Living the Plan of Happiness

November 17, 2013

I’m not a pessimist even though I have been told otherwise from time to time.  I am highly optimistic about the future of the righteous and already in mourning for the wicked who refuse to repent.  The scriptures include both promises of blessings for obedience, and warnings of highly painful consequences for those who turn against God.  In fact, the blessings and warnings are fairly well balanced in scripture because “Wickedness never was happiness,” and God wants us to be happy because we are his children and he loves us.  That is why he gave us the scriptures, so that we would better understand the consequences of our behavior.  He knows all the consequences of every action, every word and every thought because he is omniscient. We are not.  When we try to foresee the future, we are often surprised by the unintended consequences of our thoughts, words and deeds.

I’ve done a lot of dumb things in my life, just as most of us have.  And while some of us have suffered more than others, we have all suffered.  Some suffering is unavoidable, and we have done nothing to bring it upon ourselves.  But some of our suffering is avoidable, and we could have done better if we had been wiser.  There is no reason in this life for pessimism.  The Plan of Salvation is also called the Plan of Happiness.  And we can have great happiness in this life if we follow the path to it.  On the other hand, if we follow the road to ruin, we will finally reach that destination too.  Keeping both outcomes in mind, and our ability to choose the right, is not pessimism.  It is just realism.  Optimism, genuine optimism based upon realism, comes from understanding the Plan of Happiness and finding ways to effectively utilize it in our daily life.  If we aren’t saying our prayers, studying the scriptures, attending church, loving and serving others, repenting of our sins and keeping the commandments, we do not have enough faith to live the Plan of Happiness, and we will end up living the Plan of Misery by default.

Here is one of the most important scriptures for me in understanding the Plan of Happiness:

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did consecrate Jacob and Joseph, that they should be priests and teachers over the land of my people.  And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness. (2 Nephi 5:26-27)

The reasons I rejoice in the gospel of Jesus Christ is in part because this passage gives me hope that I can make things better for myself and those I love. What could be more optimistic than that belief and hope?

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Update: The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball

October 15, 2012

I was in Salt Lake City a few days ago and I visited the Church Distribution Center.  I was pleased to see that The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball was still sold there, and it was either the only doctrinal work promoted by Church Distribution or one of very few.  Six years ago I wrote A Controversial Book That Should Not Be Controversial. It has always surprised me that so many saints hate this book.  I love it.  Next to the scriptures themselves I consider it to be the most important book written in this dispensation.  It changed my life forever, and without it I could never have repented sufficiently to obtain the Melchizedek priesthood, my first temple recommend, and my temple marriage to Esperanza thirty-five years ago.  Highly recommended.


Jesus Christ: The God of Battles Not Mr. Rogers

July 14, 2012

Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild. Some saints and many traditional Christians have this view of Christ. But if we are to know God [Jesus Christ], we must know all sides of his personality.  We must know him to become like him.  And that is the main purpose of our existence. We cannot know him if we have in our minds a distorted, superficial understanding of the Savior’s character and personality. Jesus Christ is not like Mr. Rogers who for many years talked down to the children in his audience and taught them in patronizing, weak, insipid, mild, soft and schmaltzy words. Rogers wore soft, fuzzy cardigan sweaters. The Savior did not.

There is a hard, warlike side to Jesus. And we cannot know him unless we understand that along with his kindness and gentleness he was a man of war. Both are part of his personality and character.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote this in his book, Mormon Doctrine:

Christ is the God of Battles. (D. & C. 98:23-48; 105:14.) Anciently he commanded his people to engage in righteous wars (Ex. 23:27-33; 1 Sam. 15:2-3), and whenever they were so engaged, he was entreated of them and fought their battles. (1 Chron. 5:20; 2 Chron. 20:15; 32:7-8.) The whole Nephite history is one of the Lord giving frequent direction to them in their battles, whenever they sought such guidance in faith. In the day of his Second Coming the promise is that he again will fight the battles of his saints, “as when he fought in the day of battle.” (Zech. 14:1-5; Ezek. 38; 39; Zeph. 3:8.) Despite the false sensitivities of those who cannot conceive of the meek and lowly Nazarene as a Man of War (Ex. 15:3), yet the inspired answer to the query: Who is the King of Glory? is, “The Lord strong and mighty, and Lord mighty in battle.” (Ps. 24:8.)

