Monday, July 21, 2014

Week Fifty-five

WEEK FIFTY-FIVE   July 21, 2014

This week both a lesson I was asked to give in a Gospel Essentials class and a presentation in our bible study group, (we had 19 in attendance), dovetailed nicely with questions and concerns that had been expressed by many of our investigators. Sister H felt the bible study was the best thing we have done.

The bible study was to be about moving from dark to light, using both experiences of Saul) Acts 9, 22, 23, and 26) and Alma (Mosiah 27 and Alma 36). My assignment was the Saul presentation. The more I thought about it, I saw an avenue to teach that scriptures in addition to the Bible were necessary, continuing revelation a requirement, and an explanation for the various accounts of the Prophet Joseph’s first vision. I will attempt to put in first person what occurred to me that night as I was making the presentation.

It appears that Saul was known to God and foreordained to be a minister of the gospel. He was born in Tarsus, a town in Turkey, just northwest of Antioch (Syria). He was a Roman citizen by birth, no mean feat in those days. He was trained in rabbinical oral traditions by Gamaliel. A faithful Pharisee, who believe in resurrection.

Keeping that all in mind, let’s first turn to Acts, chapter 9. I’m of the opinion that we tend to blame Saul for some of the very positions we take when we are unwilling to allow God to make changes in the unfolding of His gospel message. Take a look at verse 1. It reads: “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest…” Was Saul a bad guy, just ornery, or perhaps was there a valid motive in his actions. Clearly Saul is filled with passion in seeking to obliterate the Christian movement.

Consider that among Judaism, oral tradition had been placed on a pedestal. Indeed, to the Jews, oral tradition was held in much higher esteem even than revelation, by the time of Christ. If you recall most of the objections towards Christ from the Jewish leaders grew out of his teachings being at variance with their oral traditions. By the time of Christ, belief in revelation from living prophets had ceased. Instead the doctors of the law, the Jewish leaders, say and counseled together, carefully reviewing oral traditions, and rendering judgments as to doctrine and beliefs. Matthew describes that as “Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29, see Joseph Smith Translation: “For he taught them as one having authority from God, and not as having authority from the Scribes.”) The Savior was not relying upon oral traditions

Due to his training and zeal, Saul saw the Christian movement violating the purity of Jewish oral traditions and the Mosaic law, in other words its effect was to pollute all that was believed and held in reverence. Similarly, many today when hearing the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, recognize the change being required, laying aside previously held beliefs and accepting the authority of an expanded gospel message.

Many, many wonderful qualities are illustrated in Saul’s response on the road to Damacus.  Staying just with Acts 9 we see his response as a light from heaven illuminates him and he hears a voice from heaven exclaim. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” he is immediately ready to listen asking “Who art thou, Lord?”

When he who speaks identifies himself as the very “Jesus whom thou persecutes” Saul trembles and is astonished but with an open and willing heart asks, “what wilt thou have me to do?’ He is told to go into the city and it will be told him what he must do. The instructions sound very unspecific. He is not told who to see, who to ask for, or how long he must wait.

Having lost his sight he is led into the city And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. For three days he patiently waits, unable to see, and fasting. Only then does Ananias come to him. We suspect Ananias must have been of some authority among the Christians in Damascus so probably the very type of person Saul had set out to imprison and take back to Jerusalem for punishment. Ananias fearful himself is assured by the Lord in a vision that Saul “is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.”

When Ananias enters the house Saul willingly is subject to him and receives of him a blessing that restores his sight and is immediately “filled with the Holy Ghost.” He arises, certainly must have repented, and is baptized. Saul willingly accepts the changes in Christ required by His glorious gospel. He willingly sets aside long held and fervent beliefs that are at variance with the new revelation. He choose not to be bound by oral tradition alone.

Similarly today the Lord asks those who are to come unto him to set aside prior belief that the Bible along contains all the words of God, to embrace continuing revelation, including additional sacred writ that further clarifies and adds to previously written words of God, and to accept those who teach with authority. To accept that the gospel is alive, that though God is unchanging, His message is pertinent and specific to the time and place of His children who will receive it.

We read in the account of the vision on the road to Damascus in Acts 22 and Acts 26 very different accounts. In speaking to the Jews in Acts 22, Paul leaves aside the message to the gentiles. Yet in speaking to the semi-gentile Agrippa in Acts 26 that seems to be the central message of his experience. The retelling of this singular event is nuanced by those to whom Paul is speaking and the emphasis he seeks to stress at that time. In a similar manner are the several versions of the First Vision recounted by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Taken as a whole the theme is the same yet the emphasis changes depending up the purpose of the speaker at that particular time and the message he is seeking to impart.

We had wonderful meetings this week with both the Two and Twenty-first families who are all progressing toward the temple. As are Sister Fifty-one and Sister Fifty-two. Brother Fifty-four received his endowment this week in the Newport Beach Temple. We had two visits, including an evening of takeout Chinese with the One family who are getting ready to move. Brother One said he thought they were going to have to put our picture on a milk carton as we were lost. Shared some ideas about our house plan and demolition. Said Brother One, “I had a glass of wine, which I can do not being a Mormon, but the interaction with my meds was terrible. I didn’t like that feeling at all.” I suggested it was a sign from the Lord that he needed to be baptized. “I already was baptized.” “No,” I said, “I mean the right way.” “I did that too. I was immersed.” I said, “Brother you need to be baptized by the proper authority, by me.” He invited us back to share some more Book of Mormon stories saying, “I really like those.”

