The World Is Changed

POSTED BY: admin

12/11/14


postcard_leslie_norris

By Charles Swift

 

Associate Professor of Ancient Scripture

 

As I’ve reflected on what I’d like to write for my post this month of Christmas, I keep coming back to the words of one of my favorite writers, Leslie Norris. Leslie was from Wales and an accomplished teacher and poet. It was BYU’s great fortune to have him come and teach among us for a number of years. Though he was not LDS, he seemed to feel at home here and those of us who knew him certainly felt our home a better place because of him. I did not know Leslie well; I’d only spoken with him a few times. One time stands out, though, when he took the time to speak with me at length about his childhood as we talked in the hall in the English Department. Such a kind man, one who always seemed to have time for you. When he passed away in 2006, what was our great loss at the University was without a doubt Heaven’s gain.

 

May the Lord’s choicest blessings be with you at this Christmas time and always. And may this poem by Leslie Norris remind us of the true cause of our celebration this time of year.

 

Camels of the Kings

 

The Camels, the Kings’ Camels, Haie-aie!

Saddles of polished leather, stained red and purple,

Pommels inlaid with ivory and beaten gold,

Bridles of silk embroidery, worked with flowers.

The Camels, the Kings’ Camels!

 

We are groomed with silver combs,

We are washed with perfumes.

The grain of richest Africa is fed to us,

Our dishes are silver.

Like cloth-of-gold glisten our sleek pelts.

Of all camels, we alone carry the Kings!

Do you wonder that we are proud?

That our hooded eyes are contemptuous?

 

As we sail past the tented villages

They beat their copper gongs after us.

The windswifts, the desert racers, see them!

Faster than gazelles, faster than hounds,

Haie-aie! The Camels, the Kings’ Camels!

The sand drifts in puffs behind us,

The glinting quartz, the fine, hard grit.

Do you wonder that we look down our noses?

Do you wonder we flare our superior nostrils?

 

All night we have run under the moon,

Without effort, breathing lightly,

Smooth as a breeze over the desert floor,

One white star our compass.

We have come to no palace, no place

Of towers and minarets and the calling of servants,

But a poor stable in a poor town.

So why are we bending our crested necks?

Why are our heads bowed

And our eyes closed meekly?

Why are we outside this hovel,

Humbly and awkwardly kneeling?

How is it that we know the world is changed?

 

—Leslie Norris

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By Alexander L. Baugh

Professor of Church History and Doctrine, BYU

I was a late bloomer when it came to my pursuit of the study of history, and more particularly Mormon history. History was one of my least favorite classes in high school. It might have had something to do with my teachers, but nonetheless, I didn’t have much of an appetite for the subject at the time. However, while serving on my LDS mission in Virginia I began to feel the nudges that put me on the path toward the historical profession. During my mission I took the opportunity on preparation day to go to some of the historic places in or near Virginia—Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields, museums, the White House of the Confederacy, Monticello, and Kitty Hawk, to name a few. I learned a great deal and found myself wanting to know more. However, even after my mission, I was not yet converted to the study of history, although one of the first classes that I took at Utah State University after returning home was a Civil War class taught by Clyde Milner, a Yale graduate. Yet I remained content just to dabble in history from time to time while pursuing a degree in marriage and family studies.

I was well on my way toward completing my BS degree when I took a class at the LDS institute building from Kenneth W. Godfrey, Religion 341 (LDS Church History, 1805–1844). Godfrey had a definite flair for teaching the subject and he was well read. To supplement the class, he provided the students with a bibliography containing a number of historical articles published in BYU Studies, the Ensign, Journal of Mormon History, and the Improvement Era, which students could read before each class period. I soon found myself reading all of the articles he recommended on the reading list, and I even outlined the information that I learned. Godfrey’s class got me more and more excited about history in general, but more particularly early Mormon history. I subsequently enrolled in Religion 342 (LDS Church History, 1844–1877), followed by Religion 343 (LDS Church History, 1877–present). However, by the time I had finished taking these courses, I was well on my way toward completing my marriage and family degree; otherwise I might have switched my undergraduate major to history. Instead, I decided to remain in the field of family studies.

