Baptism for the dead is a short way of saying: baptism for those who died without the opportunity to be baptized. So, the first question most people have is, “Why do baptisms for the dead?

Paul himself said (1 Corinthians 15:29):

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?

Isn’t this a great question? It’s rhetorical and pointed toward Paul’s audience who was struggling with the doctrine of the resurrection. Yes, so the fundamental, underlying reason for baptism (whether alive or dead) relates directly to the Resurrection. In effect, Paul was saying, “Why do we do baptisms for the dead, then? Why have you done baptisms for the dead if the dead don’t rise?” Because Christ’s church, which He instated with Peter as chief apostle and revelator (Matthew 16:16-19) had the ordinance baptisms for the dead “for those who died without the opportunity to be baptized.”

The physical rite and spiritual ordinance and covenant of baptism is that important. It’s so important that God has made is possible for any who have died without the opportunity, and who are willing to “live according to God in the spirit” but lack the ordinances to “be judged according to men in the flesh” (1 Peter 4:6, Doctrine & Covenants 138:11-34) to receive this ordinance prior to their resurrection. This is what baptism for the dead is for and that is why we do them.

But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

In the scriptural context around this verse (in 1 Corinthians 15:29), Paul is talking about the atonement of Jesus Christ, which while we often focus on its grace for forgiving sin also includes the resurrection (the reuniting of the body with the spirit in perfect form after one has died). What Paul is alluding to in 1 Corinthians 15 is that all of us will rise again, just as Christ rose and was reunited with His physical body in perfect, immortal form, so also will we (1 Corinthians 15:12-24). The Resurrection (as this reuniting is termed) takes place before the final judgment, or the time when God will judge each of us “according to our works, according to the desires of our hearts” (Doctrine & Covenants 137:9) and then portion to each of us our eternal glory and kingdom (Doctrine & Covenants 88:15-24,27-41).

Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial

Why do we do baptisms for the dead? Why do we do baptisms? Why do we partake of the sacrament? Why do we receive temple ordinances? Why do we make covenants with God? Why do we try to keep the commandments and emulate Christ at all?

Answer: because the ordinances we receive and the covenants we make and keep determine the type of resurrection (the type of resurrected body) we will receive (Doctrine & Covenants 76:71-119, see also Doctrine & Covenants 88:15-24,27-41).

Answer: because the ordinances we receive and the covenants we make and keep determine the level of grace Christ is able to offer us. (ibid)

Answer: because the ordinances we receive and the covenants we make and keep determine the type of person we become through God’s grace (celestial, terrestrial, or telestial).

Christ taught Nicodemus (John 3:5):

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

The celestial kingdom of God has three heavens or degrees. In order to enter the lowest, we must have received the ordinance of baptism and kept the covenants appertaining thereto. In order to obtain the highest, we must receive the ordinance and covenant of eternal marriage (also referred to scripturally as the New and Everlasting Covenant) and keep that covenant (Doctrine & Covenants 131:1-4).

The highest degree of the celestial kingdom is for those that aspire to be like God (Doctrine & Covenants 132:1-24). It is for those who desire eternal increase (eternal family), and to attain to a perfection of godly attributes. Remember, the ability to have and raise children is rampant in mortality, but after this life only bodies resurrected to the highest degree of the celestial glory will have such powers (Doctrine & Covenants 132:14-17).

If the celestial kingdom (at any level) is not our aspiration—though it is the station God wishes us to obtain and which He exerts all His efforts to invite us and entice us to seek (Moses 1:39)—then God, in His wisdom and love, has provided lesser kingdoms of glory to accommodate our eternal desires and comfort (Doctrine & Covenants 88:15-24,27-41).

The Terrestrial kingdom is more or less for those that believe in God but do not desire to faithfully emulate Him or to keep His commandments. They are of the belief that selective obedience is satisfactory. These are those that are not faithful to their testimony of Jesus Christ. Remember, the abilities of a terrestrial body will be lesser than those of a celestial body. There will be no eternal family, nor the ability (despite the immortal state of the bodies) to procreate or create families.

The Telestial kingdom is more or less for those who are completely unrepentant and who persist in lying, stealing, killing, committing sexual sins, and perpetuating selfishness and anger and die (unrepentant) in those sins.

God is Both Just and Merciful

In short, the whole purpose of baptism for the dead is that God may be just and merciful to ALL of His children. As each of us are born in different times of the world, there is no guarantee that during those lifetimes we will all have the chance to hear God’s plan of salvation preached to, nor to receive the ordinances that are necessary and attached thereto. Thus, God, in His infinite wisdom has established an interim state between death and the resurrection (and final judgment).

Joseph F. Smith said (Doctrine & Covenants 138:29-34):

And as I wondered (regarding 1 Peter 4:6), my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient [dead] who had rejected the truth, to teach them (during the 3 days while his body lie in the grave); But behold, from among the righteous [dead], he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.

And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel. Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.

These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

Now, it’s easy to think that when people die and realize there is an afterlife and that God is likely real, that they will simply reform themselves. But, it’s not so easy. It turns out, all the choices we make and the person we become through those choices is still who we are when we pass from this life into the spirit world (Alma 34:34). C.S. Lewis taught this eloquently when he said that every decision we make is slowing turning us into something, into a heavenly creature or a hellish one (Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 4, Law of Obedience, Paragraph 8).

Baptism for the Dead is NOT About Compulsion

Agency is one of God’s most sacred laws. People often get mad at members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for performing baptism for the dead. They think we do it to force people to join our church. But, such is not our doctrine. We do such baptisms out of love for God and for His children. And, as agency is paramount for all of God’s children, we perform such baptisms “that the dead who have not had the opportunity to receive baptism may choose to accept it, of their own free will“. It’s like depositing money into a spiritual bank account vicariously, for-and-in-behalf-of a deceased person. IF, in the spirit world they choose to repent and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ—to any degree of glory—and desire the ordinance of baptism, they can receive it vicariously IF it has been performed for them by a living person. They can go retrieve their ordinance which has been performed from them from the spiritual bank. That’s a loose metaphor, but it will hopefully help with understanding.

Baptism for the dead is one of the ordinances performed only in temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world. Based upon the same principle of agency, we also perform ordinances of higher covenants and blessings, vicariously, in the temples as well, including: the New and Everlasting covenant of marriage, for couples and families who were not able to be sealed together during their mortal lives.

Conclusion

Baptism for the dead is about helping those who have died; without the opportunity to learn of Jesus Christ, without the opportunity to learn about God’s plan of salvation, and to live by its ordinances, covenants, and precepts; to have access to such things vicariously. It is about being “saviors on mount zion” (Obadiah 1:21). It is about feeding God’s lambs (John 21:15). It’s about selflessness and love for our ancestors and for all those of our spiritual brothers and sisters who never had the gospel “because they knew not where to find it” (Doctrine & Covenants 123:12).

If you want to learn more about baptism, see my previous blog Why Baptism? Baptism 101.

BT

I remember my baptism with mixed clarity. Some details are vibrant and mark the day, even ingrain it in my mind with both a combination of anxiety and peace. Other details I cannot recall with more than a flicker, perhaps a blur of faces and flashes of sentiment. But, while I remember a smattering of details, there are only a few which I find now to be of consequence.

Firstly, I know that I was baptized. I know that two men stood at either side of the baptismal font in a room that was lined with brown, scratchy, woven fabric walls and was covered in dark brown moldings and brown, tightly woven commercial carpet. They stood there to witness that when immersed, all of me went under—down to the last stray strand of nearly coal black hair. My baptism was by immersion.

Secondly, one of my joys of the day was knowing that it would be my dad, my wonderful father, who was then bishop of our little ward, who would baptize me. Having authority because of the Melchizedek Priesthood which he held, he raised his right arm up to what is often referred to as “the square” because the upper arm is supposed to be at a right angle from the forearm. He said a very specific prayer, and baptized me in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

My anxiety of the day was my baptismal attire. Somehow or other a past family had forgotten to return some of the baptism dresses that were kept at our modest meetinghouse in Moberly, Missouri. My mother was an excellent seamstress and would certainly have put something together in advance had she known. But the day came, we arrived, and the closet storing those dresses held only attire that was either unsuitable or too large. What then was I baptized in? Well, the tradition is to wear white, and so I was relegated to wear the white blouse I had come in along with the white slip under my skirt. Proving therefore, that a person can be baptized in any respectable type of clothing.

I remember being all too conscious that the boy’s my age would see my underclothes through my wet slip. But, my third memory of the day was that once completely immersed and brought back up out of the water, I hardly worried. Such a concern lost importance in the large scheme of what I was doing. I was whisked off to a private bathroom. Dried and dressed by my mother, and ushered out into that same brown-dominated room to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, again by my father and a couple other priesthood holders. He placed his hands upon my head and commanded me, in the name of Jesus Christ, to receive the Holy Ghost.

As happy as an eight-year-old could be, I was. And while I was not old enough to understand everything, I knew, and felt, that I had made the right choice to be baptized. There was never any question in my mind as to if I should not. And, while I don’t remember any of the talks given that day, who gave them, or what they said, I understood at a very shallow level that I was embarking on a path to do God’s will with my life.

One of my final joys of the day was receiving a two-dollar bill from my CTR teacher, Brother Reeves. All of the kids in my Primary class anxiously awaited getting baptized, because we all knew Brother Reeves would give us a crisp, two-dollar bill. We understood, somehow, that $2 bills were unique, uncommon, and special. And, now, thirty-two years later, I understand that he was trying to teach us that choosing to follow Christ at such an age is even more rare, more uncommon, and more special.

