Thursday, December 31, 2015

God Is Not A Republican

This is going to be a long post, so get comfortable, grab a snack and your favorite beverage.

I've had some thoughts I wanted to share over the past few months, so I figured I would share them to close out the year 2015.

For the first topic, I would like to start with scripture.  There are some scriptures that have stood out for me as I've read the Book of Mormon this year.

First, from the book of Alma, Chapter 4:

 And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel.
 Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma, yea, and to many of the people whom Alma had consecrated to be teachers, and priests, and elders over the church; yea, many of them were sorely grieved for the wickedness which they saw had begun to be among their people.
Let's skip a few verses...

15 And now it came to pass that Alma, having seen the afflictions of the humble followers of God, and the persecutions which were heaped upon them by the remainder of his people, and seeing all their inequality, began to be very sorrowful; nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him.

Now, onto the book of 3 Nephi, Chapter 6:

 10 But it came to pass in the twenty and ninth year there began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions;
 11 For there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers.
 12 And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.
 13 Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God.
 14 And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; yea, insomuch that in the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord.
 15 Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this—Satan had great power, unto the stirring up of the people to do all manner of iniquity, and to the puffing them up with pride, tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world.
Now let's move to 4 Nephi:
 14 And it came to pass that the seventy and first year passed away, and also the seventy and second year, yea, and in fine, till the seventy and ninth year had passed away; yea, even an hundred years had passed away, and the disciples of Jesus, whom he had chosen, had all gone to the paradise of God, save it were the three who should tarry; and there were other disciples ordained in their stead; and also many of that generation had passed away.
 15 And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
 16 And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happierpeople among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
 17 There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.
 18 And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land.

How are each of these similar?  They were all allowed to prosper by the hand of God.  
How are they different?  In Alma 4 and 3 Nephi 6, the people set their hearts on the things of this world.  Possessions, status, power.  
In 4 Nephi, do you see mention of people gaining status or power?  No.  Do you see a people setting their hearts upon the vain things of this world?  No.  Neither was there any malicious behavior between the people.  Earlier in 4 Nephi, it also states that there were no rich nor no poor.  How is that?  They all labored together and helped one another.  In verse 17, it even goes as far as to say there were no more -ites among the people.
The other interesting thing to note is that they all were allowed to prosper, but it was what they chose to do with that prosperity that made the real impact.
Does this apply to us today?  Yes.  Even within the LDS Church there are some localities where there is a division between the haves and the have-nots.  I have seen it with my own eyes.  You even have those who would be thought of as "aspirationals" who go into debt to make themselves look like they belong with the wealthy group.
Have the brethren noticed?  It is my belief that yes, they have.
I know there are several talks about finance, I'm just going to post a few.

From October, 2001

From October, 2001:

From April, 2006:

From April, 2009

From October, 2013:

This important talk is from October, 2014:

The next thing is just simply a pet peeve of mine.  I'm on Facebook, so I see a lot of the memes that get passed around.

Have you seen the meme indicating a desire to have God back in our government?

When I see this, I always think of asking, which God do you want?

Do you want the Roman Catholic God, The Greek Orthodox God, The Russian Orthodox God, the Protestant God, the Lutheran God, the Quaker God, the Baptist God, the Non Denominational God, the LDS (Mormon) God, the God of the Orthodox Jews, the God of the Reformed Jews, the Islamic God, the Hindu God?

Yes, we are all children of the same God who created this earth and all of us.  The problem is, there are very real differences in who and how God is believed to be.

The point is:  God is not a Republican.  He's not a Democrat.  God is, thankfully, a Father who loves all of us.

There is a reason why this country is not a theocracy, but rather a democratic republic.  If you don't believe me, try living as a Christian in Saudi Arabia.  They have chosen to be a theocracy, the problem is, if you don't happen to belong to the country's official religion, you are going to find life not only difficult, but possibly dangerous.

The United States of America has a separation between Church and State, notably through the First Amendment of the US Constitution.  This allows for freedom of all religious beliefs, even those we as individual citizens don't agree with personally.

Rather than trying to create a theocracy, why not support elected officials who espouse our values (and preferably not ditch them when they get into office) instead of basing those in government on which specific religion they are?

Okay, enough with Rant #2.

The last point I'm going to title Seeking The Holy Envy.

Earlier today a conversation that was obviously going on before spilled onto a post on my Facebook wall from a friend of mine.  It was a long "letter" from my LDS friend to someone of another faith who had told my friend she wasn't a Christian, that Mormons are not Christians.

I've heard this argument before, and yes, it is completely false.

What is really sad, is that this non-LDS person saying this had gotten this information, not from a member of our faith, but from someone outside the Church spreading lies.  Lies that a lot of people believe.

This reminded me of a statement I saw on the video Between Heaven & Earth that I have on DVD.  It's from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), and it discusses Temples from the perspective of other faiths, not just the LDS faith.  If you have a chance to get your hands on a copy of it, be sure to get it, it is well researched and well made.

In this video, the late Lutheran Bishop of Sweden, Krister Stendhal explained his 3 rules for interfaith discussions:

1.  When seeking information about a religion, ask those who live that religion, not the enemies of that religion.  Otherwise the enemies will be breaking a commandment:  Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness.

2.  Compare best with best when comparing religions.  Do not compare your best with their worst.

3.  Leave room for "Holy Envy".

Holy Envy are those aspects of other religions you think are pretty special.  Bishop Stendhal's Holy Envy was in the performance of Baptisms For The Dead, a vicarious ordinance done to extend the blessings of Christ and his Atonement to our ancestors who did not have that opportunity.

Personally, I have "Holy Envy" for a lot of the ancient stories of miracles with the Israelites, and how they are incorporated with today's customs with the Orthodox Jewish religion.

I also have "Holy Envy" that people in the Islamic faith stop what they are doing at a certain time of each day to kneel in prayer.

Is there anything you have "Holy Envy" of?  If not, perhaps a goal for 2016 is to find something from a different religion you could have "Holy Envy" for?

Happy New Year, everyone.  I pray for God's blessings for all who read this.  May you prosper this year and seek to serve at least one other person.

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