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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Your Word is Your Bond

Let's face it.  2016 is little more than half over and it's already been a horrible year for the world as a whole if you focus on major news sources.  But I write this one in hopes that it will serve as a helpful, even if momentary, means of focusing on something positive.

I took down a quote from The Infinite Atonement in my currently second time studying thought it that goes like this: "It may have been that such a covenant [to atone] helped sustain the Savior in the Garden when all his apparent spiritual and physical energies had been exhausted, when there was “nothing left” to combat the Evil One and sin itself but the pure covenant to atone.  How many such covenants have lifted men to loftier heights, conferred upon them added strength, and generated newfound reservoirs of resistance when all else seemed to collapse around them?  So it may have been that, in some way, this covenant satisfied the laws of justice for those who lived before the Atonement was performed, and, in addition, helped to sustain the Savior in his hour of greatest need."

Why did Savior's promise to atone have such an infinite effect, eternally into the past, currently, and forever into the future?  What made that covenant have such a powerful effect.

I think the answer lies in the principle illustrated in this part of the script from the movie John Q: "And if you say you'll do something, do it, because your word is your bond."

Right there, "your word is your bond."  I don't need to tell someone "I promise I will..." in order to make a promise.  If I tell you I will do something, that I will be somewhere at a certain time, have something done by a certain date or keep something to myself, I have made a promise.  I have given you my word that that's the way it will be.  Even Jesus taught this when He said "But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."  While I understand the purpose of signing documents and such - because of course that's not a bad thing - we shouldn't have to do anything more than make a simple statement to consider what we say to be a solid guarantee.

Another part in that chapter in the Infinite Atonement says: "Over long eons of time in the premortal realm He proved faithful and dependable and honorable in every commitment, every responsibility, and every charge. The scriptures tell us that 'from eternity to eternity' he is the same[].  He never deviated from the mark, never slacked in his performance, never shrank from his word... His promises were 'immutable and unchangeable'[].  As a result, his spiritual credit was rapidly escalating until it was pure gold, even infinite in value.  That is why the laws of justice could recognize the benefits of the Atonement before the purchase price was ever paid, because of his promise, his pledge, his credit was "good for it"..."

I know it's easy to think of all the people in the world today who don't live by this standard, but let's focus, instead, on why it's so much better to just be a better example of being honest ourselves.  I use the word honesty because many people think about honesty as just telling the truth, but it goes so much further than that.  According to Marvin J. Ashton, of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles of the LDS church, "any communication given to another with the intent to deceive" is a lie.  You don't need to speak something false to be dishonest.  Breaking a promise, not doing what you say you will do the way you say you will do it, using facial expressions that are inconsistent with what you are really thinking or feeling or anything else that even hints at communicating an idea that is inconsistent with the truth are all form of dishonesty.

Honesty really is the best policy.  I know from personal experience that life becomes much easier if I keep everything completely transparent.  From words to facial expressions to voice inflection and more, the more I make my whole life and character a reflection of honesty, the easier things are for me.

This includes, as mentioned earlier, covenants.  When it comes to my promises to my Heavenly Father at baptism, and each week when I partake of the sacrament, that I would have faith in His Son Jesus Christ and follow His example and His prophets, breaking those covenants is being dishonest.  Having dealt with the struggles that naturally come from breaking those covenants, I learn more every day why keeping them will make us so much happier, independent of anything else going on around us.

As with Christ's atonement for us, the power receive from Him to accomplish the impossible and be happy comes directly from those promises.  Whether that means I forgive more easily, serve with more pure intent, speak with more love or act with more integrity, etc., it will always make my life that much better.  Of course, our natural, impure, mortal inclinations make that difficult from day to day, but King Benjamin put it well when he said "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."

I remember days growing up where my dad had promised he would make sure something was done for someone.  No matter what came up in the day that threatened to prevent him from accomplishing something, he made absolutely sure he "stuck to his guns" and got it done.  Sometimes that meant volunteering my siblings and I to help accomplish the task (especially when it was something mom wanted done), but he was a man who always did what he said he would do and was always focused on telling the truth, even if it was inconvenient to him.  I remember many times where I would say something like ", I messed up.  I scheduled [whatever it was] during your [whatever my mom had scheduled for that time]."  Because he was consistent with this, I don't remember a single time where my mom got angry with him.  Slightly frustrated, maybe, but they were always able to work things out with out too much stress because they were both people of their word.

