Monday, May 26, 2014

Week Forty-Seven


I’m not sure about this role playing technique they have for the missionaries to practice as missionaries. This week we witnessed the third missionary who literally shut down in such a practice, lips quivering and head bowed and unable to speak at all. It was so pronounced even a hug and condolences from Sister H afterwards had no effect.

In preparation for our meeting with Brother Forty-Two our minister, I put together a talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard, “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul” to speak to his question about what happened in both Gethsemane and Calvary and some other materials. We didn’t get into 2 Nephi 2 like we had planned as he had a number of questions about the Holy Ghost from the New Testament, such as Cornelius (How could he receive the Holy Ghost when you say he had to be baptized first) and Simon’s encounter with Peter, etc. Also if the Holy Ghost is a personage how does he do what he does? All the questions were asked sincerely rather than argumentatively. We reviewed D&C 130:22-23 and I felt inspired to draw out a chart. The first figure was eternity, then a stick figure to represent organized spirit, then the stick figure enclosed in a body of flesh and bones, then the separation of the stick figure and flesh and bones at death, then the reuniting of same in a glorified, perfected body. From that little time line he was able to conclude where Satan and the 1/3 of heaven left the progression and that the Holy Ghost was like an organized spirit now but some day would receive a body and be glorified. We then put together a little list of the various manifestations of the Holy Ghost; 1) Personage, 2) Witness prior to receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost like Cornelius received, 3) The Gift of the Holy Ghost, 4) Continuing companionship of the Holy Ghost through that gift.

We then drew out a chart showing the doctrines taught by the Church Christ established and the doctrines taught by Christianity following 326 AD, showing the differences as he had asked about the young woman’s questions of last week. I showed him that there is a divide between the doctrines as taught by Christ and those espoused by Christianity 300 years later and that is the same divide today. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fits nicely with the Church established by Christ, not so well with the changed doctrines of the 4th century AD.

His questions then turned to Joseph Smith, “So when he had the vision he knew something about Heavenly Father and Jesus he did not know before. They had resurrected bodies of flesh and bones, they were two separate beings, and he was to join no other church.” So we read together Joseph Smith’s account of the first vision and then his account of his visits with Moroni. As Jan noted he gave rapt attention to all this, had many quality comments and didn’t dispute anything after we had reviewed D&C 84:19-22 with which he was already familiar and 67:11-12 explaining why in some cases scriptures say man cannot see God and in other instances he can see God.

Received the following text message from one of the zone leaders which read—Elder and Sister Haddock! Sorry for texting so late. How was your day? I just had a question from my study that I really want to know, but I couldn’t answer it because I have never experienced. If you both can help me out, that would help me to build up a strong foundation in my life. The question is “How does the savior understand our spiritual suffering?” Simply, the atonement covers our spiritual and physical sufferings. I think I got the physical part but I don’t get the spiritual part. Often times, we just tell people who are going through worries, agonies, spiritual sufferings that the savior knows how it feels but I really want to know how he does. I read over Alma 7:11, but that wasn’t enough for me to understand. For some people, it’s possible to suffer without making sins, then where does the atonement come in? Because they don’t have to claim for mercy on the things, they did it right. Sorry that was a long text...

I replied—It is good to hear from you again. Our prayers for your welfare have been constant. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your life in this great cause.

Your concerns remind me of a statement once made by Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “We can no more comprehend the atonement than we can understand the creation or the fall” (New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 109). There is so much we don’t yet know or understand about the Atonement, specifically how our Savior could descend below all things and in the process pick up the ability to carry our burdens or answer for our sins and thus fulfill the requirements of justice. Nor am I going to use the term “sufferings” to describe what you are asking, rather  I’m going to choose “afflictions,” as I am loath to equate in any manner our afflictions with Christ’s sufferings.

We all suffer personal trials in mortality, like Paul we all have a “thorn in the flesh” with which we have to deal. It may be physical, or emotional, or spiritual or a combination of all three. Nevertheless they are real and are part and parcel of our mortal journey. They are a heavy burden to bear, for some more than others and the circumstances of others causes our hearts to break. Perhaps afflictions are ever present to draw us to Christ, to learn how to depend upon Him, that we might fully partake of the Atonement and become rescued by Him.

It appears Paul on occasion thought he would be better able to serve God should his affliction be taken away. At other times his ponderings led him to conclude his “thorn in the flesh” enabled or perhaps even forced him to rely upon the Lord and in relying he became strengthened or perfected in Christ as he concludes, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

In all our “afflictions,” no matter the cause, whether it be ourselves, others, or God allowing them to school us, the divine promise central to our understanding of the atonement is this: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30). In my humble opinion we don’t give enough thought to this profound statement. Perhaps it is beyond our current capacity to fully understand.

