Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Candidate You Can Place Your Faith In


With the Presidential election coming up there is much debate going around as to which candidate is a better fit for office.  All candidates make great promises and ask that you place your trust and faith in them through your vote.  They use persuasion (or finger pointing) to explain why they would make a better leader than their opponent, and why you should be able to place your confidence in them. 

I want to present to you a candidate in whom you can a place your full trust and faith in. A leader who does not make false claims in order to win your confidence in him, but instead possesses the full capacity to accomplish what he says he will accomplish.  A savior who can deliver you from the coming tribulations.   I want to explain WHY you can trust fully in this Leader without any doubt.

This candidate's name is Jesus Christ.  He is God. He is not running for the highest position in politics, He is running for the highest position in your heart.  He seeks to be your Lord, King, Savior, and Redeemer.  He wants to be your best friend, your closest love, and your personal guide to your loving Heavenly Father.   He desires an intimate, loving, two-way relationship with you.  He asks that you believe and have faith in Him.  What he needs from you is a broken heart and a contrite spirit, which will ultimately require the sacrifice of ALL things.  The sacrifice of all things may sound scary at first, but it is not as bad as it seems.  Because in exchange you will gain the greatest gift of all:  an actual knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom to know is eternal life. (John 17:3)  All thing which you formally would have considered valuable you will then consider waste if it did not bring you closer to God.  You be able to proclaim like Paul:

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”
(Philippians 3:7–8)

 So why is Jesus Christ the chosen Redeemer of mankind? Why should you be able to have the confidence to be able to place everything you hold dear on the altar of sacrifice to the Lord? Why can you fully give Him your heart, turning your will to Him, and trusting wholly upon His merits?

1.    Because He is the Almighty God over all, from everlasting to everlasting, the creator and upholder of all things. 
There is nothing that can overcome and defeat the power of the Lord Jesus Christ - No military force, foreign nation, or even the USA government.  When you have perfect faith in Him, you can:

“…break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course; To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.”     (JST, Genesis 14:30–31)

It was the Lord who directed the stone that knocked unconscious the giant Goliath. (1st Sam 27)  It was the Lord who caused the walls of Jericho fall to the earth. (Joshua 6) It was that same Lord who carried the Jadeites in barges across the ocean to the promise land(Ether6), and that same Lord who delivered Laban into the hands Nephi. (1st Ne 4)

There is nothing in the world you need to fear when you are on the Lord’s side.  There is not a single trial, no task, relationship issue, insecurity, demon, or sin too great for Him to overcome if you will but have faith in Him. When He said: "I am more intelligent than them all" (Abr. 3:19); when He said He was "the greatest of all" (D&C 19:18); there wasn't one whit of arrogance in His statements. What He was saying is: "Please have confidence in me. Please trust what I say to be true. Please recognize that I paid a price in order to be able to minister."

2.    Because He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness. (Psalm 103:6-8,17-18,Alma 9:26) 
 He is quick to forgive sin.  One of the first things He does when man enters His presence is to forgive all sins. He cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, but He has the capacity to forgive sin. Therefore although your sins may be as scarlet, He can, He will and He does, make you white as snow, no longer accountable for your limitations. Therefore, you need not fear, but you can approach boldly. 

This is important to know because such is the weakness of human nature, and so great the frailties and imperfection of men, that unless they believed that God was merciful, forgiving, patient, and abundant in goodness, they would be in constant doubt because of their weakness and liability to sin, and therefore could not exercise faith in Him.  It is important to understand that Lord does forgive iniquity, sin, and transgression because He yearns for us to be in His presence.  He is not the distant, overbearing, fear-based, and cruel God many religions make him out to be. 

3.    Because He is no respector of persons, but in every nation that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of Him.  (Acts 10:34-35) 
During the mortal ministry of Christ, He spent much of His time among the outcast and lows of society. He dined with sinners and publicans (Luke 5:30).  He sat and conversed with a woman who lived a life of fornication. (John 4:1-26) The first person the resurrected Lord appeared to was Mary, a woman.  (John 20:11-18)  The people He ministered to and who accepted Him were not the high-ranking religious authorities of the time, but quite the opposite.  If He were here today He would be spending time ministering to drug addicts, porn stars, and the social outcast- those who are awkward, broken, and who could never quite fit mold of society. 

