Sunday, December 8, 2013

024. Table of Showbread: The Tabernacle - Part X

Exodus 25:23-30

 23 Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.
 24 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about.
 25 And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about.
 26 And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof.
 27 Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table.
 28 And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them.
 29 And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them.
 30 And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.
Leviticus 24:5-9

 5 And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. 6 And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the Lord. 7 And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the Lord. 8 Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. 9 And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the Lord made by fire by a perpetual statute.

The table stood on the north end of the Holy Place. This piece of furniture was an emblem of friendship, fellowship, and companionship. When we share a meal with someone, we are connecting with them in a deeper way than just having a conversation. Our Savior desires fellowship with the redeemed ones; more than just a casual acquaintance. He wants to know us. The word "communion" means "fellowship". We are invited to the table to fellowship with Him, to sup with Him. To truly become His friend. A drink offering always accompanied the meal offering of the bread in the Tabernacle. This was wine. Some of the drink offerings were poured out at the bronze laver and some in the Holy Place. In our faith, we partake of the emblems of the sacrifice of Christ every Sunday, the sacrament of bread and wine (water), which are blessed upon an altar by priests of the Aaronic order. 

Many of the objects of the tabernacle that have been described thus far were just vehicles for something Holy. For example, it was not the bronze altar, but the sacrifices that were made upon it that atoned; it was not the laver, but the water that was in it which cleansed; it was not the lampstand, but the oil and its light that illuminated the Holy Place. The table described in this post, held bread upon it, which the priests ate. Bread represents life, true life, which is the Word of God, who is Christ. The bread was made of the finest flour, which was purified and ground down into a perfect form. Such was Christ's life. He was pure, refined, ground down. The bread was baked. So to was Christ tested in the furnace of affliction. He became the true Bread of Life, that whoso would partake of Him would never hunger; He would satisfy those who trust in Him. The bread on the table was perpetually replenished so that the priests would never go without. Similarly, in Christ's atonement, there is no end, there is always enough to satisfy, it is eternal! The bread was just bread, but it represented life through Christ our great friend and Savior.

023. Golden Lampstand: The Tabernacle - Part IX

In Exodus 25 we read:
 31 And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.
 32 And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side:
 33 Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick.
 34 And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knops and their flowers.
 35 And there shall be a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed out of the candlestick.
 36 Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it shall be one beaten work of pure gold.
 37 And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it.
Inside the Holy Place were several items of furniture. Outside we had the bronze altar and laver, inside we have gold. Progression from bronze to gold. On the left was the golden lampstand. Whereas the bronze laver had virtually no description in the scriptures, the golden lampstand is described in great detail. It was not a candlestick as it is sometimes called. No candles were used in any Old or New Testament worship. Only oil lamps were used. The lampstand was made of pure gold and it weighed one talent, about 125 pounds. There was a main shaft with 7 branches; 3 to the right, 3 to the left, and 1 at the top.

The Shaft

The Hebrew word for shaft, yarek, means "thigh"in 20 instances in the scriptures, "loins" in two, "side" in four, "body" in one instance. A further three instances connect yarek with birth. The shaft represents Christ, we being born of Him, through Him, He is the main vine, we are the branches. John 15:4-5 "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." A branch of the lampstand would be worthless as it could not stand on its own, would fall over, and cease to provide light. We must be connected to the center, to Christ, in order to produce any kind of light, but the light is through and because of Him. On the main shaft were three knobs. Three is the symbol of divinity.

The Branches

As mentioned previously, there were 7 branches. These can represent the 7 days of creation. The central branch had several golden features upon it: four bowls, four knobs, and four flowers. Four is the symbol of the earth. The six lateral branches each had three bowls, one knob, and one flower. The central branch came out of the top of the main shaft. This could represent Christ in mortal form. The six branches came out from the side of the shaft. The number 6 represents man, formed on the 6th day. We must connect to Christ to live and provide light. The entire shaft to branch connection represents God's peace extended to mankind through His Son who came to earth.

The Knobs (or Knops)

Some writers described the knobs in the form of pomegranates. The pomegranate is an emblem of peace, and appeared on the hem of the high priest's robe. Three knobs or pomegranates on the shaft represent divinity, thus indicating God's eternal peace. On the central shaft were four pomegranates, representing the earth with its four corners, thus earthly peace, or peace through Christ's earthly ministry. He published peace, He was the Prince of Peace. The six branches each had one knob, indicating peace that can come to us through our connection with the Lord.

The Bowls

The bowl, also translated cup or pot, were made to look like almonds. There is some confusion about the exact translation or interpretation about this facet of the lampstand. Some suppose the bowls were like leaves protecting a bud.

The Flowers

These were lilies, representing beauty. The creations of God are beautiful. There is beauty in Christ, in all that He did, although man despised and rejected Him while in the flesh. From out of the flowers of the lampstand came the lamps themselves.

