Posts Tagged scripture

An example of how to treat refugees from the Book of Mormon

As my health permits, I am one of the teachers for a class of 10 year olds each Sunday. We tend to have only 3-4 students, all boys, almost all with some sort of disability that makes it difficult for them to sit and learn. I can sympathize with them, as my own uniqueness makes it difficult to either sit still or pay attention to things around me. Anyway, last weeks lesson was on the people in the Book of Mormon called the “Anti-Nephi-Lehis”. It’s a mouthful of a name, but the people wanted a name that reflected their commitment to the gospel and their forefathers who came out of Jerusalem several hundred years earlier.

The Anti-Nephi-Lehis were Lamanites who had converted to Christ and wanted to disavow themselves of all of the violence and sin that had previously been a part of their culture. They went so far as to bury their weapons of war. When the Lamanites came to kill them, the Anti-Nephi-Lehis simply bowed down and let themselves be slaughtered. (In this instance, the attackers stopped the slaughter and were also converted, more joining the Anti-Nephi-Lehis than were killed.) To stop further potential massacres, the Nephites offered the land of Jershon, well within the borders of the Nephite lands, and vowed to protect these people with their armies.

This got me to wondering. Would this be a possible way to help at least a portion of the many refugees we have created in the world? Could we find a place somewhere in our vast country to put these people and let them build a community of their own? If they would be willing to be subject to the State and National laws, why could we not give them a place where they could govern and build themselves up? I’m not saying they would need to convert to some form of Christianity, as it should be the Spirit that guides them, not compulsion by support. I am also not saying there wouldn’t be many, many logistical and political issues that would need to be dealt with, as there will be many.

What I’m asking is, what would it take to give up a small portion of our vast lands and resources to help some hundred thousand people escape from a war torn land, a place where they face starvation, death, and many other privations through no fault of their own? I know it goes against the very American idea that the people should just buckle down and fix the place where they are, but that is nearly impossible when your children are starving and there are no safe places to work, much less start a business, if there were any money to do so.

What do you think? Can we take this example of charity in the Book of Mormon and apply it to our own times?

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The fig tree and cleansing the Temple

This is going to be one of my more speculative thoughts. I am by no means a scriptorian, nor am I even conversant in Old Testament sacrificial practices. This is just something that connected in my mind.

In Mark chapter 11, verses 12-26 (and Matthew 21), Jesus and his disciples walk by a fig tree, which He condemns for producing no fruit and curses it. When they return by it, the tree has withered.

12 And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:

13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.

14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.
. . .
21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.

22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.

. . . then goes on to talk about the power that can do seemingly impossible things.

In the middle of this, verses 15-19, Jesus clears the moneychangers and those who sell animals to be sacrificed out of the Temple grounds:

15 ¶And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;

16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.

17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.

It seems to me that the miracle of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple must be related, one surrounding the other, so it got me to thinking. What do fig trees have to do with the commanded practice of animal sacrifice?

One of the most remarkable uses of fig leaves in the Scriptures is in the Garden of Eden. In trying to cover their mistakes, Eve and Adam fashion aprons out of fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). They did not yet know that there would be a Savior who would cover us all, that they didn’t need to try to cover themselves but only needed to repent of what they had done.

What does this have to do with animal sacrifice? The details of what animals should be sacrificed for what sins is well detailed in Leviticus 1-7. It’s been law for many hundreds of years. This, I believe, results in two problems by the time of Christ.

The business of selling animals for sacrifice and changing money to money that is acceptable for use in the Temple has become a lucrative trade. This oppressive trade was at least tolerated by the Priests whose job it was to perform the sacrifices and keep the Temple grounds free of commercial traffic.

More importantly, the commandments for animal sacrifice (well beyond the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb foreshadowing the sacrifice of The Lamb of God exampled by Adam and Abel) were an attempt by the Israelites to cover their own sins. Like Adam and Eve, this was an attempt to cover their own sins rather than look forward to Christ. Animal sacrifice had become the Israelites’ fig leaves.

But weren’t these details given by God? Why would He give them something wrong? I believe this is another instance where the Israelites didn’t want to live the higher laws and asked for something more specific. A single sacrifice for everything doesn’t seem like enough? Fine, here’s something more complicated to help you feel better.

To me, this is the importance of the withering of the fig tree. No more trying to cover yourselves with your fig leaves of animal sacrifice. Get back to the basic, higher laws. Look to Christ and live.

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The Apostle Peter having a really bad day

While recently reading in Luke, chapter 22, I was particularly struck by verse 40, where Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples, about to begin the process of taking upon Himself the sins of the world:

And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.

Temptation? They are in a garden at night; what temptation do they need to work so hard to fight?

Then I remembered what was happening. Jesus was about to embark on the hardest journey anyone can go on, the one absolutely necessary to allow us to return home to our Heavenly Parents. What happened the last time Jesus told his disciples what was going to happen (Mark 8:31-33)?

31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.

33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.

Peter was there to witness the thing he feared most, the thing he most wanted to deny could ever happen. Peter had to witness his Savior, his God, take on the sins of the world, suffer, and die.

The temptation was to try and stop it from happening.

This certainly would be the greatest temptation Peter and those with him would face. This wasn’t a simple, “help us with some vague temptation”, this was a “He’s right over there, suffering, soon to go to his death, and I need to let it happen.” What an impossible task!

