Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Sabbath: Holy and Delightful

The Sabbath: Holy and Delightful
Scott L. Vanatter, July 19, 2015 (Chantilly Ward), July 26, 2015 (Franklin Ward)

INTRO - Illustration
Picture in your mind a beautiful song. Imagine how it sounds. And feels. Melody and harmony wonderfully blend together. At times, the song soars -- and you are lifted. At other times, it settles into a soft, gentle phase -- you are at peace. You notice no dissonant chords. All the parts of the song come together as One Great Whole to form one of those perfect songs.

Let’s compare the melody in this song to how we daily interact with our family and our neighbor here on earth. Let’s think of the harmony as how we daily interact with God in heaven.

In this thought experiment, the melody mirrors the kindnesses we extend and the hope we engender; the truth and goodness we embrace – everything which is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” on this earth.

Closely-related is the harmony. It is written daily by our “deep and often poignant thoughts” of God. [1] It is our yearning for -- and our reaching out to -- God our Father through his Beloved Son. It is reflected by how we seek His Righteousness, His Vision, His Way, His Truth, His Life, His Love. This harmony is the immediate and constant “at-one-ment” which we feel with everything which is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” in God’s true nature and character.

Perhaps the soaring musical interludes are sacred events such as births, baptisms, ordinations, temple experiences, marriages, awakenings – perhaps even large multi-generational family reunions. Moments of exquisite joy.

Conversely, perhaps the soft, poignant phases are such things as funerals, or personal or shared trials, troubles, and tribulations. Moments when we receive soothing comfort.

Question: Over time, what keeps the beat? ‘Turn your thoughts into your hearts, and ask yourselves,’ what is the heartbeat of the beautiful music of our lives?

Humbly, I suggest, it is the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath Day provides the firm foundation for the beautiful melodies and harmonies of Holiness.

THEME – The Idea

Remember the Sabbath Day, to Keep it Holy – both at Church and at Home. That is our theme today. A Holy Sabbath Day provides a constant, rhythmic, steady heartbeat. ‘These [are] days, never to be forgotten’ as we discover and re-discover the tender mercies of the Lord.

Remembering Jesus on the Sabbath Day provides a needed oasis and focal point of a heaven-connected life. The Sabbath provides a sure anchor and familiar touchstone in the sometimes hectic busyness of life. [2]

BACKGROUND: What prompted subject

Let’s discuss for a moment why we have been assigned to speak on the Sabbath Day, to keep it Holy.

Over the past year the prophets, apostles, and general women’s auxiliary leaders of the church pondered what teaching could be undertaken which would most help the church grow in faith and spirituality. After prayerful deliberation, they determined that, for now, it would be to “elevate the spirit and power of the Sabbath Day.”

Last April conference, in training meetings for visiting local leaders . . . various apostles, seventies, and women’s auxiliary leaders spoke on keeping the Sabbath Day holy at church and at home.

Elder Russell M. Nelson, who led this effort to elevate the Sabbath Day, gave a talk in general conference entitled, The Sabbath is a Delight. (By the way, he has now been formally set apart as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.) In this talk, President Nelson said that when he was younger he studied various lists of things to do and not do on the Sabbath Day. Later, he learned the deeper truth about our attitude and conduct on the Sabbath Day. He related that after he learned that a holy Sabbath serves as a “sign” of the relationship between us and our Heavenly Father, he, quote, “no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts.”

He cited Ezekiel’s revelation, “Hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” A sign can be a remembrance, a token, or proof of an agreement -- where we gave our consent. As we grow in how we “always remember Him” we create and receive an even ‘more sure’ sign -- or symbol -- of the status of our relationship with the Father and the Son. 

Elder Nelson cited scripture calling the Sabbath a delight. A delight is something pleasant, soft, delicate, happy. This calls to mind the Still Small Voice, and the ethereal counsel, “Be Still and know that I am God.”


Let’s take a few moments to briefly define some scriptural concepts. As we do, think of how Jesus relates to each of these core principles.

Let define the words of the phrase:  Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it Holy.

Remember: To remember is to have an image in your mind of a person, place, or something that happened or was said in the past. To remember is to bring a fact back into your mind that you knew before. To remember is to keep a particular fact in your mind because it is relevant. To remember is to do something that you promised to do – and not forget about it. To remember is to think about someone or something with respect, honor, or positive feelings.

Sabbath: In Hebrew the root of the word of Sabbath means “rest.” To rest is to stop doing a particular activity, or stop being active for a period of time.

Keep: To keep is to observe, to guard, to preserve, to heed. To keep is to stay in a state, condition, or place. To keep is also to do something many times. To keep is also to continue to have something. Lastly, to keep is to do what you said you would do.

Holy: To be holy is to be set apart as sacred, consecrated, sanctified, or hallowed. To be holy is to be dedicated to righteousness, goodness and truth. [3]

So, with all these definitions in mind, listen to and ponder once again, the phrase: Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it Holy.

Levels of Meaning

As Sister Patricia T. Holland taught a few years ago -- in relation to Eve and the phrase “Mother of all living” -- the words we read in the scriptures can be thought of as, quote, “very carefully chosen words . . . . Rich words -- with meaning after meaning after meaning.” End quote.

Let’s look at the deeper levels of meaning of the scriptural idea of Rest. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (in chapter 4) informs us that: “Jesus [has] given [us] rest . . . 11Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest.” Alma connects ordinances with the idea of rest. “Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of order . . . that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.” Joseph Smith revealed more about the deeper meaning of this kind of rest when in 1832 he taught (D&C 84) that this “rest is the fulness of his glory.” A careful study of the Doctrine and Covenants shows that there are several near synonyms -- or cross references -- for the word rest: Such as life, light, power, fulness, even honor, work and glory. In last April’s leadership training, Elder Oaks briefly spoke of another close synonym for rest: name. The name of Christ. By the way, Elder Oaks has written a whole book on the meaning of taking upon us the Name of Christ.

DOCTRINE: Basis of change

One of the wisest and most important insights of President Boyd K. Packer’s was to observe: “True doctrine, understood, changes attitude and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”

Yes, the true doctrine of the Sabbath, understood, will change our attitude AND behavior. The study of the doctrines and purpose and blessings of the Sabbath will help make our Sabbath Days a delight quicker than will a study of a list of dos and don’ts.

