Thursday, June 5, 2014

039. Psalm 75:8 and the Big Dipper

I was looking at the big dipper the other night...upside down in the sky, as if it was pouring out its contents. It looked a little like this...


In times of sorrow, trial, loss, or tribulation it can be helpful to turn to the Psalms. Came across this verse today: Psalm 75:8-10 For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them. But I will declare for ever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.

The SL Temple has seven 6-sided stars chiseled on its central Western-facing tower, representing the Big Dipper...


The Big Dipper points to the North Star, the one star in the heavens that never moves...all the other stars revolve around it. The Egyptians called the North Star “The Nail”, which anchors the heavens, allowing all other heavenly bodies to pivot around it. The nail also has reference to the crucifixion and atonement of Jesus Christ. The Big Dipper is made up of seven stars. The number 7 is very common in the scriptures. Seven represents perfection or completeness. In the beginning there are seven days of creation and at the end there are seven seals in the Book of Revelation. We are to forgive seventy times seven (limitless forgiveness). There were seventy elders in Israel. There were seven feasts ordained of the Lord. There have been seven dispensations...from Adam, to Enoch, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to Jesus Christ, and to Joseph Smith...all these then point to the North Star, representing Christ, who is immovable, eternal, complete, perfected.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

038. The Veil: The Tabernacle - Part XII

Now returning to my ongoing summary and commentary on C.W. Slemming's "Made According to Pattern", the little known, but amazing book about finding Christ in the details of the desert Tabernacle. Chapter 15 discusses the veil.

The High Priest alone entered the Holy of Holies only once per year. He offered blood sacrifice for himself and for all of Israel on the Day of Atonement. The shedding of blood and its sprinkling on all the vessels of the tabernacle purged and allowed for the remission of sins. In order to do this he had to part the veil and enter into that sacred space.

The scriptures describe six different veils:

1. Veil of the Tabernacle: Made by Moses and the children of Israel. Exodus 26:31-37.
 31 ¶And thou shalt make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made: 32 And thou shalt hang it upon four pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold: their hooks shall be of gold, upon the four sockets of silver. 33 ¶And thou shalt hang up the veil under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the veil the ark of the testimony: and the veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. 34 And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place. 35 And thou shalt set the table without the veil, and the candlestick over against the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south: and thou shalt put the table on the north side. 36 And thou shalt make an hanging for the door of the tent, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework. 37 And thou shalt make for the hanging five pillars of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, and their hooks shall be of gold: and thou shalt cast five sockets of brass for them.
2. Veil of the Temple. Not the same veil of the Tabernacle. Moses made the 1st, Solomon the 2nd. 2 Chronicles 3:14 And he made the veil of blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon.

3. Veil of Moses: A veil Moses wore when conversing with the Lord, to protect him from the glory of the Lord. Exodus 34:33-35
 33 And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. 34 But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. 35 And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
4. Veil of Christ’s Flesh. Christ’s mortal tabernacle was a veil that concealed His inner glory. Hebrew’s 10:19-20
 19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
 20 By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;
For many, that veil was not enough to prevent them from recognizing something great in Him. On the Mount of Transfiguration, His glory came through that veil (Matthew 17:2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light).

5. Veil of Unbelief. This is a veil in our own minds and hearts that does not allow us to see or understand what has been taught. 2 Corinthians 3:13-16
 13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
 14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.
 15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.
 16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.
6. Veil of National Blindness. There is a veil of blindness over all the Lord’s people, who are scattered. When it is removed, they will recognize their Savior and a nation shall be born in a day. Isaiah 25:7-9
 7 And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. 9 ¶And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
All veils serve to separate and conceal. Christ IS the way, the truth, the life. The way into the presence of God was not made manifest while the veil of Christ’s flesh remained unrent. The veil was His life, and the rending the veil His death. His death was the fullest manifestation of divine love, to die for another. Simultaneous to His death on the cross, the veil of the temple was rent, symbolic of the way to God being opened unto all. His death thus brought the Tabernacle/Temple dispensations to an end. The veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom. Matt 27:51: And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top, from heaven, to the bottom, to earth.


The Book of Mormon contains eight scriptures mentioning a veil (7 presented here, 2 Nephi 13:23 discusses veils as articles of clothing):

Ether 3:6 And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.

Ether 3:19-20 And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting. Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him.

Ether 4:13-15
13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief. 14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief. 15 Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.

Ether 12:19 And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad.

Ether 12:21 And after the brother of Jared had beheld the finger of the Lord, because of the promise which the brother of Jared had obtained by faith, the Lord could not withhold anything from his sight; wherefore he showed him all things, for he could no longer be kept without the veil.

Alma 19:6 Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God—

What is learned from these verses? There is a veil upon our eyes, a spiritual blindness. Once it is removed, we can see spiritually. The Brother of Jared then obtains "perfect knowledge", he has seen the Lord. Because of this perfect knowledge of God, the Brother of Jared cannot be kept from within or without the veil. In other words, he cannot be held back or prevented from seeing through the veil. We are commanded to rend the veil of our own unbelief. How does that happen? Perhaps part of it is having a truly broken heart and contrite spirit. Humility. The veil of unbelief allows us to remain in our awful state of wickedness, hardness of heart, and blindness of mind. Not very good things. We should be seeking to know how to rend our veils of unbelief and come closer to the presence of God. We must fill our minds and hearts with light (see Alma 19:6 above), the light of Christ. We must rid ourselves of as much sin and doubt and fear as possible, transforming the darkness within us into light through the atonement of Jesus Christ. There are four verses in the Doctrine and Covenants pertaining to the veil...only one is relevant to our discussion here, and it is extremely important:

Doctrine and Covenants 67:10 And again, verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am—not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual. 

What an incredible passage of scripture! This is OUR privilege!...even OUR promise! We have been PROMISED by THE LORD! Have you been ordained to this ministry? YES! Otherwise I doubt you are reading this. Therefore, the promise applies! Here is what is necessary in order to have the veil of unbelief rent...it's not rocket science...but it could take a long time depending on how you go about it and how much faith and dedication you have to make this possible...

