Precisely Hatred

One of the most important lessons for a student of scripture to understand is the importance of precision in interpretation. Especially when all of your scriptures--as is the case for Latter-day Saints--are products of translation, oftentimes looking up the words in the dictionary is not enough to truly understand the meaning of what we are taught from them.

One such word, which occurs with particular frequency in the Old Testament, is "hate."

There are times in the scriptures where hatred is expressed as we understand it; a passionate loathing or despising that is nothing short of a human frailty. Many times, this is exactly what the words mean in stories such as Amnon and Tamar in 2 Samuel 13.

However, when "hate" is used to describe God's regard, or in commandments in relation to our responsibility as His Saints, only the Holy Ghost can reveal its true meaning.

God does not give Himself over to the irrational, passionate, seething hatred of men. Those are not His ways. I direct you to Leviticus 19:

17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.

We are not allowed, commanded, or encouraged by our God or our prophets to hate anyone in our hearts. To do so is a direct violation of the teachings and examples of Jesus Christ when He taught that instead of loving our neighbors and hating our enemies, He would have us:

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5: 43-45)

So what, then, is the hatred of God? I direct you back to the verses from Leviticus given above. God's hatred is a rejection, an eventual disassociation, a separation from His presence. It is an action, one that does not require a feeling of hatred--nor could God give Himself over to such a base feeling and still be God. It is NOT a total severing, for such does not take place until no more labor can be performed. For God to "hate" is purely administrative--but that is not to say that God does so without feeling. Quite to the contrary. Looking upon the record of Enoch in the the Book of Moses reveals that when God must cast off His wicked, idolatrous, disobedient children, the feeling of His heart is perfect sorrow.

At times, we may be invited through our experiences in life to share in that sorrow for those who disobey. But it is not our place to allow that feeling to be adulterated and perverted with anger and scorn--a refusal to love them. To do so is not Christian, and the Holy Ghost will not honor or abide with anyone who gives themselves to such unbecoming, unauthorized conduct.

We have to realize that when we say that Heavenly Father loves ALL of His children, that Christ's help is for everyone, it is not our place to add a self-righteous "except for this person," to the end of either of those statements. It is not our place to make allowances for ourselves to "love the sinner, but hate their sins." Many times when we say this, we condemn for sins which we do not know of with any certainty--and when we do, we sometimes use it as a license to continue in our negativity towards those "sinners" in our lives. It is never our place to punish those who have sinned with feelings of hatred or vengeance, and God rejects anyone who stands between Him and His children is such a brazen display of Satanic behavior.

We have every right to reject sin through our teachings and our testimonies, and to do so publicly--to warn our neighbors, just as we are instructed in Leviticus. But such "rebuke" needs to be solely comprised of teaching proper principle and truth with love, respect, and fondness born of trust. It needs to be given from a people who are quicker to reject their own sin and confess their own faults than to point out the faults of others. We will find that as we do this, to use harshness and anger is entirely unnecessary. That is the miracle of Christ's example. Teaching through love and respect is much more effective than to give into a spirit of meanness unbecoming of Heavenly Father's children.

Looking upon God's hatred as rejection finds consistent parallels in the temple imagery of Jude 1: 23 and Hebrews 1: 9. That imagery, also found in D&C 36: 6, teaches that those who are ordained to preach the gospel have the responsibility to say to all men:
Save yourselves from this untoward generation, and come forth out of the fire, hating even the garments spotted with the flesh.
But make no mistake: we are not being sent forth unto the world with a message to sow heated contention with those who would oppose us. Our message is one of love, from a Father who desires not only to love, but to bless all of His children. Because God cannot bless the unrighteous and still be God, our message is one of baptism, of renewal, rebirth, and resurrection. Ours is the message of Jesus Christ. That message can never be anything other than love. It may at times be sharp, or loud, or perhaps even severe. But a message of hatred from the heart is not God's message.

If our messages, public or private, written or spoken, to friend or to stranger, of the mind or of the heart, ever descend into feelings of loathing and hatred, we must understand that the best thing for us to do is to be silent. In choosing to be silent, we make the conscious decision not to give our discourse, our efforts, and ourselves over to the adversary. We must check ourselves against what God "hates"--see Proverbs 6: 16-19--and repent of all those things of which we might stand guilty. To do so is to regain the Spirit and to become wiser for the experience and to truly learn from our mistakes.