The Lamps

Out of the flowers, beauty, came the light, the seven lamps. The light of the lamp stand illuminated the Holy Place, which was inside. It cast light on the table of showbread, the altar of incense, and the veil; the place of intercession. It was not the lamp that made the light, it only bore the light. The light came from the pure oil that was continually being put into the lamp. Similarly, we are called to carry the light of the gospel to all the world. We are not the source of that light, but are called to carry it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

022. 1 Nephi 10:6 - Rely on this Redeemer

I've been reflecting on the message of this verse:

1 Nephi 10:6 "Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer."

all mankind...everyone. All have strayed in one way or another from the true and only path that leads to eternal life. All have sinned. Isaiah 53:6 "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." We have all been lead astray by false prophets, teachers, traditions, or shepherds; by the philosophies of men, by the commandments of men, by the sophistry of the learned and charismatic, by lust, by power, by greed, and by the ideals of this world. All have been deceived. Christ is the only way, He is the only one not to have become mired in the sin and death and traps of this world. He made it through and returned to the presence of the Father.

in a lost and fallen state...Who has not lost their way or wandered in one form or another? Who has not fallen, gotten hurt, been knocked down, or been bruised as a result of sin? Who has not felt a separation from the presence of the Lord?

and ever would dreadful. Imagine going through eternity separated from the love of God, His presence, His light, His joy! It would be too much to bear. To be damned, eternally lost and fallen. Lost to God. The thought makes me shudder.

save they should rely on this Redeemer...To avoid damnation, we must RELY on THIS REDEEMER. Nothing else will suffice. THIS one...Him. He who stands at the gate and employs no servant there. He who overcame all, who is in all and through all. And lives from eternity to all eternity. The Lord Jesus Christ, Savior, Redeemer, Intercessor, the ONLY way.

But how do we RELY on Him? Rely is a wonderfully exquisite word to describe our relationship with the Savior. To rely means to depend on with FULL trust or confidence. There is no room for doubt. We can trust in the Lord, we can have every confidence in Him because His life was perfect, because He was perfect, because He did His Father's will PERFECTLY. There was no error. Although a poor metaphor, it is like the perfectly dependable machine that always does what it is supposed to do without variation or giving any trouble that would lead one to doubt that it will function as designed. The Lord was perfect, He performed and performs His Father's will perfectly, without sin or error. We can indeed rely on Him to carry the "iniquity of us all" and lead the way to eternal life. The origin of the word rely is from the Old French word relier (or the Latin word religare), meaning to "bind together". The original sense was ‘gather together.’ Like the making of a rope, we can bind or gather our life together with His will and work to become one with Him. Fiber of our life by fiber, yarn of our life by yarn, strand of our life by strand...we can integrate our will with His, which is the Father's. We must be united with Christ, know Him, serve Him, love Him in order to be saved.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

021. Bronze Altar & Laver: The Tabernacle - Part VIII

After entering by the gate into the courtyard (not into the structure of the Tabernacle yet), the first piece of furniture one encounters is the bronze altar of burnt offerings: "And thou shalt make an altar of shittim (acacia) wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits. And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass." Exodus 27:1-2. The altar was used for all the types of offerings: burnt, grain, peace, sin, and trespass.
Altars are for making sacrifice, that is their only purpose. The Hebrew word for altar, mizbeach, means "slaughter place". The law declared that without the shedding of blood, there was no remission of sin. Burning the offerings on the altar had the effect of lifting them to the sky, heavenward. There are laws instituted before the foundations of the earth that must be met before mercy can be extended. Sin must be punished, either by the offender or by a suitable substitute. Five types of animals were Israel's acceptable substitutes: lamb, goat, bull, heifer, and turtle dove. Christ is our acceptable sacrifice.

When someone has entered the gate, leaving behind the world, sin, and their old life, they are in the process of repenting. Repentance is not salvation, but a step on the way. The altar of sacrifice is therefore not the end of the process, but represents an end of the old life, one that is renewed in Christ, and the beginning of a new life.

The four horns represented power and authority and pointed to the four corners of the earth. Animal sacrifices brought to the altar were tied to the horns because of their resistance or unwillingness to be made a sacrifice (they would likely run away from such a sight of fire and blood): "God is the Lord, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar." Psalms 118:27.

Rituals surrounded the byproducts of sacrifices made on the altar: ash and blood. The ashes were not just thrown away: "And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place." (Leviticus 6:10-11). The presence of ashes indicated proof that the sacrifice was accepted, so with solemn rites, including the changing of clothing/garments, the ashes were taken to a clean place to be used at a later time in the cleansing of the ritually unclean (see Numbers 19). The analogue in Christ is that His offering was accepted by the Father, His mortal tabernacle was taken from the cross and deposited in a new tomb in which man had never lain (a clean place), from which He later arose to cleanse the sinner (the ritually unclean). Those who attend the temple will see parallels here.

The blood was never used, but was poured out at the bottom of the altar. As blood represents life, the presence of blood represented further evidence that life was poured out in the sacrifice. Christ's blood was spilt for our sins, His sacrifice was accepted by the Father.

