalf. As His agent, you are entitled to His help. You must ask yourself, 'What would the Savior say if He were teaching my class today, and how would He say it?' You must then do likewise.

"This responsibility may cause some to feel inadequate or even somewhat fearful. The pathway is not difficult. The Lord has provided the way for every worthy Latter-day Saint to teach in the Savior’s way.

"Second, you are called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. You must not teach your own ideas or philosophy, even mingled with scriptures. The gospel is 'the power of God unto salvation,'  (Romans 1:16) and it is only through the gospel that we are saved.

"Third, you are commanded to teach the principles of the gospel as they are found in the standard works of the Church, to teach the words of modern-day apostles and prophets, and to teach that which is taught you by the Holy Ghost." (emphasis mine).

I wonder if we haven't all participated in lessons in the Church almost near-adoration is expressed for the great strides Satan is making in the last days to undermine the gospel. Little or no inspiration from the God of Heaven is to be found whenever we congratulate Satan on his success among us. Oh, and by the way, does ANYONE know what will happen thirty years from now? Can we say for a fact that if the trends continue, we will be completely apostate and Satan will have won? When we are so determined to bear testimony about the works of Satan, and when we ignore the word of God, how can we expect to be edified together in a meeting like that? (See D&C 84:110).

This world is filled with sophistry, even in our chapels of worship, and continually we are reminded of the false doctrines abounding in society. It's as though we would give credence to those who would assert atheism equates to belief in God. Let's give everyone equal time, even if they stand in opposition to the revealed word of God. Being the true Christians we are, so the reasoning goes, we must grant equal time for the devil's advocates. Call me whatever you like, but I reject that idea.

I reflected during Sunday School hour about how contorted this idea of "equality" has become since the founding of America. When the founders wrote in our core document, the Declaration of Independence, and they said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . . ,” what did they have in mind? It would be fool-hearty indeed to suggest they meant all men are equal in all things, and yet that seems to be the direction our rudderless godless society has drifted in recent years.

Today's sophists would have us believe that even in matters of marriage there must be equality - that a marriage between members of the same sex must be defined in the law as being equal to a marriage between members of the opposite sex. There is a true doctrine associated with equality between the sexes, and you'll find it here.

Do you suppose the Founders meant all men and women should be born into the same social stratus? Do you think they meant all men and women should have equal sized estates and financial acuity? Such interpretations fly in the face of even the most casual observations of the human condition. Even the founders, drawing upon their own life experiences, would have never made a declaration so simplistic and absurd on its face. It's illogical. Each of the Founders came from diverse backgrounds, opportunities for education and vastly differing degrees of success in the accumulation of varying degrees of wealth, position and influence.

If you accept that everyone should be equal in all things including marriage, would you also assert the Founders meant all men and women were equally talented in all things? Would all people have equal musical talents, writing abilities, intellectual gifts, all dispensed with equality for all? Would there be a state religion where all men and women had the identical belief about the doctrine of Christ? Why not? If we make them equal in marriage status, why wouldn't we make them equal in EVERYTHING else? Isn't that what God would do? Wouldn't that be fair and equal? And then the final step, the coup d'etat, putting the final nail in the coffin of moral agency and representative republic - let's make the state the God of equality and justice for all. All that final step requires is a benevolent dictator, and voila - a new King is crowned.

Would any of the Founders have asserted the civil government should be delegated the duty to make certain all this was accomplished with the even-handed judgment of a King Solomon? Not on your life! Your own human experience, whatever it is, would deny these assertions on their face. They are idiotic ideas, aren't they? And yet we continue to give audience to all these false doctrines in the dedicated houses of worship where we meet each week. It is astounding to me!

Franklin, Adams, Jefferson drafting the
Declaration of Independence
My reading of what happened in the Continental Congress when all these inspired men from all the Colonies got together and agreed to sign the Declaration of Independence, is very different than what I am hearing all around me today. I would assert as forcefully as I know how that the Founders meaning in that statement suggests all men were created as equally accountable to God under God's Law. Easy to say, but how would you buttress that assertion? Here's another author who understands the principles involved.

