Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Free To Choose Eternal Life (2nd Nephi 10)

Pictured above is my good old Pops and my niece's son, Hayden, one of Dad's great grand kids, in 2007.  Hayden had just come into the world a short time previous, and Dad would be leaving it in just a few more months.  Hayden's new baby skin is soft and pure.  Dad's skin is calloused, scarred, and dented.  Hayden has a lifetime of learning to do.  Dad has about learned everything he's going to in this life.  Hayden doesn't even know who's holding him, although he likes this picture now. 

According to the Flesh
All that up there is just my lead-in to talking about one little part of the 2nd verse of 2nd Nephi 10:
2.  For behold, the promises which we have obtained are promises unto us according to the flesh; wherefore, as it has been shown unto me that many of our children shall perish in the flesh because of unbelief, nevertheless, God will be merciful unto many; and our children shall be restored, that they may come to that which will give them the true knowledge of their Redeemer.

You see the expression "according to the flesh" a lot in the scriptures.  What it means is, 'as pertaining to mortality.'  You may or may not find that interesting or useful.  In this verse, Jacob references promises made to the Nephites "according to the flesh".  The promise is found in...

verse 7:

7.  But behold, thus saith The Lord God:  When the day cometh that they shall believe in Me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth, unto the lands of their inheritance. 

It's the old "gathering of scattered Israel" promise.  So, Jacob says that, though many of their descendants will apostatize from the true gospel, many of them will not only eventually begin to believe and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, but will be physically gathered in to their places of inheritance.

Some of this has happened already.  Most has yet to be fulfilled.  The cool part is that the house of Israel will eventually come unto Christ.  This is cool cuz...

2 Nephi 10:3-6
3.  Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ -for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be His name -should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify Him -for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.

4.  For should the mighty miracles be wrought among other nations they would repent, and know that He be their God.

5.  But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that He be crucified.

6.  Wherefore, because of their iniquities, destructions, famines, pestilences, and bloodshed shall come upon them; and they who shall not be destroyed shall be scattered among all nations.

It's also cool cuz...
We now pause for this message from Schoolhouse Rock.

2 Nephi 10:10-13
10.  But behold, this land, said God, shall be a land of thine inheritance, and the Gentiles shall be blessed upon the land.

11.  And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles.

12.  And I will fortify this land against all other nations.

13.  And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God.
And it's important to note... In this case, "according to the flesh" means that, the house of Israel will one day be gathered and restored to the true gospel of Christ, each individual must come unto Christ, believe in Christ, and choose to follow Christ.

2nd Nephi 10: 16
16.  Wherefore, he that fighteth against Zion, both Jew and Gentile, both bond and free, both male and female, shall perish...

In order for this prophecy to be fulfilled, a land of freedom had to be established.  It would require a land of religious freedom for the Church of Jesus Christ to be restored and spread across the world.

A man sits in front of a Carl Bloch painting of Jesus
 Here's a few last verses.

 Reconciled:  Sweeter than syrup.
We've talked on many occasions about The Fall of Adam and Eve and their posterity (that's us), and how that means we were separated from God.  Reconcile means to be restored to good standing.

2 Nephi 10: 23-25
23.  Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves -to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.

24.  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.

25.  Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise Him through grace divine. Amen.
To be reconciled with our Heavenly Father, or brought back into His presence through the Grace of the Savior, Jesus Christ, we must reconcile ourselves to the will of God, and not keep following the dictates of our idiot, self-centered flesh.  Our spirits want heaven.  Our flesh wants pancakes.  Who wears the pants on your body, your spirit or your flesh?  Do you want heaven or pancakes? 

"Ye are free to act for yourselves
-to choose the way of everlasting
death or the way of eternal life...
reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the... flesh."

Peace be with you...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The age of innocence (2 Nephi 9, part 3)


This is my niece, Annie.  She was pretty young there, back in 1990.  She just turned 23 not too long ago.  She's married now, & they have 2 little boys.  Isn't it strange how time rips by, and how fast we go through the different stages of our lives?  You're a baby, you're a toddler, you're a pre-schooler, you're a high school graduate... likity split, one-two-three, bing-bang-done.

People often describe those younger-staged little ones as innocent.  It is a fitting word. 

in·no·cent: [in-uh-suhnt]

1.  free from moral wrong; without sin; pure: innocent children.
2.  free from legal or specific wrong; guiltless: innocent of the crime.
3.  not involving evil intent or motive: an innocent misrepresentation.
4.  not causing physical or moral injury; harmless: innocent fun.

