Sunday, December 24, 2017

085. God With Us

In one prophecy of His birth, Christ is referred to using the name-title Immanuel or Emmanuel, meaning God With Us: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:23)

Although Christ was likely born at another time of year, perhaps in the Spring around the vernal equinox as some have suggested, I am grateful for Christmas when we pause to remember His birth into mortality. His birth represents the supreme condescension of a Most Holy being from His exalted condition into this fallen and darkened world, to ransom and rescue its inhabitants from the wages of sin and death. He submitted Himself to His Father's will in all things for the salvation of His children.  His love continues to fill the hearts of all those who earnestly seek Him.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is a sacred and holy hymn that conveys the essence of our Savior's mission, power, and love. Originally written in the 12th century in Latin, music added in the 15th century, and translated in the 18th century:

1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

2 O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go. Refrain

3 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

4 O come, O Branch of Jesse's stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o'er the grave. Refrain

5 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death's abode. Refrain

6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light. Refrain

7 O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace. Refrain

"...and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth." (Moses 1:6)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

084. Out of the Silent Planet

A friend mentioned to me over breakfast that today is C.S. Lewis' birthday, his 119th. C.S. Lewis lived only 65 years, but his voluminous writings have inspired millions to seek for a more intimate relationship with Christ.

On this occasion, I thought I'd write a few thoughts about one of my favorite books of all time, The Space Trilogy, written by C.S. Lewis. Part I is called Out of the Silent Planet, which was written in the late 1930s, soon after Lewis was re-converted to Christianity. A man, unaided by or un-animated by God, could not have written these books. Anyone who has communed with the Divine, accessed truth for themselves from God, or has had even the smallest smidgen of the mysteries of Godliness revealed to them will recognize the profound truths expounded in these short novels. However, these books are unappealing to most people for many reasons. They are not filled with the quick sound-bytes that people of today prefer. They are 1930s science fiction. The sophisticated English of C. S. Lewis is off-putting to some. However, all those impediments are a small price to pay for the deep truths and profound insights that one can reap by reading these novels. There are layers of meaning and depths upon depths of truths buried within their pages. There is a lot of detail that needs to be sorted through before you get to the nuggets, but without the details, you cannot fully understand the nuggets. Most of the information conveyed by the stories in these books is extremely difficult to convey from one person to another because of the depth and complexity of the material, making it difficult to adequately summarize this book in a way that conveys the full import of what it entails, as it needs to be individually read and digested. So, perhaps only to whet your appetite, I'll provide a few excerpts.

The gist of the story is that a young professor of linguistics, Elwin Ransom, is abducted aboard a spaceship by a scientist, named Weston, and his accomplice, named Devine. They intend to transport Ransom to the nearby planet of Malacandra as they believe they have been required to bring a human sacrifice for the creatures of the planet. Weston and Devine are interested in exploiting Malacandra for the preservation of the human race. Malacandra is a terrestrial world where no evil exists until invaded by the humans of Thulcandra [earth] who bring with them a willingness to plunder and murder in order to obtain what they desire. Soon after landing, Ransom escapes his captors and befriends some of the creatures on Malacandra. One day, while hunting, a being called an eldil, an almost invisible spirit-like, angelic creature, tells Ransom that he must go to meet Oyarsa, the eldil who is ruler of the planet. After an arduous and interesting journey, Ransom arrives in Meldilorn, the home of Oyarsa and a long-awaited conversation begins.

In the course of this conversation it is explained that there are Oyéresu (the plural) for each of the planets in our solar system; in the four inner planets, which have organic life (intelligent and non-intelligent), the local Oyarsa is responsible for that life. The ruler of Earth (Thulcandra, "the silent planet"), has turned evil (become "bent") and has been restricted to Thulcandra, after "great war," by the Oyéresu and the authority of Maleldil, the ruler of the universe. Ransom is ashamed at how little he can tell Oyarsa about Earth and how foolish he and other humans seem to Oyarsa. Oyarsa then tells Ransom that he had actually been chosen to come to Malacandra and servants had been sent to fetch him.

