Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Fall, part one

For our Temple Preparation class today, we discussed the Fall of Man. There was not nearly enough time to get through all the material I wanted to cover. Which is okay. It just means we get to discuss the Fall again in two weeks (after General Conference). Below are a few of the ideas we covered:

Why study the Fall?

“Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ. No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind. And no other book in the world explains this vital doctrine nearly as well as the Book of Mormon.” (Ezra Taft Benson, A Witness and a Warning: A Modern-Day Prophet Testifies of the Book of Mormon, 33.)

Adam and Eve were chosen to be the first of Heavenly Father’s children to come to earth and were placed in the Garden of Eden. At that time, their bodies were not mortal (see Moses 3:7–8, 21–23).

In what physical condition were Adam and Eve before the Fall?

A Spiritual State – physical/immortal

· D&C 88:27-28

· Moses 3:7-9

Innocence – 2 Nephi 2:23

Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit that God had forbidden them to eat. As a result, they were separated from God’s presence. This separation is called spiritual death. They became mortal, which means that their physical bodies would eventually die. They also became able to have children. The change to the mortal condition is called the Fall (see 2 Nephi 2:19–25; D&C 29:40–41).

Why is it called a Fall?

· Moving from a Celestial State (in which there was no death, no sin, etc. to a Terrestrial State)

· Out of presence of God

· Reliance on a Mediator, a Redeemer

Why did God not create man fallen to begin with?

· God does not create temporality.

· The Fall was about accountability – it still is.

Was it planned?

· Absolutely, see 2 Nephi 2:24 a great insight into the Fall in relation to the Plan of Salvation

Was the Fall immediate or a process?

· The Spiritual fall was immediate

· The Physical Fall was a process (for instance, a manuscript of the JST and a journal from Edward Stevenson both taught that Adam lived 1,000 years save six months.)

To what extent did the Fall of Adam and Eve affect the whole world?

· To the extent that the Atonement affects the whole world.

“What is meant by partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is that our first parents complied with whatever laws were involved so that their bodies would change from their state of paradisiacal immortality to a state of natural mortality.” (Elder McConkie, Christ and the Creation, Ensign 1982, p.15.)

The serious sin (transgression) of Adam and Eve was that they disobeyed the counsel of their Father, listened to Satan, and then followed Satan’s ideas. See D&C 20:17-20 for more.

Adam and Eve would not have had any children had they not partaken of the forbidden fruit. See 2 Nephi 2:22-23, Moses 5:11

What would have happened if Adam and Eve made it back to the tree of life after partaking of the fruit of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”? Would they have negated the effects of the Fall on their bodies and lived forever? Why did God place Cherubim to stop them? See Alma 12:23 and Alma 42:2-6.

Hope in Jesus: An High Priest of Good things to Come

Today I taught the fifth Sunday lesson in our ward. I hope the members got something out of it. As usual, there is just never enough time. I know people wanted to make additional comments, but there just wasn't enough time. It is hard sometimes, finding the balance between what the Spirit is telling me and what the Spirit is telling members of the ward. I think it worked out okay in the end.

Below are some of the statements, scriptures, and ideas I shared in my lesson:

On those days when things seem to hard, the road seems too long, there are too many dishes, not enough friends, no special to share the day with, and a host of other struggles, please remember that Paul described our Savior as “an High Priest of good things to come.” (Hebrews 8:6; 9:11.)

Of this Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once taught:

“My declaration is that this is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, especially in times of need. There is help. There is happiness. There really is light at the end of the tunnel. It is the Light of the World, the Bright and Morning Star, the ‘light that is endless, that can never be darkened.’ (See John 8:12; Rev. 22:16; Mosiah 16:9.) It is the very Son of God Himself. In loving praise far beyond Romeo’s reach, we say, ‘What light through yonder window breaks?’ It is the return of hope, and Jesus is the Sun. (See William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, act 2, scene 2, lines 2­3.) To any who may be struggling to see that light and find that hope, I say: Hold on. Keep trying. God loves you. Things will improve. Christ comes to you in His ‘more excellent ministry’ with a future of ‘better promises.’ He is your ‘high priest of good things to come.’ (“An High Priest of Good Things to Come, General Conference, October 1999, emphasis in original.)

Now, we do not know when these promised blessings come. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don't come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.

There are two kinds of hope

1. “I hope we get to Church in time to hear the Bishop’s remarks.”

2. Hope in Jesus Christ

What does it mean to be hopeless?

What causes hopelessness?