1) Strip yourself from jealousies;
2) Strip yourself from fears;
3) Humble yourself sufficiently.

Jealousies, what are these? It is covetousness, envy, wanting or desiring something that is not yours. It involves comparing what you have to what others may have. At its root is pride, not being adequately grateful for what the Lord has bestowed upon you. 1 Corinthians 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

Fears, what are these? Fear of what? Why would fears keep us from rending the veil of unbelief? Do fears represent doubt? The only scripture that comes to mind is 1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. As we seek to love the Lord and others perfectly, aren't our fears diminished? Do we have fear of what man can do? No, because as we have perfect faith in Christ, we trust Him to fight our battles, guide us, lead us safely home.

Being sufficiently humble. How do we know when we are sufficiently humble? Well, if we haven't rent the veil of unbelief, I guess that tells us something. How do we humble ourselves before the Lord? There are actually many examples of this in the scriptures. It involves repentance, recognition of one's dependence on God, that He delivers us, that He blesses us, that all we have comes from Him. Mosiah 4:11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

To demonstrate humility, remember the Lord, His greatness, goodness, long-suffering, and our nothingness...call on the name of the Lord daily, have faith. We can pray to know what jealousies and fears may be limiting us in our quest to rend the veil. We can pray to know how we can be more humble. As we strip away and are cleansed from jealousies and fears, and humble ourselves to the dust, what are the promises made in Doctrine and Covenants 67:10?

1) Veil shall be rent;
2) You shall see the Lord;
3) You shall know the Lord.

Your knowledge, like the Brother of Jared, will be perfect...and thus you will no longer be kept from within or without the veil and you will enter His presence. Amazing, truly. Let us all press on.

Friday, April 18, 2014

037. Good Friday

Matthew 27


 11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.  



12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.

 13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
 14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.
 15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.
 16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
 17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?
 18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.

 19 ¶When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
 20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.
 21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.
 22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.
 23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.


 24 ¶When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
 25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

 26 ¶Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
 28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.

29 ¶And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
 30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
 31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
 32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
 33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,

 34 ¶They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
 35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
 36 And sitting down they watched him there;
 37 And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.





 38 Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.

 39 ¶And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
 40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
 41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
 42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
 43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.
 44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
 45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
 47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.
 48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.
 49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

 50 ¶Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

 54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
See also Mark 15 and Luke 23


036. Twisted Trees

Yesterday I hiked up the ridge of some nearby mountains. The trail started near a pond with a few trees around. These trees weren't overly lush or tall, but they were healthy, straight, and showed no evidence of struggle. The trail was steep all the way up...like climbing a staircase the entire ascent and the descent was all baby steps so as to not slip on the loose and rocky gravel.

As I climbed I noticed the trees along the sloping mountainside were not like the trees at the base, even though they were the same species. These were twisted, leaning over, and sprawled out, with both dead and living branches on them. There were fewer trees here than below...more scattered and isolated. Some of their roots were exposed in many places, piercing up through the arid and rocky soil. They were generally not a pretty sight...wind-whipped and more coarse. It caused me to wonder how they subsisted here. Their roots must reach very deep to find water and sustenance.

The hike was strenuous, yet almost from the start there were butterflies flying nearby all along the trail. They'd land on the ground just before my feet, kissing the earth, but causing me to almost trip for fear of stepping on them. They'd circle dance around me in the air as I walked. It seemed like dozens of butterflies throughout the hike, appearing one or two at a time, but maybe it was the same one or two all along...like the angels who accompany us in our journey in this life.

As I climbed higher, I could see further and further in all directions...into the canyon, into the towns across the valley, across the valleys to other mountains. It was a beautiful view as I stood among those twisted trees. I thought of the contrast and was grateful for these trees.

We each have a choice to make as to what kind of a tree we will be. Whether it will be among the healthy and good looking trees at the bottom of the canyon that rely on the cool waters delivered to them by the pond, or a worn out twisted tree at the top of the summit among the butterflies, that relies on the heavens to pour out rain, and can see afar off from a vantage point enjoyed by few. I don't know which one I am, but I'm grateful we live in a time and place where we can make these kinds of choices and learn from our experience.

Monday, April 14, 2014

035. Following Him

1 Nephi 1:10 "And he also saw twelve others following Him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament."

034. Return of the Doves & Birds of Prey

Over the last several 7-10 years, I've noticed a tremendous increase in the populations of vultures, ravens, magpies, and starlings in my small Northern Utah town. These are scavenger birds, carrying disease and driving other birds away. They make unpleasant noises when they fly and communicate with one another. They are highly intelligent and work in groups or flocks, calling to one another about food and danger. They tear up our garden and harass our farm animals. Not only are these birds unattractive and a general nuisance, but they are also dangerous to the delicate balance of life in our ecosystem because of the diseases they carry that can spread to other birds and mammals.




We don't have many eagles where we live, but there are hawks, owls, and doves. An occasional eagle will be spotted high in the sky above the mountain range or very rarely along the freeway. It is a beautiful and awe-provoking sight. Hawks and owls are also rare, but I've seen more of them this year than in previous years. A magnificent red tailed hawk spent several days in some of the trees along our property a few weeks ago. For a time, groups of ravens would try to taunt him while he perched, and harass him when he'd fly. He seemed totally unfazed and behaved as if they did not exist. Eventually, all the other troublesome birds seemed to disappear while he was in residence. Last Fall, the owls returned and I could find them perched at night and calling quietly to each other in the darkness of night. More doves this year than ever before as well, particularly in the morning. A sign of peace. I observe these types of birds as mostly being alone, not part of a group, and are silent and graceful...although they sometimes come in pairs, especially the doves. They make pleasant sounds or none at all. The fly almost effortlessly, and quietly. They do not eat waste or carrion.