I graduated from Utah State in 1981 and moved on to teach in the LDS seminary program. While teaching at Viewmont Seminary in Bountiful, Utah, I learned that the BYU History Department was beginning an MA program in Western American history and I decided to look into the program. I met with Dr. James B. Allen, the department chair and the former assistant Church historian to Leonard Arrington. Professor Allen was reluctant to let me in the program, considering I was a non-history major had taken only a couple of undergraduate history courses. He informed me that before I could be admitted to the MA program I would be required to take several undergraduate classes, after which I would be evaluated. For the next year and a half, I took a number of courses, all with the hope that my performance would lead to my acceptance into the graduate history program. Things eventually worked out, and I was admitted. However, it was still four more years before I got my MA—two years to do the course work, and two years to write the thesis.

After defending my thesis I asked my thesis chair, Dr. Fred R. Gowans, if he felt that I had what it would take to get a PhD. He gave me some wonderful encouragement, and a year later I was admitted into BYU’s doctoral program in American history. It was a rough road, one much harder than I anticipated, but nine years later, at the age of thirty-nine, I received my doctorate. However, through my entire educational training, I felt that I was being led by a very kind and loving Heavenly Father and his Son, who made it all possible. I firmly believe that those who keep the commandments and strive to follow Christ’s example will receive the inspiration necessary to enable them to make the correct decisions that will help them be successful in the path of life that they pursue. President Ezra Taft Benson has written: “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their mind, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace” (“Jesus Christ–Gifts and Expectations,” Ensign,  December 1988, 4). Recognizing the power that is in Christ, the Apostle Paul taught the Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

I believe that Joseph Smith was called by God to bring about a restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so for me, the study of Mormon history has been a deeply moving spiritual experience. Furthermore, I consider the history that I teach, research, and write about to be a sacred trust, and in my pursuit of historical truth I have attempted to interpret the history of Mormonism “by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118) through what could simply be called “Restoration eyes.” And while I believe that non-believing historians have made wonderful contributions in the field of Mormon history, I am of the opinion that the best scholarship in Mormon history has been, and will continue to be produced by believing Latter-day Saint historians and writers—those on the “inside”—who understand the spiritual dimensions and workings of the Church and its leaders and members who possess the gift of the Holy Ghost, which enables them to tap into the higher source of knowledge and truth, the truth that God possesses.

Some time ago, I was discussing with one of my colleagues in Religious Education about the incredible amount of historical scholarship and literature that has been produced about the Latter-day Saints. To this he said something quite profound. “Yes, much has been done,” he remarked. “And yet, with all that has been done, what has been written is only a prelude. There is so much more to do.” Truly there is “much more to do,” much more to research, much more to write about. And the best in Mormon history is yet to be written. And I believe it will be written by scholars who see through the lens of faith the ever-unfolding history of the Latter-day Saints.


Leaving Our Labors to Teach and Learn

POSTED BY: admin

11/19/14


So much of what we do in the Church is teach, and I believe that wise teachers turn to the scriptures themselves for insight on being a better teacher. One of my favorite verses for this is from Alma. Though the writer is talking about the priests teaching the people, I think we teachers can learn quite a bit from what he has to say:

 

And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength. (Alma 1:26).

 

As we analyze this verse, we can see what it has to convey to us about teaching and learning.

 

And when the priests left their labor

 

When we teachers enter the classroom—whether it’s in Sunday School, Primary, Relief Society, priesthood, or some other venue for teaching the gospel—we are to leave behind the cares of the world. I’m not going to let myself be distracted in my class with thoughts about my car needing to be repaired, for example. As a teacher, I need to be focused.

 

to impart the word of God unto the people,

 

In a gospel classroom, my task is to teach what I am supposed to teach to the students in my classroom. Sometimes that is explicitly the word of God as found in the holy scriptures, and sometimes it may be other, related topics (e.g., history, geography, textual context, etc.). But it isn’t enough to just say what I have to say; I need to impart the teaching unto the students. There needs to be some learning going on along with the teaching, and I need to teach in a way that helps students learn.