I testify that Heavenly Father is a perfect, loving God. I testify that Jesus Christ is His perfect, loving Son. I know that the Holy Ghost bears the perfect testimony, and that as we listen to Him we can learn to teach powerfully without a need for the coarse barbarism of the devil. I testify that to do so is our responsibility as Latter-day Saints. I know bearing true testimony of Jesus Christ provides security from sin which comes from actively opposing all which is evil, and that as we do so we will see the Church press forward towards both its destiny and destination. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Enduring to the End

I get a lot of people passing through here looking for stories on enduring to the end. I assume these searches are for lessons and talks. Because I aim to serve, allow me to share two of my favorite examples of this principle, and the talks associated with them.

The first example is from the life of Jesus Christ. I direct you to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk The Inconvenient Messiah. Elder Holland expands upon what Jesus went through when He was tempted by Satan, as recorded in Matthew 4: 1-11.

Elder Holland explains Satan's treachery in each of the temptations that he gives to Christ, and how we must be sure to avoid that same treachery in our lives. Elder Holland explains what Jesus does to overcome His encounter with Satan, and what we MUST do to follow Christ's example to overcome our showdowns with Satan throughout our lives.

"I wish to speak this morning of the demands of discipline and discipleship, of the responsibilities we have to face when we choose to follow Jesus Christ. In the Savior's life and in ours, Satan counters such discipline with temptations of an easier way, with an offer of 'convenient Christianity.' It is a temptation Jesus resisted, and so must we. Life was very inconvenient for him, and, unless I miss my guess, it will often be so for you and for me when we take upon us his name."

Enduring to the end, keeping the faith, is a part of our baptismal covenant. We give up the ability to ever stand on neutral ground regarding Christ when we are baptized. Because of this, we will be fighting and opposing Satan for the rest of our mortal lives--if not longer. Sometimes our fight will be more active and tiring than at other times, but even in times of peace we must oppose that which is evil. That is what enduring to the end means. I love this talk because it expresses that reality in no uncertain terms.

This second story comes from President Thomas S. Monson's talk Be of Good Cheer. In his talk, President Monson speaks of a woman who loses her husband in World War II. In order to evacuate to safety, this woman must then trek from East Prussia to Western Germany alone with her 4 children.

One by one, she loses each of her children to the unforgiving winter, and for the first three children she digs their graves with a spoon. She loses her baby daughter last, and digs that grave in the frozen ground with her bare hands. President Monson retells this woman's prayer and describes how it saved her life:

"'Dear Heavenly Father, I do not know how I can go on. I have nothing left—except my faith in Thee. I feel, Father, amidst the desolation of my soul, an overwhelming gratitude for the atoning sacrifice of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. I cannot express adequately my love for Him. I know that because He suffered and died, I shall live again with my family; that because He broke the chains of death, I shall see my children again and will have the joy of raising them. Though I do not at this moment wish to live, I will do so, that we may be reunited as a family and return—together—to Thee.'
When she finally reached her destination of Karlsruhe, Germany, she was emaciated. Brother Babbel said that her face was a purple-gray, her eyes red and swollen, her joints protruding. She was literally in the advanced stages of starvation. In a Church meeting shortly thereafter, she bore a glorious testimony, stating that of all the ailing people in her saddened land, she was one of the happiest because she knew that God lived, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He died and was resurrected so that we might live again. She testified that she knew if she continued faithful and true to the end, she would be reunited with those she had lost and would be saved in the celestial kingdom of God." --President Monson

This woman understood the power of her testimony of Jesus Christ and her prayers to Him, and that's how she endured to the end of her struggle. She knew that her personal suffering had no bearing on the reality of Christ's atonement and resurrection, and the truth and power of His gospel. She knew and trusted that her covenants within His gospel would save her, whether she lived or died. That is a choice lesson, which only comes personally through suffering. It cannot be given in an easier, more convenient way.

That is the testimony of my life. My life has not been the most difficult in all of human history, nor has it been the easiest. But I trust God to help me through everything that I face. I trust His gospel and His servants to help me and teach me. I trust the insight and wisdom they've gained over a lifetime of service and preparation for and from their callings. I rejoice to be able to recognize the truth in what they teach. I share their words in every way I can because I know they are true, and I've gained that witness from the Holy Ghost.

I know the Holy Ghost speaks the words of Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, and that there is NO other name in heaven or on earth by which mankind can be saved from sin and death. I bear that witness joyfully in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

What CAN'T Wal Mart Sell?

--originally posted on Waters of Mormon on October 15, 2007--

Want proof that the world is worse now than it ever has been? Who would have thought that proof of our nation's apathy toward sacred covenants was only as close as the nearest Wal Mart?

For the low, low price of $19.74, you
can own your very own divorce!
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not advocate divorce. With a doctrine like eternal marriage, I don't see how they ever could; another reason on my (ever-growing) list of why I love the Church.