From afar, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish a hawk from a raven or a dove from something like a pigeon. Silhouetted against the sky, their head and body shapes are similar. You could say one species might have an opposite in the other species...counterfeits. You can distinguish them in several ways...by their sounds, what they consume, how they hold their heads, whether they are alone or not. Especially as you get closer you can tell.

I grew up in a home where birds were studied and appreciated. We learned how to identify various species. Birds have deep meaning to me. They represent something beyond this world, something unseen. I hope that the return of these birds of prey and the doves is a trend beyond my own little yard and hometown. If so, I wonder what it means? I welcome their increased presence as it gives me hope. I've learned much about myself and my spiritual path in life by watching the birds.


UPDATE 4/23/2014: This morning a small hawk took down a starling in our backyard, in the orchard. The photo is grainy, but it shows who the victor was. Things are happening indeed.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

033. New LDS Adult Sunday School Curriculum

At the last General Conference of the church (April 2014), a new General Sunday School Presidency was sustained. Immediately after conference, a major announcement was made by Elder Tad Callister, the new Sunday School General President. The announcement was that adult sunday school classes would soon no longer be studying the four major standard scriptural works on a rotating basis as we have done for many years. Instead, the adult classes will adopt the curriculum that has been used in the youth Sunday School classes for the last year or so. The youth curriculum consists of topics, with loose outlines, scriptural references, and links to conference talks and video clips (mostly within last 10 years). Each topic is covered for a month, so there are 12 major topics covered in a year. Here are the current topics for 2014 from the youth curriculum:

January: The Godhead
February: The Plan of Salvation
March: The Atonement of Jesus Christ
April: The Apostasy and the Restoration
May: Prophets and Revelation
June: Priesthood and Priesthood Keys
July: Ordinances and Covenants
August: Marriage and Family
September: Commandments
October: Becoming More Christlike
November: Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance
December: Building the Kingdom of God in the Latter Days

Church leaders refer to this new curriculum as "Christ's Pattern for Teaching". It's unclear what is  different in the new curriculum in terms of teaching style from the emphasis provided in previous lesson manuals...which also encouraged instructors to ask questions, facilitate discussions, interact with class participants, and bear testimony. Elder Callister said "We’re trying to follow in the Savior’s footsteps of teaching, which involves inspired questions. It involves participation; it involves teaching to convert people, not just to teach them — to help them to understand and feel the Spirit of the gospel in their lives." Going further, he said "Last week, I attended a Sunday School class, and I think there’s a definite shift from the lecture method to a participation method. I think there’s a definite shift from just teaching a lesson to trying to customize it to the needs of the students in the class." So, have we not been following the Savior's example in our teaching until just this last year? What have we been doing all these years? I sure hope we've been trying to ask inspired questions.

What I've noticed in the new curriculum is that there are no learning objectives. Anyone who has been a teacher knows how important it is to develop learning objectives to organize their teaching materials around. Without objectives, how do we know or evaluate what is being learned? Otherwise, instructors are coming with scriptures and video clips and stories around a topic and are just asking for people's reactions and their feelings about what they are experiencing in class. It's like a focus group evaluating a new product, getting feedback, and moving on to the next one. Rarely anything new is really learned, but people share their opinions, experiences, and feelings. Everyone gets a chance to chime in, and we feel good about ourselves..."that was a good lesson". Certainly bearing testimony of what we know brings forth the spirit, and can sometimes effect learning in a synergistic sort of way.

However, think about what is lost as we move away from a concentration on the scriptures. Even if class members do not study the same scriptures at home from week to week, there is an inherent emphasis on studying the scriptures made manifest in the structure of the current Sunday School lessons. Will members in the future be less inclined to read from the scriptures on their own, choosing instead to study basic gospel topics? We already only focus on just the scriptural highlights in our gospel doctrine classes, glossing over or ignoring entirely the hidden gems within the scriptural record. I fear that within a few years, members will value the scriptures less, will no longer know the scriptures, nor be as intimately acquainted with the teachings of the prophets canonized in the scriptures. With a reliance on electronic scriptures, you can already see a growing lack of familiarity with where certain books of scripture are located ("is that in the Bible?"). I know several people who have decided they will never own a paper copy of the scriptures again...how sad. The new format probably has the advantage of helping us focus on less controversial topics and thus avoid sometimes heated discussions about difficult doctrines or challenging events in our church history. I worry that such an avoidance carries a cost. As we discard or ignore the subtle, yet crucial doctrines interwoven throughout scripture, we set ourselves up to individually or collectively repeat the mistakes of the past. Also, the range of topics is so narrow. Even less than contained in the Gospel Principles manual for new members. The gospel is so rich and vast. There are so many topics important to our salvation, how will those get covered? And finally, the new Sunday School structure leaves less and less room for personal revelation in teaching...having to stick with a topic for the whole month, not allowing the spirit to guide topic selection. I realize there is wiggle room within a lesson or topic, but the focus just seems really narrow.

Certainly Christ taught lessons, even lectured. He lead His followers. He did not lead discussion groups where listeners chimed in with their insights on the doctrine He imparted. He quoted from the prophets and set forth truth, which carried the spirit into the hearts of His listeners. He had mastery of all the scriptures. He had learning objectives, which He distilled from what the hearts of those listening to Him needed to know. He was the master teacher. He used allegories, parables, symbolism, scripture, and testimony to bring light to the hearts of those open to His words. He bore testimony through word and action.

As we deemphasize scripture, what will be the cost?