 

the people also left their labor to hear the word of God.

 

Cell phones are silenced. Private conversations are postponed. The students are to be focused, just as the teacher. They leave their labors behind and come to learn.

 

And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors;

 

Leaving the cares of the world behind isn’t supposed to be a permanent state of affairs. The teacher still needs to get that car repaired; the student has other responsibilities throughout the day. Good teachers realize that the students have lives outside the classroom. And these teachers do what they can to help what is taught improve those lives.

 

and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner;

 

We teachers need to be fully aware that we are not better than our students. We may know more about certain things, of course, but that fact doesn’t give us license to feel any sense of superiority.

 

and thus they were all equal,

 

Nor are the students superior to the teacher. There is no sense of entitlement justified for anyone in the classroom. And, there is no spirit of condescension among some students when others participate who may not be as knowledgeable or as eloquent as others think they themselves are. Students are equal to one another—and to the teacher. We are all equal.

 

and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.

 

The verse closes with a powerful concept: everyone labored, but according to his or her strength. Even though they were all equal, they were not equal in their strength. What was important was not whether their strength was equivalent, but that they labored. Our students will not each be equally capable in every area of effort, but we are to see them equal to one another, and to us.

 

The scriptures have much to offer us teachers. By reading them closely, we can help make the teaching and learning experience be all the more significant in our classrooms.

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New RSC App Available for Apple Devices

POSTED BY: admin

11/14/14


Unknown

By Brent R. Nordgren

The RSC app is now available for free through the Apple app store. To include the app on your Apple device, simply go to the Apple app store and search for “BYU RSC.” If you like it, please give it a positive rating so others will benefit from it. Also, please encourage your students, family, and friends to download the RSC app.

The BYU RSC app gives you thousands of FREE, informative, gospel-centered articles, journals, and books from the Religious Studies Center (RSC) library. These are researched and written by scholars, educators, Church leaders, and historians. This library is exclusive to the RSC and is NOT available on LDS.org. This app will aid scripture study and provide you with a greater understanding of a multitude of gospel topics. It is ideal for your personal gospel study and for preparing talks and lessons. The RSC library is filled with books and journals written by some of the best LDS intellectuals of our day. Besides the published books, below is a sample of what else you will have access to.

Religious Educator Journal

Browse hundreds of articles published in the RSC Religious Educator journal, which were written specifically for teachers of the gospel and generally for all members who wish to achieve a greater understanding of the gospel and its teachings. Enhance your scripture study and analysis. Also, discover the latest information regarding Church history and doctrine. Each Religious Educator journal leads off with one or more articles written by General Authorities and other Church leaders.

BYU Conferences and Symposia

Access past Religious Education/RSC conferences and symposia. Watch recorded conferences and symposia or read the presentations you would otherwise find in books published by the RSC. You can also learn about upcoming events.

Review Magazine

Discover all that is happening in Religious Education at BYU by reading the Review magazine. For example, read articles on the BYU Jerusalem Center, the Joseph Smith Papers Project, archaeological discoveries, and the teaching legacies of those who have had an impact on BYU students, administrators, and millions of members around the world.

 

We hope you enjoy it.

 


More Than a Way to Cram for Sunday School

POSTED BY: admin

11/03/14


By Shanna Clayton

Since Jeffrey R. Holland established the Religious Studies Center in 1975, we have been publishing a variety of works from BYU professors, seminary and institute teachers, General Authorities of the Church, and other religious scholars. Our areas of publication and study include ancient studies, Church history, world religions, and a many others. Through our publications, we hope to encourage members of the Church in all areas to further their religious learning by exploring new ideas both within and without the LDS context. Take a look at our most recent publishing initiatives to find out how we are building our library of study resources.

