Monday, November 17, 2014

Because of Iniquity

During the sacrament yesterday I opened up 3 Nephi to study the sacrament again.  I began with what first caught my eye, which was the highlighted verse of 3 Nephi 15:17:

"That other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." 
I kept reading into verse 18:

And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them."  
Often times when I read scriptures, I find I'm directed to a middle of a chapter.  Because I start in the middle, I find I'm missing the context, so I begin reading backwards.  Then forwards, then often backwards again.  My sacrament study began with other sheep.

Growing up in LDS culture (although not really – it was more LDS culture outside of LDS culture), I always viewed the "other sheep" as the Nephites and Lamanites.  This is where all the videos pointed, and it is explained during missionary discussions.  I had the concept down when I was 14.  Jesus visited the players in the Book of Mormon, and this is one reason the Book of Mormon is so important.  We are to open our minds to the concept that Jesus visited other people outside those in Jerusalem from 0 to 34 AD.

The verses surrounding this often quoted verse are often overlooked.  I found some really interesting points as I studied.

Backing up a few verses, Jesus talks to the twelve disciples who he had chosen, and tells them they are a "light" unto this people, "who are a remnant of the house of Joseph" (vs.12).  What does that mean?  Who and what are the house of Joseph?  We often gloss over this in church, assuming everyone knows, and that we automatically know who this Joseph is.  Who is Joseph?

I am going to assume that Christ is referring to Joseph, who is the youngest son Jacob (AKA "Israel").  We learn about him in Genesis.  We also learn that he has 11 other brothers.  These are the "Twelve Tribes of Israel" we often talk about.  So we assume this is the same Joseph that he is referring to here, but it only says that they are of the house of Joseph.

Christ continues,

"Neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land" (vs.15). 
Why does Christ need the Father to command him regarding what he says?  Over the course of the next several verses, he refers to "the Father" so frequently, and he intimates that he only speaks what he is commanded to speak.  (Although in some instances, when he completes what he is commanded to speak, we have record of him doing other things, like blessing children.)

Jesus the explains what the Father permitted him to share, which was the basic fact that there were other sheep whom he must bring (vs.16).  But he explains that because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they didn't understand his words.  So the Father commanded him to say no more.

Imagine if the Jews had not been so stiffnecked and unbelieving.  What more might they have learned?  And what more might the world know?

It's a beautiful thing we have this record in the Book of Mormon, because Christ explains that the Father did give him permission to share this.  He says the Father commanded him to tell them (the Nephites) that they were separated from the Jews because of their iniquity.  And it's because of the Jews' iniquity that they still did not know of this remnant.

The coolest part though, to me, is that he says that the Father has separated other tribes.  Once again, because of iniquity the Jews have no idea regarding them.  They Jews thought that Jesus was referring to visiting the Gentiles, when in actuality he meant the Nephites.  (The Gentiles would be converted through the Holy Ghost, and Christ would not minister to them personally.  vs. 23)  Another interesting point this reveals is that we and the Jews do not always understand his words.  We think it to mean something it does not necessarily mean.  And Christ admits it.

Moving into Chapter 16, we learn of even more sheep.  This is what intrigues me the most.  These people had never been ministered to yet by him personally.  And he would go there next.  Have they kept a record?  Have they received his gospel?  Are they on the face of the earth?  Are they hidden in the earth?  Under the face of the great deep?  Is it possible that the religions of the earth, which seem to vary so deeply, are actually part and parcel of the whole?  Part of the one fold, with one shepherd, but we reject their precepts because they do not match our own?  What if this is part of the grand design?  Or do we need to wait for Christ to introduce us, in the end, to the idea that just maybe he taught them too, and that their varying messages are actually of Him?

It's not too far of a stretch for me, when I have Christ informing me in these pages of the Book of Mormon.  And blessed are they that believe.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

3 Nephi 19 - The Three Prayers of Christ

A week or two God revealed the most beautiful things to me, hidden in chapters 19 and 20 of 3 Nephi.  So beautiful they are!  A quick synopsis of background before I get into it.

These events are post Resurrection.  It is after the earthquakes, storms, and insane mists of darkness that happened months before and covered the earth, when the world went crazy and people were crying, mourning, and moaning for days on end because of all the destruction.  This was global destruction, and we are now witnessing it from the view of the Nephite civilization.  

At the start of 3 Nephi 19, people are gathering.  (For a little precursor to this, see here for some thoughts on what happens just before the events of chapter 19.)  They had heard noise about what had happened earlier that day, how Jesus came and discussed the essentials of bread and wine representing him.  He discussed how to pray, what it meant, and the beauties of the ordinance.  He taught who can partake of it, and that none should be refused from worshiping together, however those unworthy – meaning those unbaptized –should not partake of it, yet.  They need to follow this essential doctrine before stepping further on the path.  So many other gems in this chapter.  