· Sin

· Depression (sin and depression are not the same thing)

· Trapped in a dead end job

· Finals

· Trying to be perfect

· Not getting answers to your prayers

Most hopelessness is self-inflicted. Why do we do that to ourselves?

· We judge others

· We judge ourselves

· The Sacrament and 3 Nephi 18

I testify that no matter how dark your situation is now, was, or will be at some future point, there is hope. As the hymn we love to sing at Conference-time testifies, “There is hope smiling brightly before us, and we know that deliverance is near.” (We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet)

Mormon teaches us where hope comes from and in whom it is centered: Moroni 7:40-41

How do we obtain that hope in Christ?

· Jacob 4

I want you to understand that the Father and the Son have hope in you! A plan has been established that will enable us to have hope, a message that can bring up happiness, the “Good News.”

Let’s review the Plan of Salvation.

· Where were we: pre-earth life

· Whose plan was it? The Father

· Who volunteered to be our Savior? Christ

· How many were lost? A third part along with Lucifer

· What was Lucifer’s great punishment? Not to receive a body. Joseph Smith teaches us:

“[Lucifer] sought for things which were unlawful. Hence he was sent down, and it is said he drew many away with him; and the greatness of his punishment is that he shall not have a tabernacle. This is his punishment. So the devil, thinking to thwart the decree of God, by going up and down in the earth, seeking whom he may destroy—any person that he can find that will yield to him, he will bind him, and take possession of the body and reign there, glorying in it mightily, not caring that he had got merely a stolen body; and by and by some one having authority will come along and cast him out and restore the tabernacle to its rightful owner. The devil steals a tabernacle because he has not one of his own: but if he steals one, he is always liable to be turned out of doors.” Teachings, p. 297-8.)

· What is he trying to do? 2 Nephi 2:27. What might be some other words for miserable?

o Hopeless!

You do not need to be perfect to be saved. Elder McConkie taught this:

“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 the probationary estate—you’ll never fall off from it, and, for all practical purposes, your calling and election is made sure. Now, that isn’t the definition of that term, but the end result will be the same.

“There’s great hope for Latter-day Saints. There’s great hope for anyone who will repent, believe, obey, strive, struggle and seek to work out his salvation. There isn’t hope for anyone who will not. Our revelation says, “Surely every man must repent or suffer; for I, God, am Endless.” Well, either we suffer for our sins, according to the law of justice, or we repent, and through the atoning sacrifice, the Lord Jesus bears our sins and we become inheritors of mercy. Now we can go forward. We can have every reward that the scriptures speak of. We’re not an austere people. We don’t remove ourselves from the world. We’re deliberately in the world so that we’ll have opportunity to overcome the world. We can have in the Church every association and felicity and good feeling that anyone can have. Anything that’s wholesome and good is available to us. We’re denied nothing, and that’s good. In addition to that, we can have the hope of glorious immortality—meaning eternal life—in the realms and the worlds that are ahead.” (Elder McConkie, The Probationary Test of Mortality)

The Lord is merciful. He has been part of a plan that is going to maximize returns, so to speak. There are commandments that we have to keep, standards that we need to live, but they are livable! If you are struggling, come talk to me.

We cannot do this alone. It is when we rely on ourselves and our own strength and wisdom that we stumble. The Son was chosen by the Father in the pre-earth life. I imagine we sustained him there. The Son was chosen by the Father in mortality. We need to choose Him here as well. He is the only way. There is no other way.

The whole point is to reach the point taught to us in Moroni 7:48.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pre-Earth Life

Today I began teaching a class in our ward: Temple Preparation. There were several good members that could teach the class. Indeed, we just had the sister that has been the teacher move out. About a year or two ago my stake president suggested I might even teach the class. That seemed like a very good idea to me, but for some reason I have decided not to until now.

The course looks interesting. There are seven lesson outlines, however the manual indicates that the lessons do not need to be done in seven weeks. The instructor can take as long as he or she feels is needed. Well, after I looked at the manual I decided that I indeed would take a little longer. The first lesson is on the Plan of Salvation. Today I spent my time briefly introducing the course and discussed the pre-earth life. For fun, I am including a few thoughts about the pre-earth life I have gleaned from my own studies. There is very little that we have revealed from what I would consider reliable sources (essentially the scriptures).

Overall, I think the class went fairly well. It was clearly a first-class, because there was not the relaxed feeling that I like so much in the class room when I teach. Oh well. I figure that in the next several weeks things will loosen up.