Religious Educator

The Religious Educator is a scholarly journal published three times a year by the Religious Studies Center. Issues include articles written by General Authorities, BYU professors, and other authors. These articles aim to expand on gospel topics, especially in the context of gospel teaching. The Religious Educator is a great resource for seminary teachers, religion professors, Sunday School teachers, and anyone else looking to expand gospel knowledge.

The most recent Religious Educator features an article by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, entitled “Seeing Beyond the Leaf,” and also includes an article by Elder Neil L. Andersen, “A Classroom of Faith, Hope, and Charity.” To subscribe to the Religious Educator or order a copy of any of our past issues, visit rsc.byu.edu/tre/volumes.

Review Magazine

The Religious Education Review is a twice-yearly magazine that includes updates about BYU Religious Education and the Religious Studies Center. Issues often include a spotlight of one or more Religious Education faculty members; promotions, awards, and retirements within the college; and current research being done on religious topics. The most recent issue (Fall 2014) features an article about Truman G. Madsen, highlighting both his accomplishments during his tenure at BYU and also his love for and devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Interested parties can subscribe to the Review magazine by visiting rsc.byu.edu/review/subscribe. Subscription is free, and each new issue will be mailed directly to the subscriber’s home. Readers can also access past issues of the magazine digitally at rsc.byu.edu/review.

Recent Books

The RSC has been hard at work during 2014, and it has paid off tremendously. We have published seven books this year, the most recent being The Oakland Temple: Portal to Eternity by Richard O. Cowan and Robert G. Larsen. This book discusses in depth the history of the Oakland Temple, including struggles the Saints overcame in order to get a temple in the Bay Area. Other elements are also discussed, including key figures, architecture, and landscaping.

Another recent publication from the RSC is The Ministry of Peter, the Chief Apostle. This book includes essays from the 2014 Brigham Young University Sperry Symposium, including an appendix by President Spencer W. Kimball. Each of these articles explores a different aspect of the Apostle Peter’s ministry. Through this lens, readers are able to relate to Peter and appreciate his faithful, though at times imperfect, devotion to the Savior and his gospel.

Website

On the RSC website readers can find a variety of resources to help them in their gospel study, as well as information about our publications, BYU conferences and symposia, and submission requirements for the RSC. Website visitors can also access any issue of the Review magazine, and other RSC publications that are at least two years old. By visiting our “All Books” page, readers can view a cover image of each book that we have published here at the RSC, and by clicking on individual book covers, readers can access more information about the book, including a summary and purchase link (not available for all books).

The RSC website also includes “My Gospel Study,” a resource that helps users delve into a variety of gospel topics. Whether preparing a talk, studying a Sunday School lesson, or seeking to expand personal gospel knowledge, readers will find a unique collection of talks and articles to enhance gospel study.

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The Legacy of Karl G. Maeser

POSTED BY: admin

10/20/14


By Devan Jensen

After a long hiatus, the RSC blog has resumed in earnest. Our goal is to provide weekly updates about news such as recent books, material on the RSC website, happenings in Religious Education, and topics of general interest in academia, ancient scripture, or Church history.

Readers in general, and teachers in particular, will enjoy a masterful new book that is drawing praise from reviewers, including Elder Dallin H. Oaks, President Kevin J Worthen, and BYU faculty and staff. The book is titled Called to Teach. The book’s subtitle is The Legacy of Karl G. Maeser, and the book focuses mainly on the educational philosophies that shaped his career and influenced not only BYU but also the Church Educational System.

The RSC’s publishing team thoroughly enjoyed working with the author, A. LeGrand “Buddy” Richards, an associate professor in Educational Leadership and Foundations at BYU. As an educator with extensive experience teaching at the University of Würzburg in Germany, Dr. Richards was uniquely qualified to write this book. In fact, as reviewer Heather Seferovich acknowledges, Buddy’s “great-great-grandfather is Franklin D. Richards, the European Mission president who baptized Maeser; these two families have been intertwined for generations.” She adds that “writing this biography of Maeser was a labor of love for Richards, who spent about a decade finding everything he could on Maeser, and much of this thorough, painstaking research has resulted in new information, especially in the years prior to Maeser’s baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Less well known is the fact that Maeser translated twenty-nine hymns and about a third of the Doctrine and Covenants into German and founded Der Stern, the Church’s German magazine (now called the Liahona).