Why would I suggest they were writing of equal accountability under God's Law? The simple answer is that words have meaning and the plainer the words, the easier it is to understand what words are meant to convey. Remember, we have not only the words of the Declaration of Independence, but many of the Founders continued to write and leave behind a rich legacy of their meaning and their interpretation of those words for us. Thomas Jefferson wrote these lines, sometimes forgotten in our emotional and misguided debates today from the first paragraph, which states:

Thomas Jefferson
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” (emphasis is mine).

In this opening paragraph, the Founders were setting before their readers a fundamental and universal truth that God's law would be their standard. Emphatically, they asserted citizens, but also all civil servants tasked with the work of the government, were accountable to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." They apparently did not believe in separation of God and state. All we do, they asserted, was to be done in our interactions with one another under the all-seeing eye of God to whom we are all ultimately accountable.

Then later in the main body of the Declaration's text, they enumerated the egregious wrongs King George had inflicted upon them in violation of what? The Law of God. The colonists through their elected representatives made a compelling argument these violations by King George could no longer imbue him with their allegiance nor loyalty to his civil rule over them. King George, they remonstrated, had stepped out of his role as being subject to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" and therefore they were justified in severing alliances with England and going their own way. It was a fundamental religious argument at the root of the Declaration of Independence.

Simply put, King George had moved so far away from all that was just and holy in God's Law, the colonists could not at once be under God's authority, accountable to Him and also to King George. The two were too far apart. Let's not forget how radical such an idea was in the hundreds of years before that time in England, when it was asserted the King was the Law of God on earth. England held inviolate the doctrine of "Rex Lex" - “the King is Law.” So misguided were they in those days they had come to construe passages like Romans 13 to assert that whatever the King did was what God had inspired him to do. Did you catch a comment Barack Obama made a couple of weeks ago, when he asserted those who supported the Democratic Party were "doing the work of God"? Barack "Rex Lex" Obama.

Samuel Rutherford
It would take centuries, but ultimately over the course of the 1600s, men like Samuel Rutherford began thinking in a correct way. Rutherford suggested a new interpretation he called "Lex Rex" - “the Law is King.” He put forth the idea there was only one God of Heaven to which men were accountable, and no King on earth could assert that claim to the throne. The fathers of the Reformation noticed from their studies of the Bible that all men are equally sinful before a righteous God and all men, even Kings, are equally accountable to the absolute Law of God. Along came King Charles I, who began imprisoning people without cause and tried dissolving Parliament. By then the people were wisened and took action. He was beheaded. Leaders would come along, Oliver Cromwell being one of many, who would explain King Charles I had violated the Law of God and exceeded his jurisdiction.

These are not just stodgy old stories without meaning and without application in our day. Indeed, they are as fresh as today's headlines. Our Founders were bold enough remind the world that God governs in the affairs of men. That fact alone helped them find the courage to defy the King who was a law breaker. God's Law. They were full of such faith and “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” that they were not afraid to pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.

Joseph Smith
Rather than giving equal time to stupidity, especially in our houses of worship where we come for inspiration and edification on the Sabbath Day, let us herewith resolve to honor the legacy of our Founders and the Prophet of the Restoration. Let us promote and defend the truth that all men and women are equally accountable before God and His Word. Section 78 of the Doctrine and Covenants lays out the Lord's plan for making all men equal in earthly things through voluntary contributions, and that is something very different than government confiscating personal property through taxes then allocating in their all-wise interpretation of "equality".

Under God's Law, every man and woman is accountable to God’s Word “without respect of persons.” (Romans 2:11). That means there are no exceptions, no special dispensations for sinners, since we are all equally sinful under the same terms of salvation and acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Redeemer through His perfection and grace. (Moroni 10:32-33).

That's what it means to be equal in all things in God's eyes, not to have civil servants who become dictators and dispense equality as they happen to interpret its meaning for us.