While the two are talking, Devine and Weston are brought in guarded by some of the creatures of Malacandra, because they have killed three of a certain race. A long discussion ensues over the actions and motivations of Weston and Devine. Oyarsa, passing judgment, tells Weston and Devine that he would not tolerate the presence of such creatures, but lets them leave the planet immediately, albeit under very unfavorable orbital conditions. Oyarsa offers Ransom the option of staying on Malacandra, but Ransom decides he does not belong there, perhaps because he feels himself unworthy and perhaps because he yearns to be back among the human beings of Earth.

Oyarsa had promised Ransom that the eldila of "deep heaven" would watch over and protect him against any attacks from the other two Thulcandrians, who might seek to kill him as a way of economizing their air and food supplies during the return journey; at times, Ransom is conscious of benevolent presences within the spaceship—the eldila. After a difficult return journey, the space-ship makes it back to Earth, and is shortly "unbodied" according to Oyarsa's will.

Ransom himself half-doubts whether all that happened was true, and he realizes that others will be even less inclined to believe it if he should speak of it. However, the author (Lewis, appearing as a character) who did not previously know of Ransom's adventure, fortuitously writes to Ransom asking whether he has heard of the medieval Latin word "Oyarses" and knows what it meant. This prompts Ransom to let Lewis in on the secret. Ransom then dedicates himself to the mission that Oyarsa gave him before he left Malacandra: stopping Weston from further evil. Ransom and Lewis then collaborate—in the story, not in real life—to compose and publish Out of the Silent Planet under the guise of fiction. They realize that only a few readers will recognize their story as describing "real" events, but since they anticipate that further conflict with Weston or the Bent Oyarsa of Earth will be forthcoming, they also desire simply to familiarize many readers with the ideas contained therein.

What follows are a couple of interesting excerpts from the book...

On the nature of heavenly beings...
"Do tell me, Small One [referring to Ransom], that there are no eldila [spirit-like, angelic creatures] in your world?"
"Not that I know of. But what are eldila, and why can I not see them? Have they no bodies?"
"Of course they have bodies. There are a great many bodies you cannot see. Every animal's eyes see some things but not others. Do you know of many kinds of body in Thulcandra [earth]?"
Ransom explained the terrestrial terminology of solids, liquids, and gases.
"That is not the way to say it," it replied. "Body is movement. If it is at one speed, you smell something; if at another, you hear a sound; if at another, you see a sight; if at another, you neither see nor hear nor smell, nor know the body in any way. But mark this, Small One, that the two ends meet."
"How do you mean?"
"If movement is faster, then that which moves is more nearly in two places at once."
"That is true."
"But if the movement were faster still -- it is difficult, for you do not know many words -- you see that if you made it faster and faster, in the end the moving thing would be in all places at once, Small One."
"I think I see that."
"Well, then, that is the thing at the top of all bodies -- so fast that it is at rest, so truly body that it has ceased being a body at all. But we will not talk of that. Start from where we are, Small One. The swiftest thing that touches our senses is light. We do not truly see light, we only see slower things lit by it, so that for us light is on the edge -- the last thing we know before things become too swift for us. But the body of an eldil is a movement swift as light; you may say its body is made of light, but not of that which is light for the eldil. His "light" is a swifter movement which for us is nothing at all; and what we call light is for him a thing like water, a visible thing, a thing he can touch and bathe in -- even a dark thing when not illuminated by the swifter. And what we call firm things -- flesh and earth -- seem to him thinner, and harder to see, than our light, and more like clouds, and nearly nothing. To us the eldil is a thin, half-real body that can go through walls and rocks: to himself he goes through them because he is solid and firm and they are like cloud. And what is true light to him and fills the heaven, so that he will plunge into the rays of the sun to refresh himself from it, is to us the black nothing in the sky at night. These things are not strange, Small One, though they are beyond our senses. But it is strange that the eldila never visit Thulcandra [earth]."

On the result of no Eldila or governing Oyarsa on Earth, the Silent Planet...
They [some of the creatures of Malacandra] were astonished at what he [Ransom] had to tell them of human history -- of war, slavery, and prostitution. "It is because they have no Oyarsa," said one of them. "It is because every one of them wants to be a little Oyarsa himself," said another. "They cannot help it," said an old one. "There must be rule, yet how can creatures rule themselves? Beasts must be ruled by hnau [rational creatures] and hnau by eldila and eldila by Maleldil. These creatures have no eldila. They are like one trying to lift himself by his own hair -- or one trying to see over a whole country when he is on level with it -- like a female trying to beget young on herself."