Early in his teaching career, Maeser embraced the philosophy of Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, who believed “that each person has unlimited potential.” Pestalozzi believed “that a whole education required the proper development of the head (rational power), the hand (physical capacities), and the heart (moral dispositions)” (23–24). Maeser shared these Pestalozzian principles with students and teachers he supervised. As the first superintendent of Church Education, Maeser helped found and maintain over fifty academies and schools from Canada to Mexico. He helped develop the public education system in Utah and helped establish the Utah Teachers Association. The students he taught personally included future United States senators and members of the House of Representatives, a United States Supreme Court justice, university presidents, and many General Authorities.

In May 2014, Dr. Richards received a warm letter regarding this book from Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and past BYU president: “I was thrilled to learn so many things I had not known about a man I have often called ‘the founding genius of Brigham Young University.’”

At meetings that launched the 2014–15 school year, Elder Oaks took time to share quotes and insights from the book with new university president Kevin J Worthen and with deans and directors. In turn, President Worthen shared several Maeser quotes from the book with faculty and staff in his remarks to them. One of those statements is preserved on a blackboard in Maeser’s own handwriting: “This life is one great object lesson to practice on the principles of immortality and eternal life.” These quotes and stories are just a few examples of how the legacy of Karl G. Maeser continues to shape BYU today.

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The Harbinger of Salvation

POSTED BY: Millet

03/18/11


Peace is what it’s all about in the gospel sense. Although most members of the Church know what peace is, I believe peace has not yet been given its day in court; maybe we have not fully appreciated as a people what a remarkable “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22) and what a transcendent manifestation of the new birth peace is! Peace is a priceless gift in a world that is at war with itself. Disciples look to him who is the Prince of Peace for their succor and their support. They know that peace is not only a cherished commodity in the here and now but also a harbinger of glorious things yet to be. Peace is a sure and solid sign from God that the heavens are pleased. In referring to a previous occasion when the spirit of testimony had been given, the Savior asked Oliver Cowdery, “Did I not speak peace to your mind . . . What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:23).

Sin and neglect of duty result in disunity of the soul, inner strife, and confusion. On the other hand repentance, forgiveness, and rebirth bring quiet and rest and peace. While sin results in disorder, the Holy Spirit is an organizing principle that brings order and congruence. The world and the worldly cannot bring peace. They cannot settle the soul. “Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:19–20).

Hope in Christ, which is a natural result of our saving faith in Christ, comes through spiritual reawakening. We sense our place in the royal family and are warmed by the sweet family association. And what is our indication that we are on course? How do we know we are in the gospel harness? “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13; emphasis added). The presence of God’s Spirit is the attestation, the divine assurance that we are headed in the right direction. It is God’s seal, his anointing, his unction (see 1 John 2:20) to us that our lives are in order. John Stott, a beloved Christian writer, has observed, “A seal is a mark of ownership . . . and God’s seal, by which he brands us as belonging forever to him, is the Holy Spirit himself. The Holy Spirit is the identity tag of the Christian” (Authentic Christianity, 81).

We need not be possessed of an unholy or intemperate zeal in order to be saved; we need only be constant and dependable. God is the other party with us in the gospel covenant. He is the controlling partner. He lets us know, through the influence of the Spirit, that the gospel covenant is still intact and the supernal promises are sure. The Savior invites us to learn the timeless and comforting lesson that “he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23). Peace. Hope. Assurance. These things come to us by virtue of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ and as a natural result of our new creation. They serve as an anchor to the soul, a solid and steady reminder of who we are and Whose we are.


