Sunday, June 25, 2006

Had to Shave Twice to Cross Texas

I’m constantly amused, possibly amazed at some of the interesting thoughts which are brought out in my church meetings. I should explain that I’m not referring to the regular worship service, although the same would apply there also; but to the smaller planning meetings held in the Bishop’s office. Be assured that I’m not planning to discuss the private nature of those meetings, something which would violate a sacred trust; simply some of the ideas which are expressed that indicate how human we all are.

We start each meeting with a prayer and a reading from the scriptures followed by a brief discussion of how that particular scripture came to mind. I’m the executive secretary for the Bishop so I’m the one who types up the agenda and so I’m the one who assigns who gives the opening prayer and assigns someone to pick a scripture. I try to make sure that everyone gets a turn as the meetings are held each week throughout the year.

This morning Roger Lyon had the responsibility as he picked a pair of verses from the Book of Mormon. He waited for us as we all turned to Mosiah, at the end of chapter 4 in verse 30 where he began to read:

“But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.”

Roger continued in the next chapter in verse 2:

“And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”

I listened to an interesting story about the first time Roger had to drive across Texas, starting in El Paso as he’d traveled eastward toward Louisiana. “I had to shave when I left and then again before I got out of Texas.”, indicating just how big Texas is. The point being that just because he did the right thing in the morning, shaving, that didn’t mean he could kick back and say, “I did it”. Roger explained that he had to do the right thing each and every day, just like he had to shave every day.

I think he caught us all a little off guard as light laughter accompanied his wonderful explanation of the scriptural application for the verses he’d chosen. Our mortality is a string of pearls; each moment, each event, each day all put together until we reach immortality at the other side of the grave. We are obliged, having been given the truths found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are obligated to live those truths

I could have ended my thoughts right there and been satisfied; however, there were additional thoughts shared through out the day which added dimensionally to that original idea of having a mighty change wrought in our hearts and of doing good continually. Are you ready, here it comes. . .

Bricks Corbin was visiting, as he does once a month to check on my family’s spiritual and temporal needs. He brought with him a prepared lesson on “agency” as it related to the misunderstanding and application by a good number of well intentioned people.

“I have my agency, my free will”, many will say as they choose to indulge in “pleasures”, some of which, if not all of which are inherently bad choices. We got into a discussion of the nature of “agency” and agreed that without a firm grasp on the concept of pre-mortal existence, mortality and the promise of life in the eternities; that a limited understanding of that agency provided to each of us could be perverted.

I use the word perverted because working in conflict of God’s will is a perversion; to say that your “agency” permits or even promotes the notion that man can or should chose to do that which God has declared or made known as a poor choice, more especially, working against your own knowledge of what is right or wrong, having an understanding that the life of each of God’s spirit children from the pre-mortal, through mortality and on into that state of eternities which we all must surely achieve, that is not the intended meaning of agency.

I went back and read that last sentence; I think I said it right, I hope I said it right. We enter into covenants with our Father in Heaven, it is that way from our very beginning and will always be that way. In our pre-mortal existence we were in attendance at the “meeting” where various plans for mankind were placed on the table.

One plan, the plan that Satan pushed for, had Satan in charge of mankind to insure that each and every mortal soul would return to Father in Heaven; however, his plan did away with the agency of man to go astray, to “do as he pleased”. The other plan, the one that two thirds of the host of heaven agreed to go with was the one we have in place. It provided that man would enter mortality with all the pit falls, the poor decisions, the chance to get lost for all eternity. It also provide for a Savior, the means by which the fallen could be saved by the grace provided by an atonement, the perfect gift offered by a perfect being, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. One third of the hosts of heaven were thrown out for rebellion against God, Satan’s followers.

“And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power ; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; (
D&C 29: 36 )

I will include a block of reference material with links that provide a more inclusive overview:

Of every tree thou mayest freely eat,
Gen. 2: 16. Man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed, 2 Ne. 2: 15-16. Men are free to choose liberty and eternal life or captivity and death, 2 Ne. 2: 27. Ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves, Hel. 14: 30. A third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away because of their agency, D&C 29: 36. It must needs be that the devil should tempt men, or they could not be agents, D&C 29: 39. Let every man choose for himself, D&C 37: 4. Every man may act according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, D&C 101: 78. Satan sought to destroy the agency of man, Moses 4: 3. The Lord gave unto man his agency, Moses 7: 32.

The agency described, while permitting wrong choices, did not place a stamp of approval on such wrong choices as being acceptable in the sight of the Lord, it merely acted as a means of separating those who would freely chose to follow the Lord from those who had the propensity to follow some other path, that same path which led a third of Father’s children away before they even achieved mortality. For man to achieve and to excel it also must be that man can fall or fail; without the opportunity to make those choices there can be no progression in the eternal scheme of things, that great plan of salvation which we all agreed to prior to mortality. Agency permits us to regain that association with our Father in Heaven through obedience, quite the contrary of that definition espoused by pseudo-intellectuals reluctant to embrace the truths taught in the Gospel of the Lord.

“And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” Doctrine and Covenants 130:19-21

Mortality may seem like a very long trip, one which requires us to “shave” more than once to get through, as my friend Roger pointed out. We are here for the briefest of moments in the eternal sense. May we be engaged in doing good continually, may we apply the agency that God provided in such a way as to be in compliance with those covenants we made with Him, that we may achieve all that we are capable of and receive those eternal blessings which we are promised contingent on our obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel is my humble prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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