Friday, August 31, 2007

He Lives

I know I appear to be out of season again. But something has been haunting my every waking (and sleeping) hour since I stumbled across it on a message board a week or so ago. Maybe longer; time gets away from me. Rest easy. It has nothing to do with the JCRB, Ephraim's Camp, or priestcraft. Although, on the other hand, in the grand scheme of things maybe it does. If the world church, whatever that is, has its way, or if the politically correct left continues to cater to Islam, to the exclusion of Christianity, we'll all be under one umbrella and then, God help us, who knows what the creed will dictate? For now, however, I'll concentrate on the matter at hand, that of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. It has been the bedrock of Christianity ever since the three women came to the tomb that first morning. Despite the introduction of the "universal consciousness" mentality, the New Age movement, and the Emerging Church, the physical resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ stands as the fundamental underpinning of all our beliefs through the centuries. Without the physical resurrection of Christ, we're just another tax free Sunday morning get together. I'll tell you why I believe Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead.

It's a temptation to say, "Well, if you don't believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus you might as well throw out the New Testament." That's a little harsh. But, just for the sake of argument, back up a little and ask yourself this: Do I believe in the physical death of Jesus Christ? Did he really die? Did His heart actually stop? Was the body that was taken down from the cross on that day at Golgotha really lifeless?

There have been countless studies done by people with all kinds of letters following their names about what happens to the body when it is crucified. It isn't pretty. Someone went to the trouble of making a film titled "How Jesus Died: the final 18 hours." (Trinity Pictures, 1994) For those of you with intestinal fortitude it contains enough medical and forensic material plus historical facts to do great harm to your skepticism. For those of you who have been off the planet for the last four or five years, Mel Gibson also spent a lot of time and effort on a movie called "The Passion of the Christ." (2004) Matthew Chapter 27 describes in more detail than many people can stomach exactly what went on the day Jesus was crucified. As do Mark, Chapter 15, Luke 23 and John 19.

I will not name names, nor will I quote any one specific declaration or belief here. I will simply state that there are those within our circle, the circle of people loosely referred to as Book of Mormon believers, or, more accurately, those who claim "their" church was started by Joseph Smith, Jr. who do not believe Jesus physically rose from the dead. Of course many of those same people are in the process of throwing out the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, but that's another matter for another time.

Going back to Matthew, we meet Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy man, who was a follower of Jesus, and who possessed a new tomb, which he had probably made for himself. Since Jesus had no worldly possessions it was appropriate that he should be laid to rest in a borrowed tomb. Since Pilate probably needed to assuage some of his guilt over authorizing the crucifixion, it is also appropriate that he would release the body of Jesus to this Joseph.

So we have a very simple funeral, attended by a few poor women and one rich man. Is it presumptuous to assume there was a dead body involved? Or that this body was the body of Jesus? I can't fathom a wealthy man like Joseph of Arimathea not being able to identify the body of the man he had probably been following and watching every day as Jesus taught and preached and prayed. Nor can I see the women crying rivers of tears at the foot of the cross of any man except Jesus, who forgave their sins and accepted them just as they were. Nor can I imagine Pilate ordering the sealing of the "great" stone at the entrance of the tomb and posting guards to prevent would-be robbers for anyone but Jesus.

Now let us go to the dawn after the sabbath. Same women, same tomb. Same "great" stone. But nothing is as it was when they left. The stone has been moved. There are two white-clothed beings sitting on the stone and these beings aren't guards; the guards are face down on the ground. What do you suppose happened to the guards, once they came to their senses, saw that the stone was moved, saw the empty tomb, and saw the two angels standing there? I think if I had been a guard at the tomb of Jesus, and had experienced all that, I would have definitely sought a career change. But the women, after their initial shock and fright, are the very first to know about the physical resurrection. There is no doubt in their minds. No one crept in and stole the body of their Lord. Their Lord has risen from the dead. There is no body in the wrappings which Joseph had so lovingly wrapped Jesus in. There are only empty remnants of cloth lying within the tomb.

