Sunday, August 5, 2018

What is the Iron Rod? (Part 6 - Conclusion)

There is so little that is uplifting and good in this world. It seems like the world grows darker with every passing day. I began writing this series because I felt a desire to share with others something that has uplifted me and that could uplift others who are struggling with their faith.

However, if what I have written does not resonate with you, feel free to disregard it. I am nobody, and there’s no reason to accept anything I write without the confirmation of the Spirit.

Since the enlightenment that I received in the doctor’s office (mentioned in the previous post), I’ve continued to ponder and study and seek understanding. I am still doing so. I certainly don’t have all the answers. This post is just my current thoughts on the subject of how to lay hold upon the rod of iron.

My question from the last post was: if Christ is the iron rod, then how do I lay hold upon it or him? What would that even mean? I wouldn’t expect it to be something complicated. It must be something accessible to all, as God is willing to save all mankind.

I recently finished reading the Lectures on Faith again (hereafter referred to as “LoF”). These lectures were originally presented in the School of the Prophets under the direction of Joseph Smith, and then edited by him and added, by common consent of the Church, to the first edition of the Doctrine & Covenants in 1835. I consider them to be the best treatise anywhere about faith in God; describing both what it is and how to develop it.

There is a sentence in the seventh and last lecture that has really stuck with me:
“For God must change, otherwise faith will prevail with him.”
Similarly, Hebrews 11:6 reads:
“But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
In the common parlance of today, we use faith to describe someone’s belief system, or what religion they belong to. This is not at all how the scriptures define faith. The letter to the Hebrews calls faith the “assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. The first Lecture on Faith describes it as “the moving cause of all action” as well as “a principle of power”, saying that it was by faith that God created the heavens and the earth. The Book of Mormon describes faith in the context of receiving the Holy Ghost, working miracles, and seeing angels. In fact, it says if these things do not occur, then there is no faith (and thus, no salvation). (See Moroni 7:35-38)

Faith may begin very small, like a mustard seed.

A Mustard Seed

 However, when it is nurtured and developed it can grow into a very large tree.

A Mustard Tree

Indeed, “when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air [i.e. angels] come and lodge in the branches thereof”. (Matthew 13:32)

The important thing to note here is that I am talking about faith in God. This is distinct from faith in a man, faith in a religious leader, faith in an organized religion, or a creed, or the Bible, or revelations from the Spirit world, etc. Faith in anything other than in God lacks the power to save. Faith must be centered upon, even riveted upon God. If your religious hope or trust is placed in anyone or anything else, then it is misplaced.

While I was pondering on the way to lay hold on the rod of iron, a scenario presented itself to my mind. What if there was a man who had genuine faith in God? Does it ultimately matter that the scriptures have errors, or that false prophets abound, or that false spirits prey upon us, seeking those they can “sift as wheat”? Do any of those things have the power to keep God away from a man who has genuine faith in Him?

Here is what Mormon wrote:
“...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.” (Moroni 7:36-37)
Faith prevails with God. It always does. But without it, it is impossible to please Him. Therefore, if you would lay hold upon the rod of iron-if you would hold fast unto it-then you must begin with faith. Without it, you can do nothing (D&C 8:10).

Great faith appears to be a rare thing in this toxic world we live in. When it appears, it always seems tenuous and fleeting. It is possible that there are many that believe they have repented, been baptized, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost, and yet they haven't ever exercised the required degree of faith. Without the required faith, those other things would lack the power to save, because without faith there is no salvation. (Moroni 7:38)
Let us here observe that after any portion of the human family are made acquainted with the important fact that there is a God who has created and does uphold all things, the extent of their knowledge, respecting his character and glory, will depend upon their diligence and faithfulness in seeking after him, until like Enoch, the brother of Jared, and Moses, they shall obtain faith in God and power with him to behold him face to face. (LoF 2:56)
How do men obtain a knowledge of the glory of God, his perfections and attributes?
A: By devoting themselves to his service, through prayer and supplication incessantly, strengthening their faith in him, until like Enoch, the brother of Jared, and Moses, they obtain a manifestation of God to themselves. (LoF 2: Question 146)
Joseph used Enoch, the Brother of Jared, and Moses as examples of men with great faith. Why was their faith great? Because each of them sought God, and found Him, because of their faith in Him. The purpose of exercising faith in God is to obtain a manifestation of God for oneself. In its fulness, this manifestation will consist of knowing God, which is the definition of eternal life. (See John 17:3)
 ...we will find it the testimony of all inspired men or Heavenly messengers that all things that pertain to life and godliness are the effects of faith and nothing else: all learning, wisdom, and prudence fail, and everything else as a means of salvation but faith. This is the reason that the fishermen of Galilee could teach the world — because they sought by faith and by faith obtained...This is the reason that the Former Day Saints knew more and understood more of Heaven and of Heavenly things than all others beside, because this information is the effect of faith — to be obtained by no other means. And this is the reason, that men, as soon as they lose their faith, run into strifes, contentions, darkness and difficulties. For the knowledge which tends to life disappears with faith, but returns when faith returns, for when faith comes, it brings its train of attendants with it — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, gifts, wisdom, knowledge, miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. All these appear when faith appears on the earth and disappear when it disappears from the earth. For these are the effects of faith, and always have and always will attend it. For where faith is, there will the knowledge of God be also, with all things which pertain thereto — revelations, visions, and dreams, as well as every other necessary thing in order that the possessors of faith may be perfected and obtain salvation. For God must change, otherwise faith will prevail with him. And he who possesses it will, through it, obtain all necessary knowledge and wisdom until he shall know God and the Lord Jesus Christ whom he has sent, whom to know is Eternal life. Amen. (LoF 7:20)
So, the one who possesses faith will never lack for the knowledge of God. Everything that is necessary in order that the possessor of faith can be perfected and obtain salvation is acquired by faith in the Lord. Seeing these things, what else could allow one to lay hold upon the iron rod except faith in God?

Genuine, enduring faith in God has the power to render all the tools of the adversary powerless, to pierce the mists of darkness, and bring the man of God on a straight course to the tree of life; because God always favors those who have faith in Him. The one with faith in God will be endowed with the word of God that "is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow". (D&C 12:2) By this means, the man of God can have the scriptures laid open to his understanding. He will be able to tell the false prophets from the true messengers and know the workings of all spirits. Nothing will be withheld from those who have faith. Christ is "mighty to save" and can guide any honest seeker to the truth.

Here, then, is the good news. We are all authorized to exercise faith in God. We are all authorized to strengthen our faith in Him until, like Enoch, the Brother of Jared, and Moses, we obtain a manifestation of God for ourselves. The scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, are filled with promises like this:
Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth. (Mormon 9:21)
 May we all accept the invitation the Lord has extended to have faith in Him unto salvation. May we all lay hold upon (and "continually hold fast" onto) the iron rod. May the Lord "find faith on the earth" again.

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