You do not need to be the president the church to commune directly with God or to speak with him face to face.  God does not care about your rank in society, degree, what leadership position you hold in a church, what family heritage you come from, how much money you make, or the sexual orientation of your parents.  He gives no respect to those things.  What is important to Him is your broken heart and contrite spirit. (3rd Ne9:20, 2nd Ne 2:4)

 Just because you may be a male with a priesthood calling that does not give you any exclusive rights to the miracles, powers of heaven, and communion with God.   That is controlled only upon principals of righteousness and faith which women have equal access to.  We can see from the scriptures that women had access to heaven and that here were many prophetesses. (Luke 2:36, Exo 15:20, Jdg 4:4, 2Kings 22:14,)  All men and women in every nation have an equal privilege and equal authority to have a relationship with Christ. He invites ALL to come unto Him.

”...and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”    (2 Nephi 26:33)
“And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.”    (Alma 32:23)

4.    Because He is a God of truth and cannot lie. (Ether 3:12) 
We all know politicians will lie through their teeth, making empty promises, to gain your vote and trust.  Our Lord does not need to lie to gain our confidence in Him.  He 100 percent truthful to His word.  In fact, he says:

“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10)

God is literally bound when He makes a promise to you if you keep His commandments, and when He gives you commandant He prepares a way for you to accomplish the thing which He has commanded you to accomplish. 

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”(1 Nephi 3:6–7)

That is a God I can trust!

5.    Because He changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday today and forever; and that his course is one eternal round, without variation.  (Malachi 3:6, D&C 3:2, 35:1)

"For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing? And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles."(Mormon 9:9–10)

 The Lord doesn’t just change his mind whenever He feels like.  His character, attributes, and perfections are always the same.  In the experiment or test of whether we will be exalted, He is the unchanging constant while we are the changing variable that will dictate the outcome of our salvation.  It is comforting to know this, because if He could change we would be in constant doubt that the doctrine taught today could become the deadly heresies of tomorrow.   The character of the God in whom I place my trust in is forever unchanging.   He doesn’t contradict himself nor does He change His mind about doctrine to bend to what is popular in society or what might put a tax-exempt church in trouble with the law.  I can have faith in Him because He is constant, making Him a reliable God. 

6.     Because He is love. (1st John 4:16) 
It is difficult to convey in words just how vast and eternal the love of God is, it is something you have to experience to comprehend, but He truly is the God of love.  His love is pure, perfect, and eternal.  Christ was our first love from the beginning (Rev 2:4) We love Him, because He first loved us (1st John 4:19)  God so love the world that he gave He sent His only begotten Son to save it.  (John 3:16) It was charity, or the pure love of Christ, which sustained our suffering Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane while He took upon Himself the sins of all mankind.   He suffered for each of us so that we might not suffer if we would repent.  (D&C 19:15-16) The Lord likens His relationship with us to a marriage (Matt 22: 1-14, 25:1-13). He is the bridegroom and because we take upon ourselves His name, (Moroni 4:3) we are His bride.  Although we may fail in that relationship constantly, He is the good husbandman and remains faithful in His love for us.  All he wants in return is our heart; to love Him.

God is Love, you can trust that He has your best interest in mind.  He is all-knowing and therefore possess the foresight to know what is best for you.  Your eternal life, your happiness and joy, is His work and glory.  (Moses 1:39) He is preparing a place for you in His Father’s house. (John14:2) Any trials and tribulation He has placed in your path will be for your benefit and learning.  Those adversities and afflictions will be but for a small moment, and if you endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.  (D&C 121:7-8)   Your sacrifice to Him will not be in vain.  Although you will struggle and fail Him at times, the Lord will never condemn you, but rather you will condemn yourself for not accepting His love. (Mormon 9:3-6) Jesus Christ fights for you.  He loves you eternally.  That is a God in whom I can place my faith in.

