Wednesday, February 21, 2018

I Will Praise & Adore at the Mercy Seat

One of my absolute favorite hymns is "I Stand All Amazed". I know many people love this hymn, but if you don't know what it is (or if you want to just listen to it again) here it is:


Through this song, we sing about and give thanks to Jesus the Christ for His great atoning sacrifice. The last verse is my favorite:
I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
 In the last day, this song has been coming to mind, and I happened upon the Vocal Point version on YouTube, and just started incessantly listening to it. As I did, one line stuck out to me. "I will praise and adore at the mercy seat". And I found it to be a rather interesting thing to put into the verse, and I began studying the line in context and I found one of many interpretations.

In ancient Israel, the Mercy Seat was the gold covering on the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, regarded as God's throne, upon which the blood of the sin offering would be sprinkled on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) by the High Priest (LDS Bible Dictionary).

To get to the Mercy Seat one would have to enter through the Tabernacle courtyard, enter the Holy Place, and pass through the veil in to the Holy of Holies. Many LDS manuals teach that each section of the tabernacle corresponds with a degree of glory:


The Outer Courtyard representing the Telestial World, the Holy Place representing the Terrestrial World, and the Holy of Holies representing the Celestial World. Likewise in modern Temples, similar symbolism is used, as we progress through the rooms, we ultimately make our way into the Celestial Room.

As I sat pondering this verse of the hymn, I have been taught that as we think of his hands pierced and bleeding, it should lead us to the Celestial Room of the Temples, where we will each silently praise and adore Him until the day comes when we will kneel before our Lord, our God, and our King. And after all we go through in this life, it will be wonderful!

Friday, February 9, 2018

I Think of You

Hey Erik,

It's been a year since you left us. There hasn't been a day that's gone by that I don't think of you in some way.

I think of you as I go to the Temple.

I think of you as I cook food, especially bacon gravy, which you loved so much!

I think of you and it makes me crave pizza.

I think of you and I miss all the puns we made on a daily basis.

I think of you and I want to be better than I was yesterday.

I think of you and I smile at the memories.

I think of you and I cry at not being able to talk.

I think of you and I want to be more diligent in studying my scriptures, like I was when we talked about the gospel every night.

I think of you and I know you are proud of my improvements and understanding of my shortcomings.

I think of you and how much you faced your fears with faith.

I think of you and I want to do more to learn new skills.

I think of you and I want to cross off more stuff from my bucket list.

I think of you and I want to add more stuff to my bucket list.

I think of you and I know what Zion was like, because we are of one heart and one mind.

I think of you and I miss you, man. Nothing will ever make me stop missing you, because you're my closest friend, and I cannot wait for the glorious resurrection when we shall see each other face to face once more.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Caledonia

Celtic Thunder is a music group out of Ireland I've started binging over the past several months. They sing some modern song covers, but I really enjoy their Celtic songs, in other words, their traditional Irish and Scottish folk songs.

One song they perform I really enjoy is "Caledonia". This song was written by a person who was sitting in Brittany (a region in France) in 10 minutes, basically about how homesick he was for Scotland. I first listened to it because of my Scottish heritage (and really my pride in it). One line has stuck out to me as I have listened to the song: "I've lost the friends I needed losing, found others on the way."

While this line is probably glossed over by most people as just a part of the song, it has resonated with me for as long as I've been listening. Why? Because the Lord is truly in the details of our lives.

We hardly ever know where we're going to be led to, but the Lord knows. He who commands the heavens, the worlds, and the galaxies, know where his children need to be placed. He knows people you need to meet at certain times. He's taken me halfway across the country to make me be in positions to meet some of those people. He's also taken me halfway across the country to get away from some people.

As you think of the people you have met and lost contact with over the years, you begin to notice just how God works with us. According to Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Steve Jobs said, "you can only connect the dots looking backwards." And as you look at the dots in your life, you'll see that the Lord has orchestrated a lot. Of course, agency is still involved. There will be people who will randomly leave, for whatever reason. But, the people you meet, especially the ones you get close with, you can begin to see the pattern the Lord works with you to bring people who you need in your life and vice versa.

When we get to the end of our lives, and see just how the God of Israel led you by the hand and answered your prayers, like Caledonia, heaven "will be calling [us], [and we'll be] goin' home."

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Red Sea and the River Jordan

In 1956, Cecil DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" was released. In 1998, "The Prince of Egypt" was released. These two tell the story, at least part of the story, of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. One of the more iconic scenes from each movie is when the Red Sea parts and allows the Israelites to pass through on dry ground. While this is a true event, it is also an abnormal event; every so often the Lord works by way of parting the Red Sea, but another account in the Exodus shows the Lord's typical pattern.

In Joshua 3, we read of the Israelites' entry into the Promised Land. With the River Jordan flowing well beyond its bounds, there was no clear way for the people to cross into the land. The Lord commanded Joshua to have the Priests carry the Ark into the river. After their feet were wet, the record states, the water stopped, and parted for the people to cross into the Promised Land.

Both of these accounts illustrate two very different ways the Lord works. Sometimes, he parts a whole sea to let the people pass through; more often he requires we get our feet wet before he removes the water. Sometimes, God calms the storm as we call to Him; more often, He waits until the Fourth Watch to calm the storms. Sometimes, a simple prayer of faith removes an addiction; more often, he leads people to friends so they can help each other overcome an addiction. Sometimes, answers to prayers come vividly and immediately; more often, prayers are answered slowly and gradually line upon line until all is known.