Sometimes a man or woman prefers to think of Jesus as Mr. Nice Guy because he hopes to inherit eternal life and avoid spirit prison in the next life without being required to repent of their sins.  They do err.  They have not read the scriptures, or if they have, they did not understand them.  Yes, he is the God of love, kind, gentle, forgiving, and merciful.  But he is also fierce towards his enemies and full of wrath toward those who rebel against him by refusing to follow him and repent of their sins.  Mercy cannot rob justice.

Since the Fall of Adam, Satan has been loose in the world, performing his duty as a tempter and deceiver.  For that reason there has been wickedness in the world from the beginning, and wicked men who cause that wickedness.   These men will be damned if they don’t repent, just as we will if we don’t repent.  How great is God’s punishment of the wicked if they refuse to repent?  Consider this passage from the 63rd chapter of Isaiah and see if you can find any of the qualities of Mr. Rogers there:

2 Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?

3 I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.

What does this passage mean? Similar language inspired by these words of Isaiah are part of that great hymn, The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Who drowned the whole world except for Noah and his family?  God did.  And God is Jehovah also known as Jesus Christ.  What did the Savior do at the beginning of his brief visit to his covenant people in ancient America?  He burned cities, buried them up in the earth, caused cities to be swallowed up in the ocean.  All these things he takes personal credit for as he explains them in the Book of Mormon.

No the Savior is not Mr. Rogers or anything like him.  He is kind, gentle, wrathful and terrifying toward his enemies.  He is the God of Battles.


Prayer, Scripture Study, and Fasting

May 6, 2012

Over the last several years I have found myself praying less, studying the scriptures less, and fasting not at all. In years past I have considered myself a man of prayer, one who prayed often and fervently. Not so much lately. I feel like I am in a precarious position, in great danger actually. I am nearing the end of my life as all of us are, but at sixty-seven years of age I am nearer than many. Does my dwindling in the matters of prayer, scripture study and fasting mean that I am failing to “endure to the end?” I would be mortified if I were to lose my exaltation after a lifetime of devotion and service. Keeping the commandments has never come easily to me. Walking the straight line has been difficult all these years. It would be a shame to fail after so many years of effort.

How can I motivate myself to the levels of prayer, scriptures study and fasting that were once such an integral part of my life, so many years ago?


The Doctrine of Jesus Christ And The Faith To Keep His Commandments

September 6, 2011

Many years ago after his resurrection in the Old World, Jesus Christ visited the Americas and taught this simple but amazing doctrine recorded in the eleventh chapter of 3rd Nephi:

32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

Easy to say. Not so easy to do.

A little further in the chapter the Savior says:

40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.

Simple isn’t it? Believe and be saved. Don’t believe and be damned. But I was at first puzzled by verse 40. How could this be? The Church of Jesus Christ teaches a great deal more than this simple doctrine, doesn’t it? Does that mean it “cometh of evil?” I just cannot believe that. Is not this Church the one that brought forth the Book of Mormon and these words in the first place? What would we know about the Savior’s teachings in ancient America if it were not for this Church?

Then it struck me. The gospel as taught by the Savior’s only true Church is 1) Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, 2) Repentance, 3) Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and 4) receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Isn’t this just another way of saying the same thing. I think it is.

The Savior said “believe” and ye shall be saved. But what did he mean by believe? He said to be baptized. Could it be that the word “believe” means “believe enough to be baptized?” I have noticed that in the scriptures the word “believe” is sometimes used differently than we use it in 21st century English. The word “believe” carries with it the connotation of having faith. And faith by nature demands action, in this case the action to be baptized. The Savior might just as well have been saying “Have faith in me” and be saved. If a man says he has faith in Christ or that he believes in Christ and then refuses to keep the Savior’s commandments, does he really believe or is he merely giving lip service?

I don’t believe a man has faith in Christ unless he makes his best effort to keep the Savior’s commandments. And the first of those commandments is to be baptized. If a man does not have enough faith in Christ to be baptized, he doesn’t have enough faith to be saved because he doesn’t really believe in Christ. “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” the Savior said in the 14th chapter of John. If we do not do our best to keep his commandments we are proving that we do not love him, that we do not have faith in him, and that we do not believe in him.

The Savior has made his doctrine clear. We cannot deny it or we will be damned by His own words.