Friday, March 28, 2014

032. Son of God

If you missed the recently released film depicting the ministry of the Savior, entitled Son of God, try to catch it some other way. Very raw and real. The frailties and humanness of the apostles, the juxtaposition between the worship of the Romans, Jews, and Christ, the narrowness of the Pharisees, and the connection between Christ and His mother are all very poignantly and powerfully portrayed. The theme throughout is humility.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

031. Few Humble Followers of Christ: Poggin the Dwarf and Emeth the Calormene - The Last Battle Part III

There are several righteous characters in The Last Battle. King Tirian never gives up hope and belief in Aslan, he is faithful throughout. Jill and Eustace are ever faithful and true in all things. Jewel the Unicorn is always valiant, sticking by King Tirian's side through thick and thin (Guardian Angel). However, there are two other characters in this story who stand out as examples of the "few humble followers of Christ": Poggin the Dwarf and Emeth the Calormene. We can all relate to these characters in some way. Although I've not yet reached Aslan's country, I identify strongly with both these characters in different ways. So here goes a summary of the story...

A short time after the dwarves march off to fend for themselves, the group lead by the King hear someone approach. It is a small dwarf named Poggin. He still believes in Aslan, he's still on Aslan's side. This lifts the spirits of the others and renews hope. This little dwarf had been among the deceived. He could have continued on with the others, rejecting Aslan and anything to do with Him. Poggin is helpful to others in the group, finding and cooking food for them, serving them. The King finds a dwarf-sized outfit for Poggin - mail shirt, helmet, shield, sword, belt, and dagger…the whole armor of Christ. He remains a faithful component of the group through the end and enters into Aslan's rest.

Later in the story there is one Calormene, a man, who proves by his deeds that he is "worthy of a better God than Tash." He has been faithful to Tash his whole life, and taught to hate Aslan and the world of Narnia. At the camp, where the shrine of Tash stood (formerly the stable that housed "Aslan", or Puzzle the Donkey disguised as Aslan), this Calormene man became disheartened when others began saying that Aslan and Tash were one. He wanted to know for himself, and to meet the god he worshiped and know more of him. He enters and the wicked guard placed there to kill all who enter attacks Emeth, who kills the guard (a mocker of the true Tash, says Emeth). It is beautiful inside, and he meets a lion, Aslan. He falls at the Lion's feet and thinks he will be killed for he reasons that the Lion will know that he has served Tash his whole life. Aslan kisses Emeth on his forehead and says "Son, thou art welcome…all the service thou has done to Tash, I account as service done to me….if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Does thou understand Child?" Emeth, still not fully accepting of Aslan's love, replies "Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days." Aslan then says "unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek." So it is.

Many in these stories of Narnia are seduced by evil, choosing evil over good. They see the power in evil and become intoxicated by it. Many of us fall into the same traps. Many of us are also born into different camps in this world, some evil, some neutral, some good, some more spiritually inclined than others (Telmarines, Dwarves, Calormenes, our own cultures, our own families), but that doesn't mean we are stuck there forever or that those groups are right in their beliefs and practices. We must be careful not to base our lives and faith entirely on the collective aspirations, goals, or traditions of the group in which we find ourselves. We can switch sides, strike out on our own and find truth. Think of how often this takes place in the scriptures…Joseph, Abraham, Christ, Lehi, Alma, Abinadi, Jaredites. We too can wake up and switch sides, choosing Aslan over his enemies, over Tash. Very few make that choice in these Narnian legends, only about six characters are able to have the insight, muster the strength, and have the faith to choose a better ways for themselves…out of probably millions of Narnians. These few Narnians recognized who their true master is. It was not the group to which they belonged. It was not the traditions to which they held. It was Aslan. They realized they were serving the wrong master, which was themselves, which was really Tash or satan. They realized they had been deceived by satan as well as by their fallen and sinful natures.

We all have to decide who our true master is…is it Christ or satan? No one can be neutral (as that is really choosing the latter option). If our heart is in the right place, and we are seeking for the truth, even if we are deceived along the way and perhaps even lead to do horrible things, we can eventually be lead to Christ. He will find us.

On a related note, what of the fate of Puzzle the Donkey? Well, he reappears near the end of the story. After the group (the good guys) meet Emeth and learn his story, Puzzle comes trotting up. He is now described as a "graceful creature…all silvery-gray. He was himself now: a beautiful donkey with such a soft, gray coat and such a gentle, honest face". He had come through the door (of the stable/shrine) with all the other animals at the end. But he had been laying low for a while, staying out of the way, out of Aslan's way. After seeing the real Aslan, he was so ashamed of dressing up in a lion's skin that he didn't even know how to look anyone in the face. He was worried about meeting the real Aslan face-to-face. Well, at the very end, when Aslan comes and calls forth the righteous into eternal life, guess who He calls to His side first? That's right, Puzzle the Donkey. "You never saw a donkey look feebler and sillier than Puzzle did as he walked up to Aslan, and he looked, beside Aslan, as small as a kitten looks beside a St. Bernard. The Lion bowed down His head and whispered something to Puzzle at which his long ears went down, but then he said something else at which his ears perked up again." Those who are deceived into doing the bidding of the evil one can be redeemed and exalted, depending on their humility and the intents and desires of their heart.

Oh the great and wondrous designs of our Father in Heaven! It is glorious to contemplate the great things he does for His children. How he blesses them, despite their wickedness and wrong choices if they repent! Oh what grace and mercy and love! He is love!

030. Deception: "The Dwarves are for the Dwarves" - The Last Battle Part II

Eventually, the king of Narnia, his unicorn Jewel, and two children from London are able to turn the tide. "Aslan's" stable is guarded at night by only one man, who is taken down by one of the children, Jill. Inside she finds Puzzle masquerading as Aslan…a "false Aslan" she calls him. Jill has pity on the donkey and leads Puzzle to meet up with the others. When the king learns what has been happening and that Puzzle has been the source of these troubles, he draws his sword to kill the donkey. Jill intervene's, protecting the donkey: "It wasn't his fault. It was all the Ape. He didn't know any better. And he's very sorry. He's a nice donkey." The donkey agreed, saying that he wasn't very smart, he only did what he was told, and that he didn't enjoy living like that.
King Tirian, Jewel the Unicorn, Eustace, Jill, & Puzzle the Donkey (False Aslan) soon meet the Dwarves
Soon, a group of dwarves lead by four wicked men approaches the group lead by King Tirian of Narnia. These dwarves had been deceived into believing that they needed to go work in the men's mines. "Aslan's orders, Aslan's orders. He sold us. What can we do against him?" say the dwarves. King Tirian then shows the dwarves Puzzle the Donkey, who was still wearing the lions coat, now disheveled and dirty. There is confusion, a fight breaks out, and the four men are killed. Afterwards the King proclaims: "Now, Dwarves, you are free….three cheers for Aslan!" But there is hardly a whisper from the dwarves. The group lead by the King cannot understand why the dwarves are not rejoicing at this news of freedom. Why didn't they respond with gladness when they learned that the Ape wasn't going to rule over them any longer and that everyone could go back to the way things were?

