Saturday, October 19, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 38 "In Mine Own Way"

"So there's this huge flood one day, and an entire town looks like it's going to be swallowed.
One man is sitting on the roof with the water lapping around his ankles when the emergency services come along in a boat and tell him to jump on board.
To which he says "Nah, it's ok, God will Provide"
So about an hour later they're zooming past in the boat again and they notice the man's still there, only the water's up to his waist, almost at the top of the roof.. "Quick" they say, get in the boat, it's going to get worst before it gets better.
"Nah, don't worry - God will Provide"
An hour after that a rescue helicopter flies over the area and notices the man, who must be standing on the peak of the roof now, with only his head and shoulders out of the water. "GRAB THE ROPE!" they cry "IT'S YOUR ONLY HOPE!"
"Don't worry" he replies calmly "God will provide."
So he gets drowned of course. And he goes to heaven, and is a little ticked off with Heavenly Father for drowning him like that, and expresses his concern saying "I had FAITH, I BELIEVED in you - and still you didn't help me"
"HELP YOU?!" God replies "What MORE did you want - I sent you two boats and a helicopter!"
While this is an amusing story it speaks to the theme of the lesson today. Christians are often at loggerheads on the topics of faith and works. Some even see the two principles as a dichotomy. As Latter-Day Saints we believe that they should and do co-exist but getting the right balance is really a key to surviving the floods of life that we face.
Noah was saved because he understood and followed the Lord's way.

Another man who faced a pretty severe flood and called on God and had a boat as a means of escape was Noah. As I prepared this lesson my mind has been drawn to his story a lot. And his life gives us a much better example than the man in our first story, of how to couple faith with works.

As we go through this lesson and you consider all the obstacles you encounter in fulfilling the Lord's way ponder on Noah: "a just man and perfect in his generations" he nevertheless reached a point where he and his family were the only righteous people on the earth. Talk about facing constant temptation alone.! That requires immense personal spiritual strength. How easy would it be to give in to the neighbours mocking and taunting your weird habits and lifestyle and the world condemning your "out-of-touch-with-modern-times" morality! Anyone complaining about living a little too far from their chapel or their temple? Then add on top of that a failed mission - not one convert in 120 years! Any missionaries struggling out there today? Wow! This man's testimony must have been incredible. So keep Noah in mind as we go through the lesson today.


Read Doctrine and Covenants 38:29-30
The Saints are pretty nervous and maybe scared and are asking the Lord why they have to leave their homes and farms and crops in New York and travel 300 miles to Ohio (wait till they see the rest of the travel itinerary!) and in reply the Lord gives them this wonderful sermon, essentially saying it might not make sense to you but trust me - it's for your good.

What elements of faith and works (trusting in the Lord's way and self-reliance) do we see in these verses? 
Some thoughts as you ponder that question:
Notice the Lord heard their prayers. Not prayer but plural...prayerS. As Oliver Cowdery declared in the footnotes of Joseph Smith History, "the ever willing to answer the consistent prayer of the humble". And as Nephi asked his brothers "Have ye inquired of the Lord?"(1 Nephi 15:7-8).
Consider also these questions: what does it mean to "treasure up wisdom"? Whose is the voice that "shakes the earth" and whose voice is louder? It reminds me of a loving Father who does not want to shout at His children. Instead he whispers and shakes the earth around us to get our attention without actually harming us. But if we do not listen to those quiet feelings and promptings and changes around us then the loud wickedness of men will scream in our lives and could well do harm. Which voice do you prefer to live with?
Did you see the formula the Lord gave them in these verses for be prepared for life's floods? Look again!


"And if ye are prepared - ye shall not fear!"
Notice how these are all actions we must undertake - but with a heavy reliance on the Lord for each item. (cf 2 Nephi 25:24 " is by grace we are saved, after all we can do")


Read Doctrine and Covenants 104:13-18
3 years on from the first scripture we read and the Saints are surviving in different ways. Some are richer, some are poorer. It must have been an exciting and a tough time or as Charles Dickens may have put it,"it was the best of times and it was the worst of times".