Heading into chapter 19, people are allll hopped up.  What an incredible awesome, miraculous day they had just seen.  When was the last time you experienced such things?  I haven't read it all just now, but in skimming things, it appears that everything that happened between 3 Nephi 11 and 3 Nephi 18 happens in one day.  (Not necessarily the destruction.  I think that happened months before Christ actually came to descend among the Nephites.  I'm just saying the messages between 11-18 are one day.)  These chapters are LOADED and if I'm reading things right, I'm pretty sure they are all being downloaded in aprox. 1 day.  

But to just highlight one event, when was the last time you had anyone leave your presence by having a cloud overshadow you, and then they ascended into heaven?  I have yet to see such.  

So the people are gathering, some of them hustling it up ALL night to get to where they anticipate he will come the next day.  I mean it is noised ALL about.  I imagine I couldn't sleep either, and would be waking up the neighbors saying, "Get the heck over here and SEE THIS!!!"  

When everyone arrives, they meet the 12 disciples Jesus had called out and "touched" (18:36) the day before.  These twelve start separating the gathering crowd into 12 different bodies, because it is just so big!  Verse 6 says they (the disciples) taught them (the multitude, in groups), and then instructed them to kneel on the earth and pray to the Father in the name of Jesus.  Then the disciples joined suit.  What are they doing?  

Well Jesus had not yet arrived.  They are beckoning him in prayer!  

Verse 7-8 describes how the disciples then "minister" to them, using the exact same words Jesus had used, and then knelt again.  Did they issue the bread and wine here?  I am not entirely sure.  It is not clear, although surely God could tell you if you asked.  One of the almost last things he went over the night before was the importance of remembering him through the bread and wine.  I believe this was probably what they were doing, but I could be wrong.   

What happened next though is eye opening.  They begin praying for the Holy Ghost to be given to them.  Really???  They had not yet received the Holy Ghost?  These were people that survived the destructions of the Nephite civilization.  Had they not yet obviously had the gospel and baptism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints as we now assume they had? ;) You know, exactly like we have it now???  No.  

They sought the Holy Ghost.  The real, first Comforter.  So they prayed fervently, and went to the water's edge, where they met Nephi.  Nephi received baptism first.  (Still no Christ present in the flesh.)  Who baptized Nephi?  And as soon as Nephi came out of the water, he began baptizing the others Jesus had chosen.  

Was this something Jesus instructed the night before?  So Nephi is just now baptized!  And he baptizes the other eleven.  And they rise out of the water, and their WISH is GRANTED!  No waiting, just boom!  There!  Holy Ghost DID. FALL. UPON. THEM.  and they were FILLED with the Holy Ghost and with FIRE!!!  And they were circled – surrounded – with something so much like fire, from heaven.  And the multitude saw it, and knew it was true.  Then come the angels.  

And the angels minister to them.  Can you imagine?  But it gets better.  

Then comes Jesus!  Again!  To ALL of them!!!  Party on!!!  Can you imagine this???  Were they cheering?  Were they falling to the earth?  This is the very first experience for the bulk of them, right, meeting their God?  Remarkable.  Think about that for a moment.  Can you really imagine this?  I get all weepy when hearing that song, "I Can Only Imagine".  I really have no idea how I'd react, but pretty much all of those emotions wrapped into one is how I imagine it.  

(Feel free to just listen.  Or just hit play and read the rest because listening to this song while you read changes the whole tone of the rest.  Wow.)

So the instruction begins... now.  Get ready to rumble, because this. is. pure. awesomeness.   

Jesus instructs the multitude to kneel.  They listen and obey.  And then the disciples.  Check.  And when they're alllll kneeling, he instructs the disciples to pray.  All 12.  They are praying –to–Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God.  

Jesus steps a little bit away.  He prays to the Father.  

"Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.  
Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words.  {Could he also be talking about us here???}
Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me;  {prayer answered immediately, by the way} and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them.  {Noted.}
And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one."  {Jesus prays for those present and NOT present, who believe on the words of those present.  Present and future.  Why?  He wants us to be one.}

Jesus ends his prayer for a moment, stands up, looks at his disciples, who are praying with words given to them, and they were filled with desire.  Desire for what?

