Thursday, May 17, 2012

Escaping the Destroying Angel: The Passover, The Great Supper, and the Word of Wisdom

Although it was a little behind schedule, on monday the Orem 31st ward celebrated Pesach (the Passover) with a seder dinner (Passover dinner) graciously hosted by Daniel Peterson and his wife.  I have attended several seders, including a few dinners with Jews in the Holy Land, but this was the best that I have been privileged to attend thus far.

A key to understanding the Passover is contained in the word "remember".  The Feast of the Passover served to commemorate the Lord's merciful deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, particularly the passing over (פֶּסַח Pesach) of the Israelite homes when God smote the firstborn of the Egyptians.  (Ex. 12:27;13:15)

As part of this act of remembrance, an ordinance of the Mosaic law required all males of the covenant people to appear before the Lord three times each year: during Pesach (the Feast of Unleavened Bread, during Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks), and during Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). (Ex. 23:14–17Deut. 16:16)  Although this ordinance could not be observed frequently during the tumultuous times of the Old Testament, by the era of the New Testament the Jews were gathering more regularly to keep the three feasts and to remember the deliverance of their fathers. (see LDS Bible Dictionary, Feasts)

To escape the final and worst plague of those that the Lord inflicted upon Egypt, the slaying of all first born sons,  a lamb without blemish, with none of its bones broken, was slain by the congregation in the evening, and its blood sprinkled on the lintels and side posts of the doors of Israelite homes.  The first Passover meal consisted of the roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs, symbolic of the haste of departure and the bitterness of the captivity.

Over time the ceremony changed, but the theme of remembrance remained central to the celebration of the Passover. As we gathered together on Monday to celebrate the Passover, we participated in the symbolic meal and traditions, partaking of bitter herbs and other foods.  We sang and glorified God with the Hallel (which is the root of the word, Hallelujah, meaning, Praise Jehovah), we ate the unleavened bread, and drank the juice of the fruit of the vine.

Although the Passover was celebrated and is still celebrated in retrospective remembrance of the Israelites' deliverance from the physical bondage in Egypt, the ceremony foreshadowed Jesus Christ's Last Supper with his disciples and his Atoning Sacrifice.  Jesus instituted the sacrament, and then, as the Lamb without blemish, was slain for the sins of the world, to deliver the penitent from the spiritual bondage of sin.

Since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the Jews still celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but not the Feast of the Passover, which is to say, they do not offer a sacrificial lamb. In addition to these and other feasts, each Sabbath the Jews still commemorate God's day of rest from creation, as well as the deliverance from Egypt.

Although members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not usually celebrate the Passover, it is a feast of remembrance that parallels the sacrament of the Lord's supper in many ways. Partaking of the sacrament, like celebrating the Passover, is a retrospective remembrance of deliverance, but it also foreshadows a future feast, namely, the great marriage supper of the Lamb, when Christ will return again:

 8 And also that a feast of fat things might be prepared for theapoor; yea, a feast of fat things, of wine on the blees well refined, that the earth may know that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail;
 9 Yea, a supper of the house of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all anations shall be invited.
 10 First, the rich and the learned, the wise and the noble;
11 And after that cometh the day of my power; then shall theapoor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto thebmarriage of the Lamb, and partake of the csupper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come. (D&C 58:8-11)

This passover was an event of retrospective remembrance that increased my appreciation for God's deliverance of the children of Israel from the physical bondage of Egypt, as well as God's deliverance of the penitent from the spiritual bondage of sin. But it also served as a reminder to look forward and to prepare for the feast described in the Lord's parable of the great supper.  

Just as the destroying angel passed over the Israelite houses that had the blood of the lamb sprinkled upon the lintels and the side posts, there is also a present passover promise to those who keep the commandments and observe the Lord's law of health:

  And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the    
commandments, ashall receivebhealth in their navel and marrow to their bones;

 19 And shall afind bwisdom and great ctreasures of dknowledge, even hidden treasures;

 20 And shall arun and not be bweary, and shall walk and not faint.
 21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that theadestroying angel shall bpass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

There is little I can write to thank my mother and conscientious mothers of the world that would adequately describe the debt of gratitude that is owed them, but these stirring words of President Kimball are worthy of contemplation:

"Motherhood is a holy calling, a sacred dedication for carrying out the Lord’s work, a consecration and devotion to the rearing and fostering, the nurturing of body, mind, and spirit of those who kept their first estate and who came to this earth for their second estate to learn and be tested and to work toward godhood. The role of mother, then, is to help those children to keep their second estate, so that they might have glory added upon their heads forever and ever."

Coincidentally, President Kimball's shared these remarks just before my parents were sealed for time and all eternity in the Provo Temple, and my mother may have read them in the Ensign while I was in her womb. I am grateful for my beautiful mother who taught me by example and by precept to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The best tribute that I can give to her and to all conscientious mothers would be to live in a manner in which to be able to echo the declaration of the valiant young warriors of the Book of Mormon:

"Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the aliberty of their bfathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their cmothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
And they rehearsed unto me the words of their amothers, saying: We bdo not doubt our mothers knew it." (Alma 56:47-48)

Although your efforts, great and small, too often go unnoticed and unrecognized by the world, they do not go unnoticed by our Heavenly Father. To my mom, thank you. I love you. And to all good mothers past, present and future, thank you.  Happy Mother's day! 


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Famous First Steps

It's 4:40 pm on Saturday, and so far I've taken only 4,108 steps. Yesterday I took fewer steps. I take an average of 10,000 steps each time I play indoor soccer. My mom says that I never learned to walk. As a little child, as soon as I took my first step, I was off and running. I really wonder how many times I tried before I got it right. Even then, I wonder how many times I fell before walking became second nature.