On why Earth is known as the Silent Planet throughout the heavens...
"Thulcandra is the world we do not know. It alone is outside heaven, and no message comes from it," said Oyarsa. "It was not always so. Once we knew the Oyarsa of your world -- he was brighter and greater than I -- and then we did not call it Thulcandra. It is the longest of all stories and the bitterest. He became bent. That was before any life came on your world. Those were the Bent Years of which we still speak in the heavens, when he was not yet bound to Thulcandra but free like us. It was in his mind to spoil other worlds besides his own....We did not leave him so at large for long. There was great war, and we drove him back out of the heavens and bound him in the air of his own world as Maleldil taught us. There doubtless he lies to this hour, and we know no more of that planet: it is silent. We think that Maleldil would not give it up utterly to the Bent One, and there are stories among us that He has taken strange counsel and dared terrible things, wrestling with the Bent One in Thulcandra. But of this we know less than you; it is a thing we desire to look into." "We know nothing since the day when the Bent One sank out of heaven into the air of your world, wounded in the very light of his light." "I am allowed to tell you this. The year we are now in -- but heavenly years are not as yours -- has long been prophesied as a year of stirrings and high changes and the siege of Thulcandra may be near its end. Great things are on foot. If Maleldil does not forbid me, I will not hold aloof from them. And now, farewell."

I believe this story to be an autobiographical spiritual experience of or higher understanding gained by C.S. Lewis...camouflaged in a book of science fiction. In chapter 21 the narrator says "I am not allowed to record this conversation [between Ransom and Oyarsa], beyond saying that the voice concluded it with the words: 'You have shown me more wonders than are known in the whole of heaven'." And this is only part I. Happy birthday [in Thulcandra time] C. S. Lewis, wherever it is you now reside upon the endless fields of Deep Heaven.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

083. God Can Speak to Us through the Use of Lots

From the book, "Nephi's Isaiah" (2006):

To Elijah, as he watched the unfolding physical signs of wind, earthquake and fire, these signs were not where he found God’s will.[17] These were physical events, observable by anyone who would have been present.  They were not “emotional” or “feeling,” but were outward events.  They were used to confirm the truthfulness of the inner “voice” which spoke to him.  That inner voice, speaking intelligence to the mind, was the voice of God; to him and to you as well.

Nebuchadnezzar[18] heard God speak to Him through a dream.  Likewise, Joseph of Egypt[19] heard God speak many times in dreams containing symbols from which God’s “voice” was “heard.”  Joseph, Christ’s earthly foster-father, was also warned repeatedly through dreams.[20] It is more likely the lack of faith than the absence of communication which accounts for the apparent “silence” of God in most lives.  We just do not believe or trust in Him enough to experience what is available to us all.  The great difference between prophets and others is not in God’s willingness to speak, but in the refusal to listen.  Some listen; and they are prophets.  Others do not; and struggle to believe the prophets.  God, however, has and does speak to us all.

In choosing a replacement Apostle for the deceased and apostate Judas, the method employed by the surviving Apostles was to “cast lots.”  It is written:  “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all mean, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.  And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:24-26.)  The same method is used here by Apostles as had been used by the Lord’s crucifiers to divide up His clothing, as He was ganging on the cross in the last throes of dying.[21] When we think of the Roman guards using it to divide Christ’s clothing, it becomes less inspired-looking and more homely.  It looks more like expediency than revelation as a tool for choosing an Apostle.  Yet, at the same time, this same process is built into the scriptures for the Church today, and is used in every disciplinary council to assign roles to the High Council.[22] Without regard to feeling, emotion or desire, the lots are drawn and the assignments are made.  These physical objects contain within them the Lord’s mind for organizing a council before whom the hearing takes place.

From Nephi’s casting lots to decide who would go to address Laban,[23] to choosing a scapegoat,[24] to choosing an Apostle, to choosing roles in a disciplinary court, casting of lots has been the way people of faith have determined God’s will for millennia.  Through it God “speaks.”  But it requires faith to see it in that light.  For these are ordinary, even commonplace ways of making a decision.  Only through faith does it acquire the “voice of God” in it.