The next item of furniture was the bronze laver: "Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the Lord: So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations." Exodus 30:18-21.
There is not much in the scriptures explaining the bronze laver, or brazen sea. We have no statement of its shape or size, nor is it ever mentioned when the camp of Israel packed up the Tabernacle and moved. The laver was made from the bronze mirrors of the women of Israel, which they gave as a freewill offering: "And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." Exodus 38:8. This would have been a sacrifice for these women, giving up something of worldly value to help create something of eternal importance. Perhaps this helped them focus on the work of their inner selves, their hearts, rather than spending time focusing on their outward appearances and beauty, to see themselves more as the Lord would see them, and not as they would see themselves or as others would see them. The Lord looks on the heart: "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves..." (1 Peter 3:3-5).

The laver stood between the altar and the Tabernacle. It was used for washing by only the priests who officiated. While the altar represented sacrifice for the remission of sins, the laver represented washing away of uncleanliness and purification, in other words, sanctification. The laver cleansed the priest from the defilements of life, leading to a life that was continually sanctified. The above verses from Exodus tell us that the priests had to be clean when they represented the Lord. Even one impure act could defile them and they had to return to the laver to cleanse themselves. We must be clean and pure as we seek to serve the Lord.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

020. Pillar of Cloud & Fire: The Tabernacle - Part VII

Doctrine & Covenants 11:12-13
12 And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.
13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;

The children of Israel were lead from their bondage in Egypt to the promised land by a pillar of cloud and fire. “For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:38). And from Numbers chapter 9 (parts of verses 15-23) it says “So it was always: the cloud covered it (the tabernacle) by day, and the appearance of fire by night. Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, after that the children of Israel would journey; and in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would pitch their tents. At the command of the Lord the children of Israel would journey, and at the command of the Lord they would camp…Whether it was two days, a month, or a year that the cloud remained above the tabernacle, the children would remain encamped and not journey; but when it was taken up, they would journey…they kept the charge of the Lord.” Over the 40 years that they journeyed in the wilderness, the children of Israel were strictly schooled as a people by the Lord…so that they would learn to fully leave behind and abandon any tradition, belief, or practice that was not in harmony with the Lord’s. They had to learn to depend on Him and to trust in Him, and not in other gods, idols, their own flesh, or false beliefs, and to be obedient to His every command.

The cloud and fire were described as pillars, and not as a shapeless hovering cloud, and thus was a symbol of strength, stability, and constancy with the Lord Jehovah in the midst of the people, leading all the way. To the people, the pillars of fire and cloud were symbolic of His presence. When the cloud descended on the tent of Moses, it meant that the Lord had come to speak with Moses. When it rested upon the tabernacle, it indicated His presence was within the Holy of Holies. The Lord, through the pillar of cloud gave them a covering from the heat of the day and through the pillar of fire a light at night. In fact, the only source of light to them during their journeys in the wilderness was the pillar of fire.

The pillar was also their guide, when it moved, they moved. The children of Israel often had to move at a moment’s notice, sometimes during the day and sometimes at night. The children of Israel had to trust that the pillar was leading them to the promised land, at the right time and in the right way. They were not following a map or their own course. Early on in their journey, the pillar had led them in a course that was not straightforward. They found themselves in a place with mountains on either side and the Red Sea stretching itself right before their path…there was no way out, as the armies of the Pharaoh were behind them. Those armies saw the plight of the children of Israel and became emboldened in their pursuit as they saw them now as easy prey. The children of Israel feared and began to murmur against Moses. It appeared as though God had driven the children of Israel into a trap that would ensure their complete destruction. However, in actuality, He was showing His devotion and power to them, and setting the stage for the destruction of their enemies. At the last moment, when all seemed lost, the pillar changed direction, moved to the rear of their camp, and became a pillar of darkness to the Egyptians, destroying them in the sea. The pillar thus became a protection to the children of Israel. They could not have survived in the wilderness without the guidance and protection of the Lord.

Today, as we make our journey through the wilderness of life back to our heavenly promised land, what is our fire, our guide, our light, our pillar? Certainly it is the Lord, but He is not here with us physically. His presence is made manifest in our lives mostly through the power of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit. For Christ said: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26). It is through the Holy Ghost that we receive the baptism of fire and are purified. Through its promptings, we can be warned and protected from danger and temptation. We can be guided by the Holy Ghost as we receive inspiration and revelation to direct and shape our lives.

However, our journey through life may be complicated and overwhelmed with challenges and defeats, seemingly beyond our ability to resolve. We may feel as though we are following the commandments, heeding the warnings of prophets, and doing our best to live righteously, and yet occasionally find ourselves in circumstances which are setting the stage for our destruction, just like the children of Israel…this could be loss, illness, death, sin, actions of others that affect our lives, disappointments, discouragements, regrets, etc. The only way to safely make it through these trials and tribulations is to trust in the wisdom and power of God and follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost. In Doctrine and Covenants 45:57-59 it says “For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived – verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day. And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation. For the Lord shall be in their midst, and His glory shall be upon them, and He will be their King and their Lawgiver.