So as they're praying – they, meaning the disciples – Jesus blesses them.  I don't know how they can remain focused, because quite frankly, if Jesus were to utter direct words of blessing on my ears to hear, I think I would instantly be a puddle of tears and awe.  But they manage to continue, and he blesses them, and his countenance smiles upon them.  The light of it shines on them, and they turn literally white.  Whiter than anything on the planet, it says.  They were as white as the garments and countenance of Christ.  And he tells them to pray on.

And again, Jesus turns from them again, and steps a little ways away and begins to pray again!  Now he asks,

"Father, I thank thee that thou hast purified those whom I have chosen, because of their faith, and I pray for them, and also for them who shall believe on their words {here again!}, that they may be purified in me, through faith on their words, even as they are purified in me.  
Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them." 

He pauses, checks on the disciples again, and smiles upon them.  They were white, even as white as Jesus now.  Is this different now, than the previous whiteness?  Was the previous whiteness white in countenance and garments?  And now their physical being is white?  Have they received the purification, literally, soul –body and spirit– that he just supplicated the Father for?

So he steps off again.  Prayer number three.

"And tongue cannot speak the words which he prayed, neither can be written by man the words which he prayed.  
And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open that they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed.  
Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man." 

What was said here?  Prayer #1 involves Christ asking for those who believe in these words to receive the Holy Ghost.  And it happens.  Prayer #2 he asks for them (and us) and all who believe to be purified.  And they are.  Prayer #3 happens and their hearts – their heart layers – I believe these are veils of forgetfulness, or of knowingness – of being able to speak heavenly tongues – the language of Jesus – the language of the Father(s) – is spoken, and NO MAN CAN REPEAT IT.  I can't even analyze it to put words to it.  It is marvelous.

This is not some lame secret.  This is nothing that man is capable of uttering, because we have heart walls, shields, veils, that prohibit us from literally speaking it.  This is no secret combination, where someone swears you to secrecy, and if you share or break confidence then you incur the wrath of their pseudo-god, ending a friendship or relationship.  No.  This is pure, undefiled, Godliness.  This is the language of Christ, the PURE LANGUAGE OF CHRIST.

When he is done praying these beautiful, gorgeous, heavenly blessed words, he goes back to the disciples, and says,

"So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews; wherefore I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their unbelief.  
Verily I say unto you, there are none of them that have seen so great things as ye have seen; neither have they heard so great things as ye have heard."  

Lucky ducks, right?  Jesus pretty much tells them how awesome it is for him too, to be finally sharing some of these awesome things that the Jews just couldn't get open enough to receive.  Seriously.  How flipping cool would that be to have participated in such beautiful, truly glorious things?

Chapter 20 is next.   

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Richer Understanding of 3 Nephi 18

Sometimes I read scriptures uber slow.  It helps to catch the meaning of various things I would often overlook through speed.  And other times I read them especially fast.  Sometimes it's just because I'm in a rush, but other times I get a bigger picture of what's going on.

Last week I was preparing for my Primary lesson on the Sacrament.  I was to read 3 Nephi 18: 1-11.  I read it fast, and then kept reading.  I was BLOWN away by what was revealed.  I challenge the reader to pull out their copy and read 3 Nephi 18-20.  I find that when I read without any preconceived notions, and believe what it read, I make new discoveries.  So as you read, please let go of your traditions!  Allow the words on the page to speak for themselves.  Don't superimpose your long-held beliefs, to shift and twist and contort the meaning into something that fits into your current paradigm!  This is how to discover countless treasures on the pages.  And these chapters are LOADED.

Some highlights of Chapter 18:

  • vs. 1 Jesus commands the disciples to bring bread and wine.  WINE!  Not water.  Water is great for many other references, but this is wine.  Why?  How many references do we have for wine in the scriptures?  So many!  And it is SO symbolic.  How?  It is bitter.  It is red.  It looks like blood.  It comes from a vine (more and more references), attached to a branch, with roots.  It ferments.  It takes time and skill to make (translate: patience, mastery).  This is not your basic, "Oh, the water wasn't clean enough to drink back then so they used wine like we use water."  Lame!  Wine represented something more than just a drink available.  That's called dumbing down truth.  Don't believe me?  Why not?  Is your tradition stronger than scripture?  (If you think I'm being harsh here, and don't know why I am in such favor of using wine when our leaders insist we should not, please consider this piece on how we got here.  I do not believe it was revelation.  Please don't be offended if my opinion differs from yours until you study it in full.)   
  • vs. 2  Jesus commands the multitude (or crowd, congregation, ward, stake, etc) to SIT upon the EARTH.  Does this mean they didn't have chairs?  What about a log?  Was there significance in sitting on the earth?  Does it represent humility?  Is there a difference between kneeling and sitting?  In this instance, it says to sit.  (I recognize there are other points where kneel is used.)   
  • vs. 3-4  Jesus breaks and blesses the bread, gives to the disciples, commands them to eat.  They are filled.  Not starving still.  Not just held over until they can go dine on cheese and meat.  But they're filled.  They are then commanded to give it to everyone else present.  
I feel like there is so much in these verses!  One thing I don't want to overlook sharing is in verse 7.