We are unique, and God’s ways of speaking to each of us is as unique as each of us.  We do ourselves a great disservice when we attempt to fit ourselves into a singular, stereotypical persona seeking only a singular way for God to talk with and to us.  We make ourselves into something we aren’t, in the search to find what cannot be found that way.  If we demand only the extraordinary before we will recognize His voice, we run the risk of looking in the wrong way for Him.  His voice is there.  He speaks to all of us.  But we can miss it if we are not attuned to listen.

You may never be able to hear God speak to you in the way in which others hear Him.  If you determine He must speak to you in a specific way, you can go a lifetime without ever having a conversation with Him.  He longs to speak with each of us.  Within each of us there is something uniquely attuned to Him.  How He reaches out to you may be as singular and unique as you are and you can be assured He is reaching out.  In fact, God is rather noisy, if you will allow Him to be.  We were never intended to live without a direct connection to Him.  Instead, we should hear His voice, and in time discover He is our “friend.”[25]

[17] 1 Kings 19:11-14:  “And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a astill small bvoice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very ajealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am bleft; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
[18] See Daniel, Chapter 2.
[19] See Genesis, Chapter 41.
[20] See Matthew, Chapter 2.
[21] Matt. 27:33-36:  “And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of aa skull, They gave him avinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. And they acrucifiedhim, and bparted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my cgarments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there;
[22] See D&C 102:12-17:  “Whenever a high council of the church of Christ is regularly organized, according to the foregoing pattern, it shall be the duty of the twelve councilors to cast lots by numbers, and thereby ascertain who of the twelve shall speak first, commencing with number one and so in succession to number twelve. Whenever this council convenes to act upon any case, the twelve councilors shall consider whether it is a difficult one or not; if it is not, two only of the councilors shall speak upon it, according to the form above written. But if it is thought to be difficult, four shall be appointed; and if more difficult, six; but in no case shall more than six be appointed to speak. The accused, in all cases, has a right to one-half of the council, to prevent insult or ainjustice.  And the councilors appointed to speak before the council are to present the case, after the evidence is examined, in its true light before the council; and every man is to speak according to equity and ajustice. Those councilors who adraw even numbers, that is, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12, are the individuals who are to stand up in behalf of the accused, and prevent insult and binjustice.”
[23] 1 Nephi 3:11.
[24] Leviticus 16:8: “And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.”
[25] See, e.g., D&C 84:77:  “And again I say unto you, my friends, for from henceforth I shall call you friends,” among other places.

Friday, September 1, 2017

082. Live A Pure And Selfless Life Of Service; Be a Friend To All, Your Own Critic, And Ever Kind; Become One With All Life

Dhammapada Part VII

The final two chapters of the Dhammapada are included in this post. These chapters speak of those who have overcome this world...freeing themselves from every kind of worldly ambition and selfish desire. In Buddhism, one is not judged on their status or external characteristics, but by their spiritual growth. Those who have learned what life has to teach them are not compelled by past karma to take on a body again. The Buddha understood that the most suitable environment for working towards such goals was away from the world, surrounded by others who were engaged in the same quest.

The final two chapters included here are entitled "bhikshu" (monk) and "brahmin" (priest). These terms do not necessarily refer to a member of an established religious order, but to anyone who wholeheartedly commits to a life focused on an inward spiritual journey and practice; who desires to set themselves apart from the world and pursue the things of God above all else. So, when used in the following passages, think of these terms as what yourself, as a spiritual seeker, can become. Such persons accept with an equal mind and heart all that comes their way, they live to give instead of receive, and they exhibit good will toward all life. Although the Buddha attempted the practice of self-depravation of the body early on in his search for enlightenment, he learned for himself that such an approach did not help him progress. Instead, he taught a "middle way", in which self-will was crushed through meditation, doing good, and vanquishing selfish desires, rather than starvation and denying oneself joys that are important to the soul. He rejected asceticism, and it is incorrect to think of the Buddha as a shaved head mendicant who ate only leftovers put into his bowl. Overzealous followers may have starved and tortured their own bodies, just as monks and nuns have done in other religious traditions, but the Buddha himself advocated a long, vigorous, and healthy life dedicated to the service of all.

I hope reading these passages over the past week has been helpful to you in preparing for what lies ahead in your life. God bless you in your quest to overcome this world and to come into contact more fully with God.