It is reported that a Catholic Bishop once visited Joseph Smith in Nauvoo – which at the time rivaled Chicago in size. He asked Joseph, “By what power do you govern so great a people?” Joseph replied, “I do not govern them. I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”

Let us be wise in applying this same principle as we seek to understand -- and delight -- in the doctrine of a Holy Sabbath Day.

COVENANTS: Remember Jesus

Now, let’s think about our covenants partaking of the sacramental bread and water. Mormons are a covenant making and keeping people. Covenants give life to Truth. [4]

Why Ordinances are connected to Covenants

Lesson 5 of the Temple Preparation Course which can be downloaded from by anyone in the world, teaches that ordinances, quote, “help us remember important things…. [They] can teach us abstract truths that might be hard to learn in other ways…. When [ordinances] are repeated, we learn to understand them better…. [Ordinances provide] a visual and tactile reminder of [our covenants…].” End quote. [5]

Of course, the Sacrament ordinance is the pinnacle and most sacred part of Sabbath Day worship. As we fully participate in the ordinance of the sacrament we offer to God a sacred sign of our devotion. In this sacred ordinance Sister Oscarson said women, especially those with young, active children yearn for an oasis. We can imagine a refreshing Sabbath Oasis in the midst of a sometimes lone and dreary and parched world.

As we let the focus and power of this sacred covenant wash over us, we will enjoy the “at-one-ment” we all yearn for. Women and men alike. This sacred sacrament oasis is a weekly stand-in for ALL our (baptismal, priesthood, and temple) covenants in the New and Everlasting Covenant.

Jesus as Bread and Water

The Sacrament is a curious, yet wonderful, thing. Think of it. It is both private and communal. It is both simple yet also as deep and wide as eternity. It is both plain and beautiful. It is only a moment in time, but it connects us to the Eternities.

We meet together to remember Jesus by taking into our bodies the most basic sustenance, bread and water. Yet, it can be – should be -- a feast for souls yearning spiritual food, manna from heaven. [6]

Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger…. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my [body], which I . . . give for the life of the world…. [7] so he that eateth [in remembrance of my body], even he shall live by me.” (John 6:35, 51, 54, 56, 57) 

Likewise, Jesus, the Living Water, said “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly -- or, rather, out of his inmost self -- shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38) In other words, His kind of life flows like refreshing water into and through our whole soul -- body and spirit.


Jesus often paired two principles together to illustrate eternal truths about his life and mission. Bread and Water, Yoke and Burden, Resurrection and Life, Work and Glory, Light and Life, even Alpha and Omega.

Thinking of the bread and water of the sacrament ordinance, I can imagine the Bread signifying His Yoke, and the Water signifying His Burden. Paradoxically, as we partake, our yoke becomes easy, and our burden becomes light.

I can imagine the Bread signifying Resurrection and the Water signifying The Life. “Jesus said . . . I am the resurrection, and the life . . . .” (Matthew 25)

I can imagine the Bread signifying His Work and the Water signifying His Glory. For, said He, “This is my Work and my Glory to bring to pass the immortality and the eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)

I can imagine the Bread signifying the Beginning and the Cup signifying the End of the Atonement He has wrought. “I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” From 3 Nephi 9 (18).

I can imagine partaking of the Bread as signifying the Outer. We live in the physical world; a world of action; a world where we extend tangible blessing to others. In other words, a realm of doing. In like manner, I can imagine drinking of the Cup as signifying the Inner. We yearn for the eternal world. A world of the spirit, and the spiritual life we must live. In other words, being or becoming.

Thoughtfully partaking of the Bread and Water helps us to remember to always remember. Always remember Him.

How we remember

How is this ordinance the heartbeat of our lives? The Sacrament is the time set aside during each week where we slow down, pause, ponder, and model how, during the rest of the week, we can “always remember Him” and “always have His spirit” – in each moment of every day.

No longer do we bring an animal sacrifice to the altar, but rather, we offer up a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We don’t resist Jesus; we receive Him, and His will as we “receive the Holy Ghost”.  We don’t hold on to bitterness and wallow in sorrow; we rejoice in His holiness and the spiritual confidence which replaces a sometimes nagging, or even despairing doubt.

In this sacred ordinance all these things are “manifested” to our souls. In this holy ordinance our souls are “sanctified” as we humbly bow our head and acknowledge that not only has Jesus died for all mankind, but that, “Jesus died for me.” And in love we are drawn to Him.

This is why the Sabbath is the heartbeat of our mortal/eternal lives. It gives order and structure and fullness to the melody and harmony of our lives.

Remember what [8]

The more we cherish up His life and teachings in our studies, prayers, and in our service to others, the more closely we can focus during the sacrament service on His heart and His love for us. We can recall to our minds who He was, what he did, and especially His relation to us, and our personal connection to Him . . . that we have the spark of divinity deep within us. That He desires us to be with Him and be like Him.

We as parents and grandparents can be “creatively persistent” in helping our children and youth have a unique Sabbath Day experience. One tailored to your and their interests and personality. One, where the Sabbath becomes a delight.

During the week, we can remember to see Jesus in others. For, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” And, after all, when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are only in the service of our God.


Let’s recall that Jesus pointedly taught that the Sabbath was made for us, not the other way around.

Did you know that the component parts of the word religion means to re-tie ourselves to God. IOW, not just to tie ourselves to God; but to re-tie ourselves to Him. To bind ourselves back to Him once again. In all Christendom, Mormons uniquely have a keen insight to this “re-tying” as we teach for doctrine that we all used to live with God in our pre-mortal life.

Joseph Smith offered keen insight on how our already-existing relationship with God should help us as we re-connect with him, quote, “The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge.” And that when we “understand rightly the character of God . . . [we] comprehend [our]selves.” End quote.

Why Not

So. If there really is a God in Heaven who wants to teach us and reach us, why NOT give Him sufficient time to make the connection. Yes, overtly several minutes every day, but why not several hours each Sabbath day. There are literally scores of ways He can and will reach us, if we give ourselves over to the idea that he wants to relate to us.

