Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Worlds Without Number

I read something today that was deeply humbling, and at the same time filled me with awe and wonder.
On March 7, 2009, NASA launched a space observatory called Kepler (named after the astronomer Johannes Kepler) with the purpose of searching for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. The general opinion among scientists at the time was that planets like ours, that could support life, must be relatively rare in the universe. Kepler was launched to give us a definitive answer.
Since then, Kepler has studied 150,000 stars around the constellation Cygnus. It has found over 3500 Earth-like, habitable planets in that region. Based on that find, scientists are now estimating that, in the Milky Way galaxy alone, there could be tens of billions of Earths that are supportive of life.
We could take it a little further and ask, how many galaxies are there? Scientists estimate, just based on the limited observations they have made, there could be 500 billion galaxies in the Universe.
I’ll leave it to the reader to do the math.
Joseph Smith, in his Inspired Translation of the Bible, restored what was the prologue of the Bible. In it the Lord told Moses,
And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. (Moses 1:33)
The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.
And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words. (Moses 1:37-38)
Does this change how you view the God you worship? His works never cease. Does that mean anything to you? His words never cease. Do you hear His words? If not, why not?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It Begins With Desire

Does your faith bear fruit? What are the fruits? Does God honor your faith? These are important questions. If you have searched yourself and find something lacking in your faith, then now is the time to address it. All your assumptions, wishes, and false hope will avail you nothing at that Great Day of Judgment. Remember, you cannot please God without faith.
Where does faith begin? How does a person begin to exercise faith?
But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words. (Alma 32:27)
Faith and desire are inextricably linked. What do you desire? I don’t mean those things that you fancy or crave. What is the deepest, most fundamental desire of your heart?
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt. 6:21)
Do you yearn for or feel a longing to know God? Have you ever hungered and thirsted after righteousness?
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (Matt. 5:6)
What would you be willing to do or how far would you be willing to go to know God? Faith is not a trivial thing. It is not a hobby or a pastime. It must become your life. God will accept nothing less. You must desire to know God with ALL your heart, or you will never know Him.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.(Matt. 13:44-46)
What would you give to obtain the pearl of great price? What did King Lamoni do when Ammon preached the gospel to him?
Now when Ammon had said these words, he began at the creation of the world, and also the creation of Adam, and told him all the things concerning the fall of man, and rehearsed and laid before him the records and the holy scriptures of the people, which had been spoken by the prophets, even down to the time that their father, Lehi, left Jerusalem.
But this is not all; for he expounded unto them the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world; and he also made known unto them concerning the coming of Christ, and all the works of the Lord did he make known unto them.
And it came to pass that after he had said all these things, and expounded them to the king, that the king believed all his words.
And he began to cry unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, have mercy; according to thy abundant mercy which thou hast had upon the people of Nephi, have upon me, and my people. (Alma 18:36,39-41)
Did he receive according to his desires?
What about King Lamoni’s father, who was the king over all the Lamanites? What did he do when Aaron preached the gospel to him?
And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.
And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:
O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. (Alma 22:15-18)
Would you forsake your kingdom? What kingdom, you ask? Everyone has a kingdom or sphere of influence. Yours may be great or small. Your kingdom may consist of only yourself and few possessions, or it may consist of an entire empire. Regardless, you must be willing to forsake your kingdom and then give away all your sins in order to gain an inheritance in the kingdom of God. You cannot serve two masters. (Matt. 6:24)
In the early days of the Restoration, there were many who exercised great faith and received marvelous blessings from Heaven. One of these was Parley P. Pratt. From a young age he was taught about Christ, the prophets and apostles, and the scriptures written by them. Though his family was poor, his mother taught him how to read the scriptures, after which he read and pondered them frequently. At 23 years of age, he was married and had built on a plot of land which he purchased himself. In his own words:
A small frame house was now our dwelling, a garden and a beautiful meadow were seen in front, flowers in rich profusion were clustering about our door and windows; while in the background were seen a thriving young orchard of apple and peach trees, and fields of grain extending in the distance, beyond which the forest still stood in its own primeval grandeur, as a wall to bound the vision and guard the lovely scene.
About this time, Parley’s brother, William, came to visit.