What Baptism is Not

There has been a lot of controversy, since the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, as to what baptism is, who should be baptized, who can perform baptisms, and how a person should be baptized. But, this is not a New Testament-only controversy. Baptism is an eternal ordinance and it was had by Adam and by all thereafter who desired to do God’s will with their lives (Moses 6:51-60; 3 Nephi 11:22-28). Adam, himself, asked after the purpose of baptism, and in the Book of Mormon we read that many were confused as to how it should be done.

Currently, in our modern society, baptism is seen much more casually and is held akin to joining a club. It’s a rite of passage, no more, and thus, it is thought, it can be performed in any numerous ways, by any number of people, and in some religions it is thought to be no more important than in confessing Christ with one’s lips. Many Christian religions encourage baptism, but not all now believe it necessary to salvation.

Baptism is so ancient that it is often taken for granted. And it’s so simple an ordinance that it is easily altered to meet our own desires, expectations, fears, and misunderstandings. Baptism, however, is not a human invention. It is God’s.

Baptism is NOT:

What Baptism Is

Baptism IS:

  • a ritual, a memorial event commanded by God to be performed physically, as an outward sign of an inner desire to follow Christ and give one’s life over to God
  • the gate to enter God’s celestial kingdom (John 3:4-5)
  • of eternal effect when performed by someone with true priesthood authority
  • necessary for the basic salvation of all those who are capable of being accountable
  • for those who have a true desire to follow Christ and live their live by God’s will
  • for those who wish to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost (baptism of fire) and be sanctified over the course of their life by the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and the receipt of higher ordinances and covenants
  • a choice that takes us off neutral ground and puts us on God’s side (Faith is Not by Chance, but By Choice, Elder Neil L. Andersen, October 2015)

Needless Controversy About Baptism

A lot of people get upset when Church policy (based upon the command of God to His prophet) restricts baptism to some until they reach a certain age. The children of polygamist families and now same-sex marriage families must wait until they are 18 to be receive the ordinance of baptism. Such policies create anger and resentment. Publicly, many decry this as an unkindness, a discriminatory policy, and an unfair one and use it to condemn the prophet, or “the brethren” as uninspired and old-fashioned, even oppressive.

However, for those that understand the incredible sanctity and privilege of such an ordinance as well as God’s mercy, they should have no such qualms nor take such offense. What is God saying by restricting baptism to such individuals?

He is indicating the following:

  1. They are not fully accountable before Him (because of their family situations) until they reach 18! Certainly, they are accountable in many ways, and such a measure does not condone the willful committing of sin, but should such die before the age of 18 and not have a chance to be baptized, they would still be eligible for salvation and exaltation. Much of their accountability regarding the impact of sin made so acceptable in their nurturing home environment is taken into account by God. This is a great comfort and one that has long been preached in Moroni 8:5,10-15,20,22,25.
  2. That the ordinance of baptism and the covenants attached are so sacred as to not be entered into lightly or without a conviction that a person wishes to follow Christ and live by the will of God. Children born into families where a natural softening toward sin (polygamy against the will of God, same-sex marriage against the will of God) need more time—which God knows—to sort out their feelings and decide what they believe. Baptism is sacred. God does not wish any to enter into such a covenant without first having a pure desire to enter His kingdom.
  3. That baptism is more than a gate; it is a journey toward a far greater destiny—the privilege of becoming like God (Doctrine & Covenants 14:7; John 17:3). This is not a spiritual educational path to embark upon lightly. Baptism is not just about “getting in” God’s church. It is about accepting a covenant and ordinance with our eyes looking forward to the future that God deeply desires and intends for us.

Why Baptism?

Christ was baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.” He didn’t need baptism to remit His sins but He did need to be baptized to continue to “do the will of Him that sent me.” He needed baptism to remain perfect, to remain faithful, to remain capable of being our Savior. For Him, to accept baptism was to accept, yet again, His role as our Savior, Mediator, and Redeemer.

His baptism was also an example to us. He went to a man who held authority from God to baptize. He was baptized by immersion. He received the presence of the Holy Ghost and gave His apostles the power and authority to confer the gift of it on others. For His baptism, which He was restoring/re-dispensing was a higher baptism. Unlike the baptism of John which was only unto repentance, Christ’s baptism was of fire (the Holy Ghost) and unto sanctification. And by Christ’s (and thus God-the-Father’s) decree, we need both (baptism unto repentance and the baptism of the Holy Ghost) to enter into the gate to the celestial kingdom of God.

So, unlike Christ, we do need baptism (and a the weekly ordinance/offering of the Sacrament) to continually remit our sins and renew our baptismal covenants. It is yet another outward ritual that helps us to remember our covenants and stay on the covenant path.

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Baptism is a physical marker. Thus, because it takes place externally, and is not merely an internal confession of faith, but a physical sign of our faith, it gives it meaning, memorability, and accountability to our actions of the day and thereafter. Such a physical mark gives us power to keep the covenants we make along with the physical ritual. There were witnesses! People know we made a promise to follow God. It adds to our internal desire a pressure to be true to our outward action

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God is a god of sacrifice, of memorials and rites (such as baptism), and of remembrance. Outward ordinances, such as baptism, are for our benefit. They make it nearly impossible to forget the covenants and promises we have made to God.

Conclusion

I can’t think of a better conclusion to the topic of baptism than this scripture, Mosiah 18:8-10:

…Behold, here are the waters of [baptism]…and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that he have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

The priesthood authority to baptize by water and by fire is within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I invite all to renew their baptismal covenants or to seek out such living works as can now be found again on the earth

BT

When it comes to talking about a yoke (let alone being equally yoked), most of us (though not all) being of modern origin don’t comprehend the full meaning of being equally yoked. We may know what a yoke is, we may have seen it in pictures, in some random barn, or ornamentally used in a historical reproduction of an event, etc., but we haven’t had to toil in order to yoke two animals that must pull a very significant and heavy burden. We haven’t had to make use of a yoke for the survival of our families and homes.

A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and is also attached to the plow or cart (or burden) that they are to pull. It is also fastened to and controlled by the reigns held by a master who guides them as they pull.

Vintage Draft Animal wood Harness Yoke isolated on white backgro

To be able to merely walk side-by-side, the two animals yoked need to be of similar size, strength, and build. But that isn’t enough. When there is a burden to pull, these animals must also be able to coordinate their movements and share the burden so that it can be pulled successfully. That coordination is guided by the master who holds the reigns.

Note the characteristics needed to be equally yoked:

  • Similar size
  • Similar strength
  • Similar build
  • Willing and able to coordinate with their yoked partner
  • Willing to follow the commands of the master

Now, if we take this literal explanation and begin to apply it to relationships in our lives, primarily marriage relationships, we begin to see something interesting.

First, let’s take the physical and translate it into something spiritual. In a marriage relationship, for it to work, to allow us to pull our burdens, we must be equally yoked as spouses. Spiritually we need to have:

  • a similar spiritual size (testimony or witness of truth)
  • a similar spiritual strength (faith in Christ)
  • a similar spiritual build (foundation of faith built through righteous living)
  • a willingness to work with and coordinate the burdens of life with our spouse
  • a willingness to follow the guidance and commands of the master

Though differing personality strengths and weaknesses between spouses can be beneficial that we may learn and support one another; spiritual things must be far more compatible for a relationship yoke to work. Remember, a couple is not merely walking side-by-side. They must be able to coordinate successfully to pull a burden—many burdens. And, they must both be willing to obey the same commands from the master. Otherwise, progression is brought to a standstill.

Be Ye Not Unequally Yoked

Sometimes, when we read the scriptures, we can get confused about what it means to be equally yoked. We may feel that our marriage is unequally yoked in many ways. We may wonder if it will ever grow to become something as wonderful as we dream, or see in a few cute old couples.

Many marriages have a sufficient imbalance between spouses of spiritual size, strength, and build. Some marriages even have a sufficient imbalance between themselves of which commands they will respond to from the Master. But there is a big difference between a struggling marriage that has two people who are trying and who have varying levels of faith in Christ than a marriage where one person has completely checked out spiritually…they simply have no faith in Christ.

When one marriage partner denies their testimony (either verbally or by deliberate action), discounts or denies their faith in Christ (either verbally or by deliberate action), dismantles their foundation of faith (by deliberate actions), and refuses to work with their spouse or respond to the commands of the Master (Jesus Christ), then there is a serious issue. Such a marriage is not equally yoked.

Faith in Christ is revealed simply by a willingness to repent, to rebuild a spiritual foundation (if it has weakened or been dismantled), and to coordinate with their spouse and to respond to the commands of the Master.

All marriages are replete with error on the part of both. And, who can count how many hurts one has caused the other, perceived or real? But, the moment one party decides they don’t have to change, or that they won’t change, an incredible chasm is created in the marriage. One partner has completely stopped pulling, participating, and refuses to be guided forward. They no longer believe in Christ’s ability to forgive them, aid them (or their spouse), help them (or their spouse), improve them (or their spouse), reform them (or their spouse), and save the marriage. The marriage is now unequally yoked.

When one spouse completely checks out and quits trying to coordinate and quits trying to pull, the burdens are sufficient that the other spouse will also be brought up short. There is no progression, no forward movement for either party. The spouse who has lost their faith in Christ is not only damning his/her own progression, they are dead weight to the other.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 we read:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?

What concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.

