We need a greater view of our calling

Our callings in the church are a law of Moses put there to patiently tutor us until we are reading to really understand our work in mortality.

Some callings in the church are little more than busywork. They are creating something for people to do. Many callings in the church are a step up from busy work, but not a very big step up.

And that is all perfectly fine.

What is our calling? In reality is to save ourselves, our families, our dead and our fellow men now living.

The scriptures say of Joseph Smith

D&C 135:3 Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.

And that is our calling: to do all we can for the salvation of men. That is the calling we are supposed to magnify. Sure. some are the head, and some are the hands and feet. We are all part of the body of the church. But when the scriptures say that we must magnify our calling to gain eternal life, they are only speaking of our church calling in a subsidiary fashion.

Misunderstanding this causes some members to read the the phrase “magnifying their calling” in the Oath and covenant of the priesthood and assume it refers to their church calling. That is an odd reading. They don’t read phrases like “calling and election made sure” or the “many are called but few are chosen” and assume they are referring to one’s church calling. But for some reason the word “calling” in the Oath and Covenant of the priesthood is read differently than everyplace else we see the word “calling” or “called” in the scriptures.

That misunderstanding leads to a sad reversal. Members want the blessings promised in the Oath and Covenant of the priesthood so they start magnifying their church calling at the expense of their calling to save their families. They magnify the subsidiary, temporary calling at the expense of an eternal one. It is this problem Elder Ballard was addressing when he said “Don’t magnify the work to be done”.

Sadly, this misunderstanding is also affecting our ability to save our youth. We know that our youth are growing up in a spiritual sewer. But we have such a narrow view of spirituality that, rather than connecting them through the Holy Ghost as directly and powerfully as possible by getting them directly working on saving their family, saving their dead, and doing missionary work, we respond with what we think spirituality is. We invite them to meetings. Extra meetings. Early morning meetings (which makes those meetings extra-duper spiritual). We bring them into church bureaucracy because that is where we think they will connect with God. I know what I am talking about. I have three teenagers.

But we should have wisdom like Elder Bednar who wanted us to get the youth saving the dead. He knows there is a raw spiritual power that is involved in that sacred work, and that it has transforming power on the souls of those involved in it. THAT is getting youth involved in their real calling – their calling to follow Christ – their calling to save the souls of men. That is connecting them to the powers of heaven by introducing them to the Holy Ghost himself.

Sadly, at the ward level Elder Bednar’s insight is cast into our own image. I have seen it in practice my own ward. What did it turn into? Mostly a weekly early morning meeting involving the youth.

Sure, we should do our church callings. But we should not think they are the calling referring to in the Oath and Covenant of the priesthood except in a very subsidiary way. If you don’t believe me, spend a month doing your church calling in a minimalist, but complete, way. But also spend every other spare moment you have working directly on saving yourself, saving your family, saving your dead, and doing missionary work. By contrast spend a month doing your calling in the fanciest, most exorbitant way possible, severely restricting your family time, and certainly leaving no time for saving your dead and doing missionary work. Hold extra, noncritical, lengthy meetings whenever possible to pull people from their own families into time spent magnifying their callings as well. IF magnifying your calling referred to your church calling, the second month should be more spiritual. But IF it refers to your calling to be like Christ then the first month will be far more spiritually satisfying. Try it and see.

Someone will come away from this thinking I said we don’t need to do our church callings. I did not. But when we think that they key to being saved is to magnify our calling there is a world of difference between thinking the calling referred to is our church calling and thinking it is our calling to follow Christ just like the word calling refers to practically every other place in the scriptures. Christ would do his church calling and so should we. But that was only a small part of the total calling we need to magnify if we are going to receive the blessings promised in the Oath and Covenant of the priesthood, and critical parts of that larger calling often fall prey to neglect when we misunderstand this fact.

Our church callings are a law of Moses trying to teach us what our real calling is. They have a lot of unnecessary time wasting stuff in them that we have to do, just like the law of Moses did. But that is fine, they are what God requires of us now. We need to do them, and whenever we see a chance for real spiritual work to be done through them we should grab hold of it. But they must not be exaggerated into something that replaces the full blown gospel of saving our family, our dead, and our fellow man. They are supposed to be teaching us to awaken to that which is our real calling. Not supplanting it.

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The foremost message of the Christ’s enemies is worthiness without strict obedience

Ezra Taft Benson taught that the Book of Mormon identifies the enemies of Christ.

“… the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time.

There is a consistent struggle throughout the scriptures. The prophets tell people again and again what commandments the Lord would have his people follow.