Had a two bible studies and a dinner with the Four Family this week. He even came to church on Sunday and set in on my Sunday school lesson. Sister Four said to me, “I think Sister Haddock guilted him into coming to church when she bore her testimony at the bible study on Thursday evening. But I’m okay with that.”

Our meeting with the Six family was cancelled as the wife wasn’t feeling well this week.  Visited briefly with Sister Thirteen at her work this week. She confessed she has not had time to read the things we had given her or to follow up much on the family history we got her started on.

Sister Twenty-three passed away this week, the only member in her family who were all grateful for what the church had done the past four years as she has been in a nursing home in the Lake Forest Ward.

We got Brother Twenty-one a drummer, hooked up with Brother Twenty-eight, a guitarist, and they will be playing a date this coming week in Los Angeles at a family club and again the following Thursday at the Orange County Fair.

Had two dropped meetings each of the last two weeks with Sister Thirty-nine. Her mother is very ill and she has been going north to visit her. Brother Fifty has not responded to our invitation to continue to visit with him, nor have the Nineteen family, which has concerned us more. Clearly he has a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and should she ever get on board they would be happier and be a blessing to others.

Met with the Sixty family for the second time and they have now been to church three of the last four Sunday’s missing only when she was ill one Sunday. He worked with a less active fellow my dad and I home taught back in the 1950s. When I left on my mission we had finally got him to go with us to early morning priesthood meetings on Sunday. When I returned from my mission two years later, he was my elder’s quorum president. Small world. Speaking of small world, one of the young men in my institute class at BYU used to work with our mission president at FranklinCovey and saw a picture of Sister H and I along with most of the senior missionary couples serving in the California Irvine Mission, which he had posted on his facebook site. See attached if I can figure out how to make it work.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Week Fifty-Four

WEEK FIFTY-FOUR   July 14, 2014

A frequent lament expressed by many missionaries is, “Are we accomplishing anything?” A reflection of one’s introspection being limited by our inability to see the “big picture.” As we knowingly brush ever so gently against a small portion of life’s puzzle, such sentiments overstate man’s significance and unwittingly minimize God and His purposes, as well as His timing and order of things. There is so much that we don’t know and we unwittingly fall into error when we conclude that our labor has had no positive impact on intersecting lives. Truly our lives and our service can never be “about me” rather about doing as we can and allowing God to fulfill His purposes through us as we are up and doing.

Perhaps the societal demand to meet objective and clearly definable standards has gently nudged us away for the implicit trust that God can and will use us as He sees fit; along with the willingness to allow that to unfold, perhaps even disallowing being “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [we] should do” (1Nephi 4:4). It’s as if we erroneously conclude if “I can’t see the benefit” then no benefit must exist. The definable standard therefore restricting and limiting both our gratitude and happiness.

As a young missionary it felt like we were being told our setting of goals put things in motion to happen, if we prayed with sincerity and faith. It was hard for me then to understand how my faith, no matter how great it could be, could somehow disavow the agency of others and require their conversion regardless of their will. I recall at missionary meetings our president going down the rows asking each of us how many we were going to baptize the succeeding month. Those who gave a low number were challenged for their lack of faith. This of course prompted each following missionary to express greater and greater numbers. When I suggested to the mission president that the Lord had yet to reveal to me the number of individuals we were going to baptize so I didn’t have a number he was upset. I assured him our work and effort would be such that we would not baptize any less than He had prepared, but he was not mollified in the least.

As we view the challenge to young missionaries today, it is apparent that numbers increase the risk of disillusionment, despair and lead to depression. The inability to attain what is hoped and believed in feeds into the question, “Am I accomplishing anything?” And that comes about even with a missionary structure and culture that is very nourishing and supportive.

For senior couples there is no such structure making it even easier to find oneself asking that question. I, wisely it now seems, concluded before we entered the mission field that as a young missionary I wanted to make a difference. But now I saw and with greater maturity a willingness to allow the Lord to accomplish such purposes as He may choose through me—whatever they may be. Whether that is to be an instrument in His hands to baptize thousands, one or none; whether He wants me to touch one of His children in some way that I may never know of; or whether He just wants me to be there working as best I can, patiently striving to serve Him and love His children completely.

Still when families who present all the wonderful qualities of sons and daughters of God choose to turn from the gospel message, discontinue meeting with you, the pain, sorrow, and anguish is real, is palpable and I suspect will last forever. So I have concluded that such is the result of loving and serving much. Had we not such anguish we never would have felt the offsetting love that is also present. In many cases as I look back on our first year in the mission field, it appears to me that our assignment is as home teachers on steroids. We are fine with that as our willingness is to serve wherever and whatever the Lord may need. There just is no requirement for our service to reflect well on us. It is not about us and never should be.