There’s a comes a point in some relationships where the believer (the spouse with faith in Christ) can no longer progress because he/she is unequally yoked with an unbeliever (a past believer who no longer believes in or has faith in Christ, as witnessed by their unwillingness to repent, or a person who has been introduced to Christ and refuses to accept Him). Forward progression will be hampered until the believer unyokes themselves from the unbeliever and gives themselves over to God.

We see this pattern with God and the Israelites. It was a covenant relationship, often figuratively compared to the imagery of a bridegroom and his bride (a figurative marriage relationship). Israel frequently would exhibit faith and then would turn away from their faith. God, unable to “move forward” with them as dead weight would always issue spiritual ultimatums (click on this link to learn more about spiritual ultimatums and how God uses them). God’s frequent ultimatum was immediate consequences for sin, and then a call to repentance, which, if it went unheeded resulted in Him un-yoking Israel from Himself and going to find a “faithful people.”

The Unbelieving Spouse is Sanctified by the Believing Spouse

Being equally yoked is again, not the same as we encounter here in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16:

…If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath and husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband… But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace

For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

This advice from Paul (which is merely his opinion and not direct counsel from God) has to do with people joining the church and their spouse remaining Jewish (or of a different religion). Paul was worried about circumcision, a mark of the old covenant persisting in families when Christ had done away with it. He didn’t want people to cast off their “unbelieving” spouses, however, especially if the marriage was otherwise good.

There are many marriages where the spouses have differing levels of faith in Christ, but again, it still moves forward toward God, whether faster or slower. Being unequally yoked is when the marriage is at a standstill. One party still firmly has faith in Christ. The other does not. One is willing to keep their covenants with God and the other is not. At a standstill no progression can take place for either party.

When Divorce is a Good Thing

Sometimes, for the spouse that’s faithful to their covenants and who has faith in Christ, it can seem to them that unyoking themselves from the marriage would be wrong. However, if the marriage with the spouse is hampering their spiritual progression and the spouse is unwilling to repent, then in order to continue to progress, the only way forward is to issue spiritual ultimatums and with personal revelation from God determine if He (God) would have them unyoke themselves from the unbelieving spouse.

So, how do we know when to un-yoke ourselves from a faithless spouse? How do we know our if our spouse is faithless? How do we know if they won’t change sometime in the future and we should simply hang in there?

Having been through this myself, let me suggest the following:

  1. Pray for help and clear, personal revelation throughout this process
  2. Issue spiritual ultimatums in the appropriate way
  3. If spiritual ultimatums are not met, immediately enact the promised consequences
  4. Set a specific and rigid grace period after the consequences are enacted and stick to it
  5. Make plans to un-yoke yourself in preparation (make it real and don’t delay!)
  6. Make your decision firmly (to stay yoked or to un-yoke) and take it to God for confirmation
  7. Follow-through with the personal revelation you receive

I have seen marriage relationships get clear to #6 before the faithless spouse began to come around, but the marriage ended up beautifully thereafter. I have seen marriage relationships bounce back immediately after step #2. I have seen marriage relationships make several trips to #4 but always survive. I have seen marriage relationships make it to #5, improve for several months, and then eventually end in divorce. I have seen some go through the whole process and end for the best for both sides (which did not necessarily mean both sides ended with faith in Christ or without faith in Christ, but for certain the believer was able to progress at last).

The reality is, our spouse may change when issued a spiritual ultimatum. But, they may not. They may change in the future, but that change may not come about “with us” and we shouldn’t hold out simply in vain hope. They may not even be fazed when we issue a spiritual ultimatum. Sometimes, no matter how we began as a couple (married in the temple or otherwise), we are better off and God would have us un-yoke ourselves so that He might bless us and we can progress as He desires. Otherwise, we will remain at a standstill until we shrug off the dead spiritual weight. As well, the unbelieving spouse will also be prevented from progressing if we refuse to let go. Sometimes, we need to let people hit rock bottom before they can progress back up…even if it’s not by our side.

Being Equally Yoked Under Christ’s Yoke

Christ Himself has said (Matthew 11:29):

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

When both spouses have faith in Christ, Christ is the driver of the marriage. It is His yoke that we have allowed Him to put upon us. Perhaps we may see this verse as Christ in the yoke with us, but I see it more as Him as the driver and we submit to His yoke that He may guide our lives and our marriages. We not only give Him the reigns and allow Him to guide us, He leads us in the best ways to carry our burdens and find ultimate rest. When one marriage partner (that began under His yoke) comes to a complete standstill, or tries to walk backward or escape His guidance, or refuses to change despite the cracks of the whip, God may inspire us to allow Him to un-yoke that person from our lives. By so doing, it allows God to continue to be the master of our spiritual and eternal progression. It means He can pick up the slack and move us forward again toward our eternal blessings.

I don’t think anyone should ever enter a marriage relationship with the idea that they can easily toss it away in divorce. I think marriage should be fought for, worked at, and committed to with integrity. Even tough marriages should be held on to, covenants kept, because God will bless such faith. However, as no person is a guarantee, if the time should come that our spouse abandons their faith in Christ and refuses to repent despite spiritual ultimatums, then in such cases divorce may be a good thing to pursue for those that seek eternal relationships.

For the rest of us, we need to keep pulling, keep making efforts to live by our faith in Christ together. We must both choose to submit to His yoke, His commands, and His guidance as we carry our burdens. If we’re a bit awkward or slow, no worries. We need only maintain our faith and we will progress. We will move forward. Our relationship will improve. God will guide us. We will eventually find the rest we seek.

BT

I’ll never forget, during one early morning seminary class, several years back now, when a student shocked me with a very inspired interpretation of a verse of scripture.

Often, as a teacher, you try to anticipate comments. It’s necessary in order to be prepared to answer questions, or to help students seek their own answers. Often, you feel in your preparation you’ve discovered all the most important doctrines, the most important things for your students to know, and grasp. You’ve dug up all the necessary “in the moment” information, and then you turn it over to the Lord.

But then, you have those days that no matter your preparation, no matter your own aha’s while getting ready, God has something better in store…and your students teach you. Those were always my favorite days—when my students came up with profound truths that made my mouth drop open and which set me pondering. And this is one I have never forgotten.

The scripture was Doctrine & Covenants 93:33-34. It reads:

For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.

I asked my students, during this particular lesson, to read certain sections of scripture and pull out truths (i.e. doctrines). These two verses were simply in a large block of verses assigned and I hadn’t even focused on them by themselves. Then, one of my students got up when it was his turn to share some “truths” and he said something to the effect of:

What I learned from these verses is that suicide won’t make people happier. Suicide disconnects people from their physical body. And, if a fullness of joy only comes from them being together, or eventually reunited, then maybe if people knew that, they wouldn’t be tempted to commit suicide.

I remember sitting there (because I always sat down when I had my kids stand up and share) stunned. Such a doctrine had never before occurred to me. And certainly reading those verses had never led me to contemplate the intricate doctrines attached to suicide.

In Doctrine and Covenants 138 we find a vision by Joseph F. Smith regarding what happens to people after they die. While studying verses about Christ’s atonement and what He did in the three days His body was in the tomb, Joseph F. Smith received this incredible witness of the spirit world. In verse 11-17 Joseph F. Smith recounts:

As I pondered over these things…the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company… I beheld that they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand. They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death. Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided that they might receive a fulness of joy.

Then, in verse 50, we read:

For the dead had looked upon the long absence of the spirits from their bodies as bondage.

Contemplating suicide

Now, if we are to be frank, there are a lot of reasons people contemplate suicide. I myself, during the chaos and struggle leading up to my divorce (9+ years ago now) seriously considered the idea of it. I considered it from a very lucid state of mind, though I was most certainly compromised emotionally and in consequence physically from the stress and lack of sleep and the struggle to maintain my life at the time. I remember perusing all the medications in my house and seeing if any of them could be overdosed on. I did with an acute sense of how ridiculous it was, but I did it anyway.

But, in reality, I knew why I was doing it. And, it wasn’t because I didn’t believe that happiness was out there in the future somewhere. I figured it probably was, though I couldn’t comprehend it at the time. I contemplated suicide because I wanted to get my ex-spouse’s attention. I wanted to find a way to quickly bypass all the pain that was there, at present, and that subconsciously I knew was coming. I wanted to progress through this trial faster. I wanted to shock my ex-spouse into some kind of state where he was willing to see how much I (and our marriage) should mean to him. I wanted to skip past all the unknown drama and hurt, because there seemed to be no end to the pain (both emotional and psychological).

I had never known such numbness, such emptiness, such neglect, nor such personal stagnation. My life was in a horrific limbo. I couldn’t do anything until I knew I had given everything to save the marriage and I couldn’t move forward until the other party “threw in the towel.” And, suicide, in the back of my mind, seemed like a possible way to take control—to force something to happen, because it seemed like nothing was. I was trying so hard to save the marriage and yet it was getting better and it some ways it wasn’t getting worse…it was just stagnating in the slowest possible way.

That contemplation of suicide only lasted one evening. I have the blessing and curse of being incredibly self-aware and nearly incapable of going against my own testimony, my own logic, and reason. Rebellion against common sense and practicality is nearly impossible for me. Thus, so also was suicide.