A Sane and Balanced Life

POSTED BY: Millet

03/10/11


God does not expect us to work ourselves into spiritual, emotional, or physical exhaustion, nor does he desire that the members of the Church be truer than true. There is little virtue in excess, even in gospel excess. In fact, as we exceed the bounds of propriety and go beyond the established mark, we open ourselves to deception and ultimately to destruction. Imbalance leads to instability. If Satan cannot cause us to lie or steal or smoke or be immoral, it just may be that he will cause our strength—our zeal for goodness and righteousness—to become our weakness. He will encourage excess, for surely any virtue, when taken to the extreme, becomes a vice.

“Gospel hobbies” lead to imbalance. To instability. To distraction. To misperception. They are dangerous and should be avoided as we would any other sin. President Joseph F. Smith said: “We frequently look about us and see people who incline to extremes, who are fanatical. We may be sure that this class of people do not understand the gospel. They have forgotten, if they ever knew, that it is very unwise to take a fragment of truth and treat it as if it were the whole thing” (Gospel Doctrine, 122). To ride a gospel hobby is to participate in and perpetuate fanaticism.  On another occasion, President Smith taught, “Brethren and sisters, don’t have hobbies. Hobbies are dangerous in the Church of Christ. They are dangerous because they give undue prominence to certain principles or ideas to the detriment and dwarfing of others just as important, just as binding, just as saving as the favored doctrines or commandments.

“Hobbies give to those who encourage them a false aspect of the gospel of the Redeemer; they distort and place out of harmony its principles and teachings. The point of view is unnatural. Every principle and practice revealed from God is essential to man’s salvation, and to place any one of them unduly in front, hiding and dimming all others is unwise and dangerous; it jeopardizes our salvation, for it darkens our minds and beclouds our understandings. . . .

“We have noticed this difficulty: that Saints with hobbies are prone to judge and condemn their brethren and sisters who are not so zealous in the one particular direction of their pet theory as they are. . . . There is another phase of this difficulty—the man with a hobby is apt to assume an ‘I am holier than thou’ position, to feel puffed up and conceited, and to look with distrust, if with no severer feeling, on his brethren and sisters who do not so perfectly live that one particular law” (Gospel Doctrine, 116–17).

True excellence in gospel living—compliance with the established laws and ordinances in a quiet and consistent and patient manner—results in humility, in greater reliance upon God, and a broadening love and acceptance of one’s fellowman. What we do in the name of goodness ought to bring us closer to those we love and serve, ought to turn our hearts toward people, rather than causing us to turn our nose up in judgmental scorn and rejection. The greatest man to walk the earth, the only fully perfect human being, looked with tenderness and compassion upon those whose ways and actions were less than perfect. 

We have been counseled to stay in the mainstream of the Church, to see to it that our obedience and faithfulness reflect sane and balanced living. While we are to be true, we need not be truer than true. While we are not to partake of the vices of the world, we are to live in it. While we are to “be valiant in the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:79), we are not to be excessive in our zeal. We will arrive safely at the end of our gospel journey through steady and dedicated discipleship—loving and trusting the Lord, keeping his commandments, and serving his children—not through righteousness crusades or spiritual marathons. True conversion manifests itself in settled simplicity.


Grading on the Curve

POSTED BY: Millet

10/25/10


I was sitting in a Sunday School class once when the teacher began to address the issue of comparing ourselves to one another. He warned of the hazards of doing so and then added, “We should never compare ourselves or our situations in life to others. If you must compare yourself to someone, then compare yourself to Christ, for he is our Exemplar.” I reflected on that comment for quite a while that day and found myself thinking, “Oh, we should compare ourselves with Christ. Well, that certainly makes me feel better! From now on I will lay my deeds and my puny offerings next to his, and then I can really get (and stay) depressed.”

The fact is, comparing just doesn’t work. Period. We will either maintain a constant feeling of inadequacy or cultivate an inappropriate view of our own importance. Neither is healthy. Even some of Jesus’ chosen disciples were tempted to seek for positions of prominence, and the Master chastened them with the words, “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:26–27; compare Mark 10:28–41). Jesus himself set the standard and abolished all forms of spiritual pecking orders when he, the greatest man to traverse earth’s paths, described his role as follows: “I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:27).