Once you have an idea of God’s character, that He is all-powerful, merciful and good, no respector of persons, truthful and honest, unchanging and constant, and Love, it becomes much easier to trust in Him.   Placing everything on the altar of sacrifice for Him, or in other words giving your entire life and all you hold dear into His hands, is not as daunting and complicated of a task as it seems.  It actually becomes quite plain and simple.  When you trust wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save, the path to eternal life becomes a very narrow and strait one with Christ as your constant guide.  (2nd Ne 31:19-20) There is nothing more valuable in this world than having that personal intimate relationship with the Lord, no sacrifice too great for the knowledge and fullness of the glory of God.  Jesus Christ is worth it all! So what do you have against submitting your will to Him, is it really more valuable than the Love of God? Choose ye this day whom ye shall serve.  Elect to have Jesus Christ as your Lord, make him your King, and allow Him to be your Savior and Redeemer.    

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.”
(2 Nephi 31:13)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Most Influential Book in My Life: "The Lectures on Faith" by Joseph Smith Jr.

My birthday was this weekend.  I remember 2 years ago celebrating my 20th birthday in the Philippines.  At the time I was a serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Philippines Baguio Mission assigned to the Buwang, LaUnion Branch.  I remember one evening in October while returning to our apartment we were walking on the main road passing the municipality market.  I gazed into the night sky to witness a total lunar eclipse.  The moon appeared to have turned red and spectators were gathered in the street, staring into the night sky.  This was the second “blood” moon in a series of four consecutive lunar eclipses over the course of 18 months.  A talk was given that following Sunday in church from a young man, preparing for a mission, about signs being made manifest in the heavens.  I gave very little thought to the subject and shrugged it off as “dooms-day” hocus-pocus nonsense.  However, whether or not there is scriptural significance to these cosmic events, it was during this season of the Tetrad in which the Lord did begin to pour out His spirit upon me.

Just less than 6 months prior to this event in late April of 2014 I was involved in a bike wreck which knocked me out.  Although my helmet had a couple of scratches, my face took most of the impact.  I had gnarly road rash and an injured wrist which prohibited me from working out and resulted in muscle loss.  This knocked my prior oversized ego down, and over time it allowed me to focus on things more important than my good looks and muscular physique.  This accident was a tender mercy from the Lord. 

It wasn’t until the time of my 20th birthday when I began to have a desire to know more about my Savior Jesus Christ.  I guess you could say this is when I first began to “awaken” to the truth and reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I had grown up in the LDS church and have gone through the motions my whole life of living church standards.  I did all the outward things a good Mormon-boy was expected to do, but I never really knew much about Jesus Christ.  Although God revealed the truth of the Book of Mormon to me at a young age, I had never taken that testimony of the book in a serious pursuit to truly comprehend God’s character, perfection, and attributes.  My teenage years had made me slothful and careless in the things that mattered most.   Religion to me was more traditional and about living a certain lifestyle than actually having a relationship with Christ.  At that point as a missionary I knew a lot about “the Church”, but very little about Jesus Christ.   Although I had heard stories about Jesus, I wanted to know for myself who is this God we claim to worship and whose name is on all our churches.  What did he do?  How did He do the things He did? What is He like?
So I began to study the Gospels in the New Testament to learn more about Him from what was recorded of His mortal ministry in Jerusalem.  The more I learned about Him from my study, the more I wanted to know Him.  Not just know about Him, but to actually know Him for myself.  I wanted a personal intimate relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ.

I began to actually earnestly pray to God in private.  At night after my companion had fallen asleep I would go out to the roof or the lot behind our apartment where I could be alone to pour my heart out to God vocally without worrying about other’s listening.  There was no set from or recitation or guide to my prayers.  I would speak to Him as if He was right in front of me.  It was just God and I, and I cried from the heart. 

