Thursday, July 29, 2010

A lesson from the earth.

Lately I’ve been enjoying some conversations about science and religion with Church members who are involved in various scientific fields and endeavors. Like them, I believe religion and science are more closely connected than we now know; and I disagree with scientists who say you can’t believe in God if you want to accept science. Phooey. (Those who claim that are probably too closed minded to even be in the scientific field. We all know any scientist worth his salt would never throw out any possibility.)

The other day, as I was doing some scientific and doctrinal research into the history of the world and its future, I made a startling, yet comforting realization.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know that when God created the earth it was in a paradisiacal or terrestial state. Not fully glorified, but pretty close. Then Adam fell and that affected everything. (We also know that no choice affects you and you alone.) At that time the earth also ‘fell’ and became the telestial world we now know.

So here we all are: telestial bodies living on a telestial world.

Latter-day Saints also understand that when Christ comes again the world will “be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.” (See 10th Article of Faith.) Again, not fully glorified, but pretty close. During that time men on earth, under the direction of the Savior, will work hard to burn the leftovers of war, beat their swords into plows and restore the earth to its Edenic state. It will take time, years, to restore what was lost and fix the damage done.

Then, following this millennium of time, peace and work--and after a final test of conviction to the Lord--the earth will then pass away “and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth.” This ‘new earth’ shall be our earth in its glorified “sanctified, immortal and eternal state.” (See Revelations 4, D&C 29:22-24 and D&C 77.)

Can you see a familiar pattern there? The earth existed in God’s presence--not yet glorified but pretty good. It fell and left His presence, becoming a telestial sphere. Christ will return to the earth to help restore the earth to a higher state—not yet glorified but pretty good. Then, when all things are ready, the earth will finally be glorified.

It has taken, and will continue to take, quite a bit of time to get the earth glorified. In fact, you could say the creation of the earth still is not complete. It’s an ongoing process.

Now, people quibble over the age of the earth depending on whether they view the earth scientifically or Biblically. (And even those who believe in the Bible quarrel about the length of the creative period: was it six literal days or six figurative days?)

But the age of the earth really doesn’t matter. What matters is the lesson we learn from the earth and the hope it can give us. However you look at it, the earth has been in existence for a tad bit longer than my 48 years and it still is not glorified! It is still a work in progress.

Now, if the earth has been given that much time and even promised the personal help of the Savior to get it sanctified and ready to meet God, doesn’t the same truth apply to you and me? The worth of souls in great in the eyes of the Lord. We are His greatest creation! His entire work is directed at helping us become glorified; and He obviously plans for it to take a bit longer than 48 years.


We don’t have to be perfect now. Our children and spouses don’t have to be perfect now. Neither do our neighbors. We just need to keep heading in that direction and appreciate the pattern He lovingly and quietly shared with us when He placed us on this wonderful, very long-term, work in progress we call Earth. The Earth is our testimony of hope.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The problem with answering roughly

A great lesson for anyone in a position of leadership and guidance is found in 1 Kings 12. Rehoboam, son of Solomon, is the new king of Israel. Jeroboam, a leader from the tribe of Ephraim, joined other representatives from the other tribes of Israel and came to the new king, seeking an ease to their burdens. Solomon’s heavy building program and military requirements had taxed the people greatly both in time and monetary possessions.

The king listened to their grievances and told them to come back in three days for an answer.

During that time, “king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?”

“And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.”

Such wise words! If you want people to love you and follow you and be loyal to you—serve them, address and answer their needs, encourage and praise them with your words.

But Rehoboam didn’t like the counsel (it took too much effort on his part) so he went to his buddies, “The young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:

"And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?

“And the young men…spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people…My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.

“And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”

Now, maybe his buddies justified the response by claiming if you give someone an inch they will take a mile. If you let them change your mind on one issue, they will be clamoring for you to change your mind on every issue. It could have been a classic fear-the-foot-in-the-door warning. They may have even told Rehoboam his kingdom was as stake, that this request meant a rebellion was brewing.

So, the king took their advice and “answered the people roughly.”

Well, he got his rebellion--because he started it. From that point on the family of Israel was divided.