However, other people contemplate it for reasons that may include: escape, fear, depression, revenge, control, psychological collapse, or despair. Other reasons tend to be more fanatic and are rare and I’m not sure such fanatic and eccentric reasons for taking one’s own life are related to this article at all.

superhero

Bodies are a spiritual catalyst and a spiritual amplifier

However, no matter why a person may contemplate suicide, it’s important to understand that no matter how difficult life “in their body” is, that abandoning that body doesn’t necessary mean happiness. Bodies (whether mortal or immortal) are powerful. They are a power (i.e. glory, Abraham 3:26) that our spirit gains by simply coming to this life. To cast them off, no matter how much pain or suffering we may be experiencing, is to cast off the most powerful tool we have to access happiness.

The scriptures teach us that eternal happiness is achieved first and foremost by having our body and spirit together, or reunited (if we have died). A physical body (whether mortal or immortal) is a godly power. It’s something God had that we didn’t, and it is one of the primary reasons we chose to come into this mortal world.

A body grants us the power to create life, manipulate matter, and do all sorts of amazing things by the sheer act of our spiritual/mental will. In a body (D&C 138:33-35) we can gain access to ordinances and covenants that allow us to take advantage of God’s grace and by so doing seek godliness—to be like God. We can’t do that without a body!

Without a body…none of these critical, eternal things are possible unless done vicariously by proxy individuals who have bodies. And God has made it clear that this is not the best way, though it is available (Alma 34:32-36) because our bodies amplify who we are and are a catalyst to godly development. Simply separating our body from our spirit won’t make us into something we aren’t already, fundamentally. We are who we become while we are in our bodies. Our bodies have an amplifying effect upon our spirits (2010, Bednar, David. A, Things as They Really Are). Our bodies also have the power to help us change, and improve, our fundamental spiritual nature. If our spiritual nature needs improvement and refinement, a mortal body can help us accomplish that faster than eons of existence as a mere spirit.

A lot of people who don’t understand the purpose of life foolishly assume that religion is about simply being a good person. It is not. God’s plan of salvation and the fullness of His truth is about becoming like Him. We can’t do that by casting off our body simply to escape pain or trouble, to abandon fears, to avoid dealing with the very real physical struggles of depression and other psychological, to enact revenge, to seek control, or to escape despair. Our body is the very godly tool that allows us, through perseverance, to transcend pain and trouble, to overcome fears, to conquer depression and other psychological struggles, to gain peace and conquer forgiveness, and to find joy.

To cast off our body purposefully is to give up the power to gain happiness and joy. It does not create the power to gain happiness and joy.

Death comes to all

Death is a very real thing. It comes to each of us in God’s own will and time. It is the doorway to other pieces of God’s plan for us prior to our eventual resurrection. But, even to God death (separation of the body and spirit) is temporary. Through the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ we will get our bodies back, perfected and immortal. His body is eternally connected with His spirit and so will ours be. Our body, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, belongs to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It is His to take, not ours to cast off.

Martyrdom and Sacrifice

There is only one person, in all of God’s plan, who got to choose (by God’s divine decree) when to offer up His physical body and cast it away and when to take it up again and reunite it with His spirit, and that was Christ (John 10:17-18). And, He did so in a supreme act of self-sacrifice and by a vicarious ordinance to save us both physically and spiritually for eternity. He didn’t do it to escape anything. Rather, He wished that He might not have to do so (Matthew 26:39).

Throughout scripture we see that God commands people to kill in rare instances, to be the hand of justice. We also see God commanding His prophets, apostles, and people to die for His truths rather than to compromise. We also see many people giving their lives to save others. Such instances, it would seem, are the only godly ways to walk purposefully into death. And God is the judge and grants the authority to do so.

Conclusion

What’s God’s feeling about suicide? Even as mortals we understand that suicide is not a solution, ultimately. It’s not something we should choose, and even non-religious people recommend against it. But how God treats it for those that commit suicide? That’s not for us to worry about. It’s in God’s hands.

But, if you are contemplating suicide, or if you know someone who is, please share with them God’s love for them. Remind them how precious and powerful their body is. And that just as their body allows them to experience so much pain and sorrow, it is also the catalyst and godly tool which can allow them to seek ultimately joy and happiness, both in this life, and in the life to come. Remind them that their soul (spirit + body) is, by the grace of God, the tool He has given them which gives them the power to find, create, and seek happiness and joy. Love them. Encourage them to hang on. Encourage them to seek help. To find answers. To take ownership of their ability (that body) to change their lives!

BT

It’s like the game of telephone. You start on one end with the exact phrase, and by the time it gets to the other end of the telephone line, the last person says something incredibly different. How is that possible? It seems that one simple sentence, one simple phrase, should be easy enough to pass down a line of even a few people without it getting altered or changed. So, what happens?

Each person in a telephone game line hears a string of words or a phrase. Often, the phrase is spoken clearly. But, they change the wording just a bit because they think they understand what’s being said and they want to put it in their own words. Sometimes, the phrase is spoken poorly. The person listening must then piece together what they’ve heard. If what they’ve heard doesn’t make sense, their brain does whatever it has to in order to come up with something understandable to pass on (though it doesn’t often end up being understandable at all).

The truth of the phrase/statement becomes subject to personal interpretation, what a person thinks sounds right (or good), what they believe they heard, or what their limited mortal experience feels about what they believe they heard. Some people even change a phrase/statement so that it reflects their understanding and opinion of something because they think their version is better. Because they don’t understand the feelings of the person who originated the phrase (or perhaps they don’t agree with the originator’s feelings) they make minor changes to adapt it to their feelings.

Thus, over the course of time and tiny alterations, what began as a very clear, concise statement soon becomes something ridiculous and difficult to understand.

This is also the process that causes apostasy.

Apostasy is first and foremost a loss of truth

Apostasy, if you google it, is defined as:

The abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.

Such abandonment and renunciation naturally takes place when truth becomes untruth. Without the big picture, without the original truth, and without an understanding of that truth apostasy logically follows. Because, without knowledge, origin (from which truth derives its power), and understanding there is no power. It’s the game of telephone on a spiritual scale.

Power lies in truth. There’s a cliché that “the truth will set you free.” But it can only do so if it is actually truth. Anything other than the truth creates bondage and limits our power.

Truth has power ONLY if it remains un-diluted (Doctrine & Covenants 93:24). Dilute the truth, twist it, alter it, hide it, abandon it and POOF, power gone. Freedom one.

No power equals no ability to create lasting faith within individuals. Faith, especially misplaced, is easily destroyed or crushed. Agnosticism and atheism are the direct result of faith that has been crushed or destroyed by trust in false truths. If any person places their faith in something untrue it will ultimately fail them. Then, consequentially, more apostasy.

Apostasy is secondly a loss of priesthood power and authority

When there is an individual and/or group abandonment of the source of God’s truth: God’s prophets, then apostasy is certain. While a few mistruths or alterations can be updated, set straight, or amended through seeking the source of truth (God, Holy Spirit, prophets), a rejection of God, the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and/or God’s prophets leads to certain apostasy. God’s prophets are the sole dispensers and carriers of ALL priesthood authority and power (Amos 3:7). Thus, when people (individual or groups) reject prophets apostasy is imminent.

Without prophets there is no true church. This is because without prophets there is no true priesthood authority which means there are no true saving ordinances and covenants. The authority to baptize, dispense ordinances and sacraments—gone. Anything people construct or piece together, no matter how close it is to the original, if there is any alteration in the ordinance and if there is no true authority, the ordinances and covenants are invalid.

A perfectly performed ordinance without true priesthood power and authority is nothing more than “going through the motions” (Doctrine & Covenants 22:2). Our intent will still be valid as concerns the state of our soul—to some extent (Doctrine & Covenants 137:9), but such intent can only get us so far. At some point the ordinance must be performed by true power and authority to be eternally acceptable (Doctrine & Covenants 138:33).

Judges 17-18 teaches us the pattern for, or process of, apostasy

In Judges 17:6 we read:

In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

In Judges 18:1 we read:

In those days there was no king in Israel: and in those days the Danites sought them an inheritance to dwell in; for unto that day all their inheritance had not fallen unto them among Israel.

In Judges 21:25 we read:

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

These three verses in Judges teach an important principle. Without an authorized king (or spiritual leader or head) religious action becomes subject to personal opinion.

In Israel, kings were originally anointed and called because Israel rejected God as their king (1 Samuel 8:7). They wanted to be like everybody else and have a visible king who would go before them in battles and “look the part.” Such kings were commanded to try to emulate God in their governance and teach the people God’s laws and uphold His righteousness (Deuteronomy 17:14-20 ). But, most of them did not because they were subject to human frailty, weakness, fear of men, and pride. Israel’s eventual apostasy came about because from almost the very beginning of the restoration of the gospel through Moses, they rejected God’s kingship outright.

Jesus Christ is the King of Kings. Prophets, such as Moses, etc., speak for God as our King. When we reject prophets, we reject God’s government, His highest covenants and thus His highest blessings, powers, and ordinances (Doctrine & Covenants 84:16-27). What are we then relegated to? Monarchies, systems of judges, and other forms of man-made government (Doctrine & Covenants 58:19-22). Such forms of government are a lesser government and as such are corruptible. But once we have rejected God, these are the governments we get. Such governments, we are warned, will oppress us and bring ultimate conflict (Mosiah 19:17-18, Proverbs 29:2) until God delivers us.

Once God and His prophets have been rejected eventually kings (or other government forms) become wicked. This is because truth has been diluted, altered, and without continuing revelation and purification from God and His prophets, truth becomes untruth and people are left to make religion after their own ideas, opinions, beliefs, comforts, and their desire for public acceptance.

If we look at scripture, from the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants, we see the clear pattern of Apostasy and Restoration.