Often times, we sit and wait for the Red Sea to part, delaying our lives. We promise we'll move forward as soon as the water is gone and we can walk through on dry ground; until that time, we sit on the banks, overlooking the sea. Once we understand the Lord typically brings us to Jordan, and we have to get our feet wet first, then we truly learn the only thing hindering us is our own holding back because we don't want to get our feet wet. Only by moving forward and getting our feet wet can we truly be prepared to enter our Promised Land, the Celestial Kingdom. So stop staring at the water, and march in.

Valiant for Christ

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the Temple waiting for my endowment session to start. I was praying before the session that I might obtain revelation and I participated in the ordinances of the House of the Lord. Life has been stressful lately. I've been busier than I've ever been previously, and it stresses me nearly to the breaking point at times. But the Temple has often been a place of refuge from all that stress. I was wanting to know what I could do to relieve the stress I have during those times when doing a 2 hour session is just not feasible.

While pondering this and praying to know the Lord's guidance, a sentence impressed upon my mind: "Be Valiant for Christ".

I'm not going to say that being valiant for Christ will remove all stress; I'm not going to say being valiant for Christ is going to improve your situation one iota. If we choose to be valiant for Christ, the difference is not in anything going on around us, but we, ourselves, are changed. We are enlarged to have the capacity to accomplish more. We yoke up with Christ, and rely on His strength to get through and ultimately shine through all that we'd previously struggled with.

President Benson said, "The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature."

When we are valiant for Christ, we live the Celestial Law. Obviously, we will not be perfect. We will make mistakes; we will struggle with some things; we will break down at times. Despite all of this, Christ's enabling power will come to you and me and carry us through. He lifts us to higher planes, and we begin to see as He sees, do as He does, and become as He is.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Principles

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the topic of principles. It is not so much about what my principles are specifically, but rather what principles are and how they help us if we remain true to them.

Principles are packets of truth or opinion that are readily applied in a variety of circumstances. For example, in politics, someone may have a guiding principle of keeping taxes low. This may cause this person to vote against budget increases, against invasions, against tariffs, or for a tax cut. Despite these various votes being seemingly unrelated, this hypothetical person uses his principle of keeping taxes low to make all of these different decisions.

In the gospel sense, principles means something a little bit more than this. I remember growing up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the topic of the Sabbath day would come up. Often in these lessons big, long lists of what can or cannot be done on the Sabbath filled many chalkboards. These are not principles, these are applications. The principle that President Nelson so clearly taught a few years back was the Sabbath is our sign to God of our honor to Him.

Thinking of the Sabbath as our sign to God influences all decisions we make. If we think of the Sabbath as our sign, our sacrifice, for our God, we won't need to be told the things we can or cannot do on the Sabbath; we will just naturally do these things.

Too often when we notice an issue in our lives, we focus on the application. We need to overcome this thing or that thing. And there's nothing wrong with doing so if you are making positive changes, but it is far easier to make these changes if we actively choose to adopt true principles.

Our principles are a standard to us. As the Title of Liberty was raised in the days of Captain Moroni, our principles should be raised in places and ways that remind us of our covenants. They tell us what we can and cannot do in a variety of circumstances. If we have true principles, then remain true to those principles, we will be spared much hardship and adversity.

Having no principles will bind us to the whims of the forces around us and in us. Only in remaining faithful to correct principles as we able to truly become free. We often forget we are in the midst of a great war, with real beings bent on destroying each one of us. Only in having true principles and being true to those principles will we have the full armor of God fixed on us.

True principles allow us to have the breastplate of righteousness. They gird our loins with truth. They shod our feet with peace. They give us the shield of faith. They give us greater access to the sword of the spirit. And ultimately, true principles give us the helmet of Salvation. As principles of battle strategy win physical wars, true principles in the gospel are the strategies to give us victory through Him whose blood did redeem us.

Because Christ lived His principle perfectly, He became the beacon to us all. "He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world" (The Living Christ). As this world moves towards His return to this earth, we will each need to stand strong, and be ensigns for those around us to see by living our principles as broadly and unfailingly as we can. We will not be perfect, but we can try, and principles will lead us to be a little taller and a little better each day.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Walk with His Prophets

It's Conference time, which means it's also time for people to make posts about Conference. Most of these posts are good and well, but more and more in the recent years, I have seen posts telling the prophets to repent. Most recently, I saw one in which a Marriage and Family Therapist told Elder Oaks that he needed to listen to President Uchtdorf's counsel and "Stop It" with his talks on the family and The Family: A Proclamation to the World. I am not going to link to it, because I believe it's already getting too much attention and traffic.

As stated by President Eyring this conference, the Prophet Brigham Young was once in a meeting in Kirtland, where members of the church (and many in the upper councils thereof) had gathered to remove Joseph Smith from the office of President of the Church. Then-Elder Young stood, and told these brethren "You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread which binds you to a prophet of God and sink yourselves to hell."

Harold B. Lee taught, "You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory” (D&C 21:6)." But if you question what the prophets are saying, and try and pit the words of one prophet against another, when they are clearly speaking on two different subjects, you have no promise.

Giving strict heed to the counsels and teachings of the prophets will lead you in the way of light and salvation, to the springs of living waters, and to the eternal mansions of the Lord. Doing otherwise will lead you into forbidden paths of darkness, to the unclean waters of hell, and to the great and spacious building. "For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me" (D&C 132:22).

With Joshua of old, I say, "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). And that means to walk with His prophets.