I can imagine this, as we are grandparents living across the country from beloved grandsons. Believe me: When you have grandkids so far away, you would want to spend more than a minute or two with them on the phone or via video conferencing. And it is a true joy when they eagerly and of “their own free will and choice” want to spend extended time with you as the grandparent.

Why NOT seek to keep the Sabbath Day holy? Why not devote an extra amount of time on THAT day to learning and experiencing Holiness. [9]

On every day, but especially on THIS day, why not turn our hearts to God? Properly viewed, a restful, engaged Sabbath Day is filled with hope, and promise, and blessings, and comfort, and Joy and Delight. It is filled with “at-one-ment” -- which becomes the model for the other days of the week. It can be filled with the key experiences associated with Purpose of Life itself. 

I invite us all to earnestly and creatively see the Sabbath Day for what it is, an opportunity to rest and reach out and grow by having authentic spiritual experiences. [10] When we do, we will thoroughly enjoy expending the effort to gain the inspiration to create the attitudes, skills, and habits that bind us to God.


It has often been observed that we are not just physical beings seeking to have a transcendent spiritual experience, but, rather, we are spiritual beings sent here to have a tangible / physical experience. We come to this earth to bind as “inseparably connected” the inner and the outer. When we are one within ourselves, and with God, we can then “receive a fullness of joy.” We come here so we can experience the heights and depths of a tangible world – one filled with the struggles of opposition.

This “tangibleness” with all its ups and downs helps make real all the theoretical, preliminary joy we were introduced to in our pre-mortal world. It is during the struggle here on earth that we learn and grow the most.

Like Eve’s courageous, conscious decision, we knew this mortal journey could be punctuated with moments of loneliness, pain, disappointment, suffering, and sometimes even crushing sorrow. However, being valiant in following the Son -- as he followed the Father’s plan – we realized that to ultimately appreciate the scintillating heights of ecstatic joy in the Celestial Kingdom, we needed to be fully exposed to the depths of sorrow in a lower sphere.

In this we were assured that our Elder Brother also would experience all that we could possibly suffer -- and so much more. In the worst of our suffering we would know that we are never ever alone. He is right there with us. Just as he will be right there with us welcoming us back home when our time comes to pass through the veil for the final time -- to enter fully into the glorious Rest of living with “the whole family of heaven” in Celestial Glory. Where every day will be a Holy Sabbath Day.

During each moment of every day, how can we “always remember him”? I have found that this is closely related to “praying always.” In a wonderful way, we can literally have a constant echo -- of all our studies and all our desires and all our prayers and all our service – that informs each and every thought. We may not be fully conscious of particular specific thoughts, but I testify that we can have a constant awareness, a constant closeness, a constant connection to and with our Savior. When we are proactive in letting Him in, and willingly letting our heart be soft (and even broken) and our spirit open to where we can repent and improve (being contrite) then we can enjoy the sweet co-dependent blessings of “always remembering” along with “always having his spirit to be with us.”


God promised that as we give ourselves over to Holiness that blessings would naturally flow unto us and distill upon our souls as gently and thoroughly as the Dews of Heaven. [11]

I bear my witness that the beautiful melody and harmony of our lives can be fostered and perfected on the sure foundation of the heartbeat of a holy Sabbath day.

I pray we let the Holy Spirit draw us into a more sacred, more spiritually aware, more spiritually satisfying Sabbath experience.

I pray we worship more deeply, and more often, more intimately.

I pray we would always remember Him, that we would always have his Spirit to be with us, in the sacred name and power of Jesus Christ, who is our Exemplar and Friend. Amen.

# # #


                    INTRO: Illustration
                    THEME: The Idea
                    BACKGROUND: What prompted subject 

                    DEFINITIONS: Key Words
                    DOCTRINE: Basis of change
                    COVENANTS: Remember Jesus

                    PERSPECTIVE: Why not
                    PURPOSE OF LIFE: Follow Eve


#1 This harmony is written by our personal and familial and communal encounters with the Heaven.

#2  I invite us all, old and young, male and female, convert and life-long member to remember to keep and enjoy a holy Sabbath Day – one where we “remember Him” and where “we always have is spirit to be with us.”

#3  A key component of all of these definitions: they all end up being related to and fulfilled in the ordinances of the temple, which, in turn, are epitomized by the sacramental prayers. 

#4  Inherent in the New and Everlasting Covenant is the fact that it is God’s constant yearning that we enter into the covenant. Further that we actively participate in and receive its blessings not only when we die, but now.
#5  Joseph Smith taught the power of symbolism, “All things whatsoever God has seen proper to reveal to us are revealed to us in the abstract…” Remember that whether it is baptism, the sacrament, or temple endowment, all these ordinances are abstract representations of “vast [spiritual] realities” -- too vast for our minds to comprehend -- without the aid of the spirit.

#6  The ordinance of the Sacrament is the ritual focal point of our weekly worship. This intimate interaction with the Divine comes through giving ourselves over to the solemnity and intimacy of the experience.

#7  [and he] dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father:

#8  So, how can we “always” remember Him? What specifically can we remember, and when?   During the Sacrament prayers, we let the eternal principles denoted and connoted by each word and phrase -- and the reality that supports them -- speak to our eternal mind and our softened heart. During the passing of the Sacrament, we can continue to remember the Teachings He taught, the Life He lived; the Atonement He wrought.

#9  What an opportunity!

#10  What a day. What an opportunity! An opportunity to keep, to delight in our Savior. To let our Sabbath Day worship serve as a sure sign of our heartfelt devotion to the Father and the Son. 