This was a joyful and unexpected meeting of two brothers. He immediately accompanied me home, and was introduced to my wife and our little farm in the wilderness, where we spent some days together. He admired my wife; but above all my farm. “Brother Parley,” said he, “how have you done all this? When we were last together you had no wife, no farm, no house, no orchard, and now you are here with everything smiling around you.” I replied that hard work had accomplished it all. And, continued I, we are now about to leave this quiet home which we have toiled so hard to make, and perhaps, never see it again.
“How so?” said he, with much surprise, and somewhat of disappointment. I then unfolded to him the gospel and prophecies as they had been opened to me, and told him that the spirit of these things had wrought so powerfully on my mind of late that I could not rest; that I could no longer be contented to dwell in quiet and retirement on my farm, while I had light to impart to mankind, of which I knew they were in a great measure ignorant.
“But,” said he, “if I had fifty acres of land, a comfortable house, a fine orchard, a beautiful garden, with meadow land, grain, and above all, such beautiful flowers and so valuable a housekeeper as you have, and all these things the work of our own hands, I am sure I would stay and enjoy the same while I lived; and the world might go on its own jog, and its own way, for all me. Besides, how are you to get your living? This is your all; you have toiled for years to obtain it, and why not now continue to enjoy it?”
“William,” said I, “I see plainly you know but little of my circumstances, of the changes which have taken place with me since we parted five years ago, nor how vastly wealthy I have become within that time. Why, sir, I have bank bills enough, on the very best institutions in the world, to sustain myself and family while we live.”
“Indeed,” said he, “well, I should like to see some of them; I hope they are genuine.”
“Certainly,” I replied, “there is no doubt of that. They are true bills and founded on capital that will never fail, though heaven and earth should pass away. Of this I will convince you in a moment.”
I then unlocked my treasury and drew from thence a large pocket book, full of promissory notes like the following: “Whoever shall forsake father or mother, brethren or sisters, houses or lands, wife or children, for my sake and the gospel’s, shall receive an hundred fold in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting.” “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will in my name and I will give it you.” “All things are possible to him that believeth.”
“Now, William,” said I, “are these the words of Jesus Christ, or are they not?” “They certainly are,” said he, “I always believed the New Testament.”
“Then you admit they are genuine bills?”
“I do.”
“Is the signer able to meet his engagements?”
“He certainly is.”
“Is he willing?”
“He is.”
“Well, then, I am going to fulfil the conditions to the letter on my part. I feel called upon by the Holy Ghost to forsake my house and home for the gospel’s sake; and I will do it, placing both feet firm on these promises with nothing else to rely upon.” “If I sink, they are false.”
“If I am sustained, they are true. I will put them to the test. Experiment shall now establish the truth of Christ’s promises, or the truth of infidelity.”
“Well,” said he, “try it, if you will; but, for my part, although I always believed the Bible, I would not dare believe it literally, and really stand upon its promises, with no other prop.”
We parted. He to his business, I to my preparations for a mission which should only end with my life. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt)
Who then had real faith? Parley or his brother?
Shortly after this, Parley sold virtually all he had to go in search of truth. It was in this way that he became acquainted with the Book of Mormon and soon after met the prophet of the restoration, Joseph Smith. He later testified, speaking of the Book of Mormon:
…[A]s I read, I was convinced that it was true; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, while I read, and enlightened my mind, convinced my judgment, and riveted the truth upon my understanding, so that I knew that the book was true, just as well as a man knows the daylight from the dark night, or any other thing that can be implanted in his understanding. I did not know it by any audible voice from heaven, by any ministration of an angel, by any open vision; but I knew it by the spirit of understanding in my heart—by the light that was in me. I knew it was true, because it was light, and had come in fulfillment of the Scriptures; and I bore testimony of its truth to the neighbors that came in during the first day that I sat reading it, at the house of an old Baptist deacon, named Hamblin.
…I felt richer in the possession of that book, or the knowledge contained in it, than I would, could I have had a warrantee deed of all the farms and buildings in that country, and it was one of the finest regions in the world. (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p. 194)
Did Parley regret forsaking his home in the search of truth? Did King Lamoni or his father regret forsaking all their sins in return for the joy of the pure gospel of Christ? What did they see in it that made it so priceless?
If you hunger, then partake of the bread of life. (John 6:35)
If you thirst, then drink of the living water. (John 4:14)
Let your righteous desires work within you. (Alma 32:27)
You may find something worth more than all the world. This is the beginning of faith.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pleasing God