Andy Stanley put this all into perspective when he asked: “When you die, do you get to go to heaven if your good deeds constitute 70 percent of your overall deeds? Or does 51 percent earn you a passing grade? . . . Or what if God’s holiness and perfection outweigh his mercy and he requires that 90 percent of our deeds be good? Or what if God grades on a curve and Mother Teresa skewed the cosmic curve, raising the bar for good deeds beyond what most of us are capable of?” (How Good Is Good Enough? 45–46.) 

While for Latter-day Saints, salvation is a family affair, coming unto Christ by covenant and carrying out the will of God is an individual undertaking. When it comes to standing at the bar of judgment, a summary of our lives (including our good deeds) will not be placed alongside anyone else’s. We are baptized one by one, confirmed one by one, ordained one by one, set apart one by one, and endowed one by one. And even though we kneel in the house of the Lord opposite the love of our life in the highest ordinance this side of heaven, the keeping of temple covenants and ultimately the matter of being conformed to the image of Christ is accomplished one soul at a time. We are all in this together. No one of us is exempt from the examinations of mortality or receives a bye in the game of life. We’re here to do the best we can. The quest for spirituality doesn’t entail our being xeroxed into the image of another human, but rather the quest to have God, through his Holy Spirit, make you and me into all that he desires us to be. Through the years and after the Holy Ghost has fashioned our hearts, after the Lord has educated our consciences, after the Spirit has matured our judgment and enhanced our wisdom, then “when [Christ] shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (Moroni 7:48; compare 1 John 3:1–2).


Only the Blind See

POSTED BY: Millet

10/18/10


The gospel of Jesus Christ is the grand news, the glad tidings that through our exercise of faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, coupled with our repentance that flows therefrom, we may be forgiven of our sins and justified or made right with God. Our standing before the Almighty has thereby changed from a position of divine wrath to one of heavenly favor and acceptance; we have traveled the path from death to life (see Romans 5:9–10). “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Or, as Peter taught, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him: for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7; emphasis added). Surely it is the case that we can cast our burdens upon the Lord because he cares for us—that is, because he loves us. But I sense that more is intended by Peter in this passage. We can give away to Him who is the Balm of Gilead our worries, our anxieties, our frettings, our awful anticipations, for he will care for us, that is, will do the caring for us. It is as though Peter had counseled us: “Quit worrying. Don’t be so anxious. Stop wringing your hands. Let Jesus take the burden while you take the peace.”  This is what C. S. Lewis meant when he pointed out that “f you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way” (Mere Christianity, 130–31; emphasis added). 

Following his healing of a blind man, Jesus spoke plainly to the self-righteous Pharisees: “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” What an odd statement! And yet it goes to the heart of that which we have been discussing—our need to acknowledge our need. Those who have accepted Christ and his saving gospel come to see things as they really are. They once were blind, but now they see. Those who choose to remain in their smug state of self-assurance, assuming they see everything clearly, these are they that continue to walk in darkness. Thus Jesus concluded, “If ye were blind”—that is, if you would acknowledge and confess your blindness, your need for new eyes to see who I am and what I offer to the world—“ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth” (John 9: 41).

It was Jacob, son of Lehi, who wrote that those who are “puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he [the Holy One of Israel] despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them” (2 Nephi 9:42; compare 1 Corinthians 3:18; 4:10; 8:2). On the other hand, “the poor in spirit,” those who consider themselves spiritually bankrupt without heavenly assistance and divine favor, those who come unto Christ and accept his sacred offering, inherit the kingdom of heaven (see Matthew 5:3; 3 Nephi 12:3).

Let’s be wise and honest: We cannot make it on our own. We cannot pull ourselves up by our own spiritual bootstraps. We are not bright enough or powerful enough to bring to pass the mighty change necessary to see and enter the kingdom of God. We cannot perform our own eye surgery. We cannot pry our way through the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem. We cannot make ourselves happy or bring about our own fulfillment. But we can “seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in [us] forever” (Ether 12:41). Then all these things will be added unto us (see Matthew 6:33). That’s the promise, and I affirm that it’s true.

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