The pattern for, or process of, apostasy

process of apostasy

In Judges, we see that though God restored His gospel and continuous guidance and heavenly kingship through Moses, the Israelites ultimately rejected all of it are in a state of complete apostasy.

Doctrine and Covenants 1:14-23 tells us why God has throughout history (and why in 1830) restored His correct church again upon the earth after apostasies. Such restorations are often referred to as dispensations (times when God “dispenses” His gospel anew).

And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people [(meaning cut off from among God’s people)].

For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant; They seek not the Lord to establish His righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol [(see Judges 17:6, 18:1, 21:25)], which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.

Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun, and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—

The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—

But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; That faith also might increase in the earth; That mine everlasting covenant might be established; That the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.

When people realize they are missing truth, it is then they seek God. When they do so, God begins a restoration of truth in their personal lives. Many times throughout history, this restoration takes place world-wide. Adam was the first dispensation (dispensation). He was the first prophet and he dispensed the gospel, truths, laws, ordinances, and covenants to his family. There would never have been another dispensation if there hadn’t been eventual apostasy among the inhabitants of the earth.

note: The line of the birthright (as I’ve stated many times before) was primarily about passing on the priesthood line of prophet-ship, or the keys and authority of the priesthood. Firstborn sons (if they were righteous) were given not only most of the father’s land and riches so that they might be in charge of family/church welfare, but so that they could take care of the church/family. Firstborn sons (if they were righteous) received the keys and authority of the priesthood. Think of male family heads as prophets, area authorities, stake presidents, and bishops. Each righteous male firstborn (who symbolized Christ, of course) received the truths and priesthood authority to ensure the family/church remained true and had God’s truths.

With Moses (another dispensation/restoration head) we see the beginning of a world-wide restoration. Unfortunately, the Israelites rejected God almost from the beginning and could never rise to the opportunity to spread the gospel to the rest of the world. They received only a lesser priesthood and eventually that melted away with their wickedness. They fell into apostasy and were not prepared when Christ came (another dispensation head) to restore the gospel yet again. Most of them rejected Christ.

Christ was rejected as well as His prophets, and yet another apostasy took place not long after Christ’s death and resurrection (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5). Truth was altered or lost and priesthood authority had again been rejected and quenched. The apostles were eventually rejected and killed and again people organized God’s church after their own ideas and beliefs. We see in the Reformation many people reaching out to God yet again, seeking for truth. During this time, God begins to work among many seekers to bring about the printing of the Bible and many protestant faiths in preparation, laying the groundwork to make possible the complete restoration which began in 1830 with Joseph Smith and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

[To learn about the beginning of the restoration, please read SAINTS: The Standard of Truth.]

The process of, or pattern for, restoration

process of restoration

Conclusion

In reading Judges this time through, these verses in chapter 17, 18, and 21 stuck out to me as never before. And I suspect people who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wonder why we run around calling ourselves the “true church” of God. Such a label, I assume, appears offensive. Especially those who worship God and keep His commandments and covenants the best they can. By calling ourselves true they must feel offense because such a label defines them as false.

However, we call ourselves the “true church”, not to condemn others or devalue the truths they have and hold to. We believe that other religions have much truth. But we believe that they do not have all the truth. Thus, we do so because we are God’s true church and He has commanded us to call ourselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to teach that we are His church so that the:

…many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men…and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—

may know where to find it!

God would have us have Him as our King always, continuously. God would have us want His guidance always. God would have us return to His presence and become as He is. His gospel is, at its core, a path to godliness. It is not His will that we should all run around doing that which is right “in our own eyes.” But, He would have us know, access, and receive His truths, laws, covenants, ordinances, and powers in their correct state and in their fullness without doubt.

We don’t have to be like Micah and the Danites, coming up with our own versions of how to get the promises and blessings God gives. We don’t have to make idols or go running around the land looking for our spiritual inheritance. God has the correct version available to us of how to receive His promises and blessings. He has not only a spiritual inheritance already awaiting us, but an eternal one!

Judges teaches us how apostasy takes place and what it looks like. But, it teaches us these things not so we can remain in apostasy, without a fullness of truth. It teaches us these things that we might recognize it and seek for a restoration in our own lives.

I tend to feel guilty asking God to bless me when I’ve messed up that particular day. I feel unworthy to seek His help when I’ve struggled with my temper, said something unkind, or been impatient with others around me. I will sit down to blog and I’m afraid to start knowing that my heart hasn’t been perfectly kind and loving all day. “Who am I to try and do this good when I’ve acted so poorly?” I ask myself.

Have I said my sorrys? Yes. Have I asked for forgiveness of those I’ve offended? Yes. Then, why can’t I trust God to help me despite my failings? Why do I avoid asking for His help or sitting down to share my love of His character and His words when I know that these are most certainly things He wants me to do?

Here’s the big question: Does my imperfection in one area make it impossible for God to bless me in other areas?

The answer: No.

Why? Because God is just.

The Story of Samson Illustrates God’s Just Nature

Recently, while pressing forward with my #dailydoctrines (see @theDoctrineLady on Instagram), I got to Judges 14+ where there are several chapters devoted to Samson. Samson is precisely the kind of guy I can’t stand. I’m naturally annoyed and disgusted by guys who like to show off, seem to like to prove to others their superiority (whether or not they are), and who are womanizers. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on Samson. But, the reality is that when I read his story I’m supremely skeptical of him as a heroic character. I focus more on his failings than his positive attributes.

Because of my bias, I recently turned to my husband for his viewpoint. I have to do this when my own feelings cloud my ability to be taught doctrine by the Spirit. Normally, I see doctrines quite quickly. With the Samson story, I just read and read and read…

What my husband and I discussed and what I have pondered regarding Samson’s story has truly enlightened me. It has strengthened my testimony of God’s just nature. Instead of being clouded by Samson’s weaknesses, I can at last see what his story teaches me about God (which is what #dailydoctrines are…#whatgodislike). Samson’s story is one that testifies of God’s justice and trustworthiness.

Samson is a Nazarite

Even before he was born, and angel told Samson’s parents that he was to be a Nazarite. Being a Nazarite is similar to, or semi-related to, being a nun, monk, or dedicated missionary. Not only do they keep basic commandments, but they have specific rules and covenants they keep that set them apart, even among believers. Being a Nazarite can be a lifetime vow, but it wasn’t always.

Samson was raised as a Nazarite (don’t confuse it with Nazarene, or being from Nazareth) from birth and it is clear that he honored the specific rules and covenants with being a Nazarite; most especially that of not cutting his hair. These covenants and ways of living marked him as God’s. He was set apart by these rules.

It seems, from the account in Judges, that the blessings Samson received from keeping his Nazarite covenant included an incredible amount of physical strength, which I suspect he had genetically but was amplified by his faithfulness. It also made him an extra talented fighter. It witnesses clearly that God can give us gifts and talents, but that these talents can become even more powerful and can even be multiplied when we use them in His service.

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Samson has Weaknesses and So Do We

Right alongside his righteous Nazarite observance, Samson has two very visible weaknesses. First, he is arrogant and has a need to prove his superiority. It seems evident that he needed a reason to boast about his secret, or unknown, acts of strength by challenging his wedding party with riddles. And, he does so not only to boast (in a sense) but also to win more gifts off of them.

Samson succeeds in stumping his guests until his new wife convinces him to tell her about the riddle’s meaning. Then, in order to make good on his betting debt (since he doesn’t have the possessions) he runs off and slaughters some of the Philistines and takes their stuff. Not such a Christlike showing, is it?

Often in Judges we see phrases like “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him” right before he runs off and slaughters people. While I have no way of knowing exactly Samson’s situation, I think it’s probable to consider that this may refer to the power of God as manifested through Samson’s gifts and talent of strength and fighting prowess. So, you could also word it his talents of strength and fighting prowess were activated or were amplified. Whether or not God actually guided/commanded Samson to slay the lion or to kill a thousand Philistines with a jawbone, or whether God honored the blessings of strength and fighting talent that came with Samson’s obedience to his Nazarite vow may not matter. But, I feel it’s more consistent with God’s character as displayed in all of scripture to say that God honored the blessings attached to Samson’s obedience to his Nazarite vow; rather than to say God guided/commanded Samson to slay the lion or to pay off his gamble by killing 40 people, or to slay a thousand Philistines with a jawbone because they offended him.

Was Samson’s job to deliver Israel from the Philistines? Yes. And perhaps though he never fully rose to this opportunity because of his weaknesses, these small battles were allowed or did not contribute to his condemnation because he was, in a sense, attempting to fulfill his mission.

So, Samson was full of human weakness. But, he was also an extremely faithful Nazarite until nearly the end of his reign as judge. Which makes him just like all of us. We are all full of a myriad of weaknesses and issues and yet all of us do many wonderful, righteous, and powerful things in the service of our fellow men.

God is Just

The story of Samson shows that God is just. How? Because even though Samson was sort of a mess, with many weaknesses, God still blessed him for the commandments he did keep. And, God was unable to bless Samson in the areas where he didn’t keep the commandments, thus proving Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 and 137:9 accurate.

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.

Samson didn’t desire to marry “in the covenant,” or, in other words, within his religion (according to the command of God, Deuteronomy 7:2-5) and people. His actions reflected that desire. He sought out Philistine women, not repenting when his parents tried to counsel him otherwise. Thus, he lost out on the blessings. His women were repeatedly a snare to him and ultimately his undoing (because he didn’t repent), as prophesied in Deuteronomy.