I’ve had prayers in the pit of despair, praying with such energy that you are physically drained. I can’t imagine how much effort it would have taken to stay there and pray that you will not interfere in this case. I find it no wonder that they fell asleep, not from boredom, but from exhaustion.

Even then, Peter couldn’t completely escape from the temptation. Remember, Jesus had already told them what would happen, even dropping the bombshell earlier in the evening that one of their own they had trusted, worked with, and loved would be the betrayer. Yet when the mob comes for Jesus, Peter lashes out and cuts off an ear (John 18:10). Jesus calms the situation, but Peter knows he succumbed to temptation.

Unfortunately, Peter’s bad day only gets worse. While he is witnessing the trials and accusations, he is accused, three times, of being His disciple. Instead of being able to boldly give his own life, as he said he would, Peter denies he knew Jesus each time, at the end being reminded of the prophecy he’d just passed off as impossible earlier in the evening.

I’ve often heard people wonder how could Peter do such things, when he’d been the strongest of the Twelve. How could “The Rock” the Church would be built upon when Jesus was gone be so weak? I don’t know of anyone who could have done as well as Peter did. He didn’t just have a witness of Jesus as we may have, he knew Him personally, worked, prayed, cried, laughed with Him. I don’t know how many hours of weeping it took for Peter to be able to get back on his feet and try to continue with life, but there is no doubt; Peter had a bad day.

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Virtue can be stolen (and it has nothing to do with rape)

One of the discussions running around feminist circles is about the use of Moroni 9:9 in President Dalton’s talk on virtue. The hurt expressed from using this scripture is the assumption that the loss of chastity and virtue means that the women were raped.

To show the scripture:

9 For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—

Sure, it’s easy to say this means rape, nicely tying chastity and virtue to it, but I think this misses that these women were taken prisoners. This could be the effects of months or even years in the hands of their captors.

These women were subjected to a period of time being prisoners. It would be likely that eventually they would come to empathize with, or even defend the actions of, their captors. The effect of this would have been a loss of virtue and chastity. Would they have the blame for this? No, it would be described that their virtue and chastity – their innocence – was taken by their captors, even if no sexual component was involved. We’ve only recently given this kind of thing a name – Stockholm syndrome.

Something more to remember are the other usages of virtue in the New Testament, when it was used to heal, as in Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48:

43And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
45 And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.

Virtue, even when paired with chastity, does not mean sex. No one would argue that the woman (and others, Luke 8:19) healed by the Savior in any way sexually violated Him, but in every case, it was described as a loss of virtue.

Virtue is power used to heal others, physically and spiritually. No, I am not saying that the Lamanite daughters were used as physicians, but that in their time as prisoners their ability to heal themselves and each other waned over time in what must have been an unbelievably horrific situation. In modern times, we seem to have gone to the easy answer in interpreting the words of Moroni. The worst thing we could imagine happening to a woman was rape, but we find with sad experience that there are worse things. To be kidnapped, kept by people doing horrific things, and seeing glimmers of false hope and trust in your captors can change you, taking away the virtue and chastity you once had.

For the sake of those who have had to live through the horrors of rape and kidnapping, we need to change our usage of Moroni 9:9. I think the recent use of it by President Dalton was a good step, but it is going to take a good deal of work for all of us to un-learn our hurtful interpretation of this. Rape and sexual abuse is damaging and vile. The burden of repentance for this should never be placed on the victim. No virtue or chastity has been taken from them, even though their innocence is lost. Using our virtue to heal should be foremost in our minds, not the erroneous idea that they are somehow to blame. We’ve bludgeoned our daughters (and sons) with this long enough.

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Sola Scriptura

Christians, in general, seem to have widely differing views on the role of scripture in their religion. Some use only a few portions of the New Testament, some only the New Testament, some add a bare touch of the Old Testament, and some believe the Bible collection of scripture to be definitive. Still others accept all ancient books as part of scripture, and others have specific books they add as scripture.

As an LDS (Mormon), I believe as is stated in the 8th Article of Faith (which is a declaration of the LDS basic tenets):

“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”

In addition to this, we have and make use of Prophets who are called by God to preach in these days. The word of the Prophet is more important than scripture, as it is what God wishes to tell us now, not what we needed when the scripture was written. It should also be noted that the Prophets also ask us to not take any of it on blind faith, but to pray and ask God for ourselves if what was given is true.

I have had friends leave the church over this. They were directed towards seeming inconsistencies in what the Prophets have said, and decided that it meant that someone along the line wasn’t really a prophet.

The reason we need prophets is the same as in Jesus’ time. We, as a people, change. God does not change, but we change in what we need to be taught and reminded of by God. Polygamy is a good example – God gave us instruction on how some men would take more than one wife, to be kept as a very sacred and holy covenant between God and those involved. Unfortunately, some took advantage of that teaching and twisted it to their own ends, and that doctrine was taken away. No one in the LDS church now enters into plural marriage, even if the country the members live in doesn’t disallow it or it is acceptable culturally. Even if the Bigamy laws were repealed in the US tomorrow, God would not direct his people to enter into that covenant until they, as a people, showed they were ready. Considering divorce rates, we have a very long way to go before then.

Having a living Prophet is invaluable to us. Having that direct guidance from God, which we can confirm personally, helps direct us as a people in improving our homes and communities and preparing us for the time when Jesus will return in glory. Its not a dismissal of scripture, but building upon; having even more resources available to us in our quest to become more like Jesus.

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