There is much to be learned from these verses. First, we need to receive the truth. But receiving the truth is not enough. The Apostle James wrote “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22). Doctrine & Covenants 11:12 tells us to “trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good”. It is not enough to believe in the restoration of the gospel, we must live that gospel; it is not enough to accept a calling, we must magnify it to the best of our ability; it is not enough to go through the temple and participate in the ordinances therein, we must hold onto those covenants and seek to live them in their fullness. Action is required; we must do the things that are necessary in order to retain the Spirit. We must keep the commandments, repent continually, pray for guidance, and partake of the cleansing and renewing ordinance of the sacrament. These are the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, faith, repentance, and baptism, all leading to qualifying ourselves to be able to take or receive the Holy Spirit as our guide. Then, we will merit the blessings in the divine promise to “always have His spirit to be with us,” which is the Holy Ghost. If we always have His spirit to be with us, we will be lead in our lives to places of safety, to avoid deception, to obtain peace and joy, and to work toward the fulfillment of our Father’s will in our lives. We will be taught, lead to truth, and have a closer relationship with our Savior and the Father.

Elder Scott taught: “We see such a limited part of the eternal plan He has fashioned for each one of us. Trust Him, even when in [the] eternal perspective it temporarily hurts very much. Have patience when you are asked to wait when you want immediate action. He may ask you to do things which are powerfully against your will. Exercise faith and say, “Let Thy will be done”. Such experiences, honorably met, prepare you and condition you for yet greater blessings. As your Father, His purpose is your eternal happiness, your continuing development, your increasing capacity. His desire is to share with you all that He has. The path you are to walk through life may be very different from others. You may not always know why He does what He does, but you can know that He is perfectly just and perfectly merciful. He would have you suffer no consequence, no challenge, endure no burden that is superfluous to your good.” (Oct 1991 Gen Conf).

Part of taking the Holy Spirit as our guide involves asking for guidance. “Ask, and ye shall receive, knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (D&C 4:7). This can be difficult at times because there are many voices in this world that compete with the true Spirit, seeking to deceive and guide us away from truth and light. All of these are inspired by Satan who will try to darken our minds and hearts, provide us with counterfeit revelations, lead us to believe in lies or to doubt the knowledge we have obtained, and encourage us to despair in our failings and shortcomings. However, the Lord will not often give us guidance without our asking for it. And although He commands us to ask, He has also said “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me” (D&C 9:7). Therefore, we must ask, but we must also do our part. Just like we cannot receive a desired result from a physical law without obeying it, it is the same with spiritual laws. Blessings that flow from spiritual laws are based on obedience to certain commandments and principles…“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven, before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” This is a manifestation of a loving Father in Heaven who seeks to bless all of His children when they obey His laws. Of course the Lord has the power to bless us at any time, but in order for us to count on His help, we must consistently obey His commandments. Sometimes, our asking is not in accordance with divine will and in His divine wisdom our Heavenly Father withholds from giving us what we desire as it might prevent us from growing or learning or reaching the promised land, eternal life. As James recorded “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss”. It can be hard to know what is within His divine will for us, but we must have faith that He will help us. His will, as hard as it may be and whether we understand it fully or not, is the best choice we can make in this life.

Elder Scott offered some counsel in how to receive guidance from the Holy Ghost. He said “When I am faced with a difficult matter, this is how I try to understand what to do. I fast. I pray to find and understand scriptures that will be helpful. That process is cyclical. I start reading a passage of scripture; I ponder what the verse means and pray for inspiration. I then ponder and pray to know if I have captured all the Lord wants me to do. Often more impressions come with increased understanding of doctrine. I have found that pattern to be a good way to learn from the scriptures.
There are some practical principles that enhance revelation. First, yielding to emotions such as anger or hurt or defensiveness will drive away the Holy Ghost. Those emotions must be eliminated, or our chance for receiving revelation is slight. Another principle is to be cautious with humor. Loud, inappropriate laughter will offend the Spirit. A good sense of humor helps revelation; loud laughter does not. A sense of humor is an escape valve for the pressures of life. Another enemy to revelation comes from exaggeration or loudness in what is stated. Careful, quiet speech will favor the receipt of revelation. On the other hand, spiritual communication can be enhanced by good health practices. Exercise, reasonable amounts of sleep, and good eating habits increase our capacity to receive and understand revelation…It is important that our daily activities do not distract us from listening to the Spirit.” (April 2012 Gen Conf).

He (Elder Scott) goes on to say “Our Heavenly Father did not put us on earth to fail, but to succeed gloriously. It may seem paradoxical, but that is why recognizing answers to prayer can sometimes be very difficult. Sometimes we unwisely try to face life by depending on our own experience and capacity. It is much wiser for us to seek through prayer and divine inspiration to know what to do. Our obedience assures that when required, we can qualify for divine power to accomplish an inspired objective”.

As we take the Holy Spirit as our guide, it will enlighten our minds and fill our souls with joy as stated in Doctrine & Covenants 11:13. We can be assured that we are on the path that leads to eternal life. I take comfort from these words of the Lord to Oliver Cowdery through the Prophet Joseph Smith (Doctrine & Covenants 6:14-16).
14 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.
15 Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth;
16 Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.