So what do we see time and again in the enemies of Christ throughout the scriptures. What sort of beliefs stand in opposition to the truth in the scriptures?

The primary issue in the scriptures seems to be simple: righteousness, righteousness, righteousness. It is obedience to the commandments. It is submitting our will to the will of the Father by keeping his commandments.

We may be surprised in John 14 when Christ states that he measures our love for him by how well we keep his commandments.

But we see a pattern in generation after generation in the book of Mormon. Certainly their people of any religion professed their love and devotion for God as vehemently as any religious preacher of modern times. But the most recurring theme is that those religions that rise up in opposition to the true church really have one main thing to offer: Their followers don’t have to follow the commandments.

The chief commandment that people like to find a way around is the law of chastity. That is why other religions are called the “whore of all the earth”.

In Jacob 2-3 we see an apostasy taking place within some portion of the believers. They have determined that they are allowed to take additional wives and concubines to themselves. What makes this movement popular? Isn’t it obvious? It gives its followers a way out of keeping the law of chastity. It loosens the bands of the great commandment of the body – the centerpiece of Christlike living – the law of Chastity.

What doctrine do the priests of King Noah offer? They challenge Abinadi’s preaching with the verses:

Mosiah 12:21 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth;
22 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion;
23 Break forth into joy; sing together ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem;
24 The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God

The point the priests of King Noah are trying to make is that Abinadi is a judging judgy pants. They are claiming that a real prophet gives a message that is uplifting and fills people with joy. They are saying his teachings do not make them feel edified, and so he can’t be a real prophet. A real prophet would be compassionate. He would be offering compassion and teaching peace. He would be bringing good tidings and singing salvation. He would be telling them to sing together in joy. A real prophet would be offering God’s comfort, not condemning them. After all, all the earth shall see the salvation of God.

We get a little more insight into the doctrine of these people when we read:

Mosiah 12:13 And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man?
14 And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned; therefore, this man has lied concerning you, and he has prophesied in vain.

Obviously one of the main messages of the priests of King Noah was that the people were worthy. In reality they were so wicked that God sent Abinadi to warn them of impending doom. They grew up under righteous Zeniff and they had the commandments. But somehow all their wickedness didn’t make them unworthy. The say “we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned”.

The priests of king Noah offered salvation without responsibility. They taught that there was no need to obey commandments because the gospel was a message of joy. Thus they could spend their time with harlots.

Nehor also taught salvation without responsibility. Nehor taught that there was no need to obey the commandments because everybody will be saved.

Alma 1:4 And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.

Nehor’s message was that they were worthy. They didn’t need to obey to be worthy. His message was a message of joy: They didn’t need to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Instead they could lift up their heads and rejoice. Each of us is a unique creation of God and he will save all of us.

Korihor’s message makes the same conclusion about the commandments in mortality but does it by denying their is a God. His message is that there is no need to keep the commandments because there is no God. His message is that we need not doubt our own worthiness because worthiness isn’t even real.

Other messages are warned about in the scriptures.

We read of the teaching to “Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die and if it so be that we are guilty God will beat us with a few stripes and at last we will be saved in the kingdom of God.” Again the message is that we don’t need to keep the commandments. Again the message is that we are worthy, or at least worthy enough.

Another message we are warned about is “I am no devil for there is none.”  Again the message is that we don’t need to keep the commandments. We can do as we please without consequence.

A strict warning is given against the message “All is well in Zion.” And why? Well by now it is completely clear. That is the great message of the apostate. It is the message that we are worthy. It is the message that we don’t need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

In the Book of Mormon we see Zeezrom teaching that if we are to say God requires obedience for salvation then we are acting as if we have the right to command God. In modern vernacular, we are “judging” if we declare that God will indeed judge us by our works precisely as he has declared in the scriptures. Zeezrom’s message is, again, that we don’t need to keep the commandments.

The foremost great message of the enemies of Christ in the book of Mormon is the same message that is popular now. It is the message that we are worthy. We are deserving.

It is the message that we are all created by God and we are worthy.. We are worthy without pressing forward diligently. We are worthy whether or not we submit our will to the will of the Father even as a child submits to his father.

It is the message that to say someone should feel ashamed for their actions is offensive to God. Because shame itself is never merited because we are worthy.

It is the message that God will be mocked in matters of immorality among his covenant members. We can make covenants and then misbehave sexually: having “friends with benefits”, and watching sleaze and filth with no bottom to its depths in movies, on television, and in pornography and there will be no thorny road to repentance. Maybe God will beat us with a few stripes. But he offers no retribution for moral transgression in violation of our covenants.

Christ measures our love for him by our obedience: “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.”

And the adversary succeeds insofar as he can separate us from obeying our God. His message is that we are worthy.

God’s message is that we can BECOME worthy of exaltation, but that to do so we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

Living beneath our privileges is dangerous stuff

We read this description of false churches in the last days:

2 Nephi 28:5 And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men;
 6 Behold, hearken ye unto my precept; if they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work.

Why do they preach against miracles?

Because the rights of the priesthood are inseparable connected with the powers of heaven and the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only on the principles of righteousness.

What that means is that you have to be living the principles of righteousness to work miracles. You cannot be connected to the powers of heaven, by, for example, working miracles, unless you are living sufficiently righteously. There are no exceptions.

D&C 132:5 For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.

There are larger and smaller ways these can be manifest. One miraculous event we do see commonly is to see the gift of the Holy Ghost bestowed on a person through the priesthood after baptism.

But we live far beneath our privileges.

Living far beneath our privileges is dangerous stuff.

Why? Because it is when we live far beneath our privileges that we cannot discern the truth in a way that is similar to the way Moses did.

If we are well acquainted with the Holy Ghost than it is relatively easy to recognize when we do something that goes against the commandments. We can recognize the Holy Ghost’s departure. We see the way our spiritual blessings depart. We notice that we cannot discern things through the light of Christ. We feel cut off. We experience significantly less of God’s grace because we have cut ourselves off from it for a time.

But if we are not well acquainted with the Holy Ghost, we are like a blind person. If we are in the regular habit of offending the Holy Ghost by our actions (in these days, particularly by our media) then we do not notice a significant change when he is driven away.

Harold B Lee said rightly that the only safety is living so that we have the Holy Ghost.

The more we live beneath our privileges, the more dangerous our position is.

That is partly because the adversary is happy to fill in when the Holy Ghost is not present. We see the world being driven by the adversary as a dumb beast wherever he wills. When we don’t have the Holy Ghost, we needn’t wonder whether anyone else will be willing to fill in for him in his absence. The adversary always steps in when we drive away the Holy Ghost.

So the only safety is to live to have the Holy Ghost. It is to do all we can to keep the commandments and come more and more in time under the power of God and more out more in time out from under the influence of the adversary.

And that is the path that leads us to enjoy our privileges more and more. It is the path of safety that leads us to discern good and evil like day and night because the more we live up to our privileges, the more clearly we can tell good from evil, and the more dramatically we notice the loss of our privileges when we turn in a direction that is displeasing to that God that bestowed them upon us.

Oh those judgmental prophets of the past

Laman and Lemuel complained that Lehi “judged” the people of Jerusalem.

The people of King Noah were angry at Abinadi that they were being “judged of this man”.

The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were furious that Lot had “judged” them.

It seems a peculiar trait of those societies who have filled the cup of God’s wrath to overflowing, that are standing on the brink of his actually destroying them, that they become obsessed with being “judged”.

Christ prophesied that there would be false Christs in the last days. And certainly, looking down at the many different portrayals of himself in this age, how could he say otherwise. One of the most common themes of these false Christs is that he, the eternal judge of both quick and dead, is non-judgemental. Another great theme among theme is that he requires his followers to not raise a warning voice among the wicked because that would be judging them. In fact, these false versions of Christ don’t even want his followers to plainly state the commandments, because that is apparently judging people too.

By contrast God has told every man that has been warned to warn his neighbor. He has told us that those in the celestial kingdom are those who will be valiant in the testimony of Jesus, and those in the terrestrial will not be valiant in the testimony of Jesus. If being valiant in the testimony of Jesus has any relation to being wiling to testify then certainly the adversary would be anxious to silence us.

A wicked society is one that follows the adversary. And he uses that influence over them to inspire them strongly against anything that might separate them out from under his influence.

Short Note – Two verses that witness that to receive a blessing we must abide the law appointed for it.

Ran into this beautiful verse

D&C 132:5 For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.

Note that this verse is teaching exactly the same thing as another famous verse
D&C 130: 20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
 21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

Short Note – The verses about not adding to or taking away from the revelation

As a missionary many non members made the ridiculous claim that these verses are John telling us there is to be no more revelation.

Revelation 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Interestingly, these verses are not as unique as they believed, as Moses declared:

Deuteronomy 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.

Adding to the irony, those who were offended by additional revelation were generally the same crowd that said John 3:16 is “all you need”. That is, they were upset about new revelation, but believed there was no harm in discarding all but a single verse of the scriptures.

The Lord’s description of such people is spot on.

2 Nephi 29:6 Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?
7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
10 Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.