Saturday, June 30, 2007

True Doctrine of Perfection

Today my wife, Talia, and I gave a lesson to the sisters of our Relief Society Enrichment on the True Doctrine of Perfection. As is usual, I am posting the statements I used in my portion of the lesson. I am also including some thoughts on a few of the scriptures I used.

Matthew 5:41:

“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”

JST Matthew 5:41 (43):
“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him a mile...”

The implications of this change are significant. Especially for those who are spiritually and emotionally and mentally, and even physically exhausted from going the second mile, when the Lord would only have you travel one. The Lord is plainly teaching moderation in all things. Ours is a gospel of hope, of reality, of redemption. Christ did not atone for the perfect. He atoned for people like me.

Elder Samuelson has written:
“For over 20 years I was a professor and practitioner of medicine, and I have a concern that I know is shared by other General Authorities. A matter of great concern for some of you is the issue that mental health professionals describe as ‘perfectionism.’ Interestingly, often those who struggle the most with issues of perfectionism are among the most talented people. They have often been excellent students, model children, and outstanding young people. Some, however, become so obsessed or consumed with their every thought, action, and response, that they may become far too extreme in their own perceptions of what is expected of them.... Worthiness and perfection are not synonymous!” (New Era, January 2006)

Elder McConkie taught,
“We don’t need to get a complex or get a feeling that you have to be perfect to be saved. You don’t. There’s only been one perfect person, and that’s the Lord Jesus, but in order to be saved in the Kingdom of God and in order to pass the test of mortality, what you have to do is get on the straight and narrow path—thus charting a course leading to eternal life—and then, being on that path, pass out of this life in full fellowship. I’m not saying that you don’t have to keep the commandments. I’m saying you don’t have to be perfect to be saved. If you did, no one would be saved.

“The way it operates is this: You get on the path that’s named the “straight and narrow.” You do it by entering the gate of repentance and baptism. The straight and narrow path leads from the gate of repentance and baptism, a very great distance, to a reward that’s called eternal life. If you’re on that path and pressing forward, and you die, you’ll never get off the path.

“There is no such thing as falling off the straight and narrow path in the life to come, and the reason is that this life is the time that is given to men to prepare for eternity. Now is the time and the day of your salvation, so if you’re working zealously in this life—though you haven’t fully overcome the world and you haven’t done all you hoped you might do—you’re still going to be saved. You don’t have to do what Jacob said, ‘Go beyond the mark.’ You don’t have to live a life that’s truer than true. You don’t have to have an excessive zeal that becomes fanatical and becomes unbalancing.

“What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church—keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path. If you’re on that path when death comes—because this is the time and the day appointed, this is the probationary estate—you’ll never fall off from it, and, for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure.” (From an address by Bruce R. McConkie, The Probationary Test of Mortality, delivered at the University of Utah Jan. 10, 1982)

To truly understand the purpose of life, is to place ourselves in the drama that unfolds in the historical account of Adam and Eve.

  • We were at first in a paradisiacal estate (pre-earth life or even, for some, childhood)
  • We were born into mortality (the Fall)
    • LDS are unique in that we see the Fall of Adam and Even and of you and me necessary and part of the plan of perfection
  • We are baptized and receive ordinances (Redemption)
  • As Nephi said, do not suppose all is done. We must press forward, constantly relying on the merits and mercy of Christ.

Indeed, as C.S. Lewis wrote,
“Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms” (Mere Christianity, 56.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Office of High Priest

I will be adding another post soon about the office of High Priest. I am going to be teaching a class to all the high priests in my stake who have been ordained to such in the last year. It should be interesting (to me).

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Aaronic Priesthood Lessons

So, I have been feeling that it is time for me to pick up the torch and begin adding entries to the blog. However, I have struggled as to what I might include. To be honest, the things that I would really like to blog would simply not be appropriate to share. The thoughts that take up most of my time are related to my calling at Church (I am serving as a bishop). I don't think I should be sharing my thoughts and feelings, when they should clearly stay between myself and the Lord.

That being said, I have found something that I could begin to include. This year, for our Aaronic Priesthood lessons, I have decided to make a change. Before I share the change, let me explain the thought process that helped me arrive to the decision I made.

While teaching Doctrine and Covenants and Book of Mormon classes at BYU, as well as in conversations with ward members and others, I have realized that priesthood understanding, both with men and women in the Church, is at best jaundiced. I believe the reason is that many times we simply do not have the time to invest in learning priesthood principles. In other words, a price needs to be paid, but few are willing to ante up the resources.

I also remember that in the mission field (I served in the Brasil Sao Paulo Interlagos Mission (1995-1997)) there was a need for missionaries to know and understand priesthood principles, but few had a sound grasp of them.

It is my hope that the young men in my ward will be of some use to future priesthood leaders. In order for them to be seen as a resource, I recognize that I will need to ensure that they are prepared.

So, on each Fast Sunday in our ward, during the third hour, members of the bishopric teach the lesson a priesthood principles I have carefully selected. Below are the topics and the schedule:

January: Joseph Smith and the First Vision

February: Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

March: Quorums of the Aaronic Priesthood

April: The Office of Bishop

May: Aaronic Priesthood Mission Statement

June: Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, its Quorums, and D&C 121

July: Priesthood and Church Government

August: Priesthood Keys

September: Priesthood Ordinances (the “why” and the “how-to”)

October: The First Presidency & the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

November: Missionary Work: Organization and the Priesthood in the Mission Field

December: Why the Priesthood? & Oath and Covenant: A Summary and Recap of the Year

I am also preparing a book based on the above topics. I will post, from time to time, portions of my lessons that I think may be of interest to the readers of this blog. I am also interested in feedback. I hope you enjoy.