It is self-evident that in order to gain eternal life and live with God in the eternities, one must first do those things that please God. Given that, consider the following verse:
“But without faith it is impossible to please [God]…” (Hebrews 11:6; italics added).
Think about that for a moment. It doesn’t matter how much good you do in your life. It doesn’t matter how much you serve your neighbor. If you don’t have faith, you cannot please Him. It is impossible. You may say to yourself, “I have faith. I go to Church every week, I pay my tithing, I believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ. Is this not faith?” As we understand the word today, participating in an organized religion certainly qualifies as faith. Yet, how does that make you any better than a heathen? Don’t many of them practice their form of religion as fervently as you practice yours? This is not what is meant by faith in the scriptures. This is one of those words that has been so watered down over the centuries that it has become almost meaningless.
In the Lectures on Faith, which were compiled under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we learn that faith
“is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen, and the principle of action in all intelligent beings.”
In addition,
“faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth.” (Lectures on Faith, First Lecture)
Is there power in your faith? Do you have power beyond other men because of your faith? If not, why?
If someone were to ask you if you thought God was pleased with your life, what would you say? Could you say with certainty, “I know He is.” Where would that certainty come from? How does one know if God is pleased with his or her life?
The Lord said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth.” (Mormon 9:24). The Lord said elsewhere, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12) Are these works or fruits manifest in your life? If not, what does that imply?
Moroni taught the following:
And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me. And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved.
And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?
Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?
Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.(Moroni 7:33-38)
These are strong words. Surely Moroni can’t be saying that if we don’t work miracles or have angels minister to us, then we don’t have faith! Right?! As was already discussed, without faith, we cannot please God. As Moroni puts it, our faith (or lack thereof) is vain, meaning useless, or producing no result, “as though there had been no redemption made” by Christ in the first place. We are not saved by our service projects, our firesides, our education weeks, or our humanitarian aid. No amount of effort can make up for a lack of real, true, honest to goodness faith.
In case someone might think that Moroni is simply going too far in this case, here is a quote from Joseph Smith:
Because faith is wanting, the fruits are. No man since the world was had faith without having something along with it. The ancients quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, women received their dead, etc. By faith the worlds were made. A man who has none of the gifts has no faith; and he deceives himself, if he supposes he has. Faith has been wanting, not only among the heathen, but in professed Christendom also, so that tongues, healings, prophecies, and prophets and apostles, and all the gifts and blessings have been wanting. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 278)
So, you must ask yourself: Where are the gifts? Where are the miracles? Where are the ministering angels? If you see none of these things in your life, you can safely conclude that you have no faith. And if you have no faith, then, to paraphrase Moroni, “Awful is your state”. You will not be, cannot be, saved; come what may.
Do you feel that pit in your stomach? The one telling you that something is terribly wrong? Me too.
Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. (2 Nephi 8:25)
Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust. (2 Nephi 1:23)
If you are ready to cast off your sins and seek for faith in Christ, then please join me. On this blog in the coming days and weeks, I will search out, ponder, and expound upon the Word of God concerning faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I welcome your thoughtful comments.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

About This Blog

I'm not one to call attention to myself.  Yet, I have felt prompted to record some of the thoughts and impressions that have entered my heart as I have sought the Lord over the past few years.  I don't expect anyone to take interest in what I write, but if anyone does read this who is struggling with faith or seeking the Lord, I hope what I write may inspire or motivate.
For anyone who reads this blog,   the Lord establishes his word through witnesses.  So, if you feel the witness of the Spirit as you read, then you have two witnesses and can know what you've read is true. If, however, you feel nothing; then feel free to dismiss and forget what is written here.