In The Church, the age of becoming accountable for your own behavior is 8 years old.  Whether that 8-year old is really capable of making behavioral and moral decisions based on knowledge and consequences is often relative, and known only to his or her Heavenly Father.  All kinds of things could come in to play here:
  • the child's mental health
  • the child's circumstances
  • the child's role models/ parenting
  • the child's culture
  • the child's access to learning
  • etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. + a billion and 6 other things.
If a child doesn't posses the ability to understand the difference between right and wrong, how can he/she be judged to be disobedient?  Doesn't make any sense.  Ya know why?  'Cause it's dumb, that's why.  The same relativity can also apply to adults.  Hey, that's the principle of relativity.  Ha... good one...

Then there are the billions who were, and are still being, born without knowledge of the commandments of God.  The Bible was not even available to the common person before the 15th century.  If a person was in a position or geographical circumstance to attend a church or live under the tutelage of a minister or whatever, that fellow was at the mercy of that minister, who, though his intentions were often good, may have been in the least sense wrong about a lot of things, and in the most sense, a complete psychopath. 


Read Flake and me in Lexington, KY, Jan 18, 1989
Flake and I taught this young woman (in her 20's) named Cathy in Lexington Kentucky back in December of '88.  She was of the Lutheran faith.  Cathy was taught her whole life up to that point that, if a child died without having been baptized, there was no hope for that child.  He or she would be consigned to "hell" forever.  Being taught this from her youth up, she didn't really question this theology.

So, here Flake and I come, he's 19, I'm 22, younger than she is, and teach her that children who die before the age of accountability (8 years old) are saved automatically through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Cathy stopped us right there...

She said,
"Now wait a minute!!  Are you saying that children don't need baptism, because I've been taught my whole life that baptism is necessary for salvation?  I mean, this is the first I've ever heard of this..."

There was silence in the room, and both Flake and I were kind of mentally formulating our answers for the argument that was about to ensue.

She said,
"Oh, I love that!!!  You're way makes so much more sense!"
Ya see what I'm saying?  The amount of truth to which we have access can be relative, or the ability to process and act on that truth can differ gihugically.

Here's the scripture, finally...

2 Nephi 9: 25-27
25.  Wherefore, He has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the Atonement; for they are delivered by the power of Him.

26.  For the Atonement satisfieth the demands of His justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel.

27.  But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!

Pop Quiz

Let's reach far, real far, and assume that both the man on the right and the young girl on the left getting cussed out by her Mom have committed a sin of about the same level of seriousness.  I know, it's a bit of a silly thing.  Then, let's say that Tom Cruise and his IMF team had failed to stop the madman in MI4 from launching a nuclear ICBM at New York City, and both of these people were blown up, which one would be considered innocent before The Lord, the girl who is currently being taught about right and wrong, but hasn't reached the age of accountability, or the man who realizes his disobedience, and feels truly sorry, and is asking The Lord for forgiveness?

Right.  The interesting thing to me is, Christ suffered and died for the sins of all mankind, including those of children, whatever they might be.  That means that even the innocent sins had to be paid for by The Savior.

The scriptures tell us we who are accountable must repent, and become as a little child, or we can't obtain the Kingdom of Heaven.  What does that mean, "become as a little child"?  Innocent!!  That's what that means.  Children are alive in Christ because of His Atonement without any effort of their own.  Us bigger people though, and in my case I mean that quite literally, we gotta repent when we do wrong.  Repentance, true repentance, brings forgiveness, and then Christ and His Atonement will make us innocent as well.

That remember thing, that's a big deal with me.  This next verse has been a theme song of mine on many occasions...

2 Nephi 9: 39
39.  O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one.  Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal.

When faced with temptation to commit sin, I try to remember this verse and say...
"Wait a minute!!  Last time I sinned I felt awful.  I don't want to feel awful.  Why would I want to feel awful?  This is stupid.  I'm outta here..."
Good Gravy!!!
This chapter just has too many good things in it.  I can't do a part 4, I just can't.  I'm going to have to leave you now.  I advise you to read and glean your own wisdom from this great chapter.  I'm afraid I just can't do it justice.  Even Jacob knows he's given out pretty much all people can handle for one day.  He says...

2 Nephi 9: 54
54.  And now, my brethren, I would speak unto you more; but on the morrow I will declare unto you the remainder of my words. 
In Conclusion
I'll put down a couple of useful gems to live by as a closer.

2 Nephi 9: 29, 34, 36, 48, 51, & 52
29.  But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.

34.  Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell.

(I use this reference often when confronting an untruthful person who I don't necessarily want to know that I know that he's LYING!!)

36.  Wo unto them who commit whoredoms, for they shall be thrust down to hell.

(Interesting that the consequences are the same for lying and whoredoming)
48.  Behold, if ye were holy I would speak unto you of holiness; but as ye are not holy, and ye look upon me as a teacher, it must needs be that I teach you the consequences of sin.

51. (just the end of the verse...)... and let your souls delight in fatness.

52.  Behold, my beloved brethren, remember the words of your God; pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto His holy name by night.  Let your hearts rejoice.
  I'll see you in chapter 10.  Peace be with you...