A God who will bless us where we are righteous even when we are wicked in some areas is just. A God who knows we will ultimately abandon Him in some aspects of our life in the future but blesses us in the present while we are faithful is just. We often forget that justice is as much about blessings earned as it is cursing or consequences earned. Consequences are not all from one end of the spectrum. Consequences are directly related to the laws of God. He must bless us when we do right, just as He must withdraw blessings (or curse us) when we don’t do what’s right (Doctrine & Covenants 82:10).

Conclusion

So, while it’s hard to approach God, say a prayer, seek for spiritual guidance, even to serve in our families and church callings on the days when we feel we’ve failed miserably; as long as we are penitent and the desires of our heart are good, we can pick ourselves up with gratitude and hope that God is just. He can and will bless us in the righteousness we do even when other aspects of our lives are still a work-in-progress.

However, in this let us be un-like Samson. Samson could have repented and received more power and blessings and fulfilled his earthly mission (and received eternal glory too), yet he did not. We don’t have to be like him. We can continue, through grace, to repent and work on the areas in which we repeatedly fail or struggle. We can seek for blessings and keep trying. And the mistakes we do make should not deter us from pressing forward in the good we seek to do.

BT

The Lord has spent much of my life, all of it really, teaching me how to be patient. I don’t remember asking for it (though I am guilty of asking His will to be done…). But, it’s certainly been a large part of every aspect of my sojourn here. Whether it was learning to be patient with my sisters (I was the youngest), or learning to be patient with my parents (as a teenager), or learning to be patient with the weaknesses and struggles of friends and leaders (at school and church), I’ve been being tutored in patience. As I got older, patience tutoring came in the lack of possessions, or a home, a car, or in the pursuit of education, or paying off debt. It seems everything about life, nearly, is about teaching us all to be patient.

Why the Need for Patience?

So, why is it we need to patient? Well, as mortals, it’s because we are always in the pursuit of stuff. We are always in the pursuit of knowledge, health, understanding, blessings, help, guidance, answers, etc. We are spiritually unfinished. We are physically unfinished. We are not yet immortal and exalted. And, a part of our soul knows this and so we have this incessant drive to achieve, get, arrive, and become.

So, from the moment we are born we are on the run asking for all the things we want and expecting them all to be handed to us. We’re here now and we want to get, receive, learn, and become as fast as possible and in the easiest possible way. We’re in a hurry to become whatever it is we’re supposed to become…

And herein lies our impatience. We are off running and we don’t even know where it is we are supposed to be running. We are in a hurry to get…we know not where. But God does, and so His plan is all about slowing down, figuring out His Plan for us and tackling it with wisdom and patience.

In my own experience, I have learned that when it comes to patience, there are only two major variables in God’s plan for us: when and how. We want stuff and we want it now. But, since we can’t have it now, the question is when. And, though for most of us our desires are good, often we don’t go about getting them in the best possible manner. We want things easy instead of in the way that will help us fulfill our purpose and God’s plan. Thus, patience requires leaving the how up to God.

When and How

When? Yes, when. And, how. When and how. But, when it really comes down to it, the how isn’t important because God’s how will always be far better than the how that you come up with.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about learning to be patient, truly patient. Patience is determined by our faith and trust in God.

When you truly have faith in God, there is never a question of if He will bless you. There is a never a question of if He will keep His promises. There is NEVER an if. The only real question is “When?” And, if you feel like the how is also a valid question, let me simply say that God’s how of blessing you will always be far more wonderful than the how(s) that you came up with.

Sometimes the “when” is a problem for a lot of us. We want our blessings now. We want God to fulfill His promises now. We want to become right now. We think we get it, that we understand, and that we’ve arrived. So, then we hold out our hand and demand the blessing we seek in our rush to continue on.

I used to feel that way. Until one day, I realized, that God’s path for me is perfect. If I ask Him to mess with that path, then I am asking Him for less than perfection; I’m asking Him to give me something less wonderful than He has planned.

This idea of getting less than God has planned simply because I’m impatient resonates horrifically with my type of personality. I’m exceedingly proactive, when it comes to seeking blessings, happiness, and peace. And, if the Lord handed me a Big Mac simply because I was too impatient to wait for a 5-star steak dinner, I would be devastated and unhappy. I would hate that Big Mac and I would not appreciate it. I’d likely take a hesitant bite, and then discovering that it was okay but certainly not the best that I could have had, I would toss it and feel angry and unhappy. I might even wonder why God didn’t make me wait for the better blessing.

But, I realize that it’s hard to patient with the Lord’s timescale for blessing us. It’s hard to imagine that there’s a celestial meal far greater than any 5-start restaurant we’ve ever eaten at, if we will only keep the commandments, be patient in afflictions and suffering, and strive to be Christ-like. It means sacrificing a whole bunch of metaphorical hamburgers and fries, a whole bunch of soft-serve cones, and plenty of quick fix snacks.

Hang on while I continue with this metaphor…

As all those snacks pass by on the mortal conveyor belt, it’s tempting to think that God’s promises are a farce. How could He possible want us to starve like this while we wait for some dinner when we can’t even actually imagine it’s fabulousness? This meal He’s asking us to wait for could be months, years, even a lifetime away. Is it worth it to wait that long? Is God really a god of love and kindness if He would ask us to wait soooo long?

Our blessings or long-awaited meal could be a job, spouse, health and strength, recognition, forgiveness, a spiritual witness or testimony, etc. When we ask, live for, and seek these amazing blessings God feeds us with metaphorical manna as we persevere toward our promised land. But, often, like the infamous Israelites in the desert, we get tired of the manna. We want the meal and we want it now and we don’t want to have to go to battle or suffer struggle to get it.

Often, in order for us to get our blessings and to appreciate them, God has to put us on a spiritual diet and training regimen to prepare us for this higher level of food. We end up dieting from worldly pleasures, leaving us quite hungry, and are asked to fill the void with spiritual ones. And, often, that spiritual food doesn’t look so appetizing. But, if we have the faith to trust in God and eat the spiritual food and the manna that He offers, we begin to find it far more satisfying than anything else we’ve ever tasted. At last, we are in preparation to hasten toward our blessings and our promised meal!

Patience, then, requires faith. We need God to be with us (Alma 38:4-5) and the Holy Ghost (Alma 13:28) in order to cultivate and maintain patience. The presence of God in our lives grants us the ability to see past the conveyor belt, to see forward to a far better meal worth waiting for. When they are with us, we can have peace as that mortal conveyor belt continues to roll on with all manner of “less than perfect” blessings and meals. God reminds us through His spirit all that He has in store and that it’s worth the wait. Such heavenly help strengthens our faith, our resolve, our confidence, our gratitude, and our patience.

Patience is cultivated as we go through this process time and again throughout our mortal life. Each time the conveyor belt gets longer. Each time the promised meal seems to be further and further away. And, according to our spiritual ability (1 Corinthians 10:13) God increases our capacity for godliness and patience. And, in proportion our blessings are deeper, more powerful, and more spiritually fulfilling.

A few years back I recorded a video for my mother for a class she was teaching on Job. Job is often thought of as a story of suffering. But, ultimately, it’s a story about patience and Job’s deeper discovering and understanding of grace. Without this seemingly horrific struggle in his life he may never have graduated to a greater understanding of grace. His relationship with God sustained him until far greater blessings were bestowed.

I’m younger here. But, my testimony is still the same. I’ve been through this process a few times now, and though it keeps happening, my patience and understanding of grace and God’s love for us is increasing exponentially. I wouldn’t ask for an easier life or trade away any of my metaphorical deserts. Each has taught me, increased my faith, and my patience.

It’s never a question of if God will bless you. It’s only ever a question of when. The how will ALWAYS be far better than you could ever come up with on your own. I promise each of you that you can trust God. If you are true to Him. If you live to have His Holy Spirit with you. If you remember to follow His advice (commandments) for receiving your blessings and desires, He WILL fulfill all His promises and you will receive blessings that are far better than you could imagine (Doctrine & Covenants 1:37, 1 Corinthians 2:9).

Patience with Others

With others, the principle is the same. We often try to hurry along their learning, their growth, and their understanding, and we want it to match ours (because we think ours is always better). We have duties to teach and instruct and invite others to learn truth and to come unto God. But, too often we feel that duty requires manipulation, micromanagement, belaboring, and coercion, none of which are of God (Doctrine and Covenants 121:37-43). We use these tactics, feeling justified by our good intentions. Yet, no intentions, no matter how good, ever justify using impatient means.

With those around us, the questions are the same: when and how. When…the answer is always eventually. Isaiah taught us that eventually “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess” that Jesus is the Christ and that God is real and His ways are just (Isaiah 45:23-24). We don’t have to micromanage other’s journey to Christ’s greatest blessings or their repentance. We can love, serve, invite with charity, and entice with example. Then, we can leave the WHEN up to God. How…the answer is always between them and God. We can only pray to know when and if God would have us play a part.

Conclusion

It has been my experience that the sooner we stop panicking, fearing that God has failed us, and thinking we have to control everything and everyone and to rush it along, the sooner our blessings, our own growth, and the growth of others comes. It’s when we let go and have patience that things take their proper and necessary course. We have to get out of our own way, other’s way, and God’s way. We can’t force our own spiritual progression and blessings any more than we can force others. We must patiently submit to God’s will (Mosiah 3:19), cheerfully do all that lies within our power, and then stand still and see the salvation of God and for His hand to be revealed (Doctrine & Covenants 123:17).

