When I was in high school I was very good at basketball. But, a few things jammed up my path to playing in college. But, the primary jam was that I didn’t play my Junior year of high school, at all. That year staying home changed my whole course in life. I learned to function differently without basketball being part of every moment of my life. I grew spiritually. I grew closer to my parents. My ideals about basketball and playing in college changed so much that when I played basketball my senior year I declined recruiting opportunities and had given up that dream altogether.

The few variables that made me skip my Junior year were at the time uncomfortable. But, I often look back and wonder what would have happened if my life, and my schedule, and my day-to-day functioning hadn’t been upset and shaken up. There’s no way to know. I only know that I’m glad they were.

From Two to Twenty

I credit my mom and my husband, Luke, for this blog post. Because they took something I thought I understood and made it even more mind-blowing, more relevant, and more powerful.

When two-hour church was announced I was immediately excited

(for those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our Prophet has changed our Sunday schedules from a three-hour event to a two-hour event and we are supposed to replace that third hour with all-week study and instruction in our homes…more or less).

We already have frequent gospel discussions in our home naturally, and so I was excited to have the impetus to “beef” them up and make them more special. I also thought that this added another facet to ministering, as I’d be able to discuss the same material with those who minister to me and with those to whom I minister. I was excited, in general, for yet another change, another alteration in the application of doctrine to shake things up and make people rethink things.

I also guiltily admit that I would generally much rather discuss “the lesson” at home than sit through an extra hour of church. But, I happily admit that I never saw two hours of church as less work. I knew it was more devotion and time the moment they explained it and I was excited to take it on.

Seeing the Parable of the Ten Virgins Anew

Then, this past Sunday, my husband, Luke, taught gospel doctrine…the last one in the old format. He said a few things that impacted me immediately.

  1. If the oil we get from church is all the oil we get, it is insufficient for deep conversion and a deep relationship with God, and Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:12, John 17:3). The five foolish virgins were active members of God’s church and they loved Christ (the bridegroom), but they had insufficient oil reserves to endure the wait for His second coming. Those oil reserves were insufficient because all the oil they had came from passive reception of gospel teaching through the efforts of others. They didn’t know Christ as they could have because they hadn’t put forth the diligent effort. Therefore, their relationship with him was not sufficient to be “recognized” for entry to the feast.
  2. The oil reserves of the five wise virgins had sufficient reserves because their relationship and knowledge of God came from active seeking, diligent study, and intelligent action. They knew Christ (the bridegroom) and their relationship with Him was sufficient to be “recognized.”
  3. Home-centered, Church-supported means that the church cannot support us if there is nothing to support. If there was no church support at all, what would our gospel knowledge, conversion, and relationship with God look like? The home is the primary center for gospel learning and instruction and if we do not cultivate something to be supported, no amount of church attendance will provide what we need.

My mouth didn’t drop open, but my mind and heart was opened to the full magnitude of what the Prophet was asking of us. He’s asking us to get real. He’s asking us to stop depending on others to provide the study, instruction, and application. He’s asking us to consider our priorities, not only on Sundays, but throughout the week. We are trading an hour of church for multiple hours during the week. We are changing out one hour a week for a life re-centered and re-focused on God, His plan, and His work.

Tearing Apart the Roof to Get to Jesus

In the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and even during the early days of the Restored Church, tradition has often stifled personal and church growth. For the Israelites tradition was an old testament burden and it became a new testament handicap to their ability to “get to Jesus,” to “recognize Jesus,” and to become converted to Christ.

The Nephites in the Book of Mormon always succumbed to the famously titled “pride cycle,” because when life got good and they established traditional frameworks and got comfortable, without fail their children always struggled to become converted to Christianity and dissenters and persecutors increased rapidly. Getting in a rut of tradition has always been the downfall of God’s people, past and present.

I was chatting with my mom on the phone just a day or so ago about her take on this new unifying curriculum and the two-hour church block. And, this is what she shared with me:

In Mark 2:1-12 we see Christ in Capernaum and He’s in one house. That house is packed to the hilt. Other people are in the way. And, the only way they can bring the man sick with the palsy into Christ’s presence to be healed is to tear up the roof. Then, after breaking up the roof, they lower the man with palsy down into Christ’s presence.

After reading this my mind kept being drawn back to the word roof. And I knew there was something about that word that needed to be discovered. After pondering over Christ as the “chief cornerstone” and Apostles and Prophets as the “foundation” of God’s church, I began to see other pieces of the gospel doctrines, principles, ordinances, covenants, and commandments take shape.

It was then I thought, “What is the roof?” In the account, the people had to tear up the roof to get the man to Christ to be healed, and it hit me, all this change, and other changes, being made are not to doctrine, or organization, or commandments, etc. The changes are all being made to the ways in which we apply these critical aspects of the gospel and integrate them into our lives. The roof then symbolized to me the applications, the traditions. Many times throughout the scriptures God makes changes that “tear up” or “break apart the roof,” or the traditions and applications we get so comfortable with so that we can see Him again! So we can get to Him again.

Thinking I had already been enlightened on this topic through my husband’s lesson, I was impressed yet again with the many things I was hearing. Elder David A. Bednar’s “gathering all things together in one in Christ” entered my mind. Things are changing because as a people we are getting too comfortable! We have ceased to see Christ and to seek Him (and to be LIKE Him). We have been fixated on traditional expectations and lines and have forgotten to look far beyond where the line has been set, to where crossing over those lines should lead us. We may even be getting in each others’ ways! It’s time to tear up the roof that we might again focus on the Savior and refocus our entire lives to come to know Him and to prepare the world for His second coming.

Giving Up What I Thought I Loved

The tradition of my life, as a teenager, of playing basketball and focusing on that goal got shaken up and torn away to reveal the Savior, and His path for me, in a few different ways. I made a hard decision to give up what I thought I loved for a year only to find that though I loved it, I didn’t love it as much as the path God put down for me. I have never regretted and forever been grateful for the things that happened to shake up my life and make me choose to not play basketball my Junior year. And, God has repeated that pattern in my life in various ways. When I get “set in my ways,” He always finds ways to “tear up the roof,” the comfortable traditions and focused ideas I get that take me down a path that is not as close to Him as I think it is.

The Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, under the direction of Jesus Christ is “tearing up the roof.” He’s upsetting our comfortable schedules. He’s shaking up our focus and getting us to look up and pay attention. He’s providing the impetus for us to re-evaluate, better prioritize, more easily identify the good-better-best in our lives, and take a major personal/family step in ensuring we have sufficient oil (a deeper understanding of the doctrines of the gospel and a firmer relationship with God) to help us withstand these latter-days and to prepare the world for Christ’s Second Coming.

So, get out your lamps, begin acquiring that extra oil, and embrace tearing up your schedules, your plans, and those traditions that get in the way of you recognizing, seeing, and seeking Christ—and taking the path He has set, not the one you’ve laid out.

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