The Twenty-One family is doing so well. They are working on their date for temple work and sealing. She has been called to teach in the Primary and he as an assistant Teacher’s Quorum advisor. Health has improved as have work conditions. Whereas previously there was concern for his technical writing at the old place, his new employers are raving about the very same writing ability being so good. He has gone from thinking he has no ability there to feeling confident. It was just a few months ago he requested a blessing regarding his work situation and now he clearly sees the blessings of the Lord in his life and the opportunities that are opening up for him.

This past week I was privileged to teach the gospel doctrine class in the Lake Forest Ward (on the Millennium) and in the Aliso Creek Ward (on Scriptures). As I contemplated the later I began to notice both “cans” and “shalls” in daily feasting upon the word of God. The “cans” representing blessing that may occur and the “shalls” representing blessing that have always occurred for me. I shared each time I pick up the Scriptures there is a slight tremble in me as I consider, even briefly, what will or may occur at that very moment. Following are the thoughts that came to me—

•         You can feel what the great prophet who recorded those words felt
•         You can enjoy your own, but dissimilar personal experience
•         You can understand the message that prophet was given
•         You can be personally instructed by the Lord and given an entirely different message
•         You can be lifted by the Spirit and filled with peace
•         You can be given instruction on unrelated things you should do
•         You can be invited through the veil

•         You will sharpen your spiritual sensitivity
•         You will speak by the power of the Holy Ghost
•         You will receive the key to personal revelation
•         You will be fortified against evil
•         You will speak with the tongue of angels
•         You will know the words of Christ
•         You will have come into your life an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord
•         You will have a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience
•         You will have a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God

This week I was privileged to receive a violent lung and chest attack that made it difficult to breathe or work, causing us to cancel two meetings and a mission performance in the park, but were able to take care of the rest. Doctors feared the worse requiring pulmonary testing, blood testing and imaging but all of them were clean. So there remains no plausible causal factor but the result was quite real I assure you. One of the Senior Couples suggested the cause was working too hard. If that be true, so be it. Hopefully then we will see it happen again before our final six months are concluded.

A few months back we were picking up something at Pep Boys on Lake Forest Drive. Exiting a truck was a father and his daughter. They asked if we were service missionaries as they introduced themselves. We told them we were proselyting missionaries with the father being surprised having not heard we had any in the area. Turns out he is in the Mission Viejo Stake which has no senior couples and we are serving in the Rancho Santa Margarita Stake. Now flash forward. Our brother-in-law currently serving as president of the Birmingham Alabama Temple was doing some family history and care across some pictures of his wife and Sister H’s father that had been posted. A name was given, but we didn’t know the individual. An email was sent explaining the pictures he had posted were of our family and inviting him to contact us. Lo and behold, the brother turns out to be the father we had met in the parking lot. Sister H and he being first cousins once removed.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Week Fifty-three

WEEK FIFTY-THREE   July 7, 2014

What a week! At our district meeting the beginning of the week the theme “all in” was introduced. At our suggestion they agreed to include as a measurable goal and daily discussion by each companionship concerning being “all in” as a companionship and individually. As we reflected throughout the week on the theme ourselves we noticed a wide gulf between being all in as a young missionary fifty-three years ago and serving today with my eternal companion. As a young missionary I immediately forgot about my siblings and family other than writing them weekly and fully immersed myself in the work. Such is not the case as a parent and grandparent. Those concerns and daily prayers in their behalf are constant. I successfully ignored the physical complaints of the body as a young missionary and not able to do that today. We had three consecutive nights where we got to bed just before mid-night and found ourselves running out of gas the next couple of days. So we have concluded things are different but the intent, the feeling, the desire is still “all in.”

I shared at ward council with the Lake Forest ward that our missionary efforts had been so outstanding that brother Forty-two has accepted a pastorship with the Church of God in Queens, New York—which elicited a chuckle from everyone. He made his presentation on Daniel 9, using and eliminating such verses as necessary to form a mathematical formula for interpreting the book of Revelation. Whereas we see chapters 4-22 as being in the future for John because of his interpretation of Daniel 9 he sees everything in that chapter still as being future including Satan being asset out of heaven with one-third of the hosts. The most impressive part of the presentation was the facility with which he could use or discard verses, phrases, or statements as being meaningless to construct his argument. Thinking it was our final visit with him as he leaves next Wednesday morning for New York we bore our testimonies, showed a different interpretation that used all the scriptures in a harmonized fashion. But as we were leaving he asked if we could come by the next day. He wanted to “finish” his presentation. I consented provided we each had one-half the time, to which he agreed.

The next day he basically reviewed exactly what he had presented the preceding day with no variation whatsoever, as he began to infringe on my time I interrupted. But I had barely gotten a few words out when he wanted to discuss our “differences.” As to Revelation 1-3 we are in agreement, but as to 4-22 he sees only future and we see future for John and some past as well as some past for us. I suggested that differentiation re timing was not critical but rather the themes of Revelation were critical element, suggesting I saw three. He said he only saw two and asked me for mine. I suggested Revelation seeks to teach that everything centers in and revolves around Christ, that he along brings the peace and blessings of eternity. Secondly, when he appears only those who have come unto him will remain. Thirdly, that the kingdom of God will be established upon the earth by Christ. He agreed seeing 2 and 3 as combined. I said, “Since we see the same themes why does a difference in timing matter?” He assured me that it did, but could not offer any reasons therefore.