BT

I suspect God can seem pretty changeable if you don’t know Him. If you haven’t gotten to know how He works with His children; if you haven’t prayed to Him or tried out His commandments or tested His ability to bless, it would be easy for you to come to the incorrect assumption that He is changeable. That sometimes He provides miracles and sometimes He doesn’t. That sometimes He is merciful and sometimes He isn’t.

If all your education is through the opinions of others, through heresay, it would be easy to make the incorrect assumption that God either doesn’t exist or that He can’t be depended upon, or simply that He isn’t worth following. You might assume He loves men more than women or that some people aren’t as preferred. All false assumptions because you don’t know Him personally.

In St. John 7:17 Christ teaches us:

If any man will do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.

In Alma 32:26-27 we are encouraged to “awake and arouse our faculties” to do an “experiment upon the word.”

If we really want to know what God is like and cultivate the faith to follow Him, to even know He exists, we’ve got to study Him out for ourselves.

I know a lot of good people who feel that God is limited in His attributes. Some will say He can’t be all-loving and all-powerful at the same time. Because somehow they assume that all-loving means no rules or commandments, no consequences, and no sorrow or suffering, period. Some religions teach that God once had prophets but that now such things are done away; as though people in the past needed prophets but we don’t. Some teach that miracles like those in the scriptures don’t take place any more.

1 Nephi 10:18, 2 Nephi 27:23 & 29:9, Mormon 9:9, Moroni 10:19, Doctrine & Covenants 20:12

These scriptures teach emphatically that God doesn’t change. And, if these scriptures are true and God doesn’t change, then a lot of mysteries about life and religion can be immediately solved by a study of God’s character and the ways in which He works in our lives. Such a study will reveal, as I have discovered for myself, that much about God and His plan for us feels a bit uncomfortable. But, it’s the type of discomfort we all feel when we have a sore that needs healing or a cavity that needs to be filled. The discomfort ends when we seek out the often uncomfortable process of getting healed. That healing requires effort but in ends in peace, relief, joy, and comfort. It doesn’t start in comfort, but it ends in comfort (I credit C.S. Lewis for this wording which he provides in Mere Christianity).

God’s nature and His plan for us is uncomfortable in the best way. It makes us feel uncomfortable until we become more godly, which His plan for us facilitates. He doesn’t allow us to take comfort in things that aren’t godly. His ultimate goal for us isn’t mortal bliss, it’s eternal bliss. Thus, all the things we would plan out on paper to lead us to a peaceful mortal life are often the things God allows to be taken away from us or which He asks us to sacrifice at the first possible opportunity (Mark 10:17-22).

And, this pattern is clear in every book of scripture we have currently available to us. The Old Testament, New Testament, Doctrine & Covenants, Book of Mormon, and Pearl of Great Price all have this pattern running clearly, obviously, and repetitively through them.

SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, Volume I

Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out with the first volume of their new saints2history of the church. It’s titled: SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, volume I. You can read it online (that’s where the link takes you) for FREE, for FREE on the Gospel Library app (look it up on your phone). You can listen to it FREE (through these same avenues), or you can buy it for $5.75 through brick and mortar or other distributors.

As I’ve been reading this history, I have been repeatedly impressed that the pattern of the Restoration of the Gospel from 1830 until now mimics directly each and every other time God has had to re-establish His true church. Such times are called dispensations because the Gospel has to be re-dispensed. It began with Adam and Eve, and we see the patterns there in the Pearl of Great Price. We see Moses re-dispensing the Gospel in the Old Testament. Jesus Christ, yet again, had to re-dispense, fix, update, and teach His Gospel. The New Testament shows this. The Doctrine and Covenants, of course, which is about the final dispensation began by the prophet Joseph Smith is quoted directly by the history SAINTS: The Standard of Truth, Volume I. A close study of these scripturally recorded dispensations, where God has had to re-establish His church through prophets and re-dispense priesthood authority, ordinances, and commandments reaffirms that He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

Here are some of the commonalities that I find among all of these dispensations and scriptural/historical accounts and which are historically illustrated for us in SAINTS:

  • The first and most critical piece of any new dispensation is that God calls a prophet.
  • The prophet is someone who is seeking for God’s truths and is humble and open to be taught.
  • The prophet God calls is never perfect.
  • God doesn’t give the prophet all the knowledge at one time.
  • The prophet is required to ask, seek, and knock, the basic formula for personal revelation.
  • The prophet is subject to mistakes and follies but retains His office as long as he is repentant.
  • God doesn’t prevent the prophets, or apostles, from human error; He teaches them line upon line, precept upon precept and they slowly rise to the pinnacle of their potential and calling.
  • We gain faith in prophets as we sustain them, support them, and follow them.
  • God expects us/His people to follow the prophet and sustain Him regardless of imperfection or a lack of talents.
  • God asks His people to do very, very hard things more than once in their lives.
  • God isn’t afraid to reveal things that are uncomfortable simply to build up numbers. He is interested in the quality of His followers, not the quantity.
  • God reveals things that are hard and uncomfortable specifically to build faith and weed out lukewarm followers.
  • God gives promises to His people that can only be fulfilled if they are obedient.
  • If we/God’s people fall short of living up to the promises God gives, we/God’s people can repent and keep trying.
  • God cares more about our spiritual health than our physical/mortal comfort. If our mortal suffering will bring about spiritual growth then He loves us enough to let us suffer.
  • God gives peace and comfort to His people/us even when all else seems to be temporarily denied.
  • The church, comprised of us/God’s people, can’t move forward without unity; which unity is often obtained by the excommunication of blatantly unrepentant members or members rebelling against and/or leaving the church of their own will.
  • The number of members in the church, joining the church, or leaving the church, has nothing to do with its veracity. It’s truth is independent of numbers.
  • God recognizes that we need community to help us live the gospel. He gathers us together, where possible, to provide the strength we need to press forward in doing His will.
  • God often asks us to do hard things when it feels as if we can’t handle any more; such sacrifice, once given, is immediately rewarded by blessings, peace, comfort, and an ability to transcend struggle and trial…even to not even feel it.
  • The first step to apostasy from God’s gospel is criticism and distrust of God’s prophet.
  • Personal revelation is for all. Revelation for the guiding and directing of the church comes to the prophet.
  • Sacrifice is the greatest builder of faith and spiritual power.
  • Ultimately we have to trust in God or abandon Him. Middle ground doesn’t actually exist.

I could go on and on here. But, I recommend that any person who knows very little about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to read this first volume of its history (and those that follow as they are published). I feel it should be obligatory that any person proposing to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints read this history. The patterns I have mentioned above reveal themselves and are reaffirmed to the pure seeker of truth.

One thing it has reaffirmed for me is that God is, without a doubt, the same, yesterday, today, and forever. We can trust Him. He is worth following no matter what is asked of us. His character and His power is reaffirmed in this book.

BT

It’s hard to figure out how to be a part of the world, but not. How to be a mortal person in a mortal world, but somehow not of the world; to transcend it somehow even though we’re in a mortal body. To have to work each day, take care of mundane issues, and still somehow not be defined by the mundane.

It also seems to be that we measure our in-ness or of-ness by simply being a certain distance from the world. As long as we seem to be a reasonable distance above it, we consider ourselves safe from its deceptions and wiles. We label ourselves of God when all we really are is simply a little better than the world.

intheworldbutnotoftheworld5

We all are what the scriptures describe as natural men and women (Mosiah 3:19). Our natural, mortal, human bodies are a large portion of what we are. We have been given the gift of mortality, a weakness that is at the heart of each of us (Ether 12:27). And, mortality is purposeful. God put us here, as mortal, on purpose.

So, how do we answer the command to be in the world, but not of the world?

A Discussion on Salt

This is a topic I recently pondered for a lesson I had to teach to the YW in my ward. As I pondered how to help them to learn from the Spirit how to be in the world but not of the world, I had to consider the definition of both in and of.

In = being present in a place, being enclosed or surrounded by something, being inside a period of time, expressing movement within an event, place, or situation

Of = belonging to, related to, or connected with; used to indicate a belonging to a group of people or country

So, fundamentally, God is asking us to be present in the world, enclosed by it, surrounded by it during a period of mortal time, to move around in the world, and yet to not belong to the world. It seems a rather difficult request. Why are we here at all if God doesn’t want us to be of the world?

In Matthew 5:13 we read the answer to our purpose in this world though we are not to be of the world:

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

So, we are in the world to salt it. That is our purpose. We are not to conform to the world, or to ever be of the world. We are to do for the world that which salt does for food.

What does salt do for food?

  • Preserves, inhibits the growth of bacteria by drawing out moisture
  • Amplifies flavor, making flavors more powerful and good
  • Salt makes the texture of foods better by helping to retain water after being cooked, slowing the rate of yeast growth in bread, and it adds crispness or crunch on certain foods when used to top it
  • Adds nutrition
  • It helps to bind foods together because it helps that food to form certain critical binding proteins
  • Maintains and enhances the color of food, and can increase caramelization

salt on black wood

So, spiritually, those who follow Christ are supposed to be the salt of the earth. To be in the world to preserve it (Helaman 13:12, 3 Nephi 9:11, Alma 62:40), to inhibit the growth of evil by drawing out the goodness. We are to amplify the good that is in the world, highlighting it. We are to improve the lives of those around us by easing struggles, serving them, guiding them, so that life is more full. We are to spread the gospel that families might be bound together for eternity and individuals can be bound to God through covenant, and become like Him. We are to live and contribute in such a way that the propensity and frequency of spiritual experiences increases impacting all those around us.