Our Lord is not an aloof God, He is very personal and invested in each one of our lives.  He answers our sincere prayers.   In January of 2015 I decided to trust wholly upon the merits of Him who is mighty to save.  I made a conscience decision that I would no longer trust any man, including my family, or the church organization and its leaders.  I came to the conclusion to rely solely upon God and God alone for truth, and that I would not rely on any other person for my relationship with Jesus Christ.  My loyalty would be first and foremost to the Lord before anything else.   I began to fast and pray more diligently for light and truth and direction from the Lord.  Because I was seeking, during this time the Spirit of the Lord began to expound the scriptures unto me.  The Lord taught me through the word of God.  Passages of scriptures which I had read before and thought I understood were opened up unto me with clarity and a completely new perspective.  It was as if there was a conduit from heaven coming down into the scriptures and flowing into me.  It was overwhelming and delicious, but sometimes the things I learned scared me; shaking me to the very marrow of my bones because it revealed my wicked and awful state before God.  However, the things the Lord taught me by the power of the Holy Ghost through the scriptures has always been edifying, logical, pure intelligence, and full of light and truth.

The first scripture the Lord opened up unto me was the account of the Brother of Jared in the Book of Ether. From the Brother of Jared’s personal encounter with the Lord, I learned what it meant to be redeemed from the fall: It is to receive the “Second Comforter”. (John14:15-21, D&C130:3) To be in the literal presence of Jesus Christ and speak with Him face to face. 

“And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.”  (Ether 3:13)

This is what Moses sought diligently for the Children of Israel to receive.  (Exodus 19:7-11,20:18-21, D&C84:23-27)

This is what it means to have the actual Melchezidek priesthood.  (JST Genesis 14:25-32)
This is what it means to come unto Christ.  (3rd Nephi 18:25, 15:24)
This is the “end” of the “enduring to the end” of the Doctrine of Christ. (2nd Nephi 32:6)

Coming into the presence of Jesus Christ is a commandment.  In Chapter 4 of the Book of the Ether the Lord commands both the Jew and Gentile to come unto Him. 

“And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are. And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh.”
(Ether 4:7–8)

“Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.

Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.”
(Ether 4:13–15)

It is unbelief that keeps us from the presence of Jesus Christ, it is unbelief that keeps the heavens close.  (Moroni 7:37) It is by faith that miracles are wrought.  It is our faith which allows us to behold the face of Jesus Christ.  So the question I had after being taught this is: How does one have faith even as the Brother of Jared?

I took this concern to the Lord and He taught me what faith truly is and how I am to have faith even as the Brother of Jared did.  Our Lord is not an aloof God.  He answers prayers and He taught me what faith really is.   By the grace of God I was able to obtain a copy of a book about a week or two later which has forever changed my life: The Lectures on Faith. 

The Lectures on Faith is a series of lectures written and prepared by Joseph Smith which contains the LEADING ITEMS of the religion which He professed to believe.   It teaches us how we are to have faith, even like the Brother of Jared did, to come to know God.   In the preface to Lectures on Faith in the 1835 edition Joseph wrote: 

“We deem it to be unnecessary to entertain you with lengthy preface to the following volume, but merely to say that it contains in short the leading items of the religion which we have professed to believe. The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of lectures as delivered before a theological class in this place. And in consequence of their embracing the important doctrines of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work. We do not present this little volume with any other expectation than that. We are to be called the answer to every principle advanced.”

He defended every principle advanced in Lectures on Faith. Before publishing it as scripture, it was presented to a council of the church to be sustained as scripture.

“On 17 August 1835, a general assembly of the church met for the purpose of examining a book of Commandments and Covenants that had been compiled and written by the publications committee.” [Joseph Smith headed the publications committee.] “This committee having finished the said book according to the instructions given them, it was deemed necessary to call the General Assembly of the Church to see if the book be approved or not by the authorities of the Church. That it may, if approved, become a law of the church, and a rule of faith and practice of the same.” (JS Papers, Revelations and translations, Vol 2, beginning on page 311)

In the JS Papers, Revelations and Translations, Vol. 2, beginning on page 565 and running through page 567 you can read the account of how the Lectures on Faith was canonized on August 17, 1835 as the Doctrine and Covenants was approved by the church as scripture.

