Monday, December 26, 2022

New Testament Lessons

Artwork by Matthew Larson, Logan, Utah

Copyrighted, used with permission

Please feel free to leave a comment as you use my lessons: I love feedback! And I love to hear in which part of the world you are teaching. (Commenting is available on tablets and computers; it may not be available on phones.)

December 26-January 1 Overview of the Gospels

January 2-8  Luke 1, Matthew 1

January 9-15 Luke 2, Matthew 2




Past Gospel Doctrine Lessons

Matthew 3-4, John 1

The Gospel of John 2-3

Luke 4-6, Matthew 10

Mark 1-5, Luke 7

Matthew 5: The Sermon on the Mount, part 1

Matthew 6-7: The Sermon on the Mount, part 2

Matthew 11-12, Luke 7, Luke 13

Matthew 13

John 5-6, Mark 6, Matthew 14

Matthew 15-17

Matthew 18, Luke 10

John 7-8

John 9-10

Mark 10, 12; Luke 12, 14, 16

Luke 15, 17

Luke 18, 19; John 11

Matthew 21-23; John 12

Matthew 24; Joseph Smith--Matthew: The Olivet Discourse

Matthew 25

Luke 22; John 13-15

John 16-17 "Life Eternal"

Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22

Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 18-19

Matthew 28; Luke 24; John 20-21: The Resurrection

Acts 1-5: Witnesses

Acts 6-9

Acts 10-15

Acts 15-18; Epistles to the Thessalonians

Acts 18-20, Epistle to the Galatians

1 Corinthians 1-6

1 Corinthians 11-16

2 Corinthians

Epistle to the Romans

Epistle to the Hebrews

Acts 21-28

Epistle to the Ephesians

Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians & Phileman

Timothy & Titus

Epistle of James: Pure Religion

Epistles of Peter & Jude

Epistles of John

Understanding the Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation, part 1

The Book of Revelation, part 2

Friday, April 15, 2022

Quick Links

 


Church over Jacob's Well, photo taken by Carolyn J. Wyatt
Feel free to use

Teaching Tip An easy and "safe" way to have scriptures read aloud by class members


December 27-January 2  Moses 1 as an introduction to the Bible and an excellent example of how to resist pornography

January 3-9  Creation

January 10-16  The conflicting commandments given by God to Adam and Eve; mortality and redemption

January 17-23, part 1 The Tree of Knowledge; Cain and Enoch
January 17-23, part 2  My Seven Dispensations Memory Aid 

January 24-30 The Visions of Enoch

January 31-February 6  Additional insights into the story of Noah found in the Joseph Smith Translation; the Covenant of the Rainbow

February 7-13, part 1  "The Abrahamic Covenant."  The Abrahamic Covenant simplified.  
February 7-13, part 2  Especially for members of dysfunctional families. See also the following lesson.

February 14-20, part 1  Abraham and Lot
February 14-20, part 2  Abraham's sacrifice as a type of Christ
February 14-20, part 3  Ishmael

February 21-27  Birthright blessings; marriage in the covenant

March 7-13   Joseph and the birthright

March 14-20  Joseph as a type of Christ

March 21-27  Bondage, Passover, and Exodus

April 4-10  Journey to the Promised Land

April 11-17 The Seismic Shift of Easter

April 18-24  Chainbreakers

April 25-May 1 (no lesson available yet)

May 2-8 (no lesson available yet)

May 16-22 Remembering the Lord

May 23-29 Be Strong and of a Good Courage

May 30-June 5 The Reign of the Judges

June 6-12 Ruth

June 13-19 Part 1: Hannah
June 13-19 Part 2: Samuel


June 27-July 3 1 Kings 17-19 

July 4-10 Elijah

July 11-17 Hezekiah
July 11-17 To be posted: Josiah

July 18-24 To Be Posted: Ezra and Nehemiah

July 25-31 Esther 

August 1-7 Job

July 4-10 The Mantle of Elijah + Bible Balderdash

July 11-17 To Be Posted: Josiah

July 18-24 To Be Posted: Ezra and Nehemiah

July 25-31 Esther

August 1-7 Job

August 8-21 Psalms, Part 1

August 22-29 Just follow this link to "Follow Him" with Michael McLean--so good!

