Tuesday, January 25, 2005

What Constitutes Scripture

There is a worthwhile discussion going on at Times and Seasons.org regarding the nature of, and what constitutes, scripture. I thought I would add here what I posted there.

The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: Priesthood, the Word of God, and the Temple” by Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, Ensign, Feb. 1989, 7, we read the following:

“In addition to restoring ancient principles, Joseph Smith added new revelations to the body of scripture: the volume of sacred writ was not to be closed. Many of these revelations were communicated during regular conferences, then printed in official reports. Significantly, these revelations stand as scripture itself: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, … my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38.)

“Thus, by experience and revelation, Joseph learned and taught (1) that scripture is nothing more or less than the word of the Lord, (2) that the book of God’s word is not closed, (3) that God speaks to all dispensations, (4) that scripture must be correctly understood through the spirit of truth, and (5) that the words of the Lord’s servants when moved upon by the Holy Ghost are scripture, too. (See 2 Pet. 1:20–21; D&C 68:4.)”

D&C 68:4 “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.”

It is interesting to note the attitude of those living in some states at the time Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. “These doctrines came into Joseph Smith’s world as radical ideas. Joseph’s Christian contemporaries accepted as scripture only the books of the Bible. They considered that volume to be a single, complete, and absolute source to be understood quite literally. Thus, the laws of the Massachusetts Bay Colony described the Old and New Testaments as “containing in them the infallible and whole Will of God, which he purposed to make known to Mankinde,” the denial of which was punishable by fines, whippings, banishment, or death. (ibid.)

“The Palmyra Reflector warned Oliver Cowdery that he might be sent as a convict to the Simsbury Mines if he dared to proclaim [the Book of Mormon] message in ‘the principal cities of the Union.’” (ibid.)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Blessings...

The other day in priesthood meeting, we were discussing the power of blessings, and the right way to administer them. Although I will be the first to admit that not every blessing I offer comes to pass, there are many times that I have absolutely felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, and knew that I was nothing more than a conduit for the Lord.

During this conversation, we talked about the fact that not every blessing goes the way the mouthpiece might have spoken, and one of the stake leaders raised his hand and made the comment "that is why it is important to say 'if it be the will of the Lord' in every blessing. The group readily agreed except, of course, me. I didn't say anything, but I certainly thought it.

If we are the conduit of the Spirit, and we are in tune with the Spirit, and the words we utter are directed by the Spirit, is it not the will of the Lord? And if it is the will of the Lord, do we really need to say "if it be the will of the Lord"? We will know that it is, and those words would do two things: First, be superfluousl; and Second, introduce doubt as to one's own ability to hear the Spirit and act for and in behalf of the Savior as we have been called and set apart to do.

Personally, I rarely have ever said "if it be the will of the Lord", but would love to hear some of the anecdotal (sp?) results of others experiences in giving and receiving blessings.



Thursday, January 20, 2005

"...so far as it is translated correctly."

I happened upon a conversation today between the Bible Answerman, Hank Hannaagraff of the Christian Research Institute and a caller to his radio show. I joined in in the middle, but what I heard was intriguing. Apparently the caller had asked Hank about passages that are found in the King James Version of the Bible, but are not found in the NIV Bible. Hank’s answer went something like this: “It’s not that the passage has been left out of the NIV, but rather that it should never have been in the KJV to begin with”.

Why is this so intriguing? For more than 160 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been chastised for it’s 8th Article of Faith which states “We believe the Bible to be the word of God so far as it is translated correctly…”. At the time, the KJV was the primary bible then in use outside the Catholic Church, and so it is not difficult to assume that Joseph Smith was referring to the KJV when he made this proclamation. Since that time, those who criticize the Church will include this heretical point of view as one of the reasons why the LDS Church cannot be true. “The Bible is the word of God, written by the finger of God, and preserved by the hand of God. Of course there is no error in it!”

Isn’t it ironic that now, 160 years later, one whose career is built partially on his negative publications about the LDS Church could make a statement that so fully supports the very founder of that Church and a printed declaration that members of the Church hold as truth? Add to this, the irony that he doesn’t even realize that he is doing it.

It’s one of those issues that makes one go “Hmmmm”.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Home Teaching...

I have never been a great home teacher. Even when I was the bishop of the ward, Home Teaching was one of my more difficult challenges. I don’t know why, really. I love the members; I care about their salvation and progress. Heck, when I get there I usually even enjoy the conversation.

