Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Week Forty-four


We were disappointed to learn Sister H’s eye surgery on her remaining eye was not successful in reducing the pressure appreciably but did learn the redness she is experiencing is an allergic reaction to sulfa in the drops but the manufacturers have yet to produce sulfa free alternatives.

The Aliso Creek elders asked us to accompany them to speak with an investigator who is now the Fifty Family. He has been involved with several sets of missionaries over the years, his wife though has yet to participate. He has a high regard for himself and his reasoning capacity. He controlled the conversation and didn’t let the missionaries say much of anything. They apparently hadn’t established common grounds of belief to be set points in reining him in from tangential presentations. Nor did they lay a foundation for the scriptures they used so he would take them for something other then what they wanted to discuss. It was clear as I mentioned a few things that he really didn’t want me to be part of the conversation.

One of the evidences of scripture legerdemain was James 1:5 in which he concluded we are dealing with temptations and trying to develop the patience to see what we are to learn from them in being perfected. So I wrote him the following note the next day, to which he has yet to respond: Thank you for the invitation last night to review and consider principles and practices of great importance.

I left, being reminded anew, it is not enough to evaluate what the author of sacred writ may have intended but also to consider its use from the viewpoint of the present day reader. So I felt amply repaid in hearing your portrayal of the epistle of James on such short notice, but also considering a number of other nuances the words of James suggest to me. However, with time constraints last night I didn’t feel the impression to explore them together.

As you aptly pointed out last night the importance of establishing the circumstances or setting which draws forth such writings, I was reminded anew of the difficulty in analyzing the  epistles of James, as they appear to be a collection of ethical precepts rather than a connected whole. Yet, for what it is worth, let me share some thoughts that occurred to me.

In the first four verses James states he is “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” and addresses his epistle to remnants of the twelve tribes of Israel scattered abroad. As I recall, at this time Israel was partly traveling, partly sojourning, and partly resident in most parts of the civilized world. Certainly the Day of Pentecost gives credence to that. Whether his message is to those of Israel who have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ or all of Israel is left unsaid.

Noticing both the variety and number of afflictions [Adam Clarke tells us that “The word πειρασμος, which we translate temptation, signifies affliction, persecution, or trial of any kind, but mostly from without; and in this sense it is used here, not intending what is generally understood by the word temptation] that all Israel must endure, James concludes to count our afflictions as joy. He reasons that the trying of one’s faith works patience in us. Our trials put our religion, our beliefs, to the proof. James sees afflictions as evidence. As if he were saying, the man that stands true in his trials and afflictions demonstrates soundness of testimony which is evidence to his mind, inducing him to take courage, bear patiently, and persevere.

In other words, the opposition inherent in one’s mortal sojourn becomes the stuff that refines and purifies us. So we are to let patience have her perfect work in us that we may become complete, entire. To scattered Israel he is warning not to be overcome with their afflictions, but to remain steady in the faith which leads me to believe this epistle is to converts of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but whether that is the case or no, the principle remains valid as we become approved of God by trial and He perfects us that we become perfect, wanting nothing. Thus we should rejoice under the cross, because of the spiritual good which is derived therefrom.

Of this perfecting process Adam Clarke writes: “That ye may be perfect and entire - Τελειοι, Fully instructed, in every part of the doctrine of God, and in his whole will concerning you. Ὁλοκληροι , having all your parts, members, and portions; that ye may have every grace which constitutes the mind that was in Christ, so that your knowledge and holiness may be complete, and bear a proper proportion to each other. … Be then to the Lord what he required his sacrifices to be; let your whole heart, your body, soul, and spirit, be sanctified to the Lord of hosts, that he may fill you with all his fullness.”

James then, in verses 5-8, either changes the subject or again to Israel seeks to focus on their utter dependence upon God, seeing the resulting patience as the causal factor in the humility necessary to expanded wisdom. So he exhorts Israel to seek the wisdom of God by asking God himself, who he promises, gives liberally to all. However, we are warned this asking must be done in faith, and not with a doubting or double mind.

When James states, “If any of you lack wisdom,” it seems to me he is joining the twin truths of general knowledge put to the best use and the best means of attaining it. Being set forth in the scriptures, wisdom might here signify true religion, the thorough practical knowledge of God, of the Savior and our utter dependence upon him, as well as one’s self and how we can know, feel and become as God and Christ are. For says James, if we want this kind of wisdom, we must ask of God, because God alone is the possessor thereof.

Having recognized the knowledge of ignorance is the beginning of our knowledge and armed with the truth that God will give men liberally all that is good and necessary if we ask fervently, in faith, and further He will not upbraid us, we venture forth with the expectation, the faith, that the wisdom we seek will be divinely given. The implied, other side of the coin is, he who does not ask does not feel his need for or ability to receive, divine instruction.

James continues, if we are to walk this path we must make sure we are asking in faith, not wavering; believing that God is, that he is the possessor of all good; and that he is ever ready to impart to his children whatever they need. Our intent, as we seek wisdom, must be to do as the Lord directs us. We must be single minded in our desire to learn and know the wisdom of God; rather than being a double minded person with one foot in the divine and one in the world. Why, because if we are wavering our capacity to learn, to understand, and to know will be as a wave of the sea, driven and tossed.

So we must establish the required element in our pursuit of wisdom, we must choose to exercise real intent and single-mindedness in our quest to obtain wisdom if we are to succeed. We must have no doubt concerning the divine path to wisdom, never supposing that God will permit us to ask in vain, when we asks sincerely and fervently. We must not hesitate, but be irresolute. For the man who is not thoroughly persuaded that if he ask of God he shall receive, is like a wave of the sea; in a state of continual agitation; driven by the wind, and tossed, equally rising by hope, then sinking by despair. For, concludes James, a double minded man, even should he pray, shall not receive wisdom, or anything from the Lord as he is unstable, not persuaded either of his own wants or God’s completeness.