The Bhikshu

Train your eyes and ears; train your nose and tongue. The senses are good friends when they are trained. (360) Train your body in deeds, train your tongue in words, train your mind in thoughts. This training will take you beyond sorrow. (361)

He is a true bhikshu who has trained his hands, feet, and speech to serve others. He meditates deeply, is at peace with himself, and lives in joy. (362)

He is a true bhikshu who keeps repeating his mantram (i.e., short prayer), lives simply, and explains the dharma (i.e., law, unity of life, the Way) in sweet words. (363)

He is a true bhikshu who follows the dharma, meditates on the dharma, rejoices in the dharma, and therefore never falls away from the dharma. (364)

He is a bhikshu who is content with what he receives and is never jealous of others. Those who are jealous cannot do well in meditation. (365) 

Even the gods praise the bhikshu who is contented and lives a pure life of selfless service. (366) Free from the desire to possess people and things, he does not grieve over what is not. (367)

Bhikshu, empty your boat. It will go faster. Cast out greed and hatred and reach nirvana. (369)

Overcome the five obstacle, rise above the five selfish attachments, and you will cross the river of life. (370)

Meditate, bhikshu, meditate. Do not run after sense pleasures. Do not swallow a red-hot iron ball and then cry "I am in great pain". (371)

There can be no meditation for those who are not wise, and no wisdom for those who do not meditate. Growing in wisdom through meditation, you will surely be close to nirvana. (372) 

When a bhikshu stills his mind, he enters an empty house; his heart is full of the divine joy of the dharma. (373) Understanding the rise and fall of the elements that make up the body, he gains the joy of immortality. (374) 

Learn to be wise, O bhikshu. Train your senses; be contented. Follow the teachings of the dharma and keep pure and noble friends. (375) Be a friend of all. Perform your duties well. Then, with your joy ever growing, you will put an end to sorrow. (376) 

As the varsika plant sheds its faded flowers, O bhikshu, shed all greed and hatred. (377) He is a bhikshu who is calm in thought, word, and deed, and has turned his back upon the allurements of the world. (378)

Raise yourself by your own efforts, O bhikshu; be your own critic. Thus self-reliant and vigilant, you will live in joy. (379) Be your own master and protector. Train your mind as a merchant trains his horse. (380)

Full of peace and joy is the bhikshu who follows the dharma and reaches the other shore beyond the flux of mortal life. (381) Full of light is the young bhikshu who follows the dharma. He lights up the world as the moon lights a cloudless sky. (382)

The Brahmin

Cross the river bravely; conquer all your passions. Go beyond the world of fragments and know the deathless ground of life. (383)

Cross the river bravely; conquer all your passions. Go beyond your likes and dislikes and all fetters will fall away. (384)

Who is a true brahmin? That one I call a brahmin who has neither likes nor dislikes and is free from the chains of fear. (385)

Who is a true brahmin? That one I call a brahmin who has trained the mind to be still and reached the supreme goal of life. (386)

That one I call a brahmin who has shed all evil. I call that one a recluse whose mind is serene; a wanderer, whose heart is pure. (388)

That one I call a brahmin who is never angry, never causes harm to others even when harmed by them. (389)

That one I call a brahmin who clings not to pleasure. Do not cause sorrow to others; no more sorrow will come to you. (390)

That one I call a brahmin who does not hurt others with unkind acts, words, or thoughts. Both body and mind obey him. (391)

It is not matted hair nor birth that makes a brahmin, but truth and the love for all of life with which one's heart is full. (393) What use is matted hair? What use is a deerskin on which to sit for meditation if your mind still seethes with lust? (394)

Saffron robe and outward show do not make a brahmin, but training of the mind and senses through practice of meditation. (395) Neither riches nor high caste makes a brahmin. Free yourself from selfish desires and you will become a brahmin. (396)

The brahmin has thrown off all chains and trembles not in fear. No selfish bonds can ensure such a one, no impure thought pollute the mind. (397)

That one I call a brahmin who has cut through the strap and thong and chain of karma. Such a one has got up from sleep, fully awake. (398)

That one I call a brahmin who fears neither prison nor death. Such a one has the power of love no army can defeat. (399)

That one I call a brahmin who is never angry, never goes astray from the path who is pure and self-controlled. This body is the last. (400)

That one I call a brahmin whose wisdom is profound and whose understanding deep, who by following the right path and avoiding the wrong has reached the highest goal. (403)

That one I call a brahmin who has put aside weapons and renounced violence toward all creatures. Such a one neither kills nor helps others to kill. (405)