Our Savior will do the same for us as he did for Paul, for Joseph Smith and others. If we will allow it, the reality of the Atonement literally and completely lifts and carries our afflictions and strengthens us in the process (see Ether 12:26-27) because His grace is sufficient.

How can Christ strengthen, lift and carry our afflictions? Simply stated, because He suffered all that we have to endure and much, much more. It was in descending below all things (D&C 122:8) that his suffering enables him to carry our afflictions. This painful descent is what Elder Neal A. Maxwell referred to as the “awful arithmetic of the Atonement” (“Willing to Submit,” Ensign, May 1985, 73).

When Nephi was given the great vision of the Tree of Life he was asked if he knew what was the “condescension of God.” He answered simply, as would we, “I do not know the meaning of all things” although he did know “that he loveth his children” (1 Nephi 11:16-17). The answer Nephi was given was that the Son of God would come to earth and live after the “manner of the flesh,” and “ministering unto the people, in power and great glory” He would be “taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world” and be “lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world” (1 Nephi 11:18-33).

Somehow the Savior was able to suspend or limit in some way His divine powers in order to live after the “manner of the flesh” and to die, as no one could take His life from Him. In this way He clearly descended below all things.

We cannot, even in the depths of disease, tell him anything at all about suffering. In ways we cannot comprehend, our sicknesses and infirmities were borne by him even before they were borne by us. (See Alma 7:11-12; Matthew 8:17.) The very weight of our combined sins caused him to descend below all. (See D&C 122:8.) We have never been, nor will we be, in personal depths such as he has known. Thus, his atonement demonstrated and perfected his empathy and his capacity to succor us, for which we can be everlastingly grateful as he tutors us in our trials. There was no ram in the thicket at Calvary to spare Jesus, this Friend of Abraham and Isaac. (Neal A. Maxwell, “Our Acceptance of Christ,” Ensign, June 1984, 69.)

It seems that it was necessary for the Savior to transcend mortality in order that He could descend below all things in other ways as well. We understand the purpose in this, that he might comprehend all things through His experience─

He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth. (D&C 88:6)

Clearly when the Savior wrought the infinite and intimate Atonement He, again in some way yet to be revealed, took upon Himself the griefs, pains, afflictions, temptations, sicknesses, death and transgressions of all mankind “that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12).

In order for Christ to descend below all things, it was necessary for the divine elements of life and glory within Him to be repressed in their action upon Him so that He could feel the toils, pains, afflictions, and temptations of mortality, and also suffer death in the flesh. In this way, He suffered the full afflictions of mortality. By extending His virtue and power to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and restore the lame, He also took upon Himself, in a literal sense, the afflictions of men. Mortal afflictions are not eradicated without the manifestation of a counter force of life to restore the individual to health. Jesus gave of His divine life and power in order to heal the sick and the afflicted, and in this way He took upon Himself their infirmities. Then, to make the atonement, He consented to the withdrawal of the powers of eternal life which He received of His Father to the extent that He could experience the full effects of spiritual death for the sins of all men, and to the extent that His spirit could finally pass through the portals of death into the spirit world. Consequently, there is no sorrow nor suffering known to man that Jesus has not personally endured—no pain, no agony of soul, no turmoil in death. All this He experienced so that He could know "according to the flesh, how to succor his people." In this way He became fully qualified to assist the sons of earth to achieve mastery of the flesh and the world and to rise from wherever they might be in the depths of sin and despair and come unto righteousness. Man's recognition of and heartfelt acceptance and reliance upon this fact are integral parts of his faith in Jesus Christ. (Hyrum L. Andrus, God, Man, and the Universe [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968], 409-410.)

Thus we find, as you read in Alma 7:11-12, a description of his suffering for afflictions other than our sins. We are told the word succor comes from the Latin succurrere, which means literally “to run to help,” evoking a quick, responsive action to our benefit. In the awful arithmetic of the Atonement, the infiniteness of it all, and the intimateness of it all, our Savior somehow was enabled to suffer for our personal pains and afflictions, and filled with compassion and perfect love, coupled with mercy was literally “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). The image is of our Savior running to us to lift and carry our afflictions that we not become overwhelmed by them. This comes about only as we are “relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (2 Nephi 3:19). The clear scriptural message is we must willingly accept the gift of the Atonement if our burdens are to be carried by Christ (see D&C 88:3).

What disables or disconnects us from the atonement and the blessed relief it offers, is our hesitancy, our holding back in submitting fully to the Lord and whatever His purposes for us may be. When we willingly submit by letting go of our afflictions, and instead allow ourselves to be filled with the joy of Christ (see Alma 31:38), He willingly takes up the burden in our behalf. It is our unwillingness to let go that stifles the process. It is our spiritual submissiveness that enables Christ’s suffering for our afflictions to work, (see Alma 7:23; 13:28).