He then rattled off a number of differences he saw. Said he, “I believe Jesus has been God from all eternity to all eternity, that he is not the Son of God, and any references to that are metaphorical.” Then he said, “I don’t understand your focus on temple work. It is one and done in this life. You either accept Christ or burn in hell eternally.” When questioned about the majority of persons on this earth never having heard of Christ and how God could turn his back on them he replied, “They don’t matter to God. They are not his children. They were created from the dust of the earth. As Paul says there is a species of God, a species of angels and a species of man. They cannot change from one to another. Man was created from the dust of the earth and will return to the dust of the earth.” I asked how he can worship a God who so cavalierly dismisses the majority of mankind. “That’s just the way it is.” When asked what he is going to teach to his congregation he said, “I am going to teach the book of Daniel, chapters 9-12, the book of Revelation and five of the epistles of Paul.” But not the gospels? “No.” He also said he does not believe baptism means anything to do with water, “but rather a symbol of confession and we are immersed in the spirit.” He was not overjoyed when I pointed out that apparently we read the Bible more literally than he does. So I was surprised when he added, “I would like to fly back once a month to talk with you. You are a good man.” As you can imagine this discussion provided a lot of fodder for our other discussions throughout the week.

As we came home I wrote him the following which I was to mail, but we received a call for one last visit, next Tuesday before he leaves Wednesday morning. We have been meeting twice a week for five months since he entered the mission office when we were there and asked for someone to teach him about the restoration—

Feeling great love for you, I want to put on paper some of my feelings as they relate to things we have discussed these past five months.

In John 3:3-5, our Savior declared “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” signifying to me a spiritual rebirth involving both the ordinance of baptism (“born of water”) and a mighty change of heart through the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost (“born … of the Spirit”) and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. The later, this spiritual rebirth, being for most of us a process rather than an event.

King Benjamin described our spiritual rebirth coming as we yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).

I believe that it is God who initiates this spiritual rebirth in us, as Alma stated, “Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them. (Alma 5:7.)

Mormon describes the spiritual rebirth in words that resonate personally with me. Speaking of the spiritual rebirth of King Lamoni, he says, “the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God—“(Alma 19:6).

To me being born again, or enjoying the spiritual rebirth, is a process beginning with desire and belief, ripening into faith and repentance, made sure and certain through the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost as the Lord himself ordained, and blossoming fully in the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost as we allow the grace of Christ to enter and change us fully and completely, making each of us His own.

I feel as did Paul who exclaimed, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, [the law to them being the Law of Moses, of course] then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:20-21).

Thus I see baptism as only a preparatory cleansing, entering in at the gate as it were, but one necessary to receiving the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost which cleanses my inner man, purifies thoughts and desires, and makes me a “new creature” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I have noticed that for some this spiritual rebirth comes in dramatic ways (see Saul-Paul or the day of Pentecost as examples), for others it comes less visibly, and for most a gradual process of transformation rather than a singular event. In any event, to be spiritual reborn we must be quickened in the inner man or woman. We must die as pertaining of unrighteousness. Thus for most of us who are born again, we receive our spiritual rebirth by degrees. There is no qualitative difference attached to spiritual rebirth being sudden or gradual.

Leaving aside the necessary ordinances for a moment, being born again comes as our hearts are changed through faith on Christ, receiving remission of our sins, disposing of our desires to do evil, and continually pressing forward in this mortal journey with a steadfastness in Christ, a love of God and or all men, and a brightness of hope.

I accept fully and literally the Lord’s repeated declarations that He is the Son of God; that Christ was “raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:4); that as I submit to baptism by the proper authority I witness my willingness to put on Christ and to become an heir according to the Abrahamic promise (Galatians 3:37, 29). For me redemption cometh only in and through the Holy Messiah there is no other means or way under heaven; He alone is full of grace and truth; through baptism I demonstrate to God my individual commitment to join the fold of Christ to become His son and to take upon me His name, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments; the ordinance of baptism and confirmation being an outward manifestation of a sincere inner commitment I have made.

Lastly, our God is a God of mercy and love and as the author of the plan of salvation, the very plan of happiness, He provided means for all His children, even those who died in their sins without a knowledge of the truth, to vicariously, should they so choose, receive the necessary ordinances and blessings of eternity along with those who receive and accept Christ in their mortal sojourn.

I feel to exclaim as did Ammon, “Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.” (Alma 26:16.)

Had a good meeting with Brother Two earlier in the week to resolve some questions raised by co-workers about the “Mormons.” A few nights later we were invited to have dinner with them to expand for the family on our conversations and to answer some questions on using and FamilySearch. Their son shared his first backpack experience through some slot canyons in southern Utah. Quite an adventure for him.

Our Bible Study class was held at another home this week on 1 Corinthians 15 with a very sweet spirit present and a lively discussion. The spirit impressed upon those present a profound feeling of love and understanding. One of the sisters mentioned our “all in” unknowingly when she said, “Every time I think of baptism, I’m reminded that not a waft of hair or even a toe can be exposed. We have to be all in for Christ.”