It's also harder to get angry, hurt or too easily offended if we are honest in everything we say and do.  Thomas S. Monson once said, "There is no friendship more valuable than your own clear conscience, your own moral cleanliness—and what a glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so".  If you know that you have been honest, that you have been totally honest and shown the truth and entirety of your intent, without even a hint of withholding or misrepresenting what is in your heart (in a kind way of course), then you really have no reason to worry about what anyone else but God thinks, do you?

Some things most worth doing in this life are recognized by God alone.  When the Savior went into the Garden of Gethsemane, He didn't hold anything back.  There was no fanfare, no procession, no grand ceremony to call attention to this the single most important and loving act in the history of creation.  Yet He didn't shrink from the suffering at hand.  He faced the painful onslaught of all human weakness, temptation, sin, and other imperfection with only mortal defenses without using His infinite power to shield Himself from the effects of it in any way.  He approached this in all it's rawness with complete candor.  If anything, according to Tad R. Callister, He actually used His Godhood only to put off the twin relief mechanisms of the threshold of human suffering, death and unconsciousness, actually making the suffering that much more poignant.

He did that for all of us.  He did it unapologetically.  He did it with no hesitation, no back-pedaling, second guessing or asking what was in it for Him personally, totally out of love for us.  He is the epitome of complete honesty, in intent, word, deed and character.  And look where and who He is now.

For many reasons, it takes us mortals a while to learn and develop faith in that kind of transparency but I have faith that as I keep trying to become that kind of person that with His grace, through the power of His Atonement, will make that ideal a reality.  I trust Him that it will happen, that what some days appears impossible to me will come to fruition, bringing with it the joys of exaltation in the world to come.

Friday, July 22, 2016

How The Resurrection Works; The How and The Why

To Latter-day Saints, the Resurrection is one of the most fundamental doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a critical element of the Atonement of Christ.
Being raised in the LDS church, I was taught this glorious truth, that every human being, every one of God's children born in mortality on this earth, would eventually receive a perfected, immortal body of flesh and bone. I trusted this truth. I believed in it and taught it as a full time missionary in Canada. However, I began to wonder about certain things as I studied more about it. Exactly how and why does the resurrection happen? And I wanted in depth, specific details. Here's what I found.

Since the resurrection comes as a direct result of the Atonement I went to study about it. I found the first part of the "why" while reading Tad R. Callister's "The Infinite Atonement" as follows:
“Everyone who has had a mortal body will be resurrected – the righteous, the wicked, even the lukewarm – for the resurrection is universal. It is a free gift to all men regardless of their righteousness. But why? Why the disobedient, the scoundrel, the atheist? Is it fair? It is. Adam brought physical death into the world through his transgression and thus transmitted his mortal nature, the seeds of death, to all living creatures without any action on their part. They did nothing to merit death in their earthly sojourn, and so in return, the Savior restored immortal life without any redemptive action on the part of man. The plan is fair and just and merciful."
I was so happy to find this! According to this, nothing we could ever do in this life is deserving of death. No matter how good or bad anyone is, death does not come to us because of anything we did. It is not justified by anything we do, but rather it is simply a naturally resulting effect of the fall and we did nothing to initiate that.

This was so relieving to me because I then realized that since nothing we did or could ever do warranted our death in the first place, it makes the resurrection completely justified and that much more real for everyone! What a beautiful and comforting truth!

The how came next. I was reading one day in 2 Nephi 9:12,
"...wherefore, death and hell must deliver up their dead, and hell must deliver up its captive spirits, and the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel."
The phrase in this scripture that I didn't understand at first was at the end: "it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel". My first thought, which was always the same for me, was "what exactly about the Savior's resurrection empowers ours? I believe it does, as the scriptures are full of evidence of that, but how? Are we simply resurrected by virtue of His personal resurrection alone? Is there some kind of spiritual or moral mechanism or virtue of such by which our resurrection is powered or made possible?"

But the the Spirit nudged me to focus on the word "power". What's one of the first things that comes to mind when talking about divine power? For me, it was "priesthood". I had been looking at it from the wrong perspective, thinking of the event of His resurrection as the one and only catalyst for our own. What I was missing was that the key word is power. Specifically, priesthood power.

It was so simple and I had overlooked it by going beyond the mark so many times! The Savior reclaimed His body by the power of His priesthood - also referred to in 2 Nephi 9 as the power of the resurrection - and we reclaim ours as well by that same power.

As Elder Callister teaches, God's "plan is [indeed] fair and just and merciful."

I love my Savior and I am thankful for His loving kindness and the beauty and love of His gospel and His plan for us, that each of us will receive totally perfected, flawless physical bodies, conducive the eternal joys for which we qualify ourselves in this life.