That one I call a brahmin who is never hostile to those who are hostile toward him, who is detached among those who are selfish and at peace among those at war. (406)

That one I call a brahmin from whom passion and hatred, arrogance and deceit, have fallen away like mustard seed from the point of a needle. (407)

That one I call a brahmin who is ever true, ever kind. (408) Such a one never asks what life can give, only "What can I give life?" (409)

That one I call a brahmin who has found his heaven, free from every selfish desire, free from every impurity. (410) Wanting nothing at all, doubting nothing at all, master of both body and mind, such a one has gone beyond time and death. (411) 

That one I call a brahmin who has risen above the duality of this world, free from sorrow and free from sin. Such a one shines like the full moon with no cloud in the sky. (413)

That one I call a brahmin who has crossed the river difficult and dangerous to cross, and safely reached the other shore. (414)

That one I call a brahmin who has turned his back upon himself. Homeless, such a one is ever at home; egoless, he is ever full. (415)

Self-will has left his mind; it will never return. Sorrow has left his life; it will never return. (416)

That one I call a brahmin who has overcome the urge to possess even heavenly things and is free from all selfish attachments. (417)

That one I call a brahmin who is free from bondage to human beings and to nature alike, the hero who has conquered the world. (418)

That one I call a brahmin who is free from I, me, and mine, who knows the rise and fall of life. Such a one is awake and will not fall asleep again. (419)

That one I call a brahmin whose way no one can know. Such a one lives free from past and future, free from decay and death. (420)

Possessing nothing, desiring nothing for their own pleasure, their own profit, they have become a force for good, working for the freedom of all. (421)

That one I call a brahmin who is fearless, heroic, unshakable, a great sage who has conquered death and attained life's goal. (422)

Brahmins have reached the end of the way; they have crossed the river of life. All that they had to do is done: they have become one with all life. (423)

The End

Thursday, August 31, 2017

081. Bear Harsh Words With Patience; Avoid Negative Thoughts; Break Bonds Of Selfish Desire

Dhammapada Part VI

Patiently I shall bear harsh words as the elephant bears arrows on the battlefield. People are often inconsiderate. (320)

Best among men are those who have trained the mind to endure harsh words patiently. (321)

Best among men is one with a well-trained mind. (322)

No animal can take you into nirvana; only a well-trained mind can lead you to this untrodden land. (323)

Eating too much, sleeping too much, like an overfed hog, those too lazy to exert effort are born again and again. (325)

Long ago my mind used to wander as it liked and do what it wanted. Now I can rule my mind as the mahout (i.e., a tender of elephants) controls the elephant with his hooked staff. (326)

Be vigilant; guard your mind against negative thoughts. Pull yourself out of bad ways as an elephant raises itself out of the mud. (327)

If you find a friend who is good, wise, and loving, walk with him all the way and overcome all dangers. (328)

If you cannot find a friend who is good, wise, and loving, walk alone, like a king who has renounced his kingdom or an elephant roaming at will in the forest. (329) 

It is better to be alone than to live with the immature. Be contented, and walk alone like a roaming elephant in the forest. Turn away from evil. (330)

It is good to live in virtue, good to have faith, good to attain the highest wisdom, good to be pure in heart and mind. Joy will be yours always. (333)

The compulsive urges of the thoughtless grow like a creeper. They jump like a monkey from one life to another, looking for fruit in the forest. (334)

When these urges drive us, sorrow spreads like a wild grass. (335) Conquer these fierce cravings and sorrow will fall away from your life like drops of water from a lotus leaf. (336)

Therefore I say, dig up craving root and all, as you would uproot birana grass, if you do not want Mara (i.e., adversary/tempter) to crush you as the stream crushes reeds on its banks. (337)

As a tree, though cut down, recovers and grows if its roots are not destroyed, suffering will come to you more and more if these compulsive urges are not extinguished. (338)

All human beings are subject to attachment and thirst for pleasure. Hankering after these, they are caught in the cycle of birth and death. (341) Driven by this thirst, they run about frightened like a hunted hare, suffering more and more. (342) Overcome this thirst and be free. (343)

Some, if they manage to come out of one forest of cravings, are driven into another. Though free, they run into bondage again. (344)

