Saturday, June 20, 2015

"The Reason for Our Hope", Elder Packer, Oct 2014

Find this talk here.
  • Elder Packer did a nice thing for Oxford University, but quite honestly I find in it further evidence of our modern priestcraft. We generally claim that priestcraft means to pay our priests, but more generally it means to "set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion." (2 Ne 26:29) Elder Packer certainly does seek the welfare of the Church, which presumably includes the seeds of Zion, but he like the rest of the apostles and first presidency also preaches to get gain. It's his job.
    • The Church does not publish its financial details enough to know what General Authorities' salaries are, so there are some doubts about how their compensation works. One guy I know claims that when an apostle is called, he's given positions on the boards of various church-owned companies, and his compensation comes that way. I doubt that, personally, but if it's true, it's still receiving compensation for preaching. If he hadn't been called to that position to preach in the first place, he wouldn't have ended up on those boards.
    • Someone noticed, a while back, that the church's handbook for mission presidents gives some idea of the compensation they receive. This is one of the church's handbooks they don't publish for members, and instruct those who have copies to keep them close, but it made it to the internet anyway. I haven't read it. One person reports mission presidents are provided one round-trip ticket per child, so their kids can come visit once during their mission, and pre-college and undergraduate educational costs for children.
      • It bothers me, too, that the church expects its members to follow rules set forth in a handbook they can't read. Several of my acquaintances have been excommunicated for doing things that were just fine according to scripture, but didn't pass muster with the handbook they'd never been allowed to see.
  • I've been grateful for the Topical Guide and footnotes and indexes, too. It's helpful to realize they were compiled largely automatically, and that some of the footnotes and interpretive comments actually have nothing to do with the verses they're linked to, but it's still a valuable resource.
    • For instance, the index (not the topical guide, but the index after the Pearl of Great Price) in my Triple Combination refers to D&C 134:12 as saying that it's dangerous for societies to allow slavery. What it actually says is that the church believes it's dangerous to preach to bond-servants "contrary to the will and wish of their masters". It looks like that index entry has been removed from the Church website version of the scriptures -- which is also interesting, as now the entry doesn't mention section 134 at all.
  • I'm grateful to hear Pres. Packer talk of Christ. He should be the focus of our life.
  • I can testify of this: "Those who will repent and forsake sin will find that His merciful arm is outstretched still."
  • His story of the woman struggling to forgive is beautiful
    • "there came into her heart an immediate reply" -- that's how it often works for me, too.
  • "These numbers serve as evidence that the 'stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands' continues to roll forth and will eventually fill 'the whole earth'"
    • This is true only if you can prove the numbers apply to the stone Daniel mentioned. Other groups' claims (such as those of the RLDS / Community of Christ church) that they are the true heirs of Joseph Smith's restoration are much more valid than we generally give credit for, and our own claims somewhat more tenuous than we're often told. I don't buy the idea that some other faction of Mormonism is the right one, but still, their claims aren't all hogwash.
  • "the true success of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be measured by the spiritual strength of its individual members"
    • This is true, too, depending on how you define "spiritual strength". Fortunately, Pres. Packer defines it as a "testimony of the hope of redemption", which is an excellent definition for purposes of his statement.
  • "We need everyone’s wisdom and insight and spiritual strength ... We are at war with the forces of the adversary, and we need each and every one of us if we are going to succeed in the work the Savior has for us to do."
    • This is true, too. Unfortunately there are all kinds of people who get shunned from the church for sharing their particular insight. It's only mentioned here in passing, but I'm glad it was mentioned.
  • "[our testimony] must grow 'line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little'"
    • It's through trying to review my testimony "line upon line" that I ended up where I am today. I'm far more confident in my relationship with Christ because of it, and I'm grateful for that. It has been a hard road, and shows no sign of getting easier.
  • "He is no stranger to His servants."