The language suggests that Oliver perhaps had some doubts about the answers to prayer he thought he was getting. The Lord here reassured him that he had received answers as he sought for them, that they were imparted by the Holy Spirit. That his mind was enlightened. There have been moments where I have that my prayers have gone unanswered, but when I’ve looked back in retrospect I often see evidence that my prayers were heard. Sometimes, in looking back, I have been even more grateful when I realize that my prayers were not answered, for my will and limited vision had been foolishness. Our Heavenly Father does know us individually, and he knows our hearts, both the good and the not-so-good. However, He loves us unconditionally and wants us to return to Him. He and His beloved Son are trying to save us. They are trying to redeem and make us like them. Everything they do for us is designed to bring us back into their presence, but it is our choice. The Holy Ghost will testify and lead us closer to Christ. It is a manifestation of Christ’s presence, who is our only true guide and pillar of strength in this life. We are not to rely on the arm of flesh, but on Christ’s arm. Following His will does not rob us of our agency, we are still choosing. As Christ is one with the Father when we become more at-one with Christ, through His merits and mercy, we become more at-one with the Father, qualifying ourselves to inherit exaltation.

I am grateful that we can have access to the gift of the Holy Ghost and take it as our guide. I know that it can be a constant companion as we are worthy of its presence. And just like for the children of Israel, it can always be there, guiding us both day and night, protecting us, and providing light in an ever-darkening world. We must have faith to follow its promptings, to trust that it is directing us to do the will of the Lord, even in times of great trial and difficulty. If we do so, we will be greatly blessed and have peace and joy in our souls.

Monday, September 2, 2013

019. Court & Gate: The Tabernacle - Part VI

There was one gate into the courtyard of the Tabernacle (Chapter 8, 'Made According to Pattern', by C.W. Slemming). There is but one way to God, and that is through Christ, not many ways. John 14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." The process is begun when one enters in by the gate. 3 Nephi 14:13 "Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat." The "way" is through or by rebirth of the individual unto God through the power and redemption of Christ. 2 Nephi 31:17 "Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost." Although the gate was most always shut to protect the inside of the Tabernacle from animals and other intruders, the gate was not restrictive. The opening of the gate was wide enough and made of cloth so that anyone in any condition could make their way through it. They only had to reach out their hand and move aside the curtain that formed the gate. Although the gate was shut, it was open to all who made the effort to find it by walking about the walls of the Tabernacle and then to open it themselves. This is faith. We too must seek out the gate, the way and then we must reach out our hand and push back the screen that conceals the entrance to the path before we can begin. But this is within everyone's reach who has the desire to do so. This is the first step, the step of decision, of exercising our agency to follow Christ. John 10:9 "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." Seek out Christ, the gate; He is the only Way of salvation.
The Tabernacle Gate - Christ is the Way
The gate was formed by a large drapery of fine linen and yarn of blue, purple, and scarlet. The gate formed a line of demarcation between the world and God's abode. We too must guard a line of demarcation between ourselves as well as His church and the world. That line is set by God, not man. Once we step through the gate, we should leave the world behind and focus on our walk along the path of Life. Although only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies and only the priests could enter the Holy Place, everyone in the camp of Israel could enter into the courtyard through the gate. The courtyard was the place of sacrifice and all needed access to what it offered the children of Israel, both old, young, rich, and poor alike.
"Let us resolve to follow the Savior and work with diligence to become the person we were designed to become. Let us listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we do so, Heavenly Father will reveal to us things we never knew about ourselves. He will illuminate the path ahead and open our eyes to see our unknown and perhaps unimagined talents." ~Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Sunday, September 1, 2013

018. Curtains & Coverings: The Tabernacle - Part V

This post will describe the curtains and coverings of the Tabernacle; in other words, its roof and walls (Chapter 7, 'Made According to Pattern', by C.W. Slemming). Each of these will teach us about Christ's role in the plan of our Father in Heaven and His relationship to us. Exodus 26:1, 7, and 14 present the idea (see 1-14 for all detail):
1. Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them. 7. And thou shalt make curtains of goats’ hair to be a covering upon the tabernacle: eleven curtains shalt thou make. 14. And thou shalt make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers’ skins.

Four layers of the tabernacle (goats hair curtains were likely black instead of white).
There were two sets of coverings and two sets of curtains.

First covering, the badger skins. The badger skins used in the roofing of the tabernacle were likely not from a badger as we know them today, but some other animal such as a dolphin or sea cow. This formed the outer skin or roof of the tabernacle that would be visible. It would suffer abuse of hot sun, rain, hail, and other forces of nature continually forcing themselves upon the tabernacle, yet it protected the contents from exposure to any of these forces. It was therefore worn and ragged, probably not pleasant looking, but more utilitarian. Likewise, Christ, the protector and covering of those who trust in Him, He stretches himself from one end of the universe to the other in an effort of save His children. "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2, Mosiah 14:2).