It's a temptation to not be too hard on those who question the physical resurrection of Christ. After all, one of His disciples questioned it, saying, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe." John 20:25 But notice that, after eight days, Thomas gets the opportunity to do just that. But he doesn't find it necessary to actually touch the nail prints. Just seeing his risen Savior was sufficient for Thomas to cry out, "My Lord and my God." John 20:28 I somehow don't think Jesus would have given Thomas the chance to actually touch Him if He didn't have a physically resurrected body to touch. Nor do I think Jesus would have dined with his disciples if He didn't have a physically resurrected body to feed. John 21

Lastly I am going to go to the Presbyterians for a statement that I have been searching for but have been unsuccessful in actually formulating. The writer if this article poses the question: Why would God simply cast off the body of Christ to decay? Would not this defeat the whole purpose of the suffering and death of our Lord? He died for our sins that we, too, may be resurrected and one day—in our flesh— shall we see God. Job 25:25-27

With no apology to the the Presbyterians, I'll refer to Genesis Chapter 7 in the Inspired Version. God is a God of the physical as well as the spiritual. Enoch and Zion did not just become fairy dust. God took them up into Heaven. Jesus did not leave the tomb as a wraith, an ethereal being floating about zapping believers with a magic wand. His physical body rose from the dead, as shall ours someday. I know that my Redeemer lives.

But there is a resurrection; Therefore, the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. Mosiah 8:81

In the Eternal love of our risen Savior


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Lesson From Alma

Prompted by an email from a brother, I came across two marvelous verses from Alma, 21:39 and 21:41. As is my practice, I read the preceding verses and those that followed to the end of the chapter and refreshed my memory on some of the principal figures.

The essence of the story is that Helaman and his priests had appointed priests and teachers over the churches. They, in turn grew prideful and would no longer heed the words of the Lord. This got everybody upset and finally a leader arose to lead the lower ranking against the preaching’s and person of Helaman. This leader, Amalickiah, having gained power mostly by flattery of the lesser priests was creating serious dissension among the Nephites. Moroni then comments in verse 39:

“Yea, and to seek to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which god had granted unto them, or which blessing God had sent upon the face of the land, for the righteous’ sake.”

That about nails what Amalickiah was up to. He failed to recognize what kind of man Moroni was and his ability to energize those surrounding him and their righteousness. To really see Moroni in action, we go to verse 40:

“And it came to pass that he rent his coat, and he took a piece therof, and wrote upon it. In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives and our children; and he fastened it upon the end of a pole therof.”

He then “armored up” in full warrior’s regalia, donned the rent garment, and prayed mightily. This man was a leader. In seventeen words he covered everything that is important to those who have taken on the name of Christ. In so doing, he preordained the outcome of the entire chapter. It’s a great story of a man who after those dramatic words did not stand back for God to take over and provide victory but did, with His help, all that was necessary to ensure it. It’s a great story. Read the chapter to the end.

Throughout our scriptures, God has provided many lessons and inspiring stories of past great leaders. Often, in the face of apparent overwhelming odds, with God’s guidance and blessings, these men managed to prevail. How often have I heard a close friend preach to the equation that one plus God equals a majority. This story about Moroni and many others emphasize the point.

The adversary has never been stronger. We are assailed from every quarter by those who would demean, confuse, and ultimately attempt to defeat those of us who love the Lord and seek to have His kingdom in our midst. It is my opinion we are threatened here and now as Moroni was of old. Will we rend our garments and raise the gospel message for all to see and carry the fight to the adversary? Do we understand and desire that which Moroni was fighting for? We do not struggle for property or riches in an earthly vein, but rather, we seek the full richness of the kingdom of God.

At Sunday services, we have a pew right in the center of the church which is occupied by four or five beautiful ladies. These faithful souls hear every offered word. They contribute their entire being to enhance the worship experience. They nod encouragement to a faltering preacher. There extensive knowledge of the scriptures is always available to be remembered to help out our Sunday school class. Their memories of their husbands, now long departed, glisten in their eyes. They are quick to welcome newcomers and greet old friends. Would I, or would you shame their record of years of obedient service to their God? For that matter could we ever again look in the eyes of our precious children if we failed to glorify our Savior and strive with all our heart to do his will?