#11  Let’s love it, revel in it, and yes, remember and keep it. Keep it holy. I testify that a Holy Sabbath Day can be the lively heartbeat needed to transcend the ordinary-ness of everyday life.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Learn, Teach

By Scott L. Vanatter
Learning and Teaching in the Home and the Church (2014 Auxiliary Training)
In our daily ministries as we participate in all the broad aspects of Hastening the Work 


Dear brothers and sisters: Truth exists and can be known. Truth is beautiful. Truth is powerful. “Truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (DC 84:45) Jesus, of course, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Think of the meaning and implications following Doctrines: The First Vision, The Book of Mormon, The Plan of Salvation, Eternal Progression. Temples wherein sacred truths are taught, and powerful ordinances performed; where Families Are Forever. Taken together as “one great whole,” there is nothing like it -- unique in all Christendom, unique in all religions of the world.
All this is made real and efficacious by the power and reach of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He is not only our Savior and Redeemer, but our Exemplar and Friend, and he is the Master Teacher.
I bear witness this doctrine of the Restored Gospel is glorious and beautiful, sweet and delicious, enlightening and inviting, expansive and generous, infinite and eternal, empowering, comforting, ennobling and exalting -- because Jesus is there at the center, with his arms outstretched, reaching toward and drawing us back into his close embrace. 


Our theme for this lesson is taken from the 2014 Auxiliary Training: Learning and Teaching in the Home and Church. Note the order of this heading. This video training was led by Elders Holland and Christofferson, along with the presiding bishop, and presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women, Primary and Sunday School. Today’s lesson is offered in support of a couple of the items from that training: The value of “Lifelong Learning,” and the absolute necessity that “We All Need to Be Nurtured.”
Pointedly and somewhat poignantly, Elder Holland commented that we do a pretty good job in Teaching, but he thought we could do better with respect to Learning. 


So, I invite us all to re-enthrone, re-new, re-energize our love of learning – no matter where we are in our progression.
The stake has invited me to teach this lesson and to invite my wife to help. I will introduce the theme today by focusing a bit more on the Mind of the Mind/Heart continuum, and my wife will wrap up focusing on the Heart.
The bishop has also asked us to consider how we can apply Learning and Teaching in our daily ministries -- as we participate in all the broad aspects of Hastening the Work. So, as we begin to develop a few ideas today in this lesson, look ahead and think of how Learning impacts Teaching.
  • How Learning enlightens an awareness of who We are. 
  • How Learning empowers our Covenants. 
  • How Learning makes us more tender toward the Poor and Needy. 
  • How Learning grows Faith. 
  • How Learning prods us to Share, and gives life to Prayer. 
  • How Learning increases our Love of all things Holy. 
  • How Learning turns our hearts to our Ancestors, and cements our Relationship to God. To the Whole Family of Heaven. 

John Taylor characterized what Joseph Smith taught as: “So much more comprehensive, enlightened and dignified than that which the people generally knew and comprehended.” (John Taylor on Joseph Smith, JD 10:147-148)
Joseph himself used this language with respect to the impact of the Plan of Salvation: 

“The sublimity of the ideas; the purity of the language; the scope for action; the continued duration for completion . . . are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men, that every honest man is constrained to exclaim: ‘It came from God’.” (DHC 1:252) 

Here is how Joseph Smith challenges us to interact with Diety. Please notice how far and wide and deeply we need to Learn.
“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out.
“Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity – thou must commune with God.”


Now, a rhetorical question or two. Think of a recent experience where you learned something new, or gained some insight, or re-learned something that meant a lot to you. An ah-ha moment.
  • Who have you shared it with? Your spouse, your kids, your parents, a friend, a neighbor, a stranger? 
  • What settings can you create to help ensure the most sacred of these insights -- these revelations -- are transmitted to the ones you love? 
Boyd K. Packer famously and insightfully taught, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitude and behavior. [I repeat, “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.] The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.” Question: Why is this true? { . . . . . . }
Jesus said, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart…” And it goes on. (See Matt 11) Note, I believe that the second phrase has something to do with the first phrase. But for now: What did Jesus mean when he said, “learn of me.” { . . . . . . }
Another rhetorical question: How can a lively knowledge of our literal relationship with Deity -- or, a humble recognition of the divine spark deep within each of us -- or, an immediate and personal participation in the Atonement Jesus offers us TODAY -- inform how we participate in Hastening the Work?*

Prophets from Moroni to MacKay have extolled the benefits of pondering**, meditating, or Joseph characterized it: gazing into heaven. Listen to how Joseph recommends we tackle real learning.
“Could we read and comprehend all that has been written from the days of Adam on the relations of God and angels [that’s all of us] in a future state, we should know very little about it.
“Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you could possibly by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” (9 October 1843 -- The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 254.)


I am encouraged by this new generation of young families, you are peers of our daughters. Your sincere approach to Family Home Evening, learning and personal study is a marvelous work and a wonder. (~ And . . . our own peers.)
With you, I bear witness of the joy and value of Learning. I invite us all to re-enthrone the place of Learning in our personal lives – and creatively and strategically meld it into how we help Hasten the Work of Salvation.
# # # 

*How does a commitment to Lifelong Learning help us Become or Be all that we, as heirs, are to become?
Another approach to learning: When a problem presents itself at home or at church, rather than rush to the “answer” let’s experiment with an examination of what Doctrine, properly understood, would clear the way to a more permanent solution, or perspective.
**One final note on the power of Pondering. Pondering has been compared to a pilot practicing take offs and landings. The pilot takes off and circles the airport, then comes in for a landing but rather than apply the brakes when the wheels touch down, the pilot immediately takes off again. He circles the air strip once again perhaps from a slightly different perspective. The pilot touches down but immediately takes off again.
Circling high above airport is pondering. Touching down on the airstrip is returning to read the actual text at hand. Perhaps SOME passages are so key and intriguing to us, that we spend more time pondering than actually READING the text. We might even take up a helicopter, rather than a plane.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

POEM - In The Beginning

In The Beginning

By Scott L. Vanatter, January 1, 2015 (Poem for our 39th wedding anniversary, January 2, 2015)


Long ago now
We saw enough
We knew enough
Then, waking up
  No longer
  Easily, actively we choose
  One another


The idea
Planted, buried
Deep in our hearts
Clear in our minds
  We journey
  Through life together
An adventure


A sometimes lonely world
A sometimes dreary world
  We wend our way as beloved companions
  Enjoying a lively shared
Engaging . . .
Innocence and awareness
Wonders and puzzles
Darkness and light
Dim shades gray and brilliant gradations of white
Pleasure and pain
Loss and gain
  And gladness
  And breadths
In the clamor and commotion
Shadows cower
Darknesses flee
  Peace and tranquility
  Calmness and serenity
  In you and me
Heavenly visions and ecstasies
Overwhelm the hazy cloud of earthly trials
Initial inklings have become
Fully-developed sight
  Then wisdom
Peering past veils of forgetfulness
Seeing the future
Now remembering
  And identity
Gazing into heaven – if only for a few moments
We see more
We know more
Now aware
Now awakened to
  Our identity
  Our purpose
  Our potential
  Our selves
  Our love
  Our family
Drawn upward and filled
  With light from within
  And love from above
Being, becoming
Yearning, learning
Living, loving
Never better
Measured as dear treasure
We surrender to one another
As One
We’ve only just begun
To Live
Forever and ever and ever
Ever Together
As One
# # #

Saturday, August 09, 2014

On Prophets and Pioneers (Modern)

Following the Prophets in Unity
In this there is safety, peace
By Scott L. Vanatter, Reston Ward, July 20, 2014

Please return with me to my senior year in high school over forty years ago. It was just prior to my receiving a testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. The foundational truths of the Restoration revealed by God through the Prophet Joseph Smith were about to be made known to me.

At the time I was ignorantly, blissfully satisfied existing in the world without a belief in God. While others found truth and solace in religion, I was compelled to reject what I saw as the false, double predestination of automatically consigning most of humankind to eternal damnation. This very narrow sliver of philosophy, to me, seemed to infect most of the Christian churches I had encountered. I couldn’t conceive that, if there was a God, this plan was what he or she or it designed and set in motion. If there was a God, this world could not have begun as a major accident. If there was a God, why would he conceive of a plan where most would fail and suffer eternally in a lake of fire and brimstone, also inconceivable to me. As I say, these ideas seemed to inform every discussion, and everything I read.

Let’s consider for a moment the simple but miraculous process of such a person moving from a position of doubt, disbelief, and disconnection . . . to one of testimony, vision, and covenant. Imagine with me -- or remember your own -- sacred moments in time where doubt faded into faith. Remember when light overcame darkness. Remember when a lively hope of eternal life replaced the cold fact of the future death of the body. Remember when truth replaced misconception. See once more how inspiration and revelation blasts like the dawning of a brilliant early-morning sun, the frost of a cold earth-bound science -- or a lonely, lowly, soley philosophical logic. The inherent and self-admitted limitations of reason can only accept a narrow lane of truth – only those few facts which can be overtly measured with the earthly calculus of rulers, scales, or microscopes. However, God stands ready to reveal to us the greatest spiritual verities – vast spiritual realities -- via the celestial calculus of a quiet discernment, assisted by the collected wisdom of living prophets. Even a child can apprehend these truths, though there are the beautiful, deep things of God which only “time and experience and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts” can find out. We, of course, need to be ‘in tune’ so as to be able to perceive these authentic spiritual intuitions, inspirations, revelations, realizations, and revelations -- awakenings out of a deep sleep.

So, today/now, I sincerely seek your quiet assent in a brief shared silent prayer as we consider together our theme today (chosen by the stake presidency): The value, necessity, and safety in following the living prophet -- in unity.

After being a member for a little over a year, and after attending Institute which my bishop had highly recommended, I realized that I too needed to serve a mission. Soon I submitted my papers and was called to serve in the Australia Sydney Mission. Coming from the rough world of football and wrestling, I looked to a more Mormon-oriented set of heroes to inspire me through the twenty-four month journey I had embarked upon.

I chose two subjects as a convenient go-to model of attitude and action. I often thought of them as a tool to self-check the Why and How of my service as a fulltime missionary. Wanting to reserve Jesus to the higher role of the being on whom I would focus my worship, and whose example of the finest godly and divine attributes I would seek to emulate, and keeping Joseph also in the lofty role of latter-day prophet whose expansive doctrine I needed to more fully apprehend, and passing over the many exciting prophet and apostle heroes of the Bible and The Book of Mormon, I chose to focus on the modern apostles and prophets -- particularly using a 45 year old apostle, Thomas S. Monson, who was rather young and easy to identify with, as a convenient place holder for all of them. Really, more than imagining him in any particular missionary setting, I tried emulate what I conceived as the general positive attitude and proactive energy that an Elder Monson would bring to serving a mission if he was to server a mission in the early 70s.

Secondly, I chose to ponder the faith of the Pioneers. They did many extraordinary things, for the most lofty of motivations. They would follow the prophet with courage and sacrifice even at a high cost. They had a vision of Zion and what was to be done, and set about to do it – no matter what obstacle was placed in their way. Physical or otherwise.

After I joined the church, my wife’s extended family of aunts, cousins and her beloved and sweet Grandmother gave me a baptism by fire of their family’s participation in early church history and as Pioneers. I felt wholly adopted into the family lore of those who knew Joseph Smith as a living prophet, or who participated in the most marvelous spiritual or physically dangerous scenes of early church history in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, or who crossed the Plains in the vanguard company, or in several other migrations from Europe over the ocean and across the Plains to Nauvoo or Salt Lake City. Then they helped settle Utah and Arizona.

So, I let several favorite Pioneer stories rest in my mind. Athletes did tough things, but Pioneers did all this and much more often settings of life and death.

One of the stories I heard shortly after joining the church, which has never left me, is the grand overarching vision and sure testimony of one immigrant Pioneer widow, a convert from Scotland, Mary Murray Murdoch. She was only 4 foot, 7 inches tall, and weighed 90 pounds; she was known as Wee Granny. She and her family joined the church in the early 1850s. Her son, John, a sheepherder was soon asked to come to Utah to tend Brigham Young’s sheep. After five years he saved enough money to send for the rest of his family -- brothers and sisters, a brother-in-law, etc., and Wee Granny, now 73 years old. Across the ocean they came, then by train to Iowa. Then, they undertook to travel the rest of the journey by handcart. The company had to camp at Chimney Rock, Nebraska for a few days because so many were too weary and sick to travel. Her spirit was strong, but her body was not able to finish the journey to Zion to join her son, John. The next morning (October 3, 1856), word was sent through the camp that sister Mary Murray Murdoch had passed away during the night from the hardships of the trek. In ten more days she was to turn 74.

As she lay near death there on the plains of Nebraska, the family gathered around her. Her last spoken words were a plea that the burning faith and love she shared with her son of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ be made known to her son in Utah. She concluded, "Tell John I died with my face toward Zion." This kind of pioneering vision of the great latter-day work continues to inspire me to this day.

I remember the day on my mission when hoped that if I lived in Joseph’s day, I would have been one of those who did not abandon him -- no matter how many other members or leaders did. Not that there were nearly as trials in latter-day Australia, but I determined that I would follow the living prophet -- the First Presidency and Quorum or the Twelve Apostles -- no matter how many others in or out of the church would seek to criticize or reject their considered counsel.

President David O. McKay related the story about one of our pioneers. This man had crossed the plains under the most trying circumstances. In a meeting in Utah years later, members were criticizing the brethren for errors in outfitting and in the timing of their handcart trek. The man who had been in the company said, “I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie . . . whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? … Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church,” the old man said, “because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.”

One of my wife’s great-great-grandmothers, Elizabeth Reese (Craig), compared the relative challenges which the saints encountered over her lifetime. In her old age, she looked back and wrote: “Yes, I’ve pioneered in Arizona, but my mother was a pioneer before me -- she came from Illinois to Utah with the first handcart company, and my husband‘s father James Craig, was a bugler for the [vanguard company of] pioneers of 1847 and crossed the Plains into Salt Lake City with Brigham Young. . . . Yes, I suppose you‘d say that pioneering in those early years was hard, but we were all trying to develop the country and build a better nation. No one was trying to destroy it or tear it down. Everybody worked together and tried to follow the teaching of one of the Apostles who said, ‘Stick to the good and work for the right.’

“Of course we worked hard, but hard work is good for the souls of men. Hard work kept our children out of mischief and kept men from getting into trouble. If I had my life to live over, I believe I’d take the hardships of our [early] times rather than the problems of today. We built the nation. A lot of people now are trying to tear it apart. No matter how hard, it is easier to build a country than to keep the enemies from destroying it afterwards.

“There’s a tremendous job of pioneering for our young people today -- pioneering in a wilderness of unrest, selfishness, intolerance, greed, and dishonor. True courses must be charted through this wilderness just as we broke trails through nature’s wilderness sixty-nine years ago.”

What is really needed -- as much as it has ever been -- is a listening ear attuned to the spirit and a believing heart grounded in the core, basic elements of revealed truth. We need to develop a lively faith in the living God. And, as per today’s theme, there is safety in Following the Prophet.
  • The people of Zion followed Enoch to Heaven. 
  • The children of Israel followed God’s chosen prophet Moses out of bondage. 
  • Scores, then hundreds, then thousands followed a new prophet, Joseph Smith, as he declared that the Heavens were once again opened, and then revealed this marvelous work and a wonder -- of the First Vision (and all it teaches on the nature of God, and the nature of Man), of The Book of Mormon (and its witness of Christ), and this beautiful and ennobling doctrine of the Plan of Salvation and Exaltation and Happiness of the “whole family of heaven” (wonderfully laid out in the ordinances of the temple). 
  • Later, the Pioneers followed Brigham Young across the country to the tops of the mountains. 
  • And today, we follow a modern prophet in a wilderness of “sophistication” – as one modern prophet has labeled our modern age.

President Hugh B. Brown spoke of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, quote. "A sense of relationship and co-partnership with God involves the concept of universal brotherhood -- and that will help to develop intelligent tolerance, open-mindedness, and good-natured optimism. Life is really a battle between fear and faith, pessimism and optimism. Fear and pessimism paralyze men with skepticism and futility.” Fear and pessimism also fosters a nagging, destructive doubt.

Let’s discuss doubt for a minute prior to moving on to faith and following the living prophet.  Late last year (2013), President Uchdorf reminded us that the search for truth has led millions of people to the Church. However, he added, there are some who leave the Church they once loved. Quote.

“One might ask, ‘If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave? Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple,” he explained. “In fact there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations.”

President Uchtdorf said some members struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. “We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history — along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events — there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question. . . . Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.”

President Uchtdorf said there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. “There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine. I suppose the Church would only be perfect if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us — His imperfect children — and imperfect people make mistakes.”

Speaking to “those who have separated themselves from the Church,” President Uchtdorf said, “Come, and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.”

He said it is natural to have questions or doubts. “Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true (Alma 32:21),” he said. “Therefore, please, first doubt your doubts, before you doubt your faith.” Some, he said, don’t think they fit in with the people in the Church. “If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose.” End quote.

#A. On hearing and believing the Word of God . . .
Let’s consider for a moment why we need to follow the prophet in unity. Above all, there is strength in unity. Whether this is declared or exhibited by the most famous of successful political leaders, award winning coaches, prophets, caring bishoprics, or relief society or priesthood presidencies, or close growing families.

Listen to how Paul desires us to be one in his epistle to the Ephesians. What advice does he offer? (See Ephesians chapter 4) -- I therefore . . . beseech you that ye walk . . . 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. . . .

These verses immediately precedes the famous LDS missionary scripture where He calls prophets and apostles for the following purposes: -- 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [the church]

He then addresses the question of how long we will need prophets. Answer: -- 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . . [even that we are raised up] unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

He continues: 29 Let [only that] communication proceed out of your mouth, . . . which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God . . . .

Then he addresses how we go about living in unity: 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Along these lines, Joseph Smith counseled: “let every selfish feeling be not only buried, but annihilated; and let love to God and man predominate, and reign triumphant in every mind…. The work in which we are unitedly engaged is one of no ordinary kind. The enemies we have to contend against are subtle and well skilled in maneuvering; it behooves us to be on the alert to concentrate our energies, and that the best feelings should exist in our midst; . . . We, all of us, have our friends, our connections, our families and associations; and we find that the ties of friendship … and brotherhood have indissolubly united us together with a thousand endearing associations; . . . A kindred sympathy runs through the whole body, even the body of Christ [which is the church]. . . . By a concentration of action, and a unity of effort . . . the blessings of heaven must flow unto us in an uninterrupted stream; . . .”

Elder Hugh B. Brown illustrated the absolute need for a living prophet, to a great judge in Brittan just as evil tyrants were raising their ugly head prior to World War II. He clearly and convincingly demonstrated to this judge, not a member of our church, the need for a prophet in those troubled time. Elder Brown later reported, “what was the reaction of this judge, when we finished? He sat and listened, intently. He asked some very pointed and searching questions. And then he said, and his eyes were moist when he said it, ‘Mr. Brown, there never was an age in the history of the world, there never was a people or a time, when the voice of God was needed as is needed now.’ And at the end of [our discussion], he said, ‘Mr. Brown, I wonder if your people appreciate the import of your message. Do you?’ He said, ‘If what you have told me is true, it is the greatest message that has come to this earth, since the angels announced the birth of Christ.’ Elder Brown said, “This was a judge speaking. A great statesman. An intelligent man. He threw out the challenge, ‘Do you appreciate the import of what you say?’ The judge said, ‘I wish it were true. I hope it may be true. God knows it ought to be true. I would to God,’ he said, and he wept as he said it, ‘That some man could appear on the earth and authoritatively say, ‘Thus sayeth the Lord.’”

#B. On receiving God’s Promises . . .
Now, let’s speak of the promises related to following the prophet and the need and blessing of acting in unity.

On the value of being united, President George Q. Cannon said, “I suppose each of us is fond of having his own way. I know I am. … But I do not like my own way well enough to want it in opposition to my brethren’s way. That is our duty as the First Presidency of the Church. It is the duty of every presidency throughout the Church. … Suppose that one [person in the presidency or related organization] has more wisdom than another; it is better to carry out a plan that is not so wise, if you are united on it. Speaking generally, a plan or a policy that may be inferior in some respects is more effective if men are united upon it than a better plan would be upon which they were divided.”

Joseph Smith published an editorial about building the Nauvoo Temple which stated, “The cause of God is one common cause, in which the Saints are alike all interested; we are all members of the one common body, and all partake of the same spirit . . . . . Party feelings, separate interests, exclusive designs should be lost sight of in the one common cause, in the interest of the whole.” [May 2, 1842]

#C. On Overcoming the World
President Hinckley remarked that, “There are many little things that test our willingness to accept the word of the prophets. . . . So it has been through the history of mankind, and so it is today. . . . Now again, as always, we are faced with public moral issues, [for example, gambling, laws about concealed firearms in our church buildings, warnings about debt, abuse, the family, pride, and of course, the policies and procedures of the church.] The Presidents of the Church have spoken clearly and unequivocally on these matters.” End quote.

In the Book of Mosiah, we are counseled that “that there should be no contention one with another, but that [we] should look forward with one eye, . . . having [our] hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.”

#D. On becoming a Servant of the Lord
President Hinckley declared, “I say for each and all that we have no personal agenda. We have only the Lord’s agenda. There are those who criticize when we issue a statement of counsel or warning. Please know that our pleadings are not motivated by any selfish desire. Please know that our warnings are not without substance and reason. Please know that the decisions to speak out on various matters are not reached without deliberation, discussion, and prayer. Please know that our only ambition is to help each of you with your problems, your struggles, your families, your lives. . . . Ours is the responsibility outlined by Ezekiel: ‘Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me’ (Ezekiel 3:17).” (Oct. 1992)

#E. On the Blessing of following God and His Prophet . . .
Please deeply consider how this beautiful recent statement by President Monson applies to you and your loved ones. “Your Heavenly Father loves you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there.” End quote.

No matter where our loved ones are, in or out of the church.

#F. On Being One with God and His Son
Sharing the perfect oneness which he enjoys with his Father, Jesus prayed, in his Great Intercessory Prayer (see John 17) –

Holy Father,
keep through thine own name [or, his power, or nature, or identity]
those whom thou hast given me,
that they may be one, as we are. . . .

20. Neither pray I for these alone,
but for them also which shall believe on me
through their word;

21. That they all may be one;
as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee,
that they also may be one in us: . . .

that they may be one, even as we are one:
23. I in them, and thou in me,

that they may be made perfect in one….”

Perfection in the scriptures speaks of wholeness and completeness, etc.

In conclusion, looking back to the years prior to my testimony, I could make the case that my doubt with respect to all things religious helped pave the way to my accepting the truth when it was finally presented to me. Of course, it was not only this ‘healthy skepticism’ but also a fair amount of curiosity, inquisitiveness, searching, openness, yearning, responsiveness, and a thousand other motivations which led me to the truth, the divine, and to God. And to Jesus Christ who he has sent.

I do bear my personal witness that God our kind, loving, Eternal Father in Heaven, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost enjoy a perfect and glorious Oneness. As Jesus declared in his Great Intercessory Prayer, they desire all to receive it.

I also testify that there is help, safety and peace in following the living prophets. I wholeheartedly sustain the President of the church, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.

I have discovered for myself from firsthand experience that the other General and local authorities of the Church sincerely serve with your best interests in their hearts. There is no personal agenda. They seek the Lord’s will in all things discussed and decided.

I understand that there are those who have doubts, or who do not agree with church leaders. Some of my decade’s long friends have recently left the church. I have a strong belief, though, that someday they will return to the fold, without reservation and without rancor. It may take a while, as President Kimball once said, a hundred, a thousand, or even a million years. Till then, we will show unfeigned love till they return, where they will once again enjoy the power and blessings of their covenants in unity and harmony -- which has been the hallmark of the Saints in all ages. I pray in the sacred name of my Savior and Redeemer, my Exemplar and Friend, even Jesus Christ. Amen.

# # #


[I.] On hearing and believing the Word of God . . . 
[II.] On receiving God’s Promises . . . 
[III.] On Overcoming the World – Calamity, WWII
[IV.] On becoming a Servant of the Lord 
[V.] On the Blessing of following God and His Prophet . . . 
[VI.] On Being One with God and His Son 

# # #  

As I have intimated, there is still such a thing as a Destructive Doubt – one that absolutely negates the other, finer, more nuanced aspects of our search for truth, beauty, meaning, and connection. Surely there has been over the millennia, such a thing as faith run amok -- a blind, unthinking, uninformed, unaware and unengaged approach to God. But doubt run amok is the subject of the following couplets. Please remember I am discussing here a Destructive Doubt as it relates to loving and following God -- and the prophets he has called.

[I.] On hearing and believing the Word of God . . . 
Faith creates clarity. Doubt causes confusion. 
Faith enlightens. Doubt darkens. 
Faith feels. Doubt numbs.
Faith Sings. Doubt Sorrows. 

[II.] On receiving God’s Promises . . . 
Faith is assurance; doubt, misgivings. 
Faith creates commitment; doubt, discord. 
Faith fills us with promise; doubt limits. 
Faith opens new opportunities and beautiful vistas. Doubt closes doors. 

[III.] On Overcoming the World
Faith is action. Doubt is delay, hesitation, wait, pause, ‘not now’, later.
Faith is dynamic. Doubt is static.
Faith moves forward. Doubt is bogged down. 
Faith Overcomes. Doubt Succumbs. 

[IV.] On becoming a Servant of the Lord
Faith is the power to act. Doubt is paralysis. 
Faith builds up. Doubt tears down. 
Faith builds respect; doubt, disrespect. 
Faith is trust. Doubt is [constant] suspicion. 

[V.] On being Blessed by following God and His Prophet . . . 
Faith creates hope; doubt, cynicism. 
Faith includes a healthy skepticism, and a searching inquisitiveness. But, Doubt says there can be no answers.
Faith is a steady, dependable Perseverance. Doubt is cut and run (in times of trouble). 
Faith Preserves the best. Doubt Destroys hope. 

[VI.] On Being One with God and His Son 
Faith connects. Doubt separates. 
Faith is Heaven-sent. Doubt is earth-bound. 
Faith is Now. Doubt is never. 
And finally, Doubt is a divisive cacophony. Faith is Unison and Harmony. 


Key Insights from the King Follett Discourse
Joseph Smith’s seminal April 1844 speech 

Please see below for several nuggets taken from this important speech. Prayerfully considered and thoughtfully presented, many of these insights are suitable for use in any LDS meeting. 

On the Nature of God and Man
  • If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend their own character. . . . They do not know—they do not understand their own relationship to God. 
  • God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret.
  • If the veil were rent today and the great God that holds this world in its sphere and the planets in their orbit and who upholds all things by His power—if you were to see Him today, you would see Him in all the person, image, fashion, and very form of a man, like yourselves. 
  • The first principle of truth and of the Gospel is to know for a certainty the character of God, and that we may converse with Him the same as one man with another . . . . 
On the Nature of Close Relationship Facilitates Communication/Connection
  • Here, then, is eternal life – to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation….
  • When we begin to know how to come to Him, He begins to come to us. When we are ready to come to Him, He is ready to receive us. As soon as we begin to understand the character of God, He begins to unfold the heavens to us and tell us all about it before our prayers get to His ears. 
  • All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement and improvement. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. 
On the Nature of How We Know
  • This is good doctrine. It tastes good. You say honey is sweet and so do I. I can also taste the spirit and principles of eternal life, and so can you. I know it is good and that when I tell you of these words of eternal life that are given to me by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the revelations of Jesus Christ, you are bound to receive them as sweet. You taste them and I know you believe them. I rejoice more and more. 
  • All things whatsoever God . . . [sees] fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in our mortal state . . . are revealed to us in the abstract. . . . 
On the Definition of What Constitutes Salvation
  • If a man has knowledge he can be saved, for knowledge saves a man. 
Bonus: One more on the Shared Nature of God and Man
  • I am going to tell of things more noble. We say that God Himself is a self-existent God. Who told you so? It’s correct enough, but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principle? . . . Man existed in spirit; the mind of man—the intelligent part— is as immortal as, and is coequal with, God Himself. . . . Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. The first principles of man are self-existent with God. 


PRIVATE INSPIRATION A side note. The day after I had determined to tell the missionaries (and what turned out to be my future wife) that I wanted to be baptized, I was standing Becky’s kitchen alone waiting for the missionaries to arrive. As I reviewed what I was to say to them sometime over the next hour, and as I was about to walk out of the kitchen into the living room where we held our lessons, the impression came to me, clear and distinct (from this God who I have just discovered) that, no matter what, Joseph was a prophet. And that it is right to join this church. 

And in an age prior to PCs, prior to the Internet, prior to anyone trying to tell me anything negative about Joseph Smith, in an instant I saw that a thousand and one things would be said against Joseph. That no matter the most astounding, puzzling, hard to understand, e.g., coincidences or problems concerning the translation of The Book of Mormon, or this or that horrible thing that might be said against his character, he was a prophet. In this instant, I was assured that any one of a hundred, no more than a thousand individual potential controversies which I perceived, I was not to worry. There would be an answer, some answer, and that I could trust that he was indeed the prophet of this dispensation. That what he taught about the First Vision, about God the Father, about Mankind, about the Plan of Salvation and the Temple . . . all this unique combination of eclectic Gospel was of God, and good. No matter how many years and now decades have transpired, I cannot forget the power of this simple message. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. 

Through hours and year of study to of all the primary sources with respect to Joseph’s teaching and character, I can tell you from firsthand experience with the spirit, this stand true to this day. I have not encountered anything which violates what was made known to me that afternoon of March 1972. 


Going back to 1972, I fondly recall the late afternoons after wrestling season concluded when I was taught the missionary lessons (using the old flannel board method). I also recall keenly the private evening hours later each night devoted to reading and pondering the scriptures and pamphlets – capped off with humble prayer. I can almost see the very moment realizing that for the first time two twin ideas – practically simultaneously, #1.) that God does indeed live, and he sent his Son to our earth, and #2.) that Joseph was His prophet. Of course The Book of Mormon was key in this discovery. But for me it really was the import of the First Vision. I have read and studied and reveled in each recitation of this extraordinary event. For me, we can almost divide written religious history into Before 1820 and After 1820. Considering how Parley P. Pratt described Joseph Smith’s leadership as being lived in crescendo, this implies much about what was taught in Nauvoo.