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February, 2012

  1. Come unto me. Forbid them not.

    February 22, 2012 by Ryan

    Recently ten of our area church congregations met together in a semi-annual conference. This is one long two-hour meeting, and it can be tough for little kids to sit through.

    A few days later, I saw one young mother, a member of this expanded congregation, whom I had recognized as being at the meeting. I commented that it was good to see her there. She sighed and exclaimed, “I don’t know why I bother to go! My young girls don’t pay attention, and I don’t hear a word that is said while I try to keep them entertained!” She then added one more frustrated phrase: “It would just be easier to stay home from those meetings!”

    Even though I knew that she was speaking in frustration, that added line pricked my heart. It was a dangerous thought to entertain, and yet an honest emotion that many members feel each time these meeting approach. Why bother?

    I think the number one reason is explained by Jesus himself. Jesus called the little children unto him, and said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (see Luke 18:16).

    Come unto me. Forbid them not. Jesus Himself didn’t find their youthful behavior annoying, distracting, or unwelcome. Rather, He admired their innocence. He welcomed their presence. Surely they understood more than many of the rude adults who approached Him in His ministry.

    Unfortunately, on the spot I didn’t think of that reason. But I did think of this: “Train up a child in the way [s]he should go: and when [s]he is old, [s]he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). If this young mother gave in to the temptation in her mind, like many of her peers did, then she would still be training her children in the importance of attending the meeting – in the opposite way. When those girls grow older, they will have learned from the example of their parents that it is easier to stay home and skip that week of services. When they are old enough to listen and appreciate the messages, they won’t be in attendance to hear them.

    So to that young mother, I say keep trying! The Lord recognizes your best efforts to raise His spirit daughters! Even though today you are chasing crayons that fall to the floor, in a few years you will be guiding the same young ladies through enemy-occupied territory of sin which this world will willingly offer to them.

    They will know to choose the good, because you showed them in the small and simple things! (Alma 37:6)

    See also the excellent talk “The Doctrinal Importance of Marriage and Children” by Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

  2. What Do We Hear?

    February 22, 2012 by Ryan

    And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (Old Testament | 1 Kings 19:11-12)

    And it came to pass when they heard this voice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul— And notwithstanding the mildness of the voice, behold the earth shook exceedingly…. (The Book of Mormon | The Book of Helaman 5:30-31)

    And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn. And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not. And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came. And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard…. (The Book of Mormon | Third Nephi 11:3-6)

    Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy. (Doctrine and Covenants 128:19)

  3. Man May Become

    February 19, 2012 by Ryan

    Some who are opposed to my faith casually call out a belief that “As God is, Man can become” as evidence of sacrilege. I’ve heard that ridiculed and flatly rejected by many Christians.

    I can’t really blame them. On the surface, when tossed about in a casual phrasing like that, it does sound arrogant, pompous, and absurd. After all, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). It sounds disrespectful to God to think I could sit equal with Him!

    Yet ironically, whether they realize it or not, all followers of Christ already believe the concept is not only possible, but has already been done in at least one instance.

    Let me illustrate by reasoning together.

    Do you believe that Jesus was born of Mary? Did He poop His diapers? Did He spill His juice bottle? Did He run and stub His toe and cry about it? Did He hit his thumb at least once with the hammer in Joseph’s woodworking shop?

    Surely He did. He lived a human experience. He learned His social and academic skills. “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

    He grew from a baby into a boy. From a boy He grew to a Man. And from a Man, He became a God. He was the same Being the entire time, but moved through the stages of life in a progression to get to Godhood.

    Jesus is our example for living!

    Now, let state the obvious: There is a key difference between Him and us. The difference is that Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Because He was without sin, the process worked faster and more perfectly for Him. For our part, each has broken some laws of God and has complicated our lives and progression. All-in-all, however, the same pattern is in place. We grow, develop in spirit, fill our minds and souls with wisdom, repent (our extra step), and enjoy the grace of God upon us.

    Just as He outgrew childish things and became a Master over them, so do we. Paul described the process of maturation and self-mastery with these words: “But when that which is perfect [another translation might read ‘whole’ or ‘complete’] is come, then that which is in part [or ‘incomplete’ or ‘partial’] shall be done away” (see 1 Corinthians 13:10). The encounters of human growth and learning didn’t get Him down – He learned to master His mind and responses to them.

    As always, Jesus is our example for living.

    Believers won’t dispute that He went on to obtain His full reward with God the Father. He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God (see Mark 16:19 among many others). Notice that He didn’t unseat the Father; instead the scriptures always describe taking a place to the right side of Him.

    Does it diminish the position or rob God the Father to know that Jesus has also ascended to that title of Godhood? Heaven forbid the thought! Jesus has ascended to His Father, and has done all that must be done to earn the title of a God.

    If we are trying to follow Jesus, then next it is our turn. Paul told us, through his letter to the Philippians, to think like Jesus did in this matter. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” (Philippians 2:5-6)

    Paul continues in verses 7-9 to tell us more about what Jesus did. He didn’t make Himself popular in the eyes of men. He willingly served others. He remained humble. He remained obedient unto death. It was those qualities of meekness and love that God “highly exalted him.” Those qualities sound very much like the same ones we should emulate.

    Because again, Jesus is our example for living.

    If I can work on those things, and mastering my emotions, and developing my ability to respond to the Holy Spirit – and if I appeal for and receive sufficient grace and forgiveness from God – then maybe I can get to that point in some eternal day. I don’t mind if I sit on the right, or the left, or in back – if there is a chair nearby the Heavenly Throne, I will be happy and content to take it. I’d even sit on the floor, or stand against the wall.

    Listen carefully to this verse in the context of our discussion: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17). When we think of inheritances on earth, they are finite – ‘stuff’ is divided among siblings, so no one can have all. However, God deals in real estate infinite; the power and glory of God can be distributed without dividing, diminishing, or diluting the original. Christ inherited all of the glory, and we are invited to become joint-heirs with Him.

    Have I mention that Jesus is our example for living?

    Becoming as God is not a reward that man made up. It is clearly offered in the promise that we can each inherit all that the Father has. It is implied as a result of obedience to God’s laws. It is exemplified by the Son of God, who fulfilled all righteousness and showed the way.

    If God has held out the goal and offered the reward, then I intend to “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) and ask what I need to do to qualify for it.

    I’ll start with trying to work on Philippians 2:7-9. If I can get those down, I’ll work on the stuff in the Sermon on the Mount. I’ll seek out the grace of God, and repentance through the mercy and power of Jesus Christ. I’ll make covenants with God to show Him that I am committed to following through on keeping His commandments. I’ll seek and receive the promised blessings and graces for that obedience. There are basic things to work out. I’ve got to temper my own self. I can’t do any of this alone. Especially I cannot make myself ascend to the position of a God. I can’t even ascend on my own to be a member of His heavenly choir – or even His angelic custodial staff. That any of that is to happen, it will be if and when, at some future time, God the Father is ready and willing to bestow such a gift on me.

    I’ll always bow the knee in worship of the Savior and the Father in Their rightful places. I do not aspire to unseat them – Lucifer already tried that, and where did it get him? (see Isaiah 14:12-17) They will always hold that place of authority and order over me, for as long as there are eternal worlds without end. “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Corinthians 8:6).

    And with that context, the idea of becoming like God doesn’t seem so far out there. Jesus was a child of God, and He did it.

    And after all, He is my perfect example for living.