One dwarf named Griffle steps forward and says "I feel I've heard about as much about Aslan as I want to for the rest of my life." The other dwarves mutter in agreement. Griffle continues "You must think we're blooming soft in the head…We've been taken in once and now you expect us to be be taken in again the next minute. We've no more use for stories about Aslan, see! Look at him [referring to Puzzle]! An old moke with long ears!"

A back and forth ensues between the King and the dwarves. The King is stunned by their response, and retorts "Which one of us said that was Aslan? That is the Ape's imitation of the real Aslan. Can't you understand?" Griffle shoots back "And you've got a better imitation, I suppose. No thanks, we've been fooled once and we're not going to be fooled again." "I serve the real Aslan" shouts the King. "Where's he? Who's he? Show him to us!" reply several dwarves. The King shoots back "Do you think I keep him in my wallet? Who am I that I could make Aslan appear at my bidding? He's not a tame lion." Uh-oh…the dwarves had heard that line before. Those words were used by Shift to trick them into doing things that the Dwarves originally believed Aslan would never ask them to do. "He's not a tame lion, he's not a tame lion" they muttered and sneered. Jill passionately testifies that she has seen the real Aslan. "So you say. They've taught you your stuff all right. Saying your lessons, ain't you?" replies Griffle. He continues "I don't think we want anymore kings -- no more than we want any Aslans. We're going to look after ourselves from now on and touch our caps to nobody." The other dwarves chime in "We're on our own now. No more Aslan, no more kings, no more silly stories about other worlds. The Dwarves are for the Dwarves!" 

You see, by being deceived, the dwarves had lost faith in the real Aslan. They were so hurt, ashamed of what had become of them, what they had been lead to believe and do, that it changed them. It broke their little dwarf hearts. They lost hope and from thenceforth would only believe what was before their eyes and what their hands could touch. One of the results of Shift setting up a false Aslan was that it stopped people from believing in the real Aslan. The king thought the dwarves would immediately rally to his side after exposing the deception, but that was not the case. When one realizes that they have been deceived, it is very hard to have faith in the truth or to know what the truth is anymore. Why would God allow me to be deceived? What if I am deceived again? How can I trust anything? Is God mad at me for being deceived? How can God ever trust me again? Where did I miss the clues along the path to deception? Did God try to intervene and I missed it? I was trying to believe, and do right, but my faith was amiss. What about all those signs that followed my faith? Doesn't God care? Why wouldn't He come to stop the deception that was underway and the horrible things being done in His name? Will He be merciful to the deceived?

Sadly, the most of the dwarves fight against both the sides of good and evil in the last battle. At one point the wicked men throw the dwarves into the stable where Puzzle once was. This place is now known as the "shrine of Tash" and various animals and people are thrown in to be killed. However, there was only a wicked man stationed inside with orders to kill anyone who came in that those in charge outside were against. This guard was killed by another man who entered the shrine willingly, more on him later. Those who entered the stable saw and experienced what they merited in this life. All the dwarves see is the dirty and dark stable. Other who have entered saw beautiful countryside, sunshine, and mountains. The real Aslan comes to the dwarves, but they cannot see Him…He purrs in their ears, but they cannot hear Him, thinking it is some noise coming from the other side of the stable…He gives them a feast to eat and a goblet of wine placed in their right hands, but all they tasted was straw and water from the stable bucket. They are blinded, forever. Aslan says "They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid to be taken in that they cannot be taken out." A form of spirit prison, unbelief. It is difficult to judge, and that's not our role anyway, for at the judgment itself, one of these dwarves, who was even among those who shot arrows and killed the great horses was welcomed on the right side of Aslan while others went to the left.

There are also people who end up rejecting everything when they come to no longer believe one or two pieces of the larger picture. For example, some lose their testimony of the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith or the priesthood, but then throw out everything, including their belief in Christ and Father in Heaven. This is the adversary's fondest hope…tarnish or crack one little facet and the whole diamond is flawed.

Deceit can be devastating. “...nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God” (Joseph Smith, HC 4:573).  Don't give up! Continue to persist in faith and hope! The darkness always comes before the light! Hang on! It's part of the process, part of the path! Have belief! 

029. False prophets and false christs: Shift the Ape & Puzzle the Donkey - The Last Battle Part I

We have been progressively examining the elements of the ancient Tabernacle (with a diversion here and there) and how each typifies of Christ. There is progression, increased focus, and enhanced understanding as we approach God. We have now progressed to the point of the veil of the Tabernacle, which separates the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. We are on sacred ground, and the threshold of something even more sacred. The veil represents Christ himself, the passageway to the throne of the Father. However, before moving into a description of the veil and what lies beyond, we must pause and focus our attention on something else. There is a pattern that unfolds for those who seek to know the Lord. Part of this pattern is that before ascending, there is trial, darkness, despair, and even an assault by the wicked one or his fallen angels. Therefore, we will embark on a slight tangent for a few posts at this point in the Tabernacle series in order to lay out the challenges posed to those who seek the Lord's face.