  • Jesus tells them that it will be a testimony unto the father when we eat of this bread, that we do ALWAYS remember Christ.  Eat, remember, eat, remember.  AND IF you remember, you will have his Spirit.  What does that mean?  
I used to always think this was talking about the Holy Ghost.  If you eat and remember, you'll have the Holy Ghost.  Well duh!  Right?

But for the first time this had new meaning to me.  I'd like to share.

When we die, what happens to our spirits?  Do they remain individual?  Unique?  Do they rise up to meet our Creator?  Or do they remain with our bodies, tormented and lifeless underground?  Or do they just get aggregated to some massive "Holy Spirit"?  I believe they rise up, according to Alma, and we also retain our individuality as intelligences, while still progressing towards that "one-ness".  I could be wrong, but that's my understanding right now.  

What happened to Christ's spirit when he was killed?  He rose up, did he not?  Do we believe he taught and ministered during those 3 days?  Yes, most of us do.  When his body was resurrected, well, we say his spirit joined his body, but to be honest I really can't say exactly what happened.  But we say his spirit and body reunited.  Something special must have happened to his body to change it into an immortal one of flesh and bones.

Well let's reconsider the elements of a spirit being.  I believe my spirit inhabits my body, but it is also fluid.  I believe my spirit is part of my aura.  Lots of Christians believe this is hokey talk, but I think we're just using different words for the same thing.  So if my spirit is fluid, and extends beyond my body, I believe that like water, it is not a solid.  It is finer matter, and can be interrupted in order for our bodies to become closer.  This is how we feel someone behind us without seeing them.  "Surprise!" is the word that usually follows.

Let's think of this spirit temporarily as play doh.  Let's imagine we can break off a part of our spirit, leaving the bulk of our play doh inside our bodies.  Taking a piece off doesn't mean I don't have spirit left in my body, allowing it to function, but now I have a part of my play doh spirit in my hand, and I'll give it to my daughter.  So she has a part of my spirit to go with her, so she knows she's loved.  By carrying it with her to school, she has something tangible to remember me by.  It looks like me.  It feels like me.  It is part of me.

In essence, believe it or not, we do this all the time.  Most of us can't see our spirits, but some folks can.  We attach to people.  We form bonds, and connect with them through cords, thoughts, and other means.  If you don't believe this is true, I'd dare you to find an energy worker and have them teach you to "cut cords" of negative bonds and see how literal the release feels.  It is truth.

So back to Jesus.  When we eat the bread, and testify in that moment that we are remembering Christ, the return side of the commitment is that we will always have HIS spirit to be with us.  His.  Not the Holy Ghost.  But Jesus' spirit.  Does that make a difference in how you receive him?

The first time I saw this video I thought it was mocking Christians, but after perceiving what this verse really means, this was the first thing I think of.  Having Jesus' spirit to be with us is just like this video.  He is ALWAYS there when we remember him.  Like a chunk of play doh, but better.  So much better.

So imagine having Him by your side when you're feeling like you're doing dishes for the 2 millionth time, and no one is helping.  Or when the kids destroy the living room, AGAIN.  Or when you just don't have time to be the perfect mom, dad, or son or daughter.  He is there for you, instantly.  Let him make you smile.

And his spirit is so much more powerful than our spirits.  (I am not saying this is the only way to be one with God, but just one way to enjoy his presence.  There are many, many other ways.)  Think of all the good you or I could do (as well as all the harm).  Now think of how lowly and nothing we are in comparison to Him.  What a rich, RICH blessing we are afforded by the proper partaking of the sacrament.

So for the flip side, what would it do to your life, to partake of a sacrament the way our Lord instructed us?  Even commanded, as he did to the disciples?  Why do we disobey in the name of tradition?  We are doing this 50% wrong!  what if we subbed in KitKats for the bread?  Would it still feel as rich as the meaning of bread being used?  (No, really.)  We are breaking one of the richest, most beautiful commandments in the name of tradition.  Let's stop ignoring His commandments.  It is time to repent.

I thank my God above for showing me this one, tiny revelation in a new way to look at this verse.  I wish I were more diligent in reading and studying the scriptures.  I know they would be unfolded if only I really took the time to care.  I have so, so much work to do it's not even funny.  Hopefully Jesus will bear with me.