Lighting and Uplifting Instead of Adopting and Conforming

If you read about salt, most studies will confirm that it is very difficult for salt to lose its savor, or saltiness. But, it can happen. Salt loses its savor, more or less, if gets exposed to too much moisture when stored, if it gets contaminated or stored with foul substances, or if it takes on the properties of other molecules or ingredients.

Different kinds of flavored salts are all the rage these days and can be bought or made. The salt itself can take on the flavor of any flavoring it is mixed with or stored with. The pure salt begins to adopt the flavor, or savor, of other things.

In a spiritual sense, we become useless and have lost our savor if we contaminate our lives with worldly stuff. We lose our savor when we begin to adopt the beliefs, practices, traditions, philosophies, and ways of the world, rather than staying true to the ways of God. Even if we don’t adopt everything, impurities ruin our power to “salt the earth.” As we conform, we fail to fulfill our function as spiritual salt. We adopt and conform rather than light and uplift. As we follow and conform to the world we become useless as spiritual salt.

Savor Requires a Continual Infusion of Light

It is the mistake of many a good person to believe that spiritual savor and light is the result of only an absence of evil in our lives. We suppose that as long as we simply aren’t purposefully sinning (rebellion) that this is sufficient to maintain our spiritual saltiness. However anyone familiar with even a simple light switch knows that the light in the room will only go on if there is power coming into the house. Having only a light bulb that works means nothing if there is no infusion of power to turn on that light. As well, we must actively turn on the switch and leave it on.

As children of God who have entered into “the way” we are like light bulbs. We must pay the power bill and turn on the switch in order for our light to shine. We do this by seeking not only to not sin, but by actively pursuing God’s will for our lives. We do this by coming to know God through studying His words, emulating Him, responding to the promptings and warnings of the Holy Spirit, and actively seeking to “feed His sheep.” We do this by cultivating integrity and honesty with ourselves and with God. We do this by owning our mistakes, wrongs, and weaknesses and repenting (changing/turning toward God).

Elder Mark A. Bragg, of the Seventy said:

We are children of God. Receiving light, continuing in God, and receiving more light are what we are created to do. From the very beginning, we followed our Heavenly Father and His plan. Seeking the light is in our spiritual DNA.

In Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 we read:

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

To maintain our spiritual savor and light, to be in the world but not of the world, to uplift and to light the world, we must not conform or ride a downward parallel course. We must seek light and truth and cling to it. We must seek to be light and truth and to lift others through our Christlike traits. We must leave our homes, our friends, our families, our schools, our places of work better than when we first entered them.

One hanging light bulb glowing different and standing out from unlit incandescent bulbs with reflection on green background , leadership and different business creative idea concept. 3D rendering.

Conclusion

Notice that anything which is of God is light! If we are of God and not of the world, we will light the world. We will preserve, protect, and highlight the world.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Elder Neil L. Andersen, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught:

Overcoming the world is not one defining moment in a lifetime, but a lifetime of moments that define and eternity. Bruce D. Porter said, ‘Our challenge…is to come to know [the Savior]…and, through faith in him, to overcome the trials and temptations of this world.’

To be in the world but not of the world, we must seek to uplift and light the pieces of the world that we have influence in. As the salt of the earth, though “fitting in” and conforming to the world around us is what the natural man/woman wants to do; we must “submit to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, and put off the natural man, and become a saint,” a piece of pure, spiritual salt. Though we are mortal, our spirit is immortal and is capable of subduing the natural man and aiding us in our challenge to be of God and not of the world.

We can truly be in the world but not of the world. Be salt.

BT

Let’s first clarify what separation of Church and State means. It means that:

  • Those running for office do not have to be of a certain religion in order to qualify (nor should they be disqualified if they are of a certain religion)
  • The government cannot force its people to adhere to a certain religion (national or state religion) or prohibit the free exercise of religious beliefs
  • The government does not have the power to alter the beliefs of a religion

(Note: Obviously if a professed religion (we sometimes call them cults) interferes with inalienable rights and its practices go against reasonable law, the government is empowered to stop its illegal practices and ensure justice on the behalf of anyone wronged by its illegal practices.)

A lot of people think that separation of Church and State means that religions (whichever they may be) should not counsel their members on how to act politically, and should not openly take a stand on any political issue.

How anyone came to believe that this is what separation of Church and State means I don’t know. But, doctrinally, scripturally, and historically, God is very involved in both making law, commanding revolutions, aiding in the overthrow of wicked nations, setting up nations, and in commanding His prophets to tell the people when to take a stand on moral and political issues that will impact the spreading of His gospel.

The Old Testament alone (and it is not alone, as the other Standard Works support it) provides sufficient evidence that God is as interested in politics as He is in souls. Why? Because the governing of nations directly impacts souls. Wicked kings tend to create wicked, idolatrous nations. Wicked systems of judges tend to empower secret combinations. And so forth. God always has quite a strong opinion on who should be in power. Whether elected, born to power, or dictator, God always offers to any leader a covenant: follow Me and you’ll prosper, spurn Me and you and your line will be destroyed. Every book of scripture is replete with such spiritual ultimatums to rulers of nations.

In Amos 3:7 we learn that God won’t do anything without telling it to His prophets. In the Doctrine in Covenants 1:38 and 21:4-6 we learn that God speaks and gives counsel through His prophets and that their words are God’s words—literally. God upholds His prophets and their words are His words. Their counsel is godly counsel whether it is about morality, charity, or political issues. All worldly issues are issues of the soul with God. There is no issue that isn’t about your soul or my soul, everyone’s souls!

God is Our King

In Doctrine & Covenants 58:19-21 God says very specifically regarding the United States of America:

For verily I say unto you, my law shall be kept on this land. Let no man think he is ruler; but let God rule him that judgeth, according to the counsel of his own will, or, in other words, him that counseleth or sitteth upon the judgment seat.

He goes on to say that the only right to reign belongs to God (or Christ) and that we are subject unto the current governments only until Christ comes again. Therefore, all the laws that we can uphold that are God’s laws should be upheld for as long as possible. Only when the majority overrules God’s laws are we to “submit to the powers that be” until God commands otherwise, or comes to reign Himself.

If God is our true king, how could we imagine that in His perfect, just, merciful, and loving nature that He would not attempt to guide the politics of the nations in which we live? How could we imagine that He wouldn’t ask His prophets, His mouthpieces on the earth, to counsel us in the ways in which God would have us vote that He might bring about His great and eternal purposes?

What benefit is there to our prophets to counsel regarding political issues if the revelation to do so didn’t come from God? None. For the prophets nearly always counsel “against the grain” of society. They almost always counsel us to stand for issues that are not popular, which are ridiculed, and which bring persecution (to them and to us).

In Helaman 13:24-28 we read:

Yea, wo unto this people, because of this time which has arrived, that ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them, and do all manner of iniquity unto them, even as they did of old time.

And now, when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.

Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord…ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil…

But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no inquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up…because he speaketh flattering words unto you…

We need only to read the scriptures and educate ourselves to recognize that God always speaks through His prophets. He always asks them to preach things which aren’t popular. He always asks us to follow them. And rejecting prophets has always led to destruction.

We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet

The blessing and gift of a prophet of God on the earth is priceless. Yet, we take it daily, hourly, minute-by-minute for granted. For us they have always spoken. We have never known a world without a living prophet. We have never known a world without apostles and priesthood keys and authority. We have never known a world without saving ordinances.

In our comfort with having First Presidency messages in every monthly Ensign magazine; with having bi-annual General Conferences, we sometimes forget that they are not on our errand, or the nation’s errand, or on the mainstream of society’s errand, but on God’s errand. They will always speak what God tells them to speak.

In general, the Church often stays out of political issues as our doctrines and stated beliefs should be sufficient for members to work with. We are counseled to vote our conscience and to be swayed strongly by our Christian beliefs. Thus, when our prophet does speak out and asks us to vote a certain way or to stand against a certain issue in a specific way, we can be certain the direction came from God and that this issue is important not only for the judgment of our nation, but for us. Whether we will follow the prophet in faith, as God has commanded, is the bigger issue…not so much the issue the prophet has given counsel and instruction on. If we doubt that any political counsel is from the Lord we can do two things:

  1. We can pray to know if the current prophet is the prophet and if God upholds him. Or,
  2. We can pray to know if the counsel the prophet has given regarding a political issues is the stance the Lord would have us take.

If we receive a witness, or a reminder, from the Holy Spirit that the prophet is the prophet than that solves the issue. If he’s the prophet then his counsel comes from God. Or, whether we like the counsel or not, or believe the prophet is inspired or not, if we receive a witness that it is still God’s will, then that solves both issues (because we know God is in agreement with the prophet).

Conclusion

As the world veers further and further away from God and His covenants and commandments we will see the prophets become more and more involved in offering political counsel. Not so much, I would say, to change the overall outcome of where our country is headed, but much more so that God might know who is with Him, or who is against Him. For, when it all comes down to it, the issues of today were the issues of histories past. And the issues yet to come will only repeatedly test our faith in God. And that faith will be shown by the answer we give to this question: “Do I listen to and follow the prophet?

We thank thee oh God for a prophet

To guide us in these latter days

We thank thee for sending the gospel

To lighten our minds with its rays

We thank thee for every blessing

Bestowed by Thy bounteous hand

We feel it a pleasure to serve Thee

And love to obey Thy command

BT