Robert L. Millet Blog Posts
Publications Director of BYU Religious Studies Center
POSTED BY: Millet
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.
POSTED BY: holzapfel
This year will bring a major demographic shift on planet earth. By the end of the year, for the first time in human history, more people will live in urban settings than rural. By the end of 2009, more than three billion people will live in cities, a third of them in slums (see Jonas Bendiksen’s haunting photograph of Caracas, Venezuela; used by permission, Magnum Photos). According to the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, the percentage of the world’s population living in urban areas in 2005 was 48.6 percent. By 2010 the urban population percentage will rise to 50.6 percent. Truly, “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). As human history unfolds, this transition signals a new period, providing new challenges along with new opportunities.
In ancient times, many biblical events occurred in rural areas. For example, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were primarily rural people living on the outskirts of towns and cities. Though Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba, he did not live in the city of Beer-sheba. Similar to modern Bedouins who live in the deserts and wilderness of modern Middle Eastern states, Abraham lived on the fringes of Near Eastern urban society.
Likewise, Jesus was raised in Nazareth, a rural village of two to five hundred people. For most of his ministry, he avoided the large cities of the Holy Land, visiting Jerusalem at the time of the pilgrimage feast because it was the site of the temple. The second largest city in the region, Zippori (Sepphoris), is not even mentioned in the four Gospels. In Galilee, Jesus avoided the large cities of Tiberius and Caesarea Philippi, although he visited the coast [region] of Caesarea Philippi (see Matthew 16:13).
At the beginning of the Restoration, the Lord began to move his work forward in the rural areas of America. During the founding events of the Restoration, the Smith family lived in the township of Manchester, not even in the village. The Church was organized on a farm in Fayette Township.
Only after his prophetic call did the Prophet become an urbanite. As Richard L. Bushman and Dean C. Jessee write, “Less than six months after the church’s organization, he sent out missionaries to locate a site for a city that the revelations called the ‘City of Zion’ or ‘New Jerusalem’” (Joseph Smith Papers, Volume 1 [Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2008], xxiii). The Prophet “gave himself entirely to cities and temples. This vision drove him until the end of his life; and after his death the same vision inspired Mormon settlement in the Great Basin” (xxiii). They conclude, “Building cities was a strange mission for a person reared in the rural villages of New England and New York” (xxiv).
Why the move to cities? These gathering places provided central locations to organize the Church and erect temples so that the “fulness of the priesthood” could be restored (see Doctrine and Covenants 124:28). Again, Bushman and Jessee note that the Prophet was involved in numerous activities, but “city building, priesthood, and temples” were the heart of those labors (xxv).
Today the modern Church generally establishes mission headquarters in the major cities of the nations. Soon temples are erected in areas that allow access to the greatest number of people possible. As world demographics shift to an urban world, we will continue to preach to these urban centers and erect temples so that many more of God’s children can receive the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.