(Dropped the ball here for a little while, finishing up my college degree)

November 7-13 Hosea

November 14-20 Amos; Obadiah

November 21-27 Jonah; Micah (This is one of my absolute favorites!)

November 28-December 4 Nahum; Habakkuk (no lesson yet)

December 5-11 Haggai; Zechariah (no lesson yet)

December 12-18 Malachi (with a Book of Mormon base)



Extra Old Testament Lessons:


Supplement to Lesson #26


Lesson #31  "Happy is the Man that Findeth Wisdom"

Lesson #33  "Sharing the Gospel With the World

Lesson #34  "I Will Betroth Thee unto Me in Righteousness"

Lesson #35  "God Reveals His Secrets to His Prophets"

Lesson #36  "The Glory of Zion Will Be a Defense"

Lesson #37  "Thou Hast Done Wonderful Things"

Supplement to Lesson #37

Lesson #38  "Beside Me There is No Savior"

Lesson #39  "How Beautiful Upon the Mountains"

Lesson #40  "Enlarge the Place of Thy Tent"

Lesson #41  "I Have Made Thee This Day ... an Iron Pillar"

Lesson #42  "I Will Write It in their Hearts"

Lesson #43  "The Shepherds of Israel"

Lesson #44  "Every Thing Shall Live Whither the River Cometh"


Lesson #46  "A Kingdom, Which Shall Never Be Destroyed"

Lesson #47  "Let Us Rise Up and Build"/Christmas Lesson

Lesson #48  "The Great and Dreadful Day of the Lord"



Exodus 18-20: Chainbreakers

The story of the exodus, wanderings, and settlement of the children of Israel into the Promised Land is a lesson about "chainbreakers."  (Teaching Tip: Have the front of the room decorated with gray or black paper chains.)  In Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; and Deuteronomy 5:9 the Lord says that He answers the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him.  The children of Israel were an exception to this rule.  They changed from idolatrous slavery to faithful freedom in only one generation.  They were what we call "chainbreakers."


DRAGGING CHAINS

The children of Israel were freed from bondage by the Lord through Moses and Aaron, but that first generation of free men carried their slavery with them through the wilderness.  They dragged heavy spiritual chains:  fear and criticism and ingratitude.  After 400 years of slavery, they were so used to having their lives dictated to them, and being physically taken care of by their masters that freedom was very frightening.

EPISODES OF FEAR, CRITICISM, AND INGRATITUDE EXPERIENCED BY THE FIRST GENERATION OF THE FREED ISRAELITES DURING THE EXODUS

(Teaching Tip:  Hand out the scriptures quoted in each event to class members at the beginning of class.  As a teacher, read aloud the first part of each of the following events, ask the class member to read the Israelites' statement at the appropriate time, then read the last part.)

At The Red Sea.  The armies of Egypt were in hot pursuit.  The Israelites were backed up against the Red Sea.
"Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?  Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?  Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians?  For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness"  (Exo. 14:11-12). 
The Lord parted the sea for them, and brought it down upon the Egyptians, completely destroying their army.

At Marah.  After three days of no water, they found poisoned water at Marah. 
"And the people murmured against Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?" (Exo. 15:24)
The Lord instructed Moses to cast a particular tree into the water, which purified it.  Then, at their next stop, they found an oasis of 70 palm trees and 12 wells of water.

In the Wilderness of Sin.  The Israelites were starving.
"Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (Exo. 16:3).
The Lord sent manna from heaven, which was some type of grain that they could grind into flour and cook in a variety of ways.  He also sent quail.  His commandment was that they honor the Sabbath by not gathering on that day, but some went out anyway on the Sabbath, and found nothing.

At Rephidim.  Once again, they were without water.
"Give us water to drink.  Where is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?" (Exo. 17:2-3)
They were almost to the point of stoning Moses.  The Lord had Moses smite the rock in Horeb (the site of the temple mountain, Sinai) and a spring flowed from it.

