Friday, April 2, 2021

My Lesson on Christ's Sacrifice

The greatest lesson Heavenly Father gave me about Easter and the Savior's gift to us of the Atonement happened while I was a missionary serving in the small city of Yeo-su, South Korea. It revolved around an inter-city (go-sok) bus and English classes.

While serving in Yeo-su, my companion and I decided we'd try teaching an English class as a way of getting the name of the Church and the Book of Mormon into the community. We found a company that would do it. I forget its name, but they actually agreed to our proposal with one catch: they insisted on paying us to teach the class. Then they paid us up front for the classes! My district leader called the mission home on what to do with the money. I forget the amount, but it was a lot, especially for two American missionaries used to living on $120 a month.

The mission home wouldn't take it. They suggested we use it instead to do something for the branch. After some brainstorming we came up with the idea of chartering a bus. District conference was coming in a month or so. Since most of the members wouldn't go because they couldn't afford the bus fare, we decided to charter a bus so they could. 

After we got the bus, there was just enough money left over to buy some ice cream to share amongst ourselves. (There were six missionaries working in Yeo-su at the time.) We then announced at the next branch Sacrament meeting a bus was available to whomever wanted to use it to attend conference.

I remember thinking of what we were offering to the members in the days leading up to conference. Would they appreciate that two missionaries were going to be teaching English for one night a week for three months to pay for their trip? Would they care? Would the bus be full? I wanted that bus full! I got so caught up in my "great sacrifice for them," that I felt I'd be angry if they didn't take full advantage of it.

And then the lesson came.

While praying and pondering about the situation, the Holy Ghost touched my mind and pointed out the similarities between that bus and the Atonement. I realized then, I'd never fully appreciate what the Savior did that night and day as He bled and died for me (us.) And then I was shown that just as I wanted that bus full (so our gift to them would not be wasted,) in a much more perfect and holier way, the Savior wanted the same for us.

He wants us to repent! He wants us to have every advantage we can of His marvelous gift. When I contemplate it even today, more than 40 years later, I am filled with awe and gratitude. I think of a silly young missionary and the parallels between that small gift to a few dozen Korean saints and the Savior's unspeakably wonderful gift to us all. While I see the parallel, there is no real comparison. The lesson has remained with me to this day.

Oh, and the bus? While my companion and I filled the last two seats on the way to conference, the bus was completely full of branch members on the return trip. We missionaries had to ride home on a different bus.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Insights into the Proper Use of Tithing

I was surprised to read Numbers 18 gives some insights into what the Lord considers proper use of tithing. Consequently, I thought I'd share this with you.

I did not expect to find such clear counsel tucked away in the Old Testament. Yet, the whole chapter deals with the role Aaron and his sons have to minister in the priest’s office and how the Levites are to have no lands of inheritance. It lays out how they are to be supported instead: from the tithes of the people.

“And the Lord spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.” Numbers 18:20

Here the Lord tells Moses, the Tribe of Levi will be given no land for their lands of inheritance. In the Book of Mormon, lands of inheritance are linked to people’s liberty and represents their means of providing for their needs and wants. The Levites were to have none of this. Knowing they still had to feed, shelter and clothe their families like the rest of the tribes, the Lord had something different in mind for them.

“But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the Lord, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” Numbers 18:24 

Their “inheritance” was to be the tithing of the offerings the rest of the children of Israel made to the Lord. There were a couple of conditions attached to the receipt of these offerings. One, is their receipt of the offerings was contingent upon their “cleanliness” before the Lord. Or to use today’s vernacular: it was dependent upon their adherence to the “Covenant Path” which the Lord had given to them through Moses.

“11 And this is thine; the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel: I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it.

13 And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the Lord, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thine house shall eat of it.” Numbers 18:11, 13

The other condition is they were to tithe what they received back to the Lord too.

“Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the Lord, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it.” Numbers 18:29

There are the passages in the Doctrine and Covenants which lay out how tithes and offerings are to be used today, but that is beside the point I’m trying to make. That being, as far back as in Old Testament times, the Lord knew those who gave their full-time service to Him in the kingdom, still had the material needs of us all. They had to eat, care for their families and a place to live. This passage shows, the Lord saw nothing wrong with using the tithes of the people to support those who gave their full-time service to Him (and by corollary the people). 

We should therefore not take offense if the Lord sees fit to do the same thing today. Nor should we take offense at the amount they are given. As we read in Numbers 18:13-14, the Lord intended that the best of the offerings which the people gave, were to be for the Levite’s use.

“All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the first fruits of them which they shall offer unto the Lord, them have I given thee. And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the Lord, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thine house shall eat of it. Every thing devoted in Israel shall be thine.” Numbers 18:12-14

So, if you read about how terrible it is that General Authorities, Mission Presidents and Temple Presidents, “live off” the efforts of the members of the church, ignore the complaint. Instead, keep in mind, it’s the Lord’s way of providing for those who work full-time ministering in His kingdom. It justifies using tithing funds to pay the wages and salaries of people who work full time for the church: a church that is also a multi-national organization.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Asking for the Lord's Help

"Where do I find the ore?"

That’s Nephi’s question after he is given the commandment to build a boat. He needed ore to make tools. He knew what to do with the ore to make them, but he didn’t know where to find the ore, so the Lord showed him. It’s a great example of working with the Lord. He expects us to do what we can do, while He provides the missing elements (knowledge or whatever) which we can’t do.

Then he had to build the boat, but he first needed the tools to both cut and work the wood.