Second covering, ram skin dyed red. These were placed under the badger skins as an additional layer. The ram is the animal of substitution or proxy, taking the place of another, as in the story of Abraham and Isaac and in the offerings made under the Mosaic Law. It is also the animal used in the consecration of the priesthood (see Exodus 29 and Leviticus 8). Christ is symbolized in the ram as he was consecrated from the foundations of the earth to be our great High Priest and foreordained to suffer and die for our sins. The red of the rams skins represented His blood. It is thought that Christ may have been born in early April, and under the Greek zodiacal system, His sign would have been Aires, the ram, which spans the 1st 30 degrees of celestial longitude. We are not told what type of skins were used to substitute for the fig leaves worn by Adam and Eve after they were driven from the Garden of Eden, but perhaps they were ram skins.

First curtain, goat hair. Curtains of stitched goat hair formed the walls of the (tent) Tabernacle. They were likely black as most all goats in the Middle East had black hair. Many depict these walls as white, representing purity. Black is more likely because it is the color of sin and death, and the absence of light. Goats were the sacrificial animal used in the sin offerings (Leviticus 9:3). Two goats were sacrificed on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:5-28). Sheep and goats represented saved and unsaved people (Matthew 25:32). Christ, although perfect, came in the likeness of (sinful) man (Romans 8:3). There were 11 such curtains. 11 is the number of disorganization (11 apostles after Judah's betrayal, 9/11, 11 stars in Joseph's dream). Christ disorganized the work of satan, the god of this world, and brought the possibility of salvation to all who would follow Him. In the structure of the tabernacle, all but one (1/11th) of these curtains was exposed to sight, the others (10/11ths) were hidden underneath the two layers of covering/roofing materials. So to is only 1/11th of Christ's mortal life visible to us; the short time around his birth and as a boy in the temple, and then between the his 30th and 33rd years. At age 30, John revealed Christ saying "Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Truly, He is a pure and perfect offering for our sins.

Second curtain, fine cloth linen. This layer constituted what was seen from the interior of the Tabernacle's Holy Place, forming its walls and ceiling. They were made from finely twisted linens of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn, and had the designs of cherubim woven into them. These same colors are included in other fabric used in the Tabernacle: the gate, the door, the veil, and the High Priest's ephod. The colors are always listed in the same order, with the blended or harmonizing color of purple in the middle. Blue represents heaven, divinity, and grace. The sky is always blue, although we do not always see it that way because of clouds, pollution, or other obstructions, but Christ is always there, eternal, unchangeable. Blue represents Christ as the Son of God or Heaven. Skipping purple for a moment and focusing on scarlet. The name Adam comes from a root word meaning "red earth". Adam was made from the dust of the earth. We go from the blue heavens to the red earth. Christ was also born as a man on the earth, as a human, although with divine characteristics, thus scarlet can represent Christ as the Son among men or the Son of Man. Purple is made by mixing blue and scarlet. If we have both the divine and human in our Savior Christ, we have a Mediator. The colors were woven into fine linen, to create tapestries of cherubim. Cherubim serve as protection. They serve at the throne of God and protect both the gate to the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life. They sit above the mercy seat, guarding the sprinkled blood. Inside the Tabernacle they become the ceilings and the walls. One looking up would see that they protected the sanctuary of the Tabernacle. There were 10 such curtains, sewn together (at their ends) in pairs of five. The number 10 is a divisible number, like the 10 commandments can be divided into five requiring our duty towards God and five our duty towards man or the 10 virgins with five being wise and five foolish. Christ is a divider of people: 1) He divides those who believe in Him from those who do not and 2) He divides us from the world and our old way of life and unites us unto Him. Holding the linen curtains together were 50 golden clasps. Those on the goat hair curtains were made of bronze, showing progression, as the metal increases in value as we move from outside in. These 50 clasps are along the ceiling of the Tabernacle and forms the border separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Fifty is the number of Pentecost. The Day of Pentecost came 50 days after Christ's crucifixion, the day after the seventh Sabbath. On this day, the Holy Ghost descended upon each disciple of Christ, who was strengthened and empowered by its presence. Entering into the Tabernacle's Holy Place contained much symbolism of the Holy Ghost, which will be covered in later posts.

So, in summary, the skin of the badger represented Christ's covering and protection for those who follow Him, the red dyed ram skin covering represented His atoning sacrifice for us where He is our substitute, and the goat hair covering represented Christ's offering for sin. Lastly, the cloth linen curtains represented Christ Himself, as the Mediator of the covenant between God and His People. The imagery of the Tabernacle is truly something we should contemplate to see the great love and order of our Father in Heaven.

Friday, August 30, 2013

017. Jesus, Mighty King in Zion (Hymn #234)

My daughter opened the hymnal to hymn #234, entitled Jesus, Mighty King in Zion, in sacrament meeting a few weeks ago. The words of this hymn resonated deeply, I don't recall ever signing it in any meeting. I find the words beautiful, it was included in the first hymnal.

1. Jesus, mighty King in Zion,
Thou alone our guide shalt be.
Thy commission we rely on;
We will follow none but thee.

2. As an emblem of thy passion
And thy vict'ry o'er the grave,
We, who know thy great salvation,
Are baptized beneath the wave.

3. Fearless of the world's despising,
We the ancient path pursue,
Buried with the Lord and rising
To a life divinely new.

I just really love those words, I think I'll memorize this hymn.