At Mt. Sinai.  The Israelites became afraid when Moses went into the mountain for his 40 days' instruction of the Lord in their behalf.
The people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, 'Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him" (Exo. 32:1).
They did not have the faith to believe in a God they could not see, once they thought Moses was dead, so they asked for an idol as reassurance.  The Lord withheld from them the greater law which he had given to Moses, and Moses asked, "Who is on the Lord's side?"  The Levites responded in the positive, and they then put to death 3,000 men who were rebellious.  Then Moses went back up into the mountain to offer an atonement for their sin.  There is no mention that the children of Israel asked forgiveness--just mention that Moses asked it in their behalf.

At Taberah.  The people complained.  (No explanation of why or what about.)  The Lord sent fire among them and burned a number of the camp.

At Kilbroth:  The children of Israel craved meat and vegetables.
"Who shall give us flesh to eat?  We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick; But now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes" (Num. 11:4-6).
Moses petitioned the Lord because his burden of carrying the people was so heavy.  The Lord told him to set apart 70 more priesthood holders to help him.  As for the Israelites' complaint, he sent quail down among them, enough, he told them, to eat for a month.  All night long and all day long, the Israelites greedily gathered the quail (even though the Lord had said He would send it for a month).  The quail became diseased and the people who ate it suffered a swift and deadly illness.

At Hazeroth.  Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses because he married a Cushite.  They claimed to be of equal authority to him, and therefore able to condemn him.
"Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses?  Hath he not spoken also by us?"  And the Lord heard it (Num. 12:2).
The Lord sent leprosy upon Miriam and required her to be quarantined outside the camp for seven days, at which time He healed her.

At the Borders of Canaan.  After the scouts returned from testing out the land for 40 days, ten of them falsely reported that the inhabitants were too great to conquer and that the land was barren, both of these statements in direct opposition to what the Lord had consistently said regarding the Land of Canaan, and despite their finding a cluster of grapes so huge it had to be carried on a rod between two men.  Two faithful scouts gave a positive report, but the Israelites chose to believe the ten.
And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.  And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, "Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt!  Or would God we had died in the wilderness!  And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey?  Were it not better for us to return into Egypt?"  And they said one to another, "Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt" (Num. 13:31-14:4).
Moses and Aaron fell on their faces, "an act of contrition and entreaty [to the Lord], in hopes of avoiding terrible consequences" (Harper-Collins Study Bible). When Caleb and Joshua, the two positive scouts, tried to convince them that they could easily conquer and that the land was wonderful, they started to stone them.  Only the appearance of the glory of the Lord at the Tabernacle stopped them.  The Lord told Moses that this generation would have to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, and that none of them but Joshua and Caleb would be allowed to enter the Promised Land.  (See "The Importance of the Number 40 in the Bible.")  Their little children would survive the wilderness, despite their parents' fears, and be allowed entry into the land.  All the men 20 years and older were killed by the Lord in a plague, including the ten scouts who slandered the Promised Land.

At the Mountain of the Canaanites.  The Israelites said they were repentant and that they would now go and conquer the Canaanites.  All the soldiers must have been of the younger generation, since all men over 20 had been killed by the plague, although who knows how much time had lapsed between the two events.  Moses condemned them and counseled them not to go to war because the Lord would not back them.  They ignored his command, and were badly beaten.

At the Uprising of Korah and Company.  Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and 250 Levite princes defied Moses' authority.
"They gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, 'Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: Where then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?  Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us?  Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards" (Num. 16:3, 13-14).
Moses fell on his face.  He suggested that the Lord might show Moses' authority by swallowing them up with an earthquake.  An earthquake occurred immediately, and the three men and their kin were crushed in the crevice.  Then fire from the Lord burned the other 250 to death.

After the Earthquake.  The people accused Moses and Aaron of murder.
"Ye have killed the people of the Lord" (Num. 16:41).
The Lord told Moses He would consume them all.  Moses and Aaron fell to their faces.  Moses made Aaron run and take a censer from the tabernacle and hold it up as an atonement for the people's sins.  A plague had already begun.  Where he stood amid the congregation, the plague stopped, but 14,700 people were killed already.

At the Desert of Zin.  Once again, there was no water.  Miriam died and was buried there.  (She was well over 100 by this time.)
"Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!  And why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?  And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place?  It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink" (Num. 20:3-5).
Moses and Aaron once more fell on their faces.  The Lord had Moses call water out of a rock again.  Moses by this time was probably very annoyed by the people's lack of trust in his authority, and understandably so.  This once he failed to give the credit to the Lord, and the Lord said that therefore Moses and Aaron would be denied entrance into the Land of Canaan.  This is a message:  No matter how great you are, nothing you do on your own authority will suffice.  You can only enter the Promised Land on the merits of Christ.

On the Journey Around Edom.  At this point, we see a change begin to take place.  Many of the original slaves were dead, if not by old age, then by the curses of the Lord.  King Arad, the Canaanite, came against Israel and fought them and took prisoners.  Rather than fearing to fight the Canaanites, or fighting them on their own, this generation covenanted with the Lord that they would utterly destroy the Canaanites as He had commanded their parents to do, if He would help.  And they did it.  After destroying the Canaanites at Hormah, they journeyed around Edom, a very difficult path.  They became discouraged and once again complained.
"Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread?" (Num. 21:5)
They complained against God and Moses, just as they had learned to do from their parents.  The Lord sent poisonous serpents to bite them and many died.  But this generation acknowledged their guilt, and came to Moses and confessed, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee."  They asked Moses to ask the Lord to take away the serpents.  The Lord told Moses to put up a serpent, as an effigy of Christ.  Rather than healing them as a group through an act of their priesthood leader, as He had done after the earthquake, this time the Lord required an individual act of faith in the atonement of Christ.  Each person had to have the faith to look upon the serpent to be healed.  Therefore, the Lord was able to select all those who exercised faith in Christ to remain alive to enter the Promised Land.

At Beer.  Now when they needed water, there is no mention that they complained of the thirst, or begged to go back to Egypt, or cursed Moses.  The Lord saw their need and freely gave water to them.  The Israelites sang in gratitude and rejoicing for the water they fully expected to receive.  The "nobles" among them dug the well themselves, following the instructions of Moses.  From this point on, the strength of the Lord was with them, and they conquered everywhere they went, until they achieved residence in the Promised Land.

THE CENSUS

When the Israelites left Egypt, there were 600,000 men, or heads of households.  After the lack of faith displayed by the Israelites repeatedly, the Lord said that those unfaithful people would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.  So they had to wander through the wilderness, while all of them were tried and tested, and a whole generation of them died, and many more as well, before the promise of the Lord was realized.  This was a pretty hard way of separating the sheep from the goats, but it was necessary.  40 years later, as the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, the census count revealed almost no generational growth:  601,730.  The purpose of the wandering had not been to increase the size of the nation, but to improve upon the quality of its faith.  (In a very interesting article, the Old Testament Institute Manual states that many numbers in the Old Testament have been translated to be much too large, including this one.  The authors of the manual believe the number of Israelites to have been around 72,000.  However that does not change the point: that the number entering the promised land was about the same number that left Egypt.)

CHAINBREAKERS TODAY

From the 40-year efforts of Moses and the Lord to make the children of Israel a truly free people, we learn that a certain blame for sin can be placed on the environment (slavery in Egypt), or upbringing (idolatrous parents)--things over which one has no control.  Children are very prone to commit the same types of sins as their parents did (criticism of Church authority, discontent with the blessings the Lord has given, memory loss relating to miracles).  But we also learn that the chains of sin or abuse or wrong teaching can be broken by:

1) recognizing the sin as a sin and repenting of it (Num. 21:7);
2) seeking the counsel of priesthood leadership and following it (Num. 21:9);
3) looking to Christ for healing (Num. 21:9);
4) truly changing and remaining on the Lord's side, by digging for Living Water, expressing faith and gratitude to the Lord even before blessings are received, and following the direction of the prophet (Num. 21:17-18).

Although the iniquities of the rebellious can carry to the third and fourth generations (Exo. 20:5), when the rebellious decide to change, "know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations" (Deut. 7:9).

As for Moses, he was blessed to be translated straight out of the temple mount into the heavenly Promised Land (Deut. 32:50) after helping fit his people for their earthly Promised Land.  (Although the Bible says he died,  Deut. 34:6 JST and Alma 45:19 both say he was "taken unto the Lord," or translated.)  He was spared the battles that ensued when conquering the Land of Canaan.  At his death, he was honored and revered by this second generation.  "And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab 30 days [the meaning of the Hebrew number 30 is dedication]: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.  And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses.  And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut. 34:8-10).

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Letting Life Break Us, Letting God Rebuild Us: The Seismic Shift of Easter

 




THE SYMBOL OF THE CROSS

Few things are so closely and exclusively associated with a single figure as is the cross with Jesus Christ. A cross on a necklace immediately identifies the wearer as a disciple. A crucifix in a church immediately conjures up in the mind an image of Jesus hanging in public agony. It’s a symbol that commands attention. It reminds us of Easter. It points us to God. For the Israelite Christians witnessing the crucifixion and death of Christ on Good Friday, however, the cross itself meant nothing but a criminal punishment.

And yet there was a very powerful symbol that stunned the early followers of Jesus Christ that day, something that had never happened before in history. It was completely unique to the death of Jesus Christ. Witnessed by only a few, it pointed dramatically to the eternal significance of the pivotal event of the Savior's death.

“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, saying, ‘Father, it is finished, thy will is done,’ yielded up the ghost. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And the earth did quake, and the rocks rent…” (Matt. 27:50-51, Joseph Smith Translation).

To understand the mind-blowing nature of the rending of the veil, we need to know about ancient temples.

THE TEMPLE AT JERUSALEM

At the time of Christ, the temple at Jerusalem had recently been rebuilt and gloriously fitted and furnished on about 35 acres of a hill inside the city. Multiple walls and courtyards surrounded the temple and prevented anyone from entering without passing through a gate. Gates on the south, on the east, and the main gate on the west allowed anyone to enter the outer area, the Court of the Gentiles, but non-Jews could go no further, on penalty of death.

The Golden Gate still stands, now fitted with doors.

https://www.israelandstuff.com/palestinians-proclaim-victory-after-opening-temple-mounts-golden-gate

Passage into each of the inner courtyards or rooms required increasingly more qualifications as the faithful scaled stairways to pass through gates. Gentiles could not ascend to the Court of the Women. Women could not ascend to the Court of the Men. Ordinary Israelites could not climb to the Court of the Priests which contained the Brazen Sea, resting upon twelve bronze bulls and the altar of sacrifices. Although the people below could not enter this courtyard, they could see the smoke ascending to heaven in their behalf.

“Further steps led up to the actual temple, a comparatively small building. A priceless curtain, embroidered with a map of the known world, concealed from view what lay beyond, and none except the priest on duty was allowed to go farther. It contained the golden altar at which incense was offered and next to it the seven-branched candelabrum and the table with the twelve loaves of shewbread, which were replaced by fresh ones every sabbath.

“Beyond it, behind another large curtain, lay the Holy of Holies, which none except the high priest was allowed to enter, and he only on the Day of Atonement. A stone designated the place where once the Ark of the Covenant had stood [with its mercy seat between the two cherubim]” (https://www.bible-history.com/jewishtemple/).  (See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Temple#Herod's_Temple).

All of these concentric gates, walls, and courtyards surrounded one central point in this stone temple: the Holy of Holies. Although we don’t know details about the activities in all of the temple courts (they were sacred, exclusive, and guarded even from historians), we do know what happened in the Holy of Holies on that single Day of Atonement each year because it is found in the Bible. (See Lev. 16; 23:26-32.)  The Holy of Holies had only one purpose: Atonement, the reuniting of God and man.

It was in this place that the high priest carried out rituals that symbolically cleansed all of Israel from sin and potentially allowed reconciliation with God.

 


Hindu Temple

The Israelites were not the only people to have a temple. Every great civilization in the history of the world had at its center a temple--the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Turks, the Mayans, the Aztecs, even Native North American civilizations all had temples. On every continent, in every advanced ancient culture, the temple was always the focal point of the greater community. (See, for example https://www.touropia.com/oldest-temples-in-the-world/.)

A temple was (and is), as Hugh Nibley calls it “a scale model of the universe…It is the meeting point of the heavens and the earth…The word for temple in Latin, templum, means the same thing as template…The temple is also an observatory…a place where you take your bearings on things. More than that, it is a working model, a laboratory for demonstrating basic principles by use of figures and symbols, which convey to finite minds things beyond their immediate experience” (Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present, Deseret Book, 1992, 15, 19).

A survey of all of these ancient temples in all of these cultures reveals that they all had a common purpose: “to restore the primordial unity, that which existed before the Creation,…to restore the whole that preceded the Creation” (Mircea Eliade, quoted in Nibley, 380-1). Even though they did not know the God of Israel, they knew they were seeking wholeness, reunification, restoration. Although the rites of temples in various ancient civilizations morphed as well as decayed from the original temple experience God revealed to Adam (Moses 5:4-9), they shared this common purpose of reunification with their Creators or their Divine Parents in eternity.

But of all these temples, it was in the Hebrew temple at Jerusalem—where the Gentiles were unfit by birth, the women were unclean by nature, the men were unworthy, and even the priests were not holy enough to see into the presence of the Lord—it was here in Jerusalem that all of those barriers were torn away in a moment. God rent the veil of the temple—from the top to the bottom!--as Christ gave up the ghost and ascended into Heaven. Death, sorrow, separation, and sin were conquered. The passageway between heaven and earth was opened. Entrance into the “presence of God” on earth was now not only a possibility, but reunion with Them (God being plural) in eternity was a surety. Man could now sit down on the mercy seat with God or, as Lehi put it, “The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:15).

 

SEISMIC SHIFTS IN HISTORY

Like the earthquake at the death of Jesus Christ, catastrophic events in history can bring about seismic shifts in doctrine and practice for God’s children.

·         For the Jews, the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of the temple forced them to produce the Torah. The Torah preserved their religion which had previously been completely tied to a particular place on earth: the temple at Jerusalem. They could now carry their religious beliefs with them wherever they went.

·         For the Christians, the death of Christ completely changed their understanding of and relationship with God, as shown in the New Testament. Jesus returned and taught his disciples privately, and they changed their old image of God as a fearful punisher, to God as a loving and merciful Parent. This new understanding allowed them to bring heaven to earth in their Zion-like community.

·         For the Nephite colony, the destruction of Jerusalem made them realize they were no longer an outpost, but the home base of Israelite worship on the earth. This led to the recording of doctrine and history that became the Book of Mormon. The only Jewish temples on earth were the ones built in the New World. The Book of Mormon shows us that the Gospel of Jesus Christ existed along with the Law of Moses from the beginning. The Old Testament does not make this obvious. (See Terryl Givens, 2nd Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction, Brigham Young University.)

PERSONAL SEISMIC SHIFTS

When cataclysmic events happen in our own lives, our ability to make sense of the universe is shaken. The mountains are in new places, the former home base is gone, some things are broken beyond repair. We don’t recognize the landscape anymore. We have to get our bearings again from a new perspective. But sometimes that is precisely what is needed to allow us to throw off old incomplete beliefs and gain new, more accurate ones.

As the sweet children’s book I just bought my grandson explains it:

“Out of death, comes life. That’s how God wants us to see Easter.”

“I still don’t like dying.”

“Neither do I. We were born to love life. God loves life. But sometimes we have to let go of one thing so we can move on to another” (Lisa Tawn Bergren, God Gave Us Easter, Waterbrook Press).