Where was the location of the pre-earth life? In the poetic version of The Vision (D&C 76) written by the Prophet Joseph Smith to his friend W.W. Phelps, we find this line: “From the council in Kolob, to time on the earth” (“A Vision,” 82). If Kolob, the planet nearest to the residence of God, is where the Grand Council was held, it seems reasonable to suppose that it was also the planet upon which we resided in our premortal estate.

What did we do in the pre-earth life? We learn from Abraham 3:22-25 that the Great and Noble Ones helped to create the earth. We know that at the very least, Abraham was present. (see also Abraham 4:1, 26-7.)

Did sin exist in that place? Yes! Enough to make a devil out of Lucifer. D&C 93:38 is a great example of this. From this verse we learn that the Atonement of Christ was efficacious in that sphere of life. Truly, Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world!

Did we make choices of companions and families before our mortal birth? Maybe, or at least it depends. I think it is clear that some couples clearly were (Adam and Eve, Joseph and Mary, etc.) and some were not. The only way to tell is by revelation. Sometimes patriarchal blessings are helpful in the vein.

Do the spirits of those yet to be born mingle with the spirits of those who have died? “The idea that premortal spirits will mingle with postmortal spirits plays havoc with the doctrine that those who did not have an opportunity to accept the gospel in mortality will have that chance in the spirit world and thus ‘be judged according to men in the flesh’ (1 Pet. 4:6; D&C 138:10). Surely to be surrounded by the unborn but faithful hosts of the premortal life would more than tip the scales in favor of accepting the gospel for those who did not hear it in mortality. No faith would be necessary in such cases, for the veil of forgetfulness would have been lifted. The labor of the unborn spirit is to prepare itself for mortality; the labor of the disembodied spirit is to prepare for resurrection and the glories of an immortal world. Perhaps those differences in purpose are themselves sufficient to suggest a difference in place.” (Joseph Fielding McConkie, Answers.)

To what extent do our actions in the premortal existence affect who and what we are in this life? The same question could be asked about the decisions of our childhood effecting our adulthood. D&C 130:18-19 and the doctrine of same-o, same-o. Some have talents that were developed there that are manifest here.

Were there fence sitters or those that did not make a decision? No! Every person who came to earth chose to follow Christ, otherwise they would not have kept their first estate and come to the second estate.

How many plans were presented in the Grand Council? One. Often we get this idea that there were two plans presented: one from Christ and the other from Satan. This is simply not scriptural. The plan was authored by our Heavenly Father. The key phrase is “Whom shall I send?” It was not, “What shall I do?” Heavenly Father was not looking for ideas as to what to do. He knew the plan, it was His. Now he needed a volunteer to be willing to sacrifice and lay down His life for us.

Satan was not advocating forced obedience, at least not the way I understand it. There is nothing in his vocabulary that speaks of righteousness. It is foreign to him. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:

“When the Eternal Father announced his plan of salvation—a plan that called for a mortal probation for all his spirit children; a plan that required a Redeemer to ransom men from the coming fall; a plan that could only operate if mortal men had agency—when the Father announced his plan, when he chose Christ as the Redeemer and rejected Lucifer, then there was war in heaven. That war was a war of words; it was a conflict of ideologies; it was a rebellion against God and his laws. Lucifer sought to dethrone God, to sit himself on the divine throne, and to save all men without reference to their works. He sought to deny men their agency so they could not sin. He offered a mortal life of carnality and sensuality, of evil and crime and murder, following which all men would be saved. His offer was a philosophical impossibility. There must needs be an opposition in all things. Unless there are opposites, there is nothing. There can be no light without darkness, no heat without cold, no virtue without vice, no good without evil, no salvation without damnation. “And so, in the courts of heaven, the war of wars was waged. Christ and Michael and a mighty host of noble and great spirits preached the gospel of God and exhorted their brethren to follow the Father. Lucifer and his lieutenants preached another gospel, a gospel of fear and hate and lasciviousness and compulsion. They sought salvation without keeping the commandments, without overcoming the world, without choosing between opposites. And they ‘prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’ And his legions, the legions of hell, are everywhere. They are “the third part of the stars of heaven,’ the one-third of the spirit children of the Father; and they were cast out of their heavenly home because of rebellion. And so the holy word says: ‘Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath.’ And he goes forth ‘to make war’ with all men and particularly with those who ‘keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ (Rev. 12:4-17.) And the war that is now going on among men, the war between good and evil, is but a continuation of the war that began in heaven.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Millennial Messiah, 666-7.).