My parents were never married, so their separation didn't have the same process as a divorce. I've had my life severed in half before, and was told to give a half to each parent-- and then grappled with the fact that as long as they never had a whole piece, neither would I. When I was 15, I took the other half back from my father; one of the hardest, if not the hardest thing I've ever done. Only in the past year or so has my life taken on a status quo beyond the division that happened so long ago.

Statistically, my chances at a successful marriage probably aren't very good. With the divorce rate somewhere around 50% and as a child from divorce, I probably don't have a shot at a successful marriage on paper. Fortunately, I've come to the right place to do away with such a possibility. The LDS Newsroom had their own statistics in relation to divorce and temple marriage:

"According to research cited in a 2000 article in the Los Angeles Times, 'in an era of divorce, Mormon temple weddings are built to last,' with only a 6 percent divorce rate. Another study, published in 1993 in Demography Magazine, concluded that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who marry in one of the Church's temples are the least likely of all Americans to divorce." (more here)

The American Dream is alive and well in the Church. Not only is a healthy marriage, 3 and a half kids, the white picket fence and the dog fully possible, it's encouraged. I admit, part of me hesitates to trust that image as the be all and end all of happy marriages. But I can't deny that it's what I've always wanted, and that I would have no idea how to achieve such a dream if I hadn't found the Church.

--My thoughts today--

I testify that Jesus Christ gave my life back to me when He took my life's halves and made them whole again. He was the only one who was not only willing, but had the power to do so. No court can do that, no law can do that, no amount of therapy has ever done that for me. No good intentions, no positive thinking, no amount of effort from anyone else could have healed me after all that I had seen. When I found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I found the home I had yearned for all my life. And it's not because Church has happy, loving people in it. I testify it's because this is the true Church of Jesus Christ on the earth, with His power, His authority, and His voice. We have no need to speak for Him among our people because He speaks for Himself. His Spirit dwells with us, and God attends His Spirit. And wherever God is, there is my home.

When Jesus Christ taught me that His way, His home, was not supposed to include divorce, I was not offended. I rejoiced! Why? Because when God says forever, He means it. He has a better way, and there are better days ahead than everything I've always known. And I can trust Him when He tells me that.

I've finally found a Promise I can trust.

Can I get a Witness?

This picture is worth a great deal to me--not because the quality of the picture is good, not because it was taken with the best camera, and not because it meets the standards that would make it a masterpiece in the world's eyes.

This picture is worth a lot to me because of what I was doing--the miracles that happened--the day it was taken. I wasn't trying to impress anyone. I was trying to preserve a very sacred memory, and used what I had available to me at the time--which was someone else's camera phone. I took one shot to be polite, sent the picture to my own phone, and that's the only picture I have from the day my father was baptized and confirmed into the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This picture is a memory to me, a record. It's a record of the miracles that took place that day. The distortion and imperfections on this image do not affect the quality of my feelings and memories for those miracles.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the imperfections we find in our scriptures, our histories, and even in the lives of our leadership throughout the ages--their flaws are a lot like the imperfections and distortions to this picture. Their imperfections no more change the fact that their words bear and direct the Holy Ghost than the distortions on this picture change whether it's still a picture of the temple.

In the Book of Mormon, the word imperfection occurs three times. Each verse contains insight and instruction for those who discredit the Book of Mormon because it isn't a perfect record, according to their mortal standards. The verses read as follows:

And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you.
Mormon 8: 12
Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.
Mormon 9: 31
And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.
Mormon 9: 33

The Book of Mormon and the prophets of God do not need to be perfect to be who they say they are. Those who mock and reject the word of God or His servants because they do not follow human standards for artistic mastery, historical validity, philosophical or political merit--or any other standard other than God's own--overestimates the value of those mortal standards. They pass a superficial, mortal judgment on something eternal and spiritually perfect. They assume themselves capable of understanding perfection well enough to pass that judgment.

This is why missionaries from the Church ask their investigators to pray to Heavenly Father to gain a witness of the Book of Mormon. God is the only one who can judge truth and perfection, and is the only one who can declare whether someone's words are true. He directs the Holy Ghost, who is the only one who can give those investigators that witness. We can choose to accept or reject that witness from God, but we cannot obtain it in any other way.

May we understand that our scriptures and the prophets who recorded them are not holy because they are perfect. They are holy because the Holy Ghost attends them. Jesus Christ is perfect, and we should never trade communing with Him personally for our own understanding. If we want to receive perfection we must receive His voice through His ordained words and His chosen servants.

I bear this in solemn witness to His name, even Jesus Christ. Amen.

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