The mission had his first year anniversary party from 3:30-9:30 p.m. on 4 July but we were with two investigator couples, the Six and Thirty families, for a pleasant BBQ and light discussion. It felt right to us to be there even if we missed all the festivities, after all that is what we are on a mission in the first place. Perhaps there was some good come of it too. For on Sunday when we met with the Six family what had been a stilted discussion the preceding week with his adult daughter’s addition, was very cordial and warm indicating to us some great hope for the future.

There was an early morning flag ceremony and pancake breakfast at the Lake Forest Ward that we slept in and missed after our late night adventures. Even that turned out well as two of the families we have been meeting with, The One and the Six families ended up sitting beside one another and with their commonality of the Haddock’s had an enjoyable time together from what I gather entirely as our expense.

Week Fifty-Two

WEEK FIFTY-TWO   June 30, 2014

We have noticed a decided reluctance for members and nonmembers to refer to us as Elder and Sister Haddock, which is okay with us. In one of the ward programs we noticed a listing of the missionaries: Elder Anderson and Elder Sawatski; Sister McCaleb and Sister LeFleur; and Brother and Sister Haddock. Even the young missionaries refer to us as brother and sister, but usually catch themselves. To our AME Zion Church minister I am Brother Jerry. I have to confess I still find it easier referring to my companion as Jan rather than Sister Haddock. Nonetheless, regardless of “title” we still feel we are on the Lord’s errand as His ambassadors. I have adopted the words of Mormon, “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life” (3 Nephi 5:13).

We continue to serve as the waste basket of the mission for all things anti-Mormon. A district leader gave us three printed pages from an investigator referencing about half-a-dozen prophecies of the Prophet Joseph Smith that remain unfilled and per Deuteronomy 18 prove he is not a prophet. After a brief discussion concerning the danger of getting into the information business rather than conversion they assured me this was a good family with four children who are very interested. I sat down and quickly wrote out the following for them to consider as a starter.

The very vagueness in prophetic pronouncements, as evidenced by the many biblical references to the effect the hearers did not understand, contribute to the wide divide that exists among those seeking to disclaim prophetic pronouncements and those seeking to proclaim them.

As a result even statements attributed to our Lord and Savior are subject to the mischief of those seeking to thwart truth. For example, we read the Savior’s discussion based on the “abomination of desolation” referenced in Daniel, arguably concerning the times and events of the last days, and the Savior proclaiming “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:15-35). I, for one, am unwilling to disclaim the role of Jesus as Savior and redeemer based on the inferences that can be drawn from the Savior’s words. Clearly, there is much to be learned and only when all the facts are finally at our disposal can a rational judgment be made. The best witness of all is the confirming power of revelation itself.

Less we wrest the scripture itself, Deuteronomy is a discussion Moses is having with the people relative to the coming of the Savior, whom Moses refers to as a “Prophet” that “The Lord thy god will raise up unto thee … from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deuteronomy 18:15). Moses goes on telling the people that if they don’t hearken to the words this Prophet speaks “in [God’s] name, I will require it of you” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19). He then warns them that false prophets shall arise claiming to be Christ, speaking the name of other Gods (Deuteronomy 18:20). And concluding with the observation that you will be able to tell between which Prophets are claiming to be the Christ and the real Christ because what they who falsely proclaim to be Christ will not speak the words of God (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). Rather their own words will be spoken and you will see that they are not the Christ. So the verse in question is clearly prophesy concerning the identity of Jesus Christ and not a description of how to tell whether one has prophetic powers.

We read earlier in Chapter 13 that if a prophet arises who gives you a sign or wonder and that sign or wonder actually comes to pass, don’t follow him either, “for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 13:1-3). Instead, they are to “walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.” (Deuteronomy 13:4). Again the message seems to be saying whether what the Prophet says happens or not, you need to know by the confirming power of the Spirit whether a Prophet is of God or not. Promised events coming to pass or not is irrelevant.

The secondary key (Deuteronomy 13:5) seems to be whether the supposed Prophet causes you “to turn away from the Lord your God,” which is the claim the Pharisees and Sadducees made concerning Christ and why they felt he had blasphemed and was thus subject to death.

Based on “proof” alone one suspects the citizens of Nineveh concluded Jonah was not a prophet because their city was not destroyed. The fact destruction didn’t happen seemed to vex Jonah as well. Leading us to believe that there are always conditions involved (in Nineveh it was repentance) and when conditions and circumstances change the Lord makes such adjustments as He alone sees fit to make. In Jonah’s case at least, apparently changes even the prophet knew not of.

So we are not startled in the Lord cautioning Joseph Smith relative to conditions—

49 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.

50 And the iniquity and transgression of my holy laws and commandments I will visit upon the heads of those who hindered my work, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord God.

51 Therefore, for this cause have I accepted the offerings of those whom I commanded to build up a city and a house unto my name, in Jackson county, Missouri, and were hindered by their enemies, saith the Lord your God.

52 And I will answer judgment, wrath, and indignation, wailing, and anguish, and gnashing of teeth upon their heads, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord your God.

53 And this I make an example unto you, for your consolation concerning all those who have been commanded to do a work and have been hindered by the hands of their enemies, and by oppression, saith the Lord your God.