At lunch the next day when I reviewed with the missionaries their experience of the night before, they told me they also had an investigator who wondered if the Bible is to be taken literally why does God permit rape and murder.

Received a nice note from Brother Two; “Every time I feel a doubt I just reflect and remind myself of the twelve apostles and the fact that no one else has the twelve. Along with the priesthood and the strong faith exhibited by ones like you and I realize time and again I have no doubts.” I told him such things (these little awareness’s) were called by Nephi "the tender mercies" of the Lord. Strewn throughout our lives are little packages of happiness left there by a loving Heavenly Father and by the Savior to remind us that they know us that they know our names and that we can be forever with them. It's as if we are infused with light when we are living the commandments. He was asked to bless the Sacrament Sunday with all the youth gone at a conference and did it flawlessly. Received a nice note from Brother Two’s eldest: “You are 100% right, without God we are nothing. He is the most high God and he is someone who you can put your trust in at all times.”

Received this devastating note from a couple in our temple preparation class, which read in part, “After serious consideration and personal soul searching I came to the decision to return to my old church. I truly appreciate the love of our ward family and the work of the priesthood. I love the gospel and the plan of salvation and I will continue strong in my faith. I've been in the church since 2005 and I am still struggling with temple work teachings. I want to be true to my faith. Thanks for all your love and service.” I can’t remember when a notice hit me as hard as this one did. There has been nothing but positive interchange with this family in the four temple preparation classes we’ve held. In fact Sister Fifty-five is the best at asking questions and always testifies to the truth of the answers given. How can this be? What did we do wrong? I wrote her back asking if we could come by and help with her struggles.

Sunday I learned from the Bishop what she meant to convey was that they wanted to go back to attending the Spanish Branch as she was having difficulty understanding everything when it is not in her native language. I can’t express the sigh of relief that followed from both Sister H and I.

We continue to visit families as directed by the bishop’s and even with warm receptions have been unable to get in the door as they have made decisions to worship elsewhere and just are not interested any longer. Sure initiates a flow of love and anguish in our hearts as we reflect on what they are choosing to leave behind. Most are doing many good things, just not things of an eternal consequence and they seem to have no recognition of what is being lost.

Met with the Twenty-first family and brought them up to speed on the temple class they missed Sunday and further on the Melchizedek Priesthood. There two little daughters, ages 4 and 2, give Sister H a giant hug every time we come. We learned the 4 year old is in a dance recital on May 17 and which we asked if we could come she was so excited. As we were leaving she shouted out, “I love you!” Which had her mother in tears.

After living in Louisville, Kentucky for a few years and attending the 100th running of that event, we have tried to see the running of Kentucky Derby each year. Our schedule was fortunate to see the running of the 140th Kentucky Derby won by California Chrome. I remember when another California horse by the name of Swaps won the derby, owned by Rex Ellsworth an LDS guy. Swaps was my race horse hero as a boy. He had 25 starts, 19 wins, two seconds, two thirds and set five course time records. Guess I had to come back to California for it to happen again with California Chrome.

Because of stake youth conference the Lake Forest meeting schedule was moved back to 1-4 p.m. so the Six Family decided there wasn’t time for a discussion after church. So we had a leisure schedule today. No missionary correlation meetings, no ward council meetings, and only one block schedule, Aliso Creek. After three dry runs the past Sunday’s we made connection again with Sister Fifty-seven who we picked up and took to church. As we returned to her home she said, “This was a wonderful service today. I felt so good.”

Later we went to the Bass home in Lake Forest where with several couples had a break the fast along with the young missionaries. It consisted of several couples whose families had grown up and left in the Lake Forest Ward. Apparently this started 20 years or so ago when the little tots were all running around together and has continued ever since.

Received a list of questions the investigator for the Aliso Creek Elders raised about the God condoning rape in the Bible. I responded—Contrary to his assertion, we don't take the Bible literally as many of the plain and precious things of the Bible have been lost. There are just too many errors. But likewise it is an error to try to find fault with everything. Let me take two from his list (which are straight out of the atheist handbook) and add a third. If your investigator is an honest seeker, one who is seeking to understand, this will get him going. If it has no effect, he isn't interested in understanding anyway.

Deuteronomy 22:23-24 Reads that if an betrothed women has sex with a man both the man and woman are to be stoned if she doesn't resist. The key here is that she "cried not" so it is assumed she consented to the sex. Had she cried out she wouldn't have been put to death. The man is put to death because he had sex with one belonging to another.

Deuteronomy 22:25-27 continues the same theme. If a man finds a betrothed woman and sleeps with her and she cries out. In this case the man is put to death (in other words rape is not condoned) but the woman is spared because she cried out which means she was raped it wasn't consensual.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29. In this case the woman, not betrothed, and the man have consensual sex (she doesn't cry out) then he has to pay the bride price (fifty shekels of silver like a dowry) because he has defiled her. Also he has to marry her and he can never divorce her.

The rape war ones deal with captive virgins who the conquerors marry, not rape. The sexism ones deal with God working through His priesthood to lead His church.

In Numbers 31:7-18 he conveniently left out verses 19-20 wherein the women had to go through a purification process before they could marry them. Moses was upset they brought any women back claiming they had trespassed against the Lord causing a plague among the congregation. A plague? Doesn't sound like the Lord was too happy with their choice here.

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