The juxtaposition of light and darkness is everywhere, they often travel together. There is opposition in ALL things. Lehi's vision of the tree of life demonstrates that there is great darkness to be passed through by those who seek eternal life, indeed "an exceedingly great mist of darkness". Many prophets have recorded their experiences with darkness before coming to see or know the Lord (e.g., Moses, Joseph Smith, Alma the Younger). In the temple narrative, the wicked one, the god of this world, comes forth almost immediately in response to Adam's calling upon God, his true Father. The father of lies always tries to answer, to intervene, to stick his nose in and try to thwart and cause those who seek truth by preying on their weaknesses. He takes advantage of our eagerness, our impatience with our own spiritual growth and knowledge, our pride, our vanity, our yearning for truth, and pushes us towards things that are attractive, delightful, and distracting. He wants to provide an easier, faster, more immediately "rewarding" way, and wants us to ultimately worship him in the process, or at least not the true Lord and God. He is a master tempter and deceiver. He can set traps so subtle that even the elect are ensnared before they know it if they are not extremely careful. Beware when thing seem to good to be true, too easily obtained, too miraculous. I do not wish to dwell upon our fallen brother's feats or abilities, but as disciples of Christ, we must know our enemy so as to be prepared and ready always for anything.

We all fall and stumble (1 Ne 10:6). We are not perfect. We are all deceived in some way. Beyond the obvious danger inherent in being deceived and thrown off the true path, there is also a hidden danger in deception that, once a person realizes that they have been deceived, they can have diminished faith and enthusiasm for spiritual things. Once bitten, twice shy. Satan knows the potential fallout from deception and will feed the flames no matter which way things end up. There is an extremely poignant and related lesson quite overtly presented in the final book of The Chronicles of Narnia series written by C. S. Lewis, entitled The Last Battle, which speaks to this entire phenomenon of deception very directly. It is worth taking some time to review and relate it to interactions with the darkness that can come our way in our approach back to God. The power of the adversary is increasing….it is raw, thick, filthy, crude, earthy, dark, awful, merciless, unchecked, and even scum-like in texture and appearance. It can be felt, it is palatable. I feel it in certain social situations and in many places of commerce, it is almost everywhere on the internet. However, the power and light of the Lord is also rising, but it is soft, quiet, and gentle, easily chased away by even those thoughts and intents of our hearts that are amiss.

So here goes…

The Last Battle begins "in the last days of Narnia" and describes a very old, ugly, wrinkled, and clever Ape named "Shift". This represents the wicked one. Shift lived in the woods very far away from everyone, where there were no other speaking animals or people around except for one, a neighbor donkey and "friend" named Puzzle (who was more of a "servant" than a "friend"). Puzzle the Donkey did everything Shift told him to do, almost without question..."Of course Shift, I see..." Puzzle would say of Shift's suggestions, never complaining or questioning. Puzzle "knew" that Shift was more clever than he, and Puzzle was grateful that Shift was friends with him at all, as he had no one else.

One day Shift and Puzzle were on a walk and spotted something shining flowing down the great waterfall and into the pool below. Although Shift was the one who saw it and wanted it, he convinces Puzzle to go and fetch it from the water. Puzzle nearly drowns fetching what looked at first like a large blanket. Shift unfolds and studies it carefully and then realizes "It's a lion's skin."

Lightbulbs go off in Shift's darkened mind and he decides to make the lion skin into a winter coat for Puzzle. Puzzle is not interested because he has reverence and respect for the lions of Narnia and for Aslan. Shift of course turns things around and tells Puzzle that Puzzle got to go into the pool and retrieve the lion's skin and that Shift felt left out, that he wanted to be able to do something important and making this coat for Puzzle would make Shift feel important (lots of "me's" and "I's" in his arguments). Shift makes a patchwork-type coat of lion's skin for Puzzle, even using the hairy lion shoulders as shoulders for the coat and the lion's head like a hood that would cover Puzzle's own head. The only slight problem is that Puzzle's long nose and mouth stick out through the mouth of the lion's head. But Shift reasons that people who had never seen a real lion would never know the difference, as long as they didn't come too close, and if the light was bad, and if puzzle didn't make noises that could give it away.

Shift thought Puzzle looked "wonderful", and cries out "If anyone saw you now, they'd think you were Aslan, the great lion himself….everyone would do whatever you told them…think of the good we could do!" Shift continues to Puzzle…"you'd have me to advise you…I'd think of sensible orders for you to give. And everyone would have to obey us, even the King himself. We would set everything right in Narnia….You will pretend to be Aslan, and I'll tell you what to do." Puzzle resists, worried what would happen if the real Aslan should appear, but Shift is ever so clever and tricks Puzzle into believing that acting like Aslan would be very pleasing to Aslan, and tells Puzzle that Aslan himself sent the lion skin for the very purpose of setting things right in Narnia. Shift tells Puzzle that Aslan never comes around anymore anyway. Immediately after saying that, there is a thunderbolt in the sky followed by a small earthquake, which tosses both creatures to the ground. Puzzle believes this to be a sign that they are in the wrong, and that he should remove the lion skin. Shift, however, convinces Puzzle that it is a sign in the other direction, because he was just about to say (before the thunder and earthquake of course) that if Aslan had wanted them to conduct this errand, he would send such a sign. After all, what would a donkey know about signs anyway?

Puzzle the Donkey, dressed in a coat made from a lion's skin, made by Shift the Ape.
Puzzle, an ass, became a false Lion, a false Aslan. Puzzle listened to the lies and was persuaded by the sophistry of a wicked influence. He surrendered his agency, was willing to submit his will to the will of one who would destroy him. There are people who are false prophets and wicked spirits who are false Christs; they desire to be worshipped and to control others. False christs abound in the latter days…Lo here and Lo there! There are many claiming to "know christ" and to "be his friend". How do we know that they are not following the machinations of a Shift or being duped the appearances of a Puzzle the Donkey?

Well, word quickly spreads throughout Narnia that Aslan has returned. The king, his people, dwarves, and animals are so excited that Aslan is back that they are willing to believe almost anything..."I believe it all. If I seem not to, it is only that my joy is too great to let my belief settle itself. It is almost too beautiful to believe." (p. 17).