54 For I am the Lord your God, and will save all those of your brethren who have been pure in heart, and have been slain in the land of Missouri, saith the Lord.

55 And again, verily I say unto you, I command you again to build a house to my name, even in this place, that you may prove yourselves unto me that ye are faithful in all things whatsoever I command you, that I may bless you, and crown you with honor, immortality, and eternal life. (Doctrine & Covenants 124:48-55.)

Still are there reasonable explanations to such questions as Matt Slick and Fran Sankey raise ad nauseam?

1.       Coming of the Lord

Whatever was meant by the Prophet it clearly is not what those who truncate the revelation want it to appear to be. The Savior himself noted in Matthew 24:36 that no mortals or even angels would know when He would return.

Once when praying about the matter the Prophet Joseph concluded,

14 I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:

15 Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.

16 I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face.

17 I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time. (D&C 130:14-17).

Perhaps of interest to note, B.H. Roberts in the footnote as editor of History of the Church points out Prophet's remark was in 1835 and fifty six years in the future was February 1891. This would be shortly after Joseph's 85th birthday (he was born 23 December 1805). … Whatever Joseph meant or understood by "wind up the scene," it must be interpreted in light of the revelation as he reported it, and the conclusions which he drew from it… The revelation is reported in abbreviated form, and Joseph acknowledged as he recorded it that he didn't understand its meaning or intent (D&C 130:14-15 above.)

Later, Joseph Smith again prophesied on the subject of Christ's coming: “I also prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that Christ will not come in forty years; and if God ever spoke by my mouth, He will not come in that length of time. Brethren, when you go home, write this down, that it may be remembered. Jesus Christ never did reveal to any man the precise time that He would come. Go and read the scriptures, and you cannot find anything that specifies the exact hour He would come; and all that say so are false teachers. (History of the Church, 6:254.)

[Further, “And they have done unto the Son of Man even as they listed; and he has taken his power on the right hand of his glory, and now reigneth in the heavens, and will reign till he descends on the earth to put all enemies under his feet, which time is nigh at hand—I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes. (D&C 49:6-7.)

From the beginning to the end of his ministry, Joseph Smith denied that a man could or would know the date of the second coming of Christ.

2.       Temple built in Missouri

One wonders of the phrase “in this generation” is used figuratively as the Savior used it in Matthew 24, above. Or one can look carefully at the words themselves, D&C 84:3 in clear as to Independence, Missouri whereas 84:4 then brings it back to Kirtland, Ohio, “beginning at this place.” The prophet was in Kirtland when the revelation was received and the Kirtland Temple was built and finished and dedicated by the spring of 1836.

3.       US Government Overthrown

Possible explanations:

a.       Fulfillment may be yet in the future as no time is delineated.
b.       Sufficient redress provided by the government meeting the condition
c.        Civil War and its effects on Missouri
d.       Partial redress

The redress of settling in Utah through financial support from the government for the Mormon Battalion and the use of Indian lands in preparation and along the way; and granting of territorial stats to the Mormons upon their arrival.

Missouri suffered greatly during the Civil War. Over 1,200 distinct battles or skirmishes were fought on Missouri soil; only Tennessee and Virginia saw more action on their soil.
Between 1862 and 1864, the western parts of Missouri endured guerrilla warfare. Although guerrilla warfare occurred throughout much of the state, most of the incidents occurred in northern Missouri and were characterized by ambushes of individuals or families in rural areas. These incidents were particularly nefarious because their vigilante nature was outside the command and control of either side and often pitted neighbor against neighbor. ["Missouri in the American Civil War," Wikipedia]

During the Civil War, members of the Church clearly saw the conflict as a fulfillment of Joseph's prophecy. As one federal governor wrote in 1862, "Brigham Young and other preachers are constantly inculcating in the minds of the crowded audiences who sit beneath their teachings every Sabbath that the United States is of no consequence, that it lies in ruins, and that the prophecy of Joseph Smith is being fulfilled to the letter."[Stephen S. Harding; cited in Eugene. E. Campbell, Establishing Zion: The Mormon Church in the American West, 1847-1869 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1988), 291]

As a possible combination or synthesis of the above, Joseph Smith’s prophecy was fulfilled because the United States suffered the penalty of the prophecy to the same degree or extent she failed to meet the conditions of the prophecy.
As noted above, the United States did provide the financial means for the Saints to travel west, as well as grant protection to them as they passed through Indian lands. This financial assistance and protection was at least a partial redress for the wrongs committed upon the Saints in the State of Missouri. But it clearly was not enough, for the United States government was “utterly overthrown and wasted” in eleven southern states between 1860 and 1861. After these southern states had seceded from the Union, they rejected the US Constitution and wrote their own constitution for a new government and a new nation, “The Confederate States of America.” Then they established their own congress, and elected their own President, Jefferson Davis. By the time these southern states had finished, there was not even a “potsherd left” of the U.S. government within the Confederacy.
But why wasn’t the United States government “utterly overthrown and wasted” in all of the states? Surely this was one possible outcome if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. However, during the course of the war, the United States government implemented Order Number 11, which punished at least some of those officers of the State of Missouri who had committed crimes against the Latter-day Saints. This partial punishment of the Missourian officers and the partial redress to the Saints was enough to mitigate or soften the penalty of the prophecy, so that the US government was not finally “utterly overthrown and wasted” in all of the states. In fact, it was soon after the implementation of Order Number 11 in 1863 that the course of the Civil War favored the Union, not the Confederacy. In the end, the United States suffered the penalty of the prophecy in part because she failed to meet the conditions of the prophecy in part. As such, Joseph Smith’s prophecy was fulfilled. [; Joseph Smith/Alleged false prophecies/Government to be overthrown and wasted]