What did the Lord teach us here?
Some thoughts as you ponder that question:
Who is the Lord going to make accountable for and a steward over earthly blessings? EVERYONE. Even the poorest of the poor has been given certain earthly blessings that they are a steward over and will be accountable for. Why do we need to be accountable for our blessings? At Christmas, could you imagine if people came back and asked what you did with the presents they gave you. Have you used them? Do you still have them? How often do you use it? I imagine for some of us it could be an awkward conversation. So, why does the Lord want to have this conversation with us?
v.15 His purpose is to provide for us all – (maybe this brings up thoughts of cf Matt 6:25-33) but then he adds a caveat…
v.16 "BUT it must needs be done in MINE OWN WAY"
What is that way?
What does that mean – poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low? Seems nice for the poor but odd and unfair for the rich – what is the Lord teaching us here? Why does he do it this way? To accommodate our agency and to teach us to love with the pure love of Christ. That really is the crux of it all.
v.17 Earth is full and there is enough to spare.
“I prepared all things..," (Would you expect any less of God - do you think He fears? NO, because he is prepared) "...and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves"(WOW! After all that preparation He then throws us and our agency in the mix. That is a tremendous amount of trust in us)
V18 so why are there people born poor and some born rich? I think it was based on the agency of man. So many bad decisions have led to a world totally out of balance with some areas in utter poverty and famine and others in wealth and abundance. (Contrast that with the city of Enoch "...and there was no poor among them")

There is enough to go around but some sit in their abundance and will not share but instead waste or throw away what they have (this reminds me of the parable of the talents)
Now read this – a news article on global food supplies just printed in September 2013
“The United Nations says there are more than 900 million hungry people in the world, and yet a new report from the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) finds nearly a third of the world's food supply—over 1.3 billion tons—goes to waste each year.
The U.N. report finds North Americans are some of the worst offenders, wasting on average more than 600 pounds of food per person each year. Globally, it’s a costly problem, too: Excluding seafood, the price tag for the wasted food amounts to $750 billion.”                                             
And what does the Lord say about this to those that have an abundance or are rich?
Doctrine and Covenants 56:16 Powerful! Do you want to be left saying "the harvest is over, the summer is ended and my soul is not saved!"

And what does the Lord say to the poor?
Doctrine and Covenants 56:17-18 Do you want to be considered as one of those that "will not labour with your own hands". These are principles you want to learn and then teach your children.

The Church has instituted a welfare program founded on these principles. The following statement from the First Presidency of the day emphasizes the purposes of the Church welfare program:
“Our primary purpose was to set up, in so far as it might be possible, a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 3).

So how can we apply this to our temporal and spiritual lives?
The Church Handbook of Instructions explains: “To become self-reliant in resource management, Church members should pay tithes and offerings, avoid unnecessary debt, save for the future, and satisfy all of their promised obligations. Members also should use their resources, including their time, frugally and avoid wasting them”
It seems a pretty clear instruction on how to stay temporally self-reliant. I would consider this the "treasure up wisdom" part of the formula. If you add prayer and listening to and following the Lord's voice then you should be prepared for any financial problems and avoid a lot of the fear and stress others who do not follow these instructions encounter.
How about spiritually? Well just look at the same instructions but with a spiritual eye. Do you see it? Debt being sin, saving becomes building testimony, paying tithing is saying your prayers, reading your scriptures, promised obligations are fulfilling our priesthood and church membership responsibilities.

Let's conclude by going back to Noah. He cried repentance for 120 years to his people and yet they did not heed the warnings or prepare. In life, we may all face smaller floods such as a real basement flood (as some of our neighbours did a year ago) or a metaphorical basement flood as my family did this summer when I lost my job. The question is will you be prepared or will you sit on your rooftop waiting for the Lord to bale you out. I wasn’t prepared financially but luckily I was prepared a little better spiritually. I and many others prayed, I looked for jobs and submitted resumes every day, I worked hard previously at a good education, I followed the prompting to apply for a position and an industry I had never worked in before. The Lord in his loving way provided a way for us this time, because I didn't just sit around waiting...but financially it was tough because we were not prepared. At some point we must become self-reliant, prepared and faithful like Noah– whether rich or poor, spiritually or temporally – will your soul be saved because you trusted and followed in God’s way or will you find that eventually the harvest is past, the summer is ended and your soul is not saved?