After all the quorums of the church had accepted the Doctrine and Covenants, the first 70 some pages of which were Lectures on Faith, the general assembly voted.  Everyone present voted, including women and children. They all sustained this as the “Doctrine” of the church. When that step was taken it became a law of the church, and a rule of faith and practice to be followed thereafter.
The print of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants physically emphasizes the priority of the Lectures over the revelations. Lectures is identified as “Theology” and is printed in the first 74 pages in larger, apparently 12 pitch type. The revelations begin on page 75 under the title “Part Second” and are in smaller, 9 or 10-pitch type. Visual inspection of the document in the photostatic reproduction available through the Joseph Smith Papers shows the apparent priority of the Lectures over the revelations.

The Lectures on Faith is Joseph Smith’s commentary on the Doctrine of Christ and that religion which was restored to the earth through him.  It is of great importance. Our salvation is dependent upon abiding by the principles laid out in that book.  It is scripture.  Joseph Smith vouched for it and the church sustained it to be part of the standard works.  So why is not in the current LDS edition of the Doctrine and Covenants?

It was removed from the scriptures in 1921 by a committee of 6 church leaders who thought they knew better concerning the character, perfections, and attributes of God than the only president of LDS church to have actually proclaimed to have stood in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith called the Lectures “doctrine”—important doctrine. “Leading items of the religion.” He declared he would answer to every principle advanced in their content.  It was sustained unanimously by the members of the church as a law of the church, and a rule of faith and practice of the same. 
When this committee of 6 men removed the Lectures on Faith from the scriptures they disregarded the rule of faith, the law of the church, and abandoned true doctrine.    They denied Joseph Smith’s testimony of the content and therefore have rejected him as a prophet. 

The Lectures on Faith has been the most influential book in my life because it taught me what faith is and how to obtain it.  When you have a correct knowledge of what faith is and the object upon which it rests, you can then properly exercise faith and enjoy the effect which flow from it.  In February 2015 I came to the conclusion that I needed to do the will of the Lord before anything else.  I did as Joseph Smith counsels in the 6th Lecture on Faith.  I went to the Lord and submitted myself fully to Him.  I didn’t have much to offer, but I placed everything I had, including the one thing which was most dear and close to my heart at the time, on the altar of sacrifice to the Lord.  I gave it all to the Lord placing it all in His hands and told Him “not my will, but thine, be done”.  The Lord accepted my sacrifice and took what was necessary to align my life with His will.  Over the course of the next few weeks the Lord orchestrated several events that needed to take place before the conclusion of my mission.  After I fulfilled what the Lord needed me to do, He called me home by His voice.  He made it known unto me that my service as an LDS missionary was complete and that I accomplished what He needed me to accomplish in the Philippines, at that time, in the 16 months I served. The Lord had a different work for me and I was needed elsewhere.  Because I had chosen to fully submit myself to the Lord, my service to Him has not been limited to a full-time proselyting church-mission.  Although I am still unworthy do be in His Holy presence and do stumble often, and am at His constant mercy, my entire life belongs to God.

Because I had placed everything I held dear to me on the altar of sacrifice, submitting myself to Jesus Christ giving it all to the Lord, counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Lord was able to alter the course of my life to one which is in a greater accordance with the will of God.  The path that God has place me on has brought me far-far away from the LDS Church Inc., but it has brought me ever closer to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Lectures on Faith has been long forgotten by the mainstream Mormon community, but it is not completely lost.  I am so grateful to have found that book.  It is the most influential book I have ever read and it has forever changed the course of my life.  It is because of the teachings in the Lectures on Faith I was able to receive the voice of the Lord and have been blessed to witness His miraculous hand in abundance in my life.  I cannot go into detail here about what the Lectures contain, but let be sufficient for me to say it contains in short the leading items of the religion which I profess to believe.  I testify it is scripture.  If you want to understand the actual religion (not the legally recognized church organization that came as a result) that was restored through Joseph Smith, then go read the Lectures on Faith.  If you desire to have that personal intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, then study and apply those Lectures in your own life so that you can have faith, even as the Brother of Jared did, sufficient unto life and salvation to be redeemed from the fall and to know the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Here is a free PDF file of The Lectures on Faith