4.       David W. Patton, mission

The command clearly reads for Patton to settle up his business as soon as he possible can, including a disposition of all his merchandise. Which we learn elsewhere he does. There is no prophecy that he is going to serve a mission. Rather having taken care of his business he would be in a position to serve a mission. Having been obedient to the command of the Lord, perhaps the Lord had another work for him to do. We understand that every call in this life has its counterpart beyond the veil. Thus missionary transcends the terminal nature of death.

Another had a question concerning the differences in the various accounts of the first vision which I believe is answered both by an author’s clarification in presenting various principles or events to his hearers, and the reality that revelation is itself an evolutionary experience as many things don’t appear prominent except with experience, subsequent questions, or additional insight. In fact, to me the fact that every account is not word for word the same adds veracity rather than detracts therefrom. All versions make it clear that far more was communicated to the young Joseph Smith than he has chosen or been allowed to share.

We met the Sixty-second family for the first time this week and had a nice visit. After years of faithful activity including 16 in the San Diego and Newport Beach temple age and the ravages of dementia have rendered them unable to even attend church. Fortunately they have a sweet adult daughter nearby who cares lovingly for them. We heard some wonderful stories and quickly developed a bond coming back a few days later and then on Sunday evening to give the sister a blessing for a foot problem that has bedeviled the doctors for four years so she cannot walk without excruciating pain. The husband told me he no longer remembers how to perform the ordinance but I assured him he does know how to stand beside me and participate. When we came by Sunday evening he was there beside the chair telling me he had remembered. I anointed his wife and then with his hands on mine gave her a blessing. She was going in on Tuesday for surgery with a specialist in Sherman Oaks which concerned her as any surgery at all brings varied risks. Later we learned it is an infection causing the pain which is treatable without surgery. She ascribes the result to the blessing. The husband had a rough day physically and I offered to give him a blessing as well. He demurred saying not being able to go to church he was unworthy. We climbed and surmounted that hurdle, consented, and the Lord pronounced a beautiful blessing upon him that had him in tears.

We had another very instruction meeting with the Twenty-First family on priesthood ordinances. They again confirmed their sweet appreciation for the two of us coming into their lives and their children’s lives and how much they enjoyed our visits and pleading that they not be discontinued as they receive their endowments and are sealed for time and eternity.

On Friday evening we attended our first HP social, a BBQ, in the Lake Forest Ward and were able to visit extensively with four families we had yet to know other than in greeting them. Each exclaimed how pleased they were to get acquainted with us and to “know us.” I’m sure this serving in multiple wards had made it difficult for members to really get to know us.

For the second consecutive Sunday the Sixty family we had first visited two weeks ago came to church after many years of inactivity.

On our P-day evening we visited with my cousin and her husband and family in Carlsbad and my cousin, her brother, who came over from Murrieta. How wonderful it was to see and her of the comings and goings of their families and to share their hospitality and love.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Week Fifty-One

WEEK FIFTY-ONE   June 23, 2014

This week Brother Six flew back east for his adult daughter recovering from extensive cancer surgery. She has sold her home so he will help pack up things for her and then spend some time with his brothers and sisters before the two of them will travel cross country to return to southern California where she will stay with them throughout her recovery. Brother Six has always stated what low maintenance Sister Six is so she was surprised when we shared with her the following text messages: “Our prayers are with you that you have a special and safe journey with your daughter. Elder and Sister Haddock.” He replied, “Thank you very much. I am in Chicago waiting for the next plane. She would be very happy if you stopped in to see her during the following week. Have a good day.” I wrote, “We've put your sweetheart on our calendar for regular visits starting with tomorrow. And have arranged with young elders to do some heavy lifting when needed.” Said Brother Six, “I feel much better knowing you are there for her.J

The next night we called on Sister Six and offered to help. She refused being able to do what she needed but did accept our invitation to call or visit each day during the week and to have lunch with her as well. We followed through and on Thursday had lunch at Mimi’s. The last time Sister H and I had been there we learned they had changed the entire menu and virtually everything that I had liked there had been deleted. I bemoaned this fact to the server as we set down whereupon she produced the menus saying, “These new ones were just printed this week and have all the old items restored.” To which Sister Six looked at me and said, “So what have you to say now?”