Now let's fast-forward to our time. What do you do when your teenage son comes to you and says he’s tired of mowing the lawn every week; that he always has to do it? Do you sit down with him and say, yes, you have been mowing it every week for several years, what can I do to help make it easier? Or, do you answer him roughly, say it’s his responsibility and if he complains more about it you will make him weed the garden, too?

What about when your daughter comes and says she doesn’t have time to do the dishes tonight because she has to be to volleyball practice. Do you say she should have thought of that sooner and started her dishes earlier? Or, do you say let me go help you and we’ll try to get as much done together before you go?

What about with your spouse? If something they are doing, or not doing, is hurtful or disappointing, do you honestly think speaking roughly to them is the way to win their loyalty, get them to change, and improve your marriage?

Family life is no different now than in Rehoboam's time. While no family is perfect, more families should follow the first advice. We are here to serve one another, address and answer the needs of our children and our partners, to encourage and praise them with our words. Then we will have the love and loyalty in our families that will bind us together forever.

Sadly, however, I feel too many families follow the path of Rehoboam and answer each other roughly.

Remember the Savior’s words: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt 23:11)

Isaiah spoke Messianically of this service in Isaiah 61:1-3. “The Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings…bind up the brokenhearted…proclaim liberty to the captive…(open) the prison to them that are bound…give unto them beauty for ashes…praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

If we are to be like Christ and follow His example then we, too, must do the same. We must preach good tidings, not speak roughly. We must repair broken hearts and, when family members are held captive by the demands of life, we are to help them find more liberty, even go to work and open the prisons doors that stand in their way. We are called give them beauty and hope when their life is full of ashes, and encourage them with honest praise when they are burdened under the spirit of heaviness.

Then we are promised, in Isaiah 61: 4, the waste places will be built up, the former desolations will be repaired.

Our families will be built up and our relationships will be repaired. They will be ours forever...because they will want to be with us.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Priesthood blessings

My son did something today I didn’t do until I was much older. He asked an older man, who is not a member of our church, if he would like his son, Brian, to receive a priesthood blessing. The man said yes.

We believe that worthy men can be called and ordained to the receive the priesthood. Christ had the priesthood. He was a high priest in the Melchezidek priesthood. (See Hebrews 5.) He gave this authority to his disciples. That priesthood authority is the power of God to officiate in His name and enact the ordinances of salvation. Another function of the priesthood is to give blessings to the sick, downtrodden and seeking.

A year and a half ago, Brian played on the same football team as two of my sons. One son, in particular, formed a close friendship with Brian. Together they worked to improve as football players year-round. They also went snowmobiling in the winter, floated the creek in the summer, and played video games often. Brian spent a lot of time at our house. He was always polite and fun. When I opened the door and saw him standing on our back step I always had to return his smile. He brightened everything with his fun, quiet nature.

After graduation, Brian received a scholarship to play football at college. He came to our house when he could but we didn’t see him as much as before. I missed him. I also worried about him. So did my son.

We knew Brian had begun drinking. He told my son several times he liked hanging out at our house and around his LDS friends because he didn’t feel he needed to drink to have fun. It was a different kind of fun. It was clean fun. He didn’t have to worry about what he did.

We asked Brian if he wanted to learn more about what we believed. He said, ‘definitely’ but we were slow in our follow-through and one lonely night Brian was involved in a drunk-driving accident. The accident left him in a coma for a month and now he is permanently brain-injured.

Recently, while visiting Brian, my son explained priesthood blessings to Brian’s father. He then asked his father if he would like Brian to receive a priesthood blessing. The man said yes. My son called, excited that we could help Brian and his family in a way no doctor or therapist could.

The call touched my heart. It took courage for my son, who is still in high school, to ask an adult such a question and explain priesthood blessings to him. It also took faith. How grateful I am that my son has faith in the power of the priesthood—faith enough to know that it can bless the lives of others--and faith enough in its importance to share that knowledge with a non-member.

I also feel very strongly the blessing won’t just bless Brian. It will bless my son and all those people who deeply love Brian, both on this side of the veil and the other. Furthermore, I strongly feel that there are those on the other side of the veil who have prayed that someone would offer to give their beloved Brian a priesthood blessing.

Priesthood blessings always touch more lives than one. And that is so appropriate, because Brian has also touched many more lives than one.