I know it’s hard to visualize either group as an army. I recently witnessed a baptism of a nine-year-old and chanced to see the older group out of the corner of my eye. It would be impossible for me to say who was the happiest on this glorious occasion. On that day, the adversary was vanquished. We had not raised a flag of surrender but rather helped Moroni raise that piece of his garment.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

***Help Wanted***

Provoked by comments on the Center Place message board, I have given some serious thought to job descriptions for sundry offices in the church. What are the perks there? What does it pay? What are the hours and how’s the health insurance package? Are there educational requirements or at least substitutable “life experience?” Can we use the same employment agency for all positions? Is it possible to hire without using the entire panoply of non-exclusionary criteria, gender, age, race, national origin, sexual preference etc.? As usual, I raise more questions than I can answer.

I choose to express my interest in a facetious manner because I think the human resources approach has become the attitude of the hierarchy, or at least their sympathizers, in seeking to get the various openings filled. From prophet to member in good standing, I tend to see the openings all subject to the same requirements. Each and every one of us is called by baptism through ordination to work in the interest of the Lord 24/7. Following Jesus Christ does not require a time card. We are not baptized to an eight-hour-a-day commitment. You say you remember when you gave your life to Jesus but now you’re too old to work. I remember being called to repentance and the dedication of my energies to do my part in the establishment of His kingdom on earth. I don’t recall anything about time and a half on Saturdays. I speak often with the Lord and patiently listen for His answers. He provides them in His own way and I don’t think I ever heard Him say, “Cec, you’re seventy five now, give it a rest.”

If you believe and have the faith in His ability to heal, you have the best health insurance in existence. He has even gone so far as to provide healing for injuries caused by my own stupidity and clumsiness. I had a doctor tell me I only had five years to live so long ago I have forgotten his name. They may know their profession, but they don’t know my God! When He is ready, he will call but until then, I’d better keep at it. This health insurance plan is not free. It requires your faithful attention to His commands and your labor in His vineyard. If one can’t handle the premium, there’s always Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Now comes the hard part for the successful candidate. Is he sufficiently invested in a lifetime of study and contemplation to satisfy the educational requirements? Our canon of scripture requires a lifetime of study. Who, among serious Saints, has not observed a portion or passage recently which revealed some new, important aspect of our relationship with the Master? Past the scriptures, do we keep abreast of the current happenings in our branch, the general area, in Independence and the world at large. Upon pain of possibly repeating our mistakes of the past, he must also have a thorough knowledge of our history. He must be able to communicate well with all persons both within and without our church family. Based on that information, he may presume to make reasoned conclusions on matters which affect us all. Barring that information, he joins the herd of gossip mongers and becomes victim of better read tale bearers. Not exactly a great recommendation for either member or prophet.

The “employment agency” to find people for these positions is perhaps the easiest part. Twenty five years ago I asked God to fill the position of “wife.” He filled it the following weekend with one of the finest, most loving women I have ever known. Yes, the match required some fine tuning but He had prepared us both for that task. I suspect He, since He fills all our needs from a pool of human beings, will bring us someone who needs a shakedown cruise to get really seaworthy. Again, this applies to all, member through prophet. If you don’t believe this, I suggest you reread the Church History and review some of the foibles of Joseph Smith, Jr.. Few men take on a new job in a condition of perfection and ability.

As to the matter of political correctness in “hiring” practices; all I can say is, “O well!.” We do have God given commandments excluding certain persons from some offices. They are His provenance and not the work of men. He has not, nor will He, recommend someone for a job for which the individual is not qualified. This does not mean that the candidate is aware of his calling. We may recall some of the original apostles recognized their shortcomings and said to the Lord, “Why me?” I quietly reviewed my sins upon baptism and wondered that there was no thunder and lighting, amazed He allowed it to continue. I am still in awe. Hey, repentance works.

There is yet one remaining issue which has not been covered, remuneration. Over the years, I have had many thoughts about this. I know, Paul went forth without “purse or scrip.” I also personally know one young elder who famously set forth on church business with empty pockets. He never failed to realize his individual needs to accomplish God’s will. I also believe that there are men who will fulfill God’s purposes but have families and other obligations. This is a conundrum which requires a greater mind than mine to solve. I do know this however: God will not ask us to do anything without providing the means for that accomplishment. Feel free to explain your own solution.

So there we have it. Oh no, I forgot the perk, life everlasting to continue to work with God and be in His presence; to know the unanswerable, to have unspeakable joy and have the real fruits of your labors. If this sounds good to you, apply today, there are plenty of openings.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Monday, August 27, 2007

Random Rants

If recent events in the church have taught us nothing else, it should be apparent we have an abundance of opinions and a severe shortage of patience. In addition to posting on this web log, we also monitor several other threads and share a constant stream of emails about the momentous issues facing our body of Saints. Does this make us experts on the subjects involved? Not really, but it does give us a heightened awareness. Here follow some random observations.