On Tuesday evening we visited with the Twenty-One family. This was his first time to use the Melchizedek Priesthood and after some instruction he consecrated oil which we had brought along for the occasion and we had a further discussion on Priesthood ordinances. Later along with the WML we called on the Four Family. Brother Four, our preacher, who has been unwilling to pray about the need for authority, accepted my invitation to give him a blessing for his surgery tomorrow. This will his first time to undergo surgery and I felt he must be feeling a bit apprehensive. Judging by his quick acceptance of the invitation a couple of nights ago I presume that was the case. We talked a bit about blessings using James 5, had a word of prayer which he asked me to offer, he telling us he was taking this very seriously, then WML anointed and I sealed the anointing. He was told he may have to spend a night in the VA hospital in Long Beach, but it turned out to be two nights so the second night Sister H and I went up to Long Beach to visit with him and had another prayer which he offered. Both he and his wife seemed genuinely surprised we would drive up that far to see him.

Sister H volunteered us for participation in a skit the senior missionaries put on for a zone conference, two performances, Thursday and Friday to accommodate all six zones of the mission. The theme of the skit was on etiquette and Elder Litchfield, Elder Lloyd and I were “students” of an etiquette school who were there to demonstrate what we had learned as we ate a meal. Of course we were to do everything wrong which seemed to come naturally for the three of us. Many told Sister H and I it was the best part of the conference. Our wives, dressed as chiefs, stood behind us and hit us over the head with spoons when acted improperly. The skit ended with us bowing to our chiefs, thanking them for the wonderful meal and exposing big signs on our rear ends reading The End.

Met with the Sixty Family for the first time. They are about four years older than we are and because of health and other issues have not been to church in years. He was a former field manager for a drug store chain and quite a talker. We visited for about an hour and one-half and just seemed to hit it off together. We have visited the first time and they were not home so we left a card on the door. He is only the second person in our entire mission to call us from the card. We talked about family history and some work that is needed as a couple of his brothers had passed away. Said he, “To take care of that I will have to begin paying my tithing and take care of a couple of matters.” However he accepted the invitation to make that a priority. Sister Sixty is dealing with some equilibrium and dementia problems. So when we got to church Sunday I met with the bishop and their home teacher to arrange for them to receive the Sacrament, which they had missed now for several years. So you can imagine my surprise when they both walked into Sacrament meeting. The bishop said later, “Can you visit every family in our ward?” Jan rushed up to Sister Sixty and gave her a hug and had them sit by us. Somehow word got to their married daughter sitting sat the front of the chapel and she came back after the sacrament and set with them as well. I greeted Brother Sixty saying how great it was to see them here to which he replied, “Your visit was the final push.” I could see she had some need just before the Sacrament for a tissue so I scrambled out of my seat and went searching the building and found some in the Library which seemed to overjoy both of them when I returned and offered it to them. After sacrament he said, “I guess you have to go to the missionary class?” Which like a dolt agreed and afterwards was left wondering why I didn’t accept his implied invitation to join them in the gospel doctrine class. She feeling a little worn out after Sunday school, they left for home without going to Priesthood and Relief Society.

We also visited a single sister Sixty-One for the first time. All her children are thirty or more and this week was the anniversary of the death of her son. She has had nearly thirty surgeries on her eyes and then more surgeries to boot. Husband bailed and more problems than I could count, yet in all this very upbeat and appreciative of all the blessing she has received. Earlier in the week we heard a story about a sister whose whole life was falling apart as she burst into tears because she had to teach a Relief Society lesson with a cold sore just beginning to blossom. The contrast between the two sisters was so extreme it probably fueled the love we felt for this dear sister. She accepted my invitation to give her a blessing which I did and again she was so appreciative.

Later that day we participated in split with the young elders meeting with a single sister, Sixty-three, who has a daughter just graduating from high school this week. She belongs to a local evangelical church and made sure we knew she only believes what her pastor tells her to believe. I nodded to the young elder to start and he mumbled he didn’t have anything specific prepared so I felt free to give the discussion. It was a wide ranging discussion concerning mostly things she had heard we believed and which I was able to correct her on. The discussion took us through every book of scripture, Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. For the first time on our senior mission I felt like I did teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a young missionary fifty-three years. Everything came back to my mind including the same joy, out-goingness and affirmation of those long ago years. I didn’t want it to end. I felt like I was back in my element. Unfortunately, as is often the case, she was not dissuaded from her pastor’s belief’s but we left with her thinking much differently about “the Mormon’s” she said. The young elder kept shaking his head as we were walking back to the car. “Elder Haddock, I am overwhelmed with your facility with all the scriptures. No matter what she brought up or asked you had scriptures after scripture that resolved the issued for her.” I told him in another fifty-three years of study he would be there too. I found myself on my knees that night expressing my deep felt appreciation for the experience the Lord had given me and the flashback memory that was so rich and full.

Our bible study group this week was on forgiveness. Brother Four was the first to speak followed by the young elders then sisters before it came my turn. Brother Four used an application from 2 Corinthians I had never considered before which prompted me to change my scripture to fit in with his. His focus was chapter 2, verses 4-11, pointing out that in an earlier setting one was blamed for acting improperly and Paul thought he had suffered enough that now he should be forgiven and that forgiving includes giving him comfort and confirm our love towards him, illustrating if we don’t forgive in this manner we give Satan an advantage over us. So I chose to use Ephesians 4:29-32 being kind and tenderhearted toward one another, forgiving all, “even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven [us]”.