When we lose a loved one (I attended the funeral of one today), when health crises happen, when people betray us, when hatred and war threaten and destroy, we can remember that good will come of catastrophe, if we let God lead us.

We can remember that the cross became the symbol of faith, hope, and love.

We can remember that the destruction of the holy temple veil symbolized every man and woman’s personal access to God and His mercy. Our temples today are clear in teaching this truth—that we may reach out personally and individually for the hand of Christ and be drawn into his presence thanks to His infinite sacrifice on Easter.

The death of Jesus Christ is the greatest irony that ever was—the seismic shift that provided reunification and wholeness for all, the earthquake that broke everything in order to put it right.

 


 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Wide as Eternity: The Visions of Enoch

The Backdrop of the Vision of Enoch

The opening verse of Moses 7 encapsulates the greatest and most persistent problem of the family of God: that “many have believed [the gospel as taught by Adam] and become the [children] of God, and many have believed not, and have perished in their sins, and are looking forth with fear, in torment, for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God to be poured out upon them.”

Because of this revelation, Enoch began to prophesy from that time forth. (See verse 2.) As he preaches, he tells his audience about the visions he has been shown for their benefit. Those who listened and learned became the City of Enoch and were taken up into heaven. Although the story of the City remained in the Old Testament, the truths learned by them were lost from the earth until Jesus restored them in the meridian of time, and Joseph Smith restored them in the translation of Moses 7.

The vision of Enoch is a revolutionary scripture, overturning concepts that have been the basis of most nations, religions, cultures, and even individuals--that there is an “us” and a “them,” that we are right, and they are wrong, and that we will achieve happiness when we are avenged and triumph over our enemies. The vision teaches the concept that we are all brothers and sisters and only completely uniting the family of God will lead to a fulness of joy.

This concept was revolutionary in Enoch’s day--so revolutionary, it didn’t even make it into the Old Testament. It was again revolutionary in Jesus’s day and formed the basis of the original Christian church. It is revolutionary again in our day as we recover from centuries of misunderstanding about God, about sin, about judgment and salvation, and about the relationship between all the peoples of the earth. In restoring this truth, Joseph Smith upended the teachings promulgated by the greatest “Christian” thinkers and leaders since the apostles were killed. (For the history and details of this loss, I highly recommend the books by Terryl and Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps, All Things New, and The Christ Who Heals. Really, every Latter-day Saint should read at least one of these books.)

Revolutionary Concepts #1 and #2: The mighty God of heaven is a PERSON, and He took the time to talk with one of His lowly creations.

“I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face, face” (verse 4).

Revolutionary Concept #3: Despite great wickedness and wars on the earth, a group of people could become as holy as heaven.

“The Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness” (verse 16). “The glory [great joy] of the Lord…was upon his people.   “The Lord called his people Zion, because they were on one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (verse 18). “[Enoch, in passage of time] built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion. (verse 19).  “Zion, in process of time, was taken up into heaven” (verse 21).

Revolutionary Concept #4: God experiences emotions, including sorrow; He cares about his children. Although they were “looking forth with fear, in torment, for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God to be poured out upon them” (verse 1), God Himself was weeping at their estrangement. While Enoch was rejoicing that Zion was safe from evil, God was mourning the separation from “the residue of the people” who remained in wickedness (verse 28). (Although God cursed them [verse 20], it is an indirect cursing—simply the natural consequence of breaking His laws.) Enoch is utterly shocked that God, who is all powerful, all knowing, eternal, kind, perfect in every way, and has just seen the success of Zion, is now weeping (verse 31).

Revolutionary Concept #6: Our enemies are not our enemies, but our siblings. There are groups of people mentioned in the chapter who are hateful of each other: the people of Canaan are at war with people of Shum (verse 7). The war brings about a barrenness in the land, presumably from destruction of crops and other plants, and changes the climate of the area (verses 7-8) from which it never recovers. Possibly as a consequence of this--since it is announced in the same sentence--the people of Canaan experience a blackening of appearance that further separates them and causes all other people to despise them (verse 8). Multiple other groups of people in lands that are unknown to us today are mentioned, and the Lord commands Enoch to preach repentance to them (verse 9-10). Enoch preaches the gospel of Christ, encapsulated today in our Fourth Article of Faith, to all of these groups except the people of Canaan (verse 12). No explanation is given as to why He didn’t preach to them.