Monday, July 29, 2013

016. Acacia Wood: The Tabernacle - Part IV

"And he made boards for the tabernacle of shittim wood, standing up." Exodus 36:20

Shittim wood came from the Acacia tree, of which there are more than 1,300 species worldwide. The wood and sap of this tree has been used for many different purposes throughout time: for building, making perfume, paint, and medicines, using it in religious ceremonies and the seeds for food. In many cultures the Acacia tree symbolizes purity, endurance of the soul, as well as resurrection and immortality. Egyptian mythology associated the acacia tree with characteristics of the tree of life, such as in the Myth of Osiris and Isis. The Ark of the Covenant and portions of the tabernacle were made from Acacia wood.

The Acacia tree was native to the area in which the children of Israel found themselves. They were large trees with bent trunks, curled branches, and many knots, hardly straight for easy adaptation as boards or rods for a tabernacle (Chapter 6, 'Made According to Pattern', by C.W. Slemming). These gnarly trees had to be cut down and the milled to create useable wood for construction. For the tabernacle, 48 boards were made, each 10 cubits high and 1.5 cubits wide (thickness unknown). There were also two tenons at the bottom of the boards which fit into the silver sockets. Placed on each board were three rings (high, middle, and low) through which bars also made from Acacia wood were passed to hold the tabernacle's structure or outer wall together. Both the boards and bars were overlaid with gold.

Why would the Lord direct the children of Israel to work with such a difficult material?

We are like the Acacia tree. In our natural form, we are crooked and wild. We must be cut down, severed from our old ways of life and made into something new and useful. Our link and connection to the world must be broken if we are to be used by the Lord. We have often grown up in barren conditions, depleted and distant from the Lord's sustenance. However, the Lord, as the master carpenter, is willing to work with us, and make us straight so that we can stand up(right) on His foundation (the silver sockets). Once, as trees, we stood in the soil of the earth, now as refined beings, we can be set apart from the world and stand upon the foundation of the Lord's gospel. What sets us apart? Silver, the ransom price. He will protect us from the shifting sands of this world and allow us to firmly stand as one with other redeemed individuals. Both of our feet (tenons) should be planted in the gospel, not one in and the other in the world.
"The sap of selfishness must be dried out; the knots of hardness must be smoothed down to gentleness and compassion; and the twists of halfheartedness must be straightened - for they will never allow for perfect fitting and a unity in the Spirit, the state in which the Lord always delights to dwell." (Made According to Pattern, p. 55).
Then, when the boards of Acacia were made as straight as possible, they were overlaid with pure gold. Gold does not perish, wood does. Us, as perishable beings, are made immortal and even eternal, through the process of sanctification, and purified even as gold, clothed with his divine nature. The boards were perfectly balanced and stood in a perfect line so that there were no gaps or unevenness in the walls of the tabernacle, yet they did not rub against one another. They were also all the same height. As members of the church of Christ, we are not to judge one man above another, but we are to stand as equals, shoulder to shoulder, not leaning one way or another, but to be in perfect balance and harmony, to stand firm together in perfect function and service. For added strength, the bars of Acacia wood overlaid with pure gold allowed the boards to stand firm. The iron rod from the Book of Mormon symbolized the Word of God. This is interpreted as 1) the scriptures, which provide the words of eternal life, direction, and stability in this ever-changing world and 2) the Lord Himself, who is the Word by which all things were made, by which we are remade into His likeness through His atonement.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

015. Spiritual Counterfeits

Since the beginning, with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the adversary has sought to deceive the righteous into accepting his plan over that of our Father's. He often uses elements of the language of the gospel and portions of truth, admixed with lies, to create a counterfeit version of "light and truth" that can be enticing to those who are seeking the light and knowledge promised by our Father in Heaven. It is virtually guaranteed that those who humbly and honestly seek to know the Lord will experience great tribulation in their quest and that satan will put forth great effort to thwart them. It is a testament that you are on the right path. Revelations 12:7-9:
 7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
As wickedness increases on the earth, so does the power of satan. He can work signs and wonders, transform himself into an angel of light, and has abilities to entice, mislead, deceive, trick, and tempt that are great, even to the extent that the very elect will succumb. His deceptions can be so subtle and can seem so real, like mirages of desert oases that we yearn to reach, but that ultimately result in one distancing him or herself so far from God that they are off the path to eternal life, wandering in strange roads.

The ground cover in our fruit tree orchard is a mix of orchard grass, wildflowers, and weeds. Until one develops an eye for it, it is very difficult to tell the weeds and the wildflowers apart until they bear fruit (form a head). In times past, I have inadvertently ripped out many good wildflowers because I thought they were weeds. I was working in the orchard the other day, trying to clear out weeds, and came across a tangle of large wild clover and alfalfa. I almost bypassed the clover because it was so well camouflaged in the alfalfa (our animals can be fed the alfalfa). It was only for the newly developed fruit (the purple flowers) in the alfalfa that I spared the good and was able to trace the clover to its root and pull it out. The wild clover has a very long and skinny root that grows rapidly, which it can be difficult to pull out if the soil is dry and hard (so does alfalfa by the way). A few lessons to draw from this: 1) for the unexperienced, it takes time before the fruits will appear that will help us to know truth from satan's counterfeits. It is important to be patient, not act hastily, and seek out guidance from the spirit, which will teach us the truth of all things, before acting. 2) It is important to keep our own spiritual ground fertile with soft soil. If we allow the soil of our hearts to become hardened, the advancements made by the adversary will be more difficult to root out when they are identified. 3) No one is immune, regardless of status or background, from the enticements and deceptions of the adversary. These weeds spread and pop up everywhere. They learn how to transport themselves even into the most well-tended gardens. Anyone who thinks they are beyond satan's reach, no matter what they do or how they live, has been deceived.