Shift becomes "Aslan's mouthpiece", ordering basically everyone around in the name of Aslan. Animals and people want to see "Aslan", to speak with him "face-to-face", but he is put away in a straw hut guarded by Shift. Shift gives orders from "Aslan" to wicked men to cut down the sacred forests and enslave the talking animals. Strife and murder break out among the ranks. Shift is the great false prophet and Puzzle the false christ.

As Shift the Ape continues to serve as the mouthpiece of "Aslan", he begins to instruct the animals that he is not an ape at all, but a man. A very, very old, and wise man. He continues in telling them that because he is so wise, he is the only one that "Aslan" trusts and will speak to. He lets it be known that "Aslan" cannot be bothered by talking with a bunch of stupid animals. Shift says that "Aslan" will tell him what the animals are supposed to be doing, and then Shift will pass along that information. False prophets and christs try to control others, duping them into believing that revelation can come to others through them, that they can receive personal revelation for you.

Shift tells all the animals that forever after they will have to work under the hand and in the mines of the wicked men. The animals balk at their sentence of slavery, but Shift quickly tells them that they will not be slaves, but will be paid…their wages will go directly into the treasury of "Aslan", who will use them "for everybody's good". Shift tells them that everything will be ok. Shift promises that soon there will be roads, cities, schools, offices, whips, muzzles, cages, and prisons! However, the animals only want their freedom and to hear Aslan speak. Shift tells them that true freedom is not doing what they want, but is found in doing what Shift tells them to do…he is a man after all, who speaks with "Aslan", and they are only stupid animals. Shift goes so far as to equate Aslan with Tash, the god of the world of men, who represents satan. That they are just different words from two different cultures for the same being…"Aslan is Tash. Tash is Aslan." There is no distinguishing between Christ and satan, the people have been deceived into believing anything; they cannot differentiate. They start referring to Aslan as Tashlan.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

028: State of the Union

I did not watch the State of the Union address this week. I am too busy working, trying to raise a family, pursuing my own spiritual life, and dealing with my own life challenges. I am not too interested in politics as the spectator sport and circus it has become, nor do I affiliate with any political party. I believe the constitution was divinely inspired and that we should fight for and defend our freedoms.

This quote from the State of the Union came across the transom on Wednesday morning. Although eradicating homelessness is a worthy goal, as there will be no poor among us in Zion, it is clear where things are going morally:

"Across the country, we're partnering with mayors, governors and State legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality," Pres. Obama (State of the Union, January 28, 2014).

Our union is in an increasingly corrupted and darkened state. We are putting our time, effort, and treasure into things of no lasting value. We fulfill prophecy, unfortunately, and call good evil and evil good. How is it that we give such good and pleasing names to things that are contrary to God's plan? Marriage equality, Pro-choice, etc.

As an aside, I wonder how much it cost to hold the SOTU talk on Tuesday, including time for staffers, security, government officials, media, travel costs, etc.? And how much those funds could have offset homelessness issues in some of our major US cities? Then this Sunday the Super Bowl, which is another reflection of the state of our union. This event has perhaps surpassed the extravagant and decadent spectacle of the ancient Roman colosseum, with multi-million dollar television ads, box seats costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, all sorts of debauchery surrounding the event, not to mention all the time and money spent by individuals to attend or watch….a complete desecration of the Sabbath day. Just think of how the money, resources, and time spent on these two events alone could impact our society for good.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

027: Tight like unto a dish

This discovery was published in the news yesterday, and possibly sheds some light on shipbuilding under instruction from the Lord…similar for Nephi? for the Jaredites?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

026. Altar of Incense: The Tabernacle - Part XI

In Exodus 30:1-10 we read:
 1 And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it.
 2 A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same.
 3 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, the top thereof, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about.
 4 And two golden rings shalt thou make to it under the crown of it, by the two corners thereof, upon the two sides of it shalt thou make it; and they shall be for places for the staves to bear it withal.
 5 And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.
 6 And thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.
 7 And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.
 8 And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.
 9 Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.
 10 And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the Lord.
The altar was placed directly in line with the middle of the entrance of the tabernacle, and further inside than the Table of Showbread and Golden Lampstand, where it sat in front of the Veil. It stood about three and a half feet tall and 21 inches square. Even though the smallest of the tabernacle's furniture, the Golden Altar of Incense was important, just as all the others were, each with its own use and purpose. The Altar was made from shittim (Acacia) wood overlaid with gold…representing a connection between earth and heaven. The wood, as can be recalled from other descriptions in this series, had to be worked from its gnarled and twisted form into something smooth and straight, then covered by gold. That is the work of God; taking us from our natural, carnal, decaying state, and transforming us into something of everlasting value and duration. The altar was square,  representing the four corners of the earth to which the gospel must reach and from which the prayers of all of God's creations can be heard. On each corner of the Altar was a horn, representing strength. Beyond the veil was the Ark of the Covenant, representing the throne of God. A molding or crown sat atop the Golden Altar of Incense to keep the fire from spilling off the sides. This can represent the glorious Christ, crowned with victory in fulfilling His mortal mission. The Bronze Altar of Sacrifice found outside the tabernacle had no crown, representing Christ in this world, one of pain and humiliation. The bronze altar represents suffering and death, typifying our Christ as Savior and sacrifice. The golden altar within the tabernacle represents triumph over death, mediation or intercession between God and man through Christ. Both altars were square, representing Christ's sacrifice (bronze altar) and atonement or intercession (golden altar) are available for the entire earth.