That’s such a great lesson!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Plain and Precious Things

As I've read through 1Nephi 13, I have wondered, “what are the plain and precious things which were removed from the Bible?” You can't tell from just reading the Bible because you don't know what isn't there that should be, so how do you tell? The Book of Mormon helps, but it's still not a clear voice on what is missing. While I was pondering on this a couple of days ago, I came across a lecture by Hugh Nibley which he gave in 1964 at BYU. It does give some interesting insights. Here is a link to an MP3 audio of the lecture. Here's the print version.

In it, Bro. Nibley said the scrolls of Qumran and the books of Nag Hammadi Library give the answer to that question. The Dead Sea Scrolls as the scrolls of Qumran are also known, were written and collected by residents of a small community known today as "Khirbet Qumran". While it is not known for certain which religious sect they were, most think they were Essenes: they were Jews. They taught the Jews at Jerusalem were in a state of apostasy, so they were trying to get back to a more pure adherence to Jewish law and scripture. 

The residents of Nag Hammadi were Christians. It is located in Egypt on the Nile River about fifty miles north of Luxor. The documents in question are dated from about the first to fourth century after Christ.

What Bro. Nibley did is compare what was taught in the texts from these sites with what we have in the Bible today. He identified at least these four things:

1. The doctrine of literal resurrection of the body after death and marriage that transcends death. While Paul touches on it in 1 Corinthians 15, and the Savior often refers to Himself as the "resurrection and the life," the people of Nag Hammadi taught the doctrine much more clearly. They were branded by the church at Rome as heretics for this and other teachings.

2. The coming apostasy and loss of God's authority. According the Nibley, the people at Nag Hammadi were branded as heretics by the church in Rome for their beliefs. Nibley said they "buried" their records, as the people of Qumran did, in anticipation of a time when those records would be valued again. The Book of Mormon has its own version of this tragic loss of priesthood authority. Here we have two witnesses separated by vast distances of the same event.

3. The Savior’s post-mortal ministry (40 days) to the Jews at Jerusalem. If found this particularly interesting. The account Nibley cites gives additional insight into the Nephite's request to do for them what the Savior did in Jerusalem. See 3 Nephi 17:12-24. There's no way Joseph Smith knew of this in 1829, yet the close parallel is striking, even breathtaking.

4.    The "Church of Anticipation," or a group of people who were expecting a soul saving Messiah as opposed to a militaristic Messiah who would free Israel from bondage. This was the whole focus of the community at Qumran. The Bible doesn't mention any such thing, but that's the dominant theme of the Book of Mormon: a people looking forward to the coming Savior and His atonement for them. The community of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls are a clear Old World validation of this premise.

He touches on more than these items, but it is enough for me to answer the question: "what was taken out?"

Monday, February 8, 2021

Overcoming Bad Habits

 This is a new insight for me. I wish I could remember how I got into it, but I was reading Jacob 5, particularly where the Lord was clearing out the bad fruit to make room for the good fruit (v65). As I read that, I had the “ahah” moment that there is a personal application to this passage too. Namely, that the way to repent when you are changing behaviors or overcoming bad habits, is to replace them with something better.

For example: I love chips and snacks. I have a belly to prove it. My new weight-loss plan is to snack on celery rather than chips. I still get to munch, but rather than munch on high calorie, fat saturated tortilla chips, I’ll munch on a green food. I’ll get the satisfaction of chewing without the caloric impact. There are so many ways to apply this rule, I can’t think of them all. It’s good stuff.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Mists of Darkness

It is surprising, though it shouldn’t be at how, with all our access to knowledge and information, we live in profound mists of darkness. How can two people or different groups of people see the same information and come to such completely different understanding of what has happened? How can both be right? Yet, there are times when both are right and wrong about the issue... at the same time. How does that happen? Even in our highly connected world, it's easy to live in darkness or ignorance of the truth.

How do we deal with it?

We must first understand what is actually happening: Another way to describe our circumstances is we choose, because of pride and mistaken assumptions, to ignore the voice of the Spirit. We listen only to that which we agree with and look with disdain on information, which true, undermines our closely held beliefs. To wit: we walk in the light of our own understanding. We do so, often glibly unaware that there is far more to every story we read about. Much of that additional context, if we knew it, would profoundly change our understanding and judgement of the story.

Our only real recourse is to rely upon Heavenly Father. But how do we do that? We deal with each situation as it arises by trying to learn both sides of an issue then thinking through and asking for confirming counsel from Heavenly Father. If we get it, we proceed. If we don’t, then we exercise the faith and humility to accept it and change our mind: to acknowledge, we are wrong. Only this way, will we learn to see things as they are.

Additionally, I have learned that while tweets and sound bites say one thing, the nuances of the story tell a profoundly different and more powerful accounting of the event. Sometimes the story, in ignorance, is exaggerated beyond it’s true accounting. Sometimes we think a person's motivation to act is malice even when ineptitude is the better explanation.

Again the only safe way forward is to live the Gospel: to live the principle of revelation. By doing so, when we hear of something, we also hear the whispering of the Spirit to give us the necessary context to accurately know what our role and response should be. Or not receiving that, we exercise patience and withhold judgement and say, to ourselves if need be, “let the Lord judge between me and thee.”

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Something Else

 This is just a light post, nothing heavy. When Julia had her house wired for internet, this picture is how the ethernet wiring looked. It languished this way for a few years.

My Christmas present for her this year was to organize that into a real "Structured Media Center." Below is what about 30 hours of work plus about $300 in parts resulted in. What you see here are two 12-port Coax junction boxes, a 16 port switch, a 12-port patch panel, a telephone punch block (behind the switch), the cable modem, a lawn watering control system, five AC/DC adapters, a power strip and a lot of cables. There's also an outlet in the bottom of the box. Am I a geek? Yeah.