*If you want to study deeper into Noah's back story and why the Lord allows man his agency and in so doing creates such a disparity between rich and poor and good and wicked on earth then study the book of Moses 7:19-52. It is a wonderful discourse on how much the Lord loves us but due to our agency requires us to love (v33 is key love one another). 
**(interesting pop quiz question – why did Methuselah end up living so long on the earth and not be taken up with the City of Zion and his dad Enoch? See 8:1-3) 

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson 37 "We Thank Thee O God, for a Prophet"

President Hugh B. Brown a former member of the First Presidency shared the following experience that occurred before he was called as a General Authority: While working as an attorney, a barrister, in England just before the start of World War II, he befriended a member of the English House of Commons. This gentleman was a prominent member of the legal community and a former justice of the supreme court of Britain.  As friends, they discussed a variety of subjects of mutual interest.  One day in 1939, as it became apparent that WWII would soon commence, his English friend asked Bro. Brown to speak in defense of his religious beliefs—just as if they were discussing a legal issue.  In a general conference address, Pres. Brown recounted the essence of their exchange.
“I began by asking, ‘May I proceed, sir, on the assumption that you are a Christian?'  ‘I am.’  ‘I assume that you believe in the Bible—the Old and New Testaments?’ “’I do.’ ” His friend affirmed his belief in the biblical accounts of the Lord speaking to prophets.  However, he maintained that such communication had stopped soon after the Resurrection of Christ.  The conversation continued with another question from Bro. Brown: “Why do you think it stopped?” “ ‘I can’t say.’ “You think that God hasn’t spoken since then?’ ‘Not to my knowledge.’ “ ‘May I suggest some possible reasons why he has not spoken. Perhaps it is because he cannot. He has lost the power.’ “He said, ‘Of course that would be blasphemous.’  “ ‘Well, then, if you don’t accept that, perhaps he doesn’t speak to men because he doesn’t love us anymore.  He is no longer interested in the affairs of men.’ “ ‘No,’ he said, ‘God loves all men, and he is no respecter of persons.’ “ ‘Well, then,…the only other possible answer as I see it is that we don’t need him. We have made such rapid strides in education and science that we don’t need God any more.’ “And then he said, and his voice trembled as he thought of impending war, ‘Mr. Brown, there never was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed as it is needed now.  Perhaps you can tell me why he doesn’t speak.’ “My answer was, ‘He does speak, he has spoken; but men need faith to hear him’ “ 
This was 1939. The Nazi danger has now passed.
What are your thoughts on that experience Hugh B Brown related to us?  For me it reminds me of how the Lord has indicated that he will tell us in our hearts and in our minds, our own personal biological dual witness (as outlined in eternal principles "by the mouth of two or three witnesses..."). Here he reasons with very good logic but then also indicates it is a matter of faith.

Amos 3:7 increases our understanding of how God speaks to us. He uses official appointed messengers called prophets.
What other titles do prophets have and what do these titles tell us about the nature of their calling?

This video gives a brief quote from each of the prophets from this dispensation. I am sure there will be many fond memories elicited from this video as you watch and remember beloved prophets. But pay close attention to the messages each one shares. Note how you feel as you ponder each message. And quietly ask yourself how well have you done at following the counsel from the Lord in these Latter Days.

Listening to those voices did anything come to mind? 
If God is the same yesterday, today and forever, why are there so many different messages from His prophets? Which is the most important message to listen to?

“For the next six months, your conference edition of the Ensign should stand next to your standard works and be referred to frequently” Ezra Taft Benson

Harold B Lee said that the report of the conference should “be the guide to [our] walk and talk during the next six months” 

“The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one who is living in our day and age. This is the prophet who has today’s instructions from God to us today. God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Every generation has need of the ancient scripture plus the current scripture from the living prophet. Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece” Ezra Taft Benson

Where does the Book of Mormon fit in to this instruction? Is it classified as ancient scripture if it was written for us in our day? I suggest this is the reason greater emphasis is placed on our need to study this book daily. It was written for us in our latter days and stands with our latter day prophet as vital to our daily spiritual survival.

The Lord has called prophets whenever a people qualify to hear his voice. If you think about it there have been times through the history of mankind where God ceased to speak to his people collectively. In these latter-days we have qualified to hear His voice. How does that make you feel?

We have just listened to the prophet and apostles speak to us during General Conference. 
What are some of the messages that you remember? What are your favourite messages? Why do we remember different messages more than others? Does that discount the other messages? 

Maybe we have become perfect in one principle while another principle needs improvement in our lives. Different messages will resonate at different times with different people. But to dismiss any of them as of no worth to you is a dangerous path to start walking down. I believe that if we followed the prophet more carefully our lives would be a little less stressful.