As the priest added incense to the fire which burned upon the altar. The burning caused smoke from burning incense and its odor to rise before the veil, representing our prayers and petitions rising unto our Father in Heaven through our mediator Jesus Christ. The veil separates us from the Father:
7 And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.
 8 And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh.
 9 And at my command the heavens are opened and are shut(Ether 4:7-9) 
"Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers…" (Ether 4:15)
In the Book of Revelation (8:3) a type of the Altar of Incense and the Ark of the Covenant (throne) are mentioned:
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
In this verse there is no veil between the altar and the throne, as it has been rent through the atonement and sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ. Note also how Isaiah's encounter with the Lord includes these symbols from the Tabernacle (Isaiah 6:1-10):
1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne [Ark of Covenant], high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
 2 Above it stood the seraphims [these were embroidered on the Veil]: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth [4 corners of Altar of Incense] is full of his glory.
 4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke [from the Altar of Incense].
 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts [Veil of unbelief has been parted].
 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar [Altar of Incense]:
 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged [sanctified].
 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me [spread light of gospel - the Golden Lampstand].
The Golden Lampstand and the Altar of Incense were linked together through the service required by the priests. Every morning and night incense was placed upon the altar at the time the lamp was trimmed: Prayer (altar) and resulting Light and Truth (lampstand) can and should go hand in hand…sacrifice and knowledge.

The purpose or value of the Altar was to dispense or serve as a vehicle for the incense. From Exodus 30:34-38:
34 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight:
 35 And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy:
 36 And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.
 37 And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord.
 38 Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.
Equal parts of various substances finely ground were mixed to create the incense. It is uncertain exactly what some of the ingredients were made or came from. Stacte is hypothesized to be myrrh or some other sap. Onycha comes from the Hebrew word shecheleth, which means "to roar; as a lion" or “peeling off by concussion of sound." When the Torah was translated into Greek (the Septuagint version) the Greek word “onycha” ονυξ, which means "fingernail" or "claw," was substituted for shecheleth. Possibilities include tree resins, gums, or shells. Galbanum is an aromatic gum-resin with a bitter-sweet odor and bitter taste. These were blended with frankincense to make the incense. The incense was then burned on the altar, which is described above as the "testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation", a place where the Lord will come to "meet with thee". Note also how these substances are symbolic of various aspects of Christ's life (gifts from the wise men, experiences in His life and death/crucifixion/burial).

One final connection with the Altar of Incense is the experience of the high priest Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, in the Temple (not the tabernacle). Zacharias was officiating in the temple when the following event occured, from Luke 1:5-13
 5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judæa, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
 8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course,
 
9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
 
Angels execute the will of the Father, intervening before the veil of the temple, which separates man from the throne of the Father. What miraculous connections enduring thousands of years.

025. Revelation to Apostle Parley P. Pratt following Martyrdom of Joseph & Hyrum Smith


In the immediate aftermath of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, there was much uncertainty and confusion among the some 20,000 to 30,000 saints living in Nauvoo, IL. Only two of the apostles were in Nauvoo at this time, both witnesses to the martyrdom: John Taylor and Willard Richards. Parley P. Pratt, another apostle, was on his way from Chicago to Nauvoo after learning the news of the martyrdom and was the next apostle to arrive. Parley was trusted by Joseph Smith. He published the following in his autobiography:


"During the two or three days I spent in travelling between Chicago and Peoria I felt so weighed down with sorrow and the powers of darkness that it was painful for me to converse or speak to any one, or even to try to eat or sleep. I really felt that if it had been my own family who had died, and our beloved Prophet been spared alive, I could have bourne it, and the blow would have fallen on me with far less weight. I had loved Joseph with a warmth of affection indescribable for about fourteen years. I had associated with him in private and in public, in travels and at home, in joy and sorrow, in honor and dishonor, in adversity of every kind. With him I had lain in dungeons and in chains; and with him I had triumphed overall our foes in Missouri, and found deliverance for ourselves and people in Nauvoo, where we had reared a great city. But now he was gone to the invisible world, and we and the Church of Saints were left to mourn in sorrow and without the presence of our beloved founder and Prophet. 

"As I walked along over the plains of Illinois, lonely and solitary, I reflected as follows: I am now drawing near to the beloved city; in a day or two I shall be there. How shall I meet the sorrowing widows and orphans? How shall I meet the aged and widowed mother of these two martyrs? How shall I meet an entire community bowed down with grief and sorrow unutterable? What shall I say? or how console and advise twenty-five thousand people who will throng about me in tears, and in the absence of my President and the older members of the now presiding council, will ask counsel at my hands? Shall I tell them to fly to the wilderness and deserts? Or, shall I tell them to stay at home and take care of themselves, and continue to build the Temple? With these reflections and inquiries [about the state of the saints following the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum], I walked onward, weighed down as it were unto death. When I could endure it no longer, I cried out aloud, saying: O Lord! In the name of Jesus Christ I pray Thee, show me what these things mean, and what I shall say to Thy people? On a sudden the Spirit of God came upon me, and filled my heart with joy and gladness indescribable; and while the spirit of revelation glowed in my bosom with as visible a warmth and gladness as if it were fire. The Spirit said unto me: 

"Lift up your head and rejoice; for behold! it is well with my servants Joseph and Hyrum. My servant Joseph still holds the keys of my kingdom in this dispensation, and he shall stand in due time on the earth, in the flesh, and fulfill that to which he is appointed. Go and say unto my people in Nauvoo, that they shall continue to pursue their daily duties and take care of themselves, and make no movement in church government to reorganize or alter anything until the return of the remainder of the Quorum of the Twleve. But exhort them that they continue to build the House of the Lord, which I have commanded them to build in Nauvoo."


"This information caused my bosom to burn with joy and gladness, and I was comforted above measure; all my sorrow seemed in a moment to be lifted as a burden from my back. 


"The change was so sudden I hardly dared to believe my senses; I, therefore, prayed the Lord to repeat to me the same things the second time; if needed, I might be sure of their truth, and might really tell the Saints to stay in Nauvoo, and continue to build the Temple. 

"As I prayed thus, the same spirit burned in my bosom, and the Spirit of the Lord repeated to me the same message again. I then went on in my way rejoicing, and soon arrived in Nauvoo, and delivered this message both to the people and friends individually, and in the great congregation." (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, edited by his son, Parley P. Pratt, 1873).