The extension of mercy is a gift from God and is needed both for our reclamation from sin and our reclamation from our fallen natural state. Consider Mosiah 3:19 that clearly states these two objectives, i.e., first “yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit” to become cleansed through the blood of Christ, and secondly, “putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ.” Mercy is the prime prerequisite in both instances and in the second case comes not as a result of our doing anything wrong. There are at least two parts to the Atonement: 1) Redemption whereby we are cleansed and made pure through the blood of Christ; and 2) Perfection whereby we are enabled, changed into a man or daughter of Christ, so that when we return home, we will be at home. The first, redemption, deals with seeking the mercy of Christ to answer for our mistakes, the second deals not with our transgressions but rather our willingness to allow Christ and His mercy to change us. A complete recognition that we simply cannot do it on our own.

This is why Moroni’s testimony (Moroni 10:32-33) is so powerful. He recognizes that we cannot be made perfect except in Christ, through His grace, and in meeting these conditions:

1.       Come unto Christ
2.       Allow Him to perfect us
3.       Deny ourselves of all ungodliness
4.       Love God with all our might, mind and strength

When these steps are followed, because the grace of Christ is sufficient through the shedding of His blood through the atoning sacrifice, His grace will perfect and sanctify us for we are then holy, without spot.

While most of our suffering is self inflicted, some is caused by or permitted by God. This sobering reality calls for deep submissiveness, especially when God does not remove the cup from us. In such circumstances, when reminded about the premortal shouting for joy as this life's plan was unfolded (see Job 38:7), we can perhaps be pardoned if, in some moments, we wonder what all the shouting was about.

For the faithful, what finally emerges is an understanding of "things as they really are" (Jacob 4:13), such as the reassuring realization that we are in the Lord's hands! But, brothers and sisters, we were never really anywhere else! (Neal A. Maxwell, “Willing to Submit,” CR, April 1985, 89-93.)

It is only when all is done that we will see all the good that Christ has bestowed upon us “according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever.” Then we will see that “in all our afflictions, he was afflicted. And the angel of his presence saved [us]; and in his love, and in his pity, he redeemed [us], and bore [us] and carried [us] all the days of old” (D&C 133:51-52). All the best, Elder Haddock

We had 18 at our Aliso Creek Bible Study tonight. Brother Robinson really got out the word. Brother Four, another of our nonmember ministers, at my invitation, led the discussion on words how they can build, heal and inspire or tear down and rob us of hope. Spoke with many afterwards who were impressed with his comments and direction. Brother Robinson wrapped it up nicely from D&C 1 about the Lord’s words through the prophet Joseph Smith to bless all his children.

Received from young son of the Two Family “Helaman ch 5 was great. It was talking about Nephi and Lehi preaching to the Lamanites with power and authority from God and many people were baptized unto repentance. Nephi and Lehi got thrown into prison and were starved for many days and they were about to get killed but behold a circle of fire surrounded Nephi and Lehi and a cloud of darkness was upon the Lamanites. And there was a voice saying repent, repent. The people didn’t understand what this meant. One of the people was born a Nephite, I think his name was Aminadab and he told people what to do. They did as he said and the cloud of darkness was not upon them. The people looked upon Nephi and Lehi and their faces shone like an angel's and behold an Angel of the Lord appeared unto the people. This was enough proof for the people and they did talk about this marvelous thing to the other people and the Lamanites did give back the land that they had taken from the Nephites. What a great chapter.” Pretty good analysis for a 13 year old. 

In our second meeting this week with Brother Forty-Two, I had gone there with wonderful feelings to review the talk given in 2012 at Harvard, by Elder Holland entitled, Mormonism 101, which we did do but not to the effect I had envisioned. Rather the discussion revolved about two concerns, 1) How Jesus could be the only begotten son without God being both an adulterer and committing incest. Because of those possibilities, which he abhors, and seeing not alternative to conception other than through “intercourse” he believes the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one entity. Also confusion over the titles of God in the Old Testament, leading to the same conclusion. If Jehovah is Jesus Christ then statements to Moses for the children of Israel to worship only one God, means to worship the trinity. 2) Mormon theology leads him logically to conclude that our God has a God and father, so, said Paul, I want to worship “the” God not someone in between.

I tried to express my thought that we don’t know how the conception of Mary took place and I was unwilling to assume it happened through intercourse until God spoke to the subject himself. I said that repeatedly which he interpreted as me being upset with him. As to question number 2 I directed him to Moses 1 wherein Moses’ query as other worlds was rejected by the Lord as He was only going to tell him about this world. I concluded that God has offered me all the joy and happiness that he possesses if I will worship him and follow his commandments. That was good enough for me. As to other God’s I was content to again form an opinion only following further enlightenment. He felt Mormonism espouses polytheism which I rejected, as for us all, the Savior, the Holy Ghost and ourselves should we become as Him would still be subservient to him for it is only through him that we become as he is. Sent him the following to consider but have yet to hear from him:

"Teachers should not speculate on the manner of Christ's birth. We are very much concerned that some of our Church teachers seem to be obsessed of the idea of teaching doctrine which cannot be substantiated and making comments beyond what the Lord has actually said.