One important emerging fact is that one’s age and first hand knowledge of history is a huge factor in the opinions expressed. From the view of one who was a child during the depression of the thirties (that’s 1930’s), followed WW II as daily news, heard FDR speak live on the radio and whose first job had J. Edgar Hoover for a boss, today’s events are viewed differently from others much younger. Did I say wiser? No! I said different. As a geezer who has routinely purchased milk for 13¢ a quart, I can safely say my perspectives are decidedly different from Saints who are the age of my grandchildren. This age disparity in itself does not mean my views are more important or better reasoned but must by definition by different.

To fully appreciate the trauma experienced by many Saints during the sixties and seventies, one would have to be at least sixty or older or be extremely well read. To appreciate the height of the mountain one must have been in the valley. In reverse, if one did not experience the tranquility of the RLDS, untroubled by hierarchal struggles and concerned solely with worshiping the Almighty, then it is difficult to fully realize how many changes we have.

As a personal example of the church at work building Zion, I submit the following. In the mid-sixties, our un-churched family moved to about a mile from the Bedison congregation in Far West stake. We bought a farmstead on ten acres from a wonderful man (RLDS, who held the office of teacher) at a ridiculous low price. We were invited to join with them for Sunday worship and, since it was the closest, we tried it out. We found the truths offered there acceptable and became enmeshed in the faith. Two years passed and we had the opportunity to exercise the option to purchase the remaining 110 acres of the farm. My business kept the wolf from the door but did not allow for the extra $3000 which I needed to secure the property. One afternoon, just before the date to exercise the option, I looked up from work in the garden and the saw the familiar faces of three brothers from the church.

After the usual pleasantries, they asked if I intended to exercise the option. I said I wanted to but did not see how I would ever raise the money. Without hesitation, they asked if I would accept their help. In 1967, this was a huge amount of money for a man in my circumstances. I said yes. They immediately drew checkbooks and pens from their overalls and wrote equal checks and handed them to me. There was no other paper work involved. No notes. No discussion of interest. No pay back agreements. No suggestions on how I should order my life. The only question they asked was, “Cecil, what do you plan to raise on your farm?” My response was simple, “Boys!” Our seven years on that farm taught the boys life lessons which are unavailable from any other source. What I took from the experience was the knowledge of a true Zionic condition. Shortly thereafter, we were all four baptized.

Age is not the only differential between the Saints. Under the barrage of leftist thinking which seemed to pervade the world church in years subsequent to the preceding event we came up with some highly divergent views of the role of the church in the world. These attitudes have charged our worship environment with divisiveness and often, rancor. Our focus on Jesus Christ, His message, and, His promise have become mired in political correctness which hinders our ability to pinpoint actual problems and seek God given solutions. It is difficult to communicate with those folks whose concern is for feelings and not truth. Persons occupied only with “peace and love” can assume a lofty position with supposed moral certitude but have difficulty absorbing the real truths of the scriptures. They are not a record of peaceful coexistence. They are a constant record of strife, struggle, and an ongoing war against the adversary. They are a witness to God’s plans for the unrepentant and bow-necked sinners. But, for the committed, they hold the covenant and the everlasting promises of God. Just about any random opening to any chapter will reveal the truth of this. Crack the Book and try it. Read just a few verses and you will find evidence of both postures.

We are men! All of our attempts to emulate God will probably fail. Our inborn instincts to “take care of number one” override our good sense. If we take care of God, as we have covenanted to do, He will take care of us. What is so difficult to understand here? If we give him everything, He will return it a hundred fold. I we choose to falter and reserve for our own special interests, He will notice. God help us all.

These things listed above are exactly as advertised, random thoughts and rants. To solve our problems, we must identify them. We must do it with accuracy and recognize that some of these begin with us. We are encouraged to reason together. This involves not just projecting our own positions, but also, listening to others. I believe that the solutions are all available from scriptural study and even more important, heart felt prayer. Unfortunately, the cause of the problems is often visible in the mirror. Can we admit it? God knows, do we?

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon