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I recently sat for dinner with a friend who was finally several months sober. He had been on and off “the wagon” for short periods for about twenty-five years. He had been on a mission, married in the temple, had a beautiful family, but now was single, divorced, out of jail, and trying to move out of homelessness into an apartment and start his own business. Life’s struggles were evident on his face and limp. Getting, let alone holding, a job had been difficult because of his history and habits.
He agreed that mortality had been cruel, even torturous for him. The last time we had talked was when I opened the car door where he was sleeping, drunk, unkempt, smelly, and oblivious. Once awake and standing, he recognized me and took a step back. I called him by name and then wrapped him in a bear hug, barely able to get my arms around his hulking form. He first expressed disbelief, then began to weep, then sob! We held each other for an extended period until I walked him to where we could talk and then he could sleep it off.
But now, he was full of joy, enthusiasm, and hope for his future. We chatted about his progress, his resources, his heartbreaks, and finally why he was so confident of his future. “It’s the gospel!” he exclaimed! “I finally decided to go back to church and really live the commandments! MY plans for happiness have only failed, but God’s really work! The Atonement of Jesus Christ really, really works!” His now trim and muscular form, albeit worn and limping, matched his exuberant and drastic change.
Then I asked, “But some say that living all the commandments is just too hard!” Wide-eyed, he shook his head, repeating emphatically, “No way, no way, no way! If you want hard, I will show you hard! Keeping the commandments is the easiest way to face the dark realities of life! I know. I have tried it on my own for far too long. I have won some and lost some, and in the end was ready to just quit and end it all. But I remembered what I had taught people for two years – that suicide would just make things worse for me and then for everyone who had ever known me. I believe that and believing it has driven me over and over to drunkenness only to awaken to a hell worse than the one I had escaped from. I needed a different lifestyle not just a different place, or different job, or different girlfriend. I needed a new beginning. Even though I had never fully lived the commandments, or even tried; I sensed that they would give me some stability since my creator was the one who gave them. So, I went back to church, cleaned up, and am repenting…the feeling is incredible. I am full of hope!”
Another time, I sat in a small concrete room, with a convicted felon. He had been in prison for almost thirty years riding the roller coaster of hopelessness. He and his brother had been left fatherless when in grade school. So, they searched for their own plan of happiness that finally brought them to prison…and misery. He was now ready to try a different plan, the one some other inmates had shared with him. He wanted to try God’s proffered plan rather than his own failing attempts.
If Adam just needed to eat the fruit of the tree to introduce death, why didn’t God just teach him, so he could choose through obedience and thereby die physically without dying spiritually? Why give Lucifer time on our earth before casting him into outer darkness? We could still be living in Eden on a terrestrial earth with no satan. If the final thousand years on this earth are going to be paradisiacal with satan bound and people still being tested, why not everyone from the beginning? This telestial earth is cruel, especially for the victims, the suffering innocent, let alone for the misdirected, untaught, independent types. If agency can still be exercised in Eden and during the Millennium, then why all this satanic direction and telestial suffering?[i]
Suppose that you had unlimited power and wanted to give it to someone. What would you want to know about them first? Everything, of course, lest they use that irrevocable power to do evil. How would you discover “everything?” We assume that God knows “everything,” but we know that Lucifer was given premortal authority.[ii] Why was he given authority if he was going to rebel? In the presence of evil people doing evil things to innocent people, Alma made this clear as he taught about justice:
“…he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.” (Alma 14:11)
God’s justice is based on behavior of the judged. Hence, agency requires that all are given the opportunity to act on their knowledge. Since darkness and evil don’t exist as independent entities but rather as either absence or the antithesis of something else: light and goodness. Then agency, fully available, would require full availability and opportunity for responsible choices requiring knowledge and consequence, resulting in victims of those choices; hence suffering.[iii]
However, our Father is most loving and compassionate.[iv] It is difficult sometimes to feel loved as we are suffering yet we don’t have any trouble when parents pay for a weight lifting or karate class for one of their children even though the class will require suffering in order to yield progress. That love dictates that the parent provides warnings, knowledge, coaching, recovery, do-overs, etc. But research is clear that permissive, indulgent parenting most often produces irresponsible, entitled children.[v] This, especially in light of the reality, both in physics and agency, that there must be opposition IN all things as a fact of creation not just probation.[vi]
In this context, isn’t it interesting that God, from the beginning worked through man to provide this Edenic, terrestrial kind of life? The scriptures talk about Enoch’s Zion, Melchizedek’s “Yeru-shalaim”, the Nephite 200 years, etc. Moses was given the tool by which to bring even his “lesser-law” people to the terrestrial condition. The Apostle Paul refers to Moses’ reception of this Celestial tool.
“Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.” (Hebrew 8:5)
This pattern was not a diagram or paper diagram but rather a vision of “heavenly things,” “of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.”[vii] Below is a simple graphic representation of God’s universe as a pattern of what Moses was to build as the place where: “certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose.”[viii]
In the left column is His Celestial glory with a separating veil from a terrestrial realm again separated by a veil of sorts from our telestial realm.[ix]
- In the second column, the Earth itself, would pass through time as a telestial world, then in the Millennium become terrestrial, only to then resurrect to Celestial glory.
- The pattern then is both spatial and temporal showing reality as it passes through both time and space.
- The Tabernacle fashioned after this pattern, has the same three compartments. And, as President McKay pointed out, each item denotes one thing but can carry multiple connotations.[x]
- For example, the telestial compartment contains the altar of sacrifice and the laver. Our telestial earth is the altar of sacrifice upon which the lamb was offered for the whole universe.[xi] Yet, it also furnishes the means whereby the “living water” can cleanse us of the blood and sins at three levels: our own, our children’s, and our generation. We find earth life difficult and full of trials, but an aerial view shows that we live on the burning altar of sacrifice along with the sacrificial lamb. This can help us understand that the furnace of affliction has purpose and is to be expected as we join Christ in the work of His Atonement.
- Cleansing in the “living waters” of the laver includes our mission to testify the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, and use our resources to enable that part of the work of His Atonement[xii] as we continue to minister in the telestial realm giving His grace when we receive it as His instruments.[xiii]
- Entering the “Holy Place” is to enter a terrestrial realm whereby:
- we see by the light of the Holy Spirit,
- walk in the presence of, and partake of, the fruit of the Tree of Life (Christ)-living constantly with the sweet taste of the love of God,[xiv]
- are nourished by the Atonement offering of the Holy Messiah; by remembering always[xv],
- and, communicate continually with Father before the veil.[xvi]
It is no wonder that in order to endure the latter-day deceptions, we must “stand in THE holy place.”[xvii] It is then from this paradisiacal endowment, that we return to minister to those struggling in the fires of affliction only to find that living the laws of the gospel, including family relations, and the law of consecration will continue the forge of refinement in that we are changed as He works THROUGH us more than He can working ON us.
- The Celestial or Holy of Holies wherein sits the mercy-seat is flanked by the angels of His presence. Only the High Priest entered and then only once per year during the Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement. Legend and partial histories tell us that a red thread was placed on the closed door of the temple of Solomon. As the High Priest sprinkled the blood of the offering onto the mercy seat, the thread turned white to signify that God had once again cleansed Israel of those unrepented but unknown sins for everyone that paid the temple tax.[xviii] Our High Priest has entered and now invites us to sit in the Celestial room to bask in the peace of His Atonement wherein we receive additional revelation, and direction having been taught the true pattern of prayer. [xix]
None of those terrestrial environments (Zion) could, however remain in this telestial world for long. Either they were removed from the earth to fulfill other purposes[xx] or they degenerated back into the prideful, satan-inspired contentiousness[xxi] of the world as we know it. This degeneration did not, however discourage further offerings. Meeting the conditions of Zion means being united in Heart, mind, righteousness, and finance.[xxii] Every organized attempt in our dispensation to recreate Zion has dissipated, but note this interesting invitation given shortly after the Missouri failure, early in our history:
“Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now. …Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself. Therefore, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion. But inasmuch as there are those who have hearkened unto my words, I have prepared a blessing and an endowment for them, if they continue faithful.” DC 105:2, 5, 13,18
Though we haven’t been able to create the terrestrial peace of a modern Zion where four unities of the Atonement of Jesus Christ are our social reality, Father has promised to endow those who will hearken to His words with that very peace, even in the midst of telestial tumult. Joy is what we feel when receiving divine light; [xxiii] it is not circumstantially dependent. The context in DC 105 was their failure to build a temple and live by the laws taught therein.[xxiv] They had been anxious for the restoration of the fulness of the Gospel without willingness to refocus from self to others and Him — to learn and follow His proffered plan. Even when another’s agency turns us into a victim, HIS plan is one of happiness, the joy of the “rest of the Lord,” now and in eternity!
[i] Answers to these and so many more are found in the scriptures and the temple.
[ii] DC 76:25-26 And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning.
[iii] Alma 14:11 This is compensated suffering: “behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory”
[iv] Moses 7:29-67 “God wept”
[v] Young and Klosko et al. described the sense of entitlement as a negative behavioral pattern that begins during the formative childhood years… Parenting styles play an important role in shaping child behavioral and psychological outcomes. Based on Baumrind’s theory, which is one of the most well-known and comprehensive parenting theories, there are three types of parenting style: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. According to this theory, authoritative parents use rational direction to manage their children’s activities in an “issue-oriented manner.” In contrast, authoritarian parents aim to “shape, control and evaluate” the way in which their children behave and act by using strict standards of conduct that may be theologically motivated (Baumrind, p.890. Permissive parents take a less controlling attitude of acceptance and affirmation of the children’s natural impulses, desires and behavior. Baumrind also explained that these three different parenting styles have varying impacts on children’s behavior. For instance, many researchers have shown that Baumrind’s parenting styles influence children’s psychological development, children’s behaviors, behavior problems, and children’s personality traits. More specifically, it is said that parents who are too submissive to their children’s demands have a negative influence on the level of their children’s expectations and demands, consequently leading the children to believe that they are the center of the world. Children raised in permissive, laissez-faire environments where they are spoiled and indulged never learned appropriate limits. Journal of Child and Adolescent Behavior, https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/the-influence-of-parenting-styles-and-parents-perfectionism-onchildrenssense-of-entitlement-in-the-city-of-bandarabbas-iran-2375-4494-1000315.php?aid=81443
[vi] 2 Nephi 2:11 “There must needs be opposition IN all things…”
Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”
[vii] Hebrews 8:1; also 9:24
[viii] Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:423–25, 427; paragraph divisions altered; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on June 11, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards
[ix] Ensign March 1997; Andrew Skinner, “The Book of Abraham” The book of Abraham makes another unique contribution to our understanding by explaining the physical location of the earth in the universe at the time this sphere was created, before the actions of Adam and Eve brought on the Fall.
President Joseph Fielding Smith stated that in this verse the Lord “revealed to Abraham that Adam was subject to Kolob’s time before his transgression.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:79)
According to President Brigham Young, Abraham 5:13 also means that before the Fall of Adam, the earth was near the very throne of God. But when the Fall occurred, the earth literally fell or moved from the physical presence of God to its present position in our solar system. (Journal of Discourses, 17:143)
[x] David O. McKay, “Now note the change in your mind when I say “Abraham Lincoln.” That denotes a tall, rather angular man, according to himself not very good looking; but what did you think of besides seeing that tall, lanky, backwoodsman? The Civil War? Perhaps some of you thought of the letter that he wrote to the mother who had lost her sons in the War. Others thought of his monument in Washington, or of his speech at Gettysburg. All these things are connoted by that name… Now let us apply this thought to the Temple ordinances. Each act presented today will denote certain things; there will be performances, little acts and ceremonies which you may critically center your thoughts, but each one also connotes something glorious. Let us consider these as realities and also as symbols.” An address on the Temple ceremony by President David O. McKay given Thursday, 25 September 1941, at 8:30am, Salt Lake Temple Annex (Manuscript in BYU Library Collections.)
[xi] DC 76:24 by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.
[xii] DC 62:3 Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.
[xiii] DC 93:12-13, 19-20 ”he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness… I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.
20 For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.”
[xiv] 1 Nephi 11:21-22 Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
[xv] Moroni 4:3; DC 20:77
[xvi] Alma 34:27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
See also Rev 5:8
[xvii] JSMatt 1:12 When you, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, then you shall stand in the holy place; whoso readeth let him understand.
[xviii] Hebrew 9:24-26 “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
[xix] Ether 2:14-15 “chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord. And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him.”
[xx] Teachings of Joseph Smith p191 “Translated bodies are designed for future missions.”
[xxi] 3Nephi 11:29 “he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention”
[xxii] Moses 7:18 “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”
[xxiii] Alma 13:28-29 “But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering; Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest.”
2 Nephi 2:25 “Adam fell that man might be, and man is that he might have joy?
Alma 19:6 “This light had infused such joy into his soul”
DC 93:31-37 “Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light. And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; And…Light and truth forsake that evil one.”
[xxiv] DC 105:10-11 “that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands. And this cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high.”