Because of the terrifying miracles Enoch can perform to protect his people, their enemies “fled and stood afar off and went upon the land which came up out of the depth of the sea. And the giants of the land, also, stood afar off…” (verses 13-15). There are wars everywhere, violence, hatred, bloodshed—separation (verse 16). The seed of Cain still were excluded from other societies because of the color of their skin (verse 22).

Only the people of Zion are spared from war, but whereas Enoch has previously been glorying that his city is rescued from their enemies, the Lord points out that the enemies are Enoch’s brethren.  “The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren… (verse 32).” From this point on, the word enemies disappears, replaced by brethren and children: family members!

Revolutionary Concept #5: Becoming holy does not create complete joy;  instead, holiness brings acute awareness of the suffering of our siblings (our enemies) because of their sins. I gave unto man his agency; and unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me [as] their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood (verses 32-33).” “Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? (verse 37)? It is separation from God and from each other that causes suffering among human beings.

The heavens weep, not for the sin of the people, but for the suffering that sin causes before their redemption (verse 37): “Until that day they shall be in torment; wherefore, for this shall the heavens weep, yea and all the workmanship of mine hands (verses 39-40).

Noah would build an ark to protect his family from the flood, and God would “smile” upon it, but “the residue of the wicked” would perish.

When Enoch saw this, he “wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook” (verse 41). He “wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look” (verse 44).

Revolutionary Concept #6: Christ’s atonement will cover even those who did not learn righteousness and unity while on the earth.  Enoch looked and no longer saw the wicked as his enemies, but as the families of the earth, and he asked when Christ would atone for them, and “they that mourn” will be sanctified and have eternal life (verse 45). And then he saw “the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced…” (verse 47).

After the agony of the cross and the agony of the earth in response to the crucifixion, not only do “saints” arise and to be crowned at the right hand of God (verse 56), but also “the spirits as were in prison came forth, and stood on the right hand of God (verse 57). But a remainder (the word remainder suggests a small number) still waits “in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day.”

Revolutionary Concept #7: A fulness of joy is only achieved with complete unity. The earth will finally rest when Christ comes again and enmity is removed from the family of God. Then “righteousness and truth will sweep the earth as with a flood” just as the waters swept the wicked off the earth previously (verse 52). The City of Enoch will come down to join Zion on earth, the New Jerusalem, “and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other” (verse 63). There will be a thousand years of peace upon the earth. Finally at the end of the world a fulness of joy is finally achieved (verse 67).

What does this mean in your life?

We are confronted many times daily, even hourly, with the temptation to separate. We view others’ successes with jealousy.

We polarize ourselves into political groups.

We struggle to view other races and cultures as less than ours, even when we are trying to be kind.

We have no idea how to feel about people with nonbinary sexual orientations.

We may think our country is the greatest.

We may resent immigrants or refugees or people who don’t learn to speak our language.

We may be suspicious of those who are different.

We may have struggles to forgive those who have wronged us.

We may say that everyone is a child of God, but we feel that perhaps our group contains the best children of God, as if the rest are a different class of family members.

In all of these daily situations, we are only free to be truly happy when we unite ourselves with our Heavenly Father and view all “others” as our suffering siblings. Once we have this view, the Holy Ghost can guide us in how to love and accept others and how to share the gospel with them so that we can be one.


Kansas City Temple
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Friday, December 24, 2021

2022 Supplements

2022


Lesson supplements for all of the standard works can be found at the top of the home page. 

Please click on those links to find the appropriate lesson.

Best Wishes for a Joyous New Year!
Whether we get to have "precendented times" again
or whether it's another year of These Unprecedented Times,
the gospel of Jesus Christ (love) is the answer to all problems (fear).

Sunday, December 12, 2021