Take tonight for instance. I home teach with my wife, and we visited with a couple new to our “route”, but dear friends for many years. We talked about the Ensign message from Pres. Hinckley, we talked about the naysayers at the temple during the Christmas programs, we talked about talk-radio, and we talked, and talked, and talked. An hour and a half later, we had prayer and said our good-byes.

So why, with such a fine experience, do I, and about 50% of my brethren struggle so much to get out and see our families? It shouldn’t be. I live in Phoenix, and all of my families live within one mile of my house. I could walk, bike, or drive. I could see all of them in one night if I had to. So why don’t I? Why are home teaching and visiting teaching numbers declining? I remember in my singles ward we reached above 90% consistently, and even had one month where we were 100%. Now, our ward averages about 45% home teaching, and not much better visiting teaching.

Help!!!!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Top Ten Suggestions on being a bishop

A friend at work told me that other day that the Church split his stake, his bishop was called to the new stake presidency, and he was called as bishop. He then told me he was sure he would be asking for my advice. I told him that up to one year I would be happy to share my experience, but beyond that he was on his own. My term as a bishop was one year to the Sunday, when the Church sent most of the members of a sister ward in our building to another ward, folded the balance into our ward, changed our ward name, and kept the other bishop.

So, what advice can I possibly give after one year? Let's see (Not in any particular order):

1. Family Second (see item 10). I was probably doing something wrong, but I never felt my time with my family was a premium. I did a lot of delegating, and really didn't spend any more time away from the family than before I was a bishop. Keep family at the forefront of your responsibilities remembering that if you take care of your family, then no one else in the ward will have to worry about them.
2. Keep a journal of your interviews. Although I got started doing this, I have never been a good journal writer. I wish that I would have been more careful. I sit in conference and listen to the general authorities speak of their experiences from 30 years ago with members of their wards, and marvel that they have the recollections. No doubt they kept journals.
3. Follow the scriptures. I came to the realization while teaching the Aaronic Priesthood Committee that in reality, deacons can help prepare the sacrament. Sure, look it up. Go to D&C 20 and read the duties of a deacon. It is amazing what the scriptures teach us, if only we would read them.
4. Memorize the Church Handbook of Instructions. Traditions run deep in the Church, especially in old wards that have been around a long time. It still amazes me how many times I would tell the PEC or bishopric that we were going to change the way we do things according to what the Handbook teaches, and how many times I was told "we have never done it that way". The instructions are their for our benefit and the blessing of the ward, and will work if followed.
5. Never carry cash. Another bishop actually gave me this advice. I should have listened better, because there were many times I found myself giving money to people who had wandered in off the street. The Church has a program for helping, and as much as it may hurt, or seem cruel, the bishop will always be better following that program to the letter of the law. Of course, the ultimate judge of "to give, or not to give" is the Spirit.
6. Listen to your Relief Society President and treat her as your equal. She has more intimate relationships with the sisters in your ward than you ever will, and will be the source of great inspiration and guidance. Treat the members of your Ward Committee as your right arm. They, like the RS President, are close to the members they serve and know best how to provide for them.
7. Let the presidents of the various ward organizations run their programs. They have been called, presumeably by the Father, to fulfill these callings. Let them. Offer advice when moved upon by the spirit, encourage them to follow the Handbook and stay close to the scriptures, and then get out of the way.
8. Encourage your members to be VERY generous in their offerings. Tithing is a set amount proscribed by scripture. Everything else is based on a person's willingness to be generous. And by all means, set the example. Be very generous in your own giving to Fast Offerings, Humanitarian Aid, etc. Once, while beset by how much aid to give a family, I knelt in my home office with my wife, after explaining to her my dilemna (without divulging names and particulars) and offered a prayer with her. Her immediate response after the prayer was "if you are going to err, err on the side of generosity".
9. Love the youth. Treat them with kindness and respect. Listen to them. Work with them. Be there for them. I struggled with this with some of the youth in my ward. There were times I wanted to wring necks, and times I gave verbal neck wringings. I still haven't figured out the balance, and actually had a mother pull her children from MIA because of the way I tried to help them understand modesty.
10. MOST IMPORTANTLY! Court your wife weekly, not weakly. Make sure she knows that she always comes first and foremost in your life. Never make her take a back seat to anyone or any problem. After all, the only real relationship that will last into the eternities is with your wife. Keep it first and foremost, and all will be well in your little Zion on earth.