Walking is a miracle. How does anyone do it?  In high school, after I tore my ACL playing basketball, I took very few steps... but soon I was off and running again. How did I or anyone else take any steps at all today?  How many steps does the average person with an average life-span take during his or her life? How many collective steps have been taken by the entire human race on planet earth since Adam, or for my more scientifically minded friends, since the first bipedal hominid?

This is what happens when you give me a free pedometer. I want to take more steps. Before I step away from the computer, I would like to pay tribute to a few historical steps.

Aside from the awkward steps of Orrorin tugenensis or the early australopithecines, consider Adam's first step out of the garden. What a giant step! Granted, he couldn't really go back after having sampled the tasty fruit. But it was a big step nonetheless. (Which raises another question: Did Adam eat the whole fruit? or did he just take a bite and think "Wow, now I get it.") As he approached Eden's exit, he probably glanced back for a second, looked at Eve, and then exclaimed in the Adamic tongue "Let's do this!"  Upon which our first parents planted their first mortal step on telestial territory. They walked into uncharted territory.

Think about intrepid Peter on the Sea of Galilee. As the Savior Jesus Christ approached him, walking on the water, Peter desired to come unto Christ. Before he wavered on the waves and wobbled in the wind, he stepped out of the boat and onto liquid! What a giant step! He walked on water.

Also, consider the first Mormon pioneer's first step toward the West. Not content with telestial or terrestral treks, he or she took a confident celestial step, knowing that Zion was out there somewhere. The pioneer walked through the wilderness.

Now, consider whichever step, whichever figurative leap of faith you need to take today. It may not be out of a garden or toward the West, but whatever it is, you can do it. And if you stumble, if you fall, so did those before us. They just kept getting up, and they kept moving forward, as Elder Holland said today at the ground breaking ceremony for the Provo Temple, "in the cold and through the night."

Finally, remember that even Neil Armstrong's first step onto the moon was imperfect. Of course, he had to do it in a bulky space suit with moon boots. But it wasn't perfect. Not only that, but his famous declaration, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." was also imperfect  (He forgot that pesky little article "a" before "man"... and this on broadcast television!). But he walked on the moon!
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As an addendum to this post, today I spoke with an amazing young lady who walks with a slight limp because of a congenital condition of cerebral palsy. It wasn't easy for her to learn how to walk, but her steps are beautiful. Talking to her reminded me of a beautiful story that I watched on the news that will bring tears to your eyes. If you haven't seen it, watch these steps of a six year-old son with cerebral palsy toward his father who has recently returned from military duty in Afghanistan.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What is God's Political Philosophy?

As I sift through the endless array of information and opinions in books, magazines, and blogs, seeking after wisdom, understanding, knowledge, light and truth, I cannot help but wonder: What is God’s political philosophy? What does He think about our post-modern, post-Christian, and post-everything world?

There is an intended double meaning in the phrase “post-everything”:  the present day comes after many previous days, but it is also a day in which to post anything and everything on the walls of a social networking cyber- circus. To discuss and engage in conversations online may be comparable to walking a tightrope.  What does God think of this cyber-circus? What does He see from His lofty eternal perspective? Do His thoughts coincide more with conservative, liberal, or libertarian viewpoints? Or are His thoughts, which are not our thoughts, simply above and beyond politics? What is His political philosophy?

From my biased and mortal perspective, probing the mind of God should come prior to walking the tightrope. But even before probing the mind of God, would it be possible to have a glimpse into the heart of God?

There was once a man who spoke the truth with such great power and authority that rivers of waters were turned out of their course.  This same man received a glimpse into the heart of God and wondered how God could weep and the heavens shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains. God commanded mankind, the workmanship of His hands, to love one another, and to choose Him, their Father, but people were without affection, full of hatred, wicked and miserable. Therefore He, God, wept.  Upon receiving this glimpse into the heart of God, this man’s heart swelled with such love, compassion and yearning that all eternity shook. This man refused to be comforted. He had bitterness of soul, and, like God himself, he wept. But did he know God’s political philosophy?

Another man received a glimpse into the heart of God.  He was young.  He felt uncertain in the midst of a war of words and a tumult of opinions.  He often said to himself: “What is to be done?”  He prayed to God vocally, and he saw a great light.  God and Jesus Christ appeared to him, rapture filled his bosom, and he learned what to do. He learned that those promulgating their opinions were all corrupt. He learned that they drew near to God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. He rejoiced to learn the truth for himself, and he could not deny it, neither would he, lest he offend God and come under condemnation. But did he know God’s political philosophy?

These men and others have glimpsed the heart of God and probed the mind of God.  But did they know God’s political philosophy?

There is much more to be done by way of generous glimpses and persistent probing, but the noise of internet voices can be loud and cacophonous.  In order to traverse the tightrope of the cyber-circus, metaphorically speaking, one inevitably meets mules, dodges donkeys, encounters elephants, and confronts clowns. Ideas shoot forth from ideological canons while intellectual lion-tamers crack the proverbial whip. And many are left wondering: What is God’s political philosophy?

I don’t know, but when Pilate asked Jesus if He were the king of the Jews, Jesus answered,
“My akingdom is not of this bworld: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence…Thou sayest that I am a cking. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the dtruth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”

What is God’s political philosophy? Evidently, God’s political philosophy is monarchical. Imagine that.

As to God's thoughts concerning the cyber-circus of internet discussions, one answer may be found in Romans chapter 14. Paul is particularly clear in verse 19: "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."

And as to God's thoughts on any thoughts, including those that I have just shared, one of the best references to consider may be found in Isaiah chapter 55, verses 6-9:

aSeek ye the bLord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him areturn unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
¶For my athoughts are not byour thoughts, neither are yourcways my dways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my awaysbhigher than your ways, and my cthoughts than your thoughts.