    • Pres. Packer is sometimes criticized for language like this, and I think rightly so. The calling of an apostle is to bear witness of having seen Christ, as can be seen from the description of choosing an apostle to replace Judas, in Acts chapter 1 (esp. verse 22). Oliver Cowdery made that clear to the new apostles when they were first ordained. Oliver's charge to the apostles to seek an actual audience with Christ was continued for each new apostle until 1900 or so when Reed Smoot was ordained. Today people misuse the D&C phrasing of "special witness of the name of Christ" to ignore language from Acts, and suggest an apostle must only have a witness via the Holy Ghost. This kind of language encourages listeners to think Pres. Packer may have seen Christ, without actually saying as much.
      • Pres. Packer has said several times that someone who had seen Christ wouldn't share the experience, because of its sacredness. This makes some sense, and certainly one wouldn't share all the details, but if you have an apostolic commandment to testify that you've seen him, you can certainly do that with perfect propriety.
      • Elder Haight described a vision of Christ's ministry in General Conference of Oct 1989 which is a helpful example of one way to share such a thing.
  • "There is no end to His power to bless and direct the lives of those who seek truth and righteousness."  I can testify of this as well -- at least, I haven't found an end to it in my own life.
  • "After I shared with the chaplain some of the teachings of the Savior, the atmosphere changed..." Testifying of Christ does tend to change atmospheres. It's neat watching it happen in otherwise entirely secular circumstances.
  • I wish we took the verse in 2 Nephi 25:26 more seriously. We say "we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ", and Nephi's record suggests they actually did. We preach too much of other things. With a testimony of Christ, there rest comes naturally (actually, Pres. Packer's statement of a few years ago has proven itself to me many times: "The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." (Oct. conference, 1986)
  • "Those who will repent and forsake sin will find that His merciful arm is outstretched still." This is true, of course, but too often we think of repenting as directly tied to sin. To "repent" means to return to God; "repent" and "return" are the same word in Hebrew.
    • One statement I found sums it up accurately, if crassly, is, "We equate in large measure, repentance, with whatever it is you're doing with your genitals." (Denver Snuffer, "Be of Good Cheer") My entire experience in the Young Men program, insofar as "spiritual" things were concerned, was to be instructed to keep my pants on, which served only to reinforce that idea. I haven't been involved in church adolescent programs much lately, but it seems they've improved.
    • Repenting isn't asking forgiveness for a specific sin. The Lord has probably forgiven you already ("The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy." Psalms 145:8). Repenting is about turning to Christ, and you can do it no matter what road you've chosen (Helaman 7:17, Alma 42:4, Helaman 14:17-19)
  • "We need to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to men, women, and children, those of every race and nationality, the rich and the poor."
    • This is very true. We need to remember, as we're doing that, what the gospel of Christ actually is. 3 Nephi 27:13-21 describes it nicely. D&C 33:11-15 describes it as simply baptism, and then describes how the Holy Ghost is given by God, not man.
      • The doctrine of baptism by fire, and the idea that it doesn't come automatically the minute you're confirmed, is something we've quit preaching in the church, and it's unfortunate. We should all work to receive that baptism.
      • This is related to the incorrect idea we hold of what "church" means. D&C 10:67 tells us the "church" is those who repent and come unto Christ. Verse 68 then tells us that anyone who says differently is anti-Christ. This is one reason I'm not particularly worried about Karlyn having withdrawn from the earthy church corporation; I know she is repenting and coming unto Christ, with or without that membership. Of course, the main reason I'm not worried is that I know God told her to do what she did.
  • His reference to 1 Corinthians and the different members of the body should teach us that we need all sorts of people, even if they don't all abide by the traditional trappings of the religion we're used to.
  • "We are at war with the forces of the adversary, and we need each and every one of us if we are going to succeed in the work the Savior has for us to do." This isn't exactly true. We know that the Savior will succeed, and that if we align ourselves with Him, we'll succeed too. That happens independent of whether "every one of us" is involved.

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