"You asked about ... the birth of the Savior. Never have I talked about sexual intercourse between Deity and the mother of the Savior. If teachers were wise in speaking of this matter about which the Lord has said but very little, they would rest their discussion on this subject with merely the words which are recorded on this subject in Luke 1:34-35: 'Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.'

"Remember that the being who was brought about by [Mary's] conception was a divine personage. We need not question His method to accomplish His purposes. Perhaps we would do well to remember the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.' Let the Lord rest His case with this declaration and wait until He sees fit to tell us more." (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 13–14) All the best, Elder H

Had another meeting with the Twenty-One family to bring them up to speed on what they missed from Sunday’s class. Jan did Itsy Bitsy spider with the two girls over and over again as they laughed and rolled on the floor crying, “Again! Again!” As we were leaving Brother Twenty-One asked if on one of our upcoming visits we could teach him how to read and study the Book of Mormon, which I assured him we could do. We again left serenaded by “I love you’s” as we walked out the door.

Jan received a call late yesterday morning from Sister Two relative to some unkind words spoken in the heat of battle. Apparently such fractious occasions have been frequent she had believed they would subside with membership in the Church. We set an appointment and arrived early the next morning after speaking for some time to Brother Two the night before. It was apparent this morning that there is a communication problem and lack of a father role model for this young husband. We shared some things Sister H and I have done to help us in this regard and gave him a blessing.

In my pondering Sunday morning had some thoughts about presenting harmonizing the scriptures as opposed to holding to a belief and then trying to find scriptures to support that belief. Seems to me all verses should be read as true and then come up with an analysis or doctrine that fits each case. For example, in Exodus 33:1 we read that God spoke with Moses “face to face” and a few verses later in verse 20 we read “thou canst not see my fce: for there shall no man see me, and live.” Instead of adopting one or the other, harmonizing would be seeking an explanation that fits both. Same with grace and works. We are saved by grace, that’s true not works. From the perspective of what saves us, that is it. Yet from the perspective of do we have to do anything we have the Lord’s declaration in Matthew 7:21, not everyone that says Lord Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven but he that doeth the works of the Father in Heaven. We are still saved by the grace of Christ.

There was a partial quote from Elder Scott on the program of the Aliso Creek Ward bulletin today at Church that caught Jan’s eye and she shared it with me. In the process was developed the outline for our temple preparation class yesterday as well as our visit with the Six family.

The idea came to me that all who attend the temple should wear a placard around their necks to remind everyone including themselves, that not only are we not where we need to be yet, in this life we will never be there, we are in fact a work in progress and if we surrender to the tutelage of the Lord the time will come in eons from now that through the grace of Christ we will be changed into a holy being. So we need to resist the temptation to continually condemn ourselves for our shortcomings and follies and trust that if we continue to hold on to the extended hand of Christ we will indeed make it. Partly it is an attitude adjustment moving from what “I have to do” to embracing what “I can’t wait to do.” The way I have expressed it for me is this: We need to do the right things for the right reasons.

The entire quote from Elder Scott is this—“The Redeemer will safely lead you over the most difficult obstacles of life. His laws are absolutely secure anchors of protection that dispel fear and assure success in an otherwise dangerous world. Such a life will certainly provide you peace and happiness.

“True, enduring happiness, with the accompanying strength, courage, and capacity to overcome the greatest difficulties, will come as you center your life in Jesus Christ. Obedience to His teachings provides a secure ascent in the journey of life. That takes effort. While there is no guarantee of overnight results, there is the assurance that, in the Lord’s time, solutions will come, peace will prevail, and happiness will be yours. (Ensign, Oct 2006.)

I then shared a quote from Sister Marjorie Hinckley: “First I obey, then I understand” (quoted by Sister Burton, Ensign, July 2014, 41) and a quote from President Harold B. Lee that has always resonated with me: “All of the gospel principles and all of the gospel ordinances are but invitations to the learning of the gospel by the practice of its teachings. That’s all they are—invitations to come and practice in order that you can know…. It seems clear to me that we might well say we never really know any of the teachings of the gospel until we have experienced them one by one by living them. We learn the gospel, in other words, by living it.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Harold B. Lee, 35).

We then talked about Helaman 3:27-30, and 5:10-12, and 1 Nephi 17:3 demonstrating how center our lives in Christ gives us all we need to take us through mortality and the wiles of Satan and land safely with those who are exalted, never more to go out.

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