Alfalfa with flowers (left) and wild clover (right).
Be warned that we are in the last days. There are many people who seem very good and kind, but who are ravening wolves underneath. They have been deceived into thinking they are doing the will of the Lord, but they are following a counterfeit lord and master who wishes to enslave them and receive their worship. These people have seceded part or all of their salvation to others, so called spiritual guides, fallen angels, false prophets, deceived and narcissistic gurus, immoral teachers, and whoremongers. There are many in our day who profess to communicate with deceased prophets and angles, who feel they posses gifts of the spirit that allow them to receive personal revelation and insights for others, who claim to "see" into the spirit realm, who perform healing through energy work, magic oils, crystals, enchantments, and divination, and who entangle themselves in the spirituality of others and play god with the souls of men. They crave the power and fame they amass as they perfect their craft and gain notoriety, writing books, offering seminars, and selling their services for profit. Although many of these are nice people, these diviners, soothsayers, witches, and communicators with familiar spirits are the same which the Lord denied and will deny again and say "Depart, I never knew thee". In the scriptures, there are no examples of such as called of the Lord. Some of the deceived will tell you that their teachings and methods are beyond the scriptures, held in secret and in reserve for those who are truly righteous, that the scriptures are dead. These must repent of their pride and treachery and the damage they have done to so many in our day. They are those who have not learned to wait upon the Lord and practice the simple virtues of purity, obedience, faith, love, and charity. They are seeking out an alternative route to salvation, which seems like the right path, but there is a dead end ahead. It is true that some may have had genuine experiences with gifts of the spirit at one time or another, but then they became a god unto themselves, the spirit became grieved, and they were left to their own devices, or those which satan, the god of this world, gladly provided. Many of these individuals believe that any spiritual manifestation they receive is of God.

There are also many good people who are and will be deceived, even the elect. Many of us are so eager to obtain further light and knowledge that we jump at the chance when something resembling truth comes in our path. We don't even question its source or whether there are elements of error woven in, designed to promote our downfall. How do you know if someone has been approved of the Lord, received spiritual gifts from His hand, been appointed as one of His prophets or messengers, or  has received abilities, insights, so called "gifts" in some other way? How are you able to judge the heart of another or the source of ones gifts and deem them pure? In most cases you cannot entirely. Therefore, you cannot entrust one iota of your salvation to another person, ever. You may listen, take what others offer or say, but before adopting such things into your life or doing what anyone else suggests, take some time to bring these things to the Lord in fervent prayer and perhaps fasting. There is no rush. Take time to seek out the Lord's guidance. This is your eternal salvation we are taking about. If an angel were to appear before you, how would you respond to it? How would you determine if it was a messenger from God? If you met someone demonstrating great insights into your life or offering to help you grow spiritually through their spiritual gifts, how would you respond? Even the best among us will be deceived. Love them, treat them kindly, be compassionate towards them, they can be reclaimed and the Lord will be merciful to them. Some related verses from Doctrine & Covenants 50:
 2 Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth, deceiving the world.
 3 And also Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.
 6 But wo unto them that are deceivers and hypocrites, for, thus saith the Lord, I will bring them to judgment.
 7 Behold, verily I say unto you, there are hypocrites among you, who have deceived some, which has given the adversary power; but behold such shall be reclaimed;
 8 But the hypocrites shall be detected and shall be cut off, either in life or in death, even as I will; and wo unto them who are cut off from my church, for the same are overcome of the world.
 9 Wherefore, let every man beware lest he do that which is not in truth and righteousness before me.
 15 And then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified?
 16 Behold ye shall answer this question yourselves; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto you; he that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong.
Almost every word of the temple endowment will help us understand the threat of deception by satan and his counterfeits, and thus endow us with increased powers to avoid them. Listen carefully to the words of the adversary: "what do you want?", "you can have anything in this world", "you will be like gods", "I will teach you the philosophies/commandments of men mixed with scripture", "these teachings are received quite well". Listen to the words or reactions of Adam: "I am looking for messengers from the Father to teach me", "this man does not believe what is being taught". In other words, when one embarks on the path back to the Father, the adversary will come to tempt and deceive them into worshiping him. When we call out to our Father in Heaven, the god of this world may be among the first to answer, seeking our attention and offering us the desires of our hearts, pushing us towards destruction. It is important that our hearts remain focused, that we do not believe in the teachings of this world or settle for the rewards and things of this world. We must keep the commandments we have been given and then the Lord will send true His messengers to teach us.