Fetters of wood, rope, or even iron, say the wise, are not as strong as selfish attachment to wealth and family. (345) Such fetters drag us down and are hard to break. Break them by overcoming selfish desires, and turn from the world of sensory pleasure without a backward glance. (346)

Like a spider caught in its own web is a person driven by fierce cravings. Break out of the web, and turn away from the world of sensory pleasure and sorrow. (347)

If you want to reach the other shore of existence, give up what is before, behind, and in between. Set your mind free, and go beyond birth and death. (348)

If you want to reach the other shore, do not let doubts, passions, and cravings strengthen your fetters. (349) Meditate deeply, discriminate between the pleasant and the permanent, and break the fetters of Mara (i.e., adversary/tempter). (350)

Those who are free from fear, thirst, and sin have removed all the thorns from their life. This body is their last. (351)

They are supremely wise who are free from compulsive urges and attachments, and who understand what words really stand for. This body is their last. (352)

I have conquered myself and live in purity. I know all. I have left everything behind, and live in freedom. Having taught myself, to whom shall I point as teacher? (353)

Greed ruins the mind as weeds ruin fields. Therefore honor those who are free from greed. (356)

Lust ruins the mind as weeds ruin fields. Therefore honor those who are free from lust. (357)

Hatred ruins the mind as weeds ruin fields. Therefore honor those who are free from hatred. (358)

Selfish desires ruin the mind as weeds ruin fields. Therefore honor those who are free from selfish desire. (359)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

080. 1st Time In History: Complete New Translation Of The Bible Published

On August 28, 2017, for the 1st time in history, and 184 years, 1 month, and 27 days following the completion of Joseph Smith's revelatory work on the New Translation of the Bible (July 2, 1833), a complete edition that includes all of his additions, corrections, and deletions from 446 pages of dictated translation manuscripts, as well as insertions and deletions written into his personal KJV Bible, has been published. With little fanfare and in an understated announcement, the Restoration Edition (RE) Scripture Committee released the full text here on August 29, 2017.

This is certainly something to rejoice over, express gratitude for, and celebrate!

Although there are many versions of the "Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible" (or JST) in existence, all include only a portion of the total number of revisions that Joseph made to the Bible. For example, although it is estimated that Joseph Smith made edits to more than 3,400 verses in the Bible, only about 600 of those changes are included in the KJV currently used by the LDS Church. The LDS church has only officially canonized the Book of Moses and Joseph Smith's revision to part of the Gospel of Matthew in their scriptures, both published in the Pearl of Great Price.

The importance of the New Translation of the Bible to the LDS church is summed up by this statement, published in the church-owned Church News on December 7, 1974: "The Inspired Version does not supplant the King James Version as the official Church version of the Bible, but the explanations and changes made by the Prophet Joseph Smith provide enlightenment and useful commentary on many biblical passages." Yet, in 1984, and speaking of then created LDS JST of the Bible with its roughly 600 edits included, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated the following:
"The Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version, is a thousand times over the best Bible now existing on earth. It contains all that the King James Version does, plus pages of additions and corrections and an occasional deletion. It was made by the spirit of revelation, and the changes and additions are the equivalent of the revealed word in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. For historical and other reasons, there has been among some members of the Church in times past some prejudice and misunderstanding of the place of the Joseph Smith Translation. I hope this has now all vanished away. Our new Church Bible footnotes many of the major changes made in the Inspired Version and has a seventeen-page section which sets forth excerpts that are too lengthy for inclusion in the footnotes. Reference to this section and to the footnotes themselves will give anyone who has spiritual insight a deep appreciation of this revelatory work of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is one of the great evidences of his prophetic call" (The Bible - A Sealed Book, 1984).
Indeed, the New Translation contains corrections that shed light on countless issues, problems, questions, and doctrines, and also restores many lost truths. Many of the revelations in the LDS Doctrine & Covenants are in some way connected to Joseph's work on the New Translation, including background on the Apocrypha (LDS section 91), the three degrees of glory (LDS section 76), teachings on baptism for the dead (LDS section 124), the Book of Revelation (LDS sections 77 and 86), and various revelations on priesthood (LDS sections 84, 88, 107), as well as other sections (LDS sections 37, 45, 73, and 91).

Scriptural Basis for the New Translation of the Bible

LDS 1 Nephi 13:26-29  And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men. Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God. And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.

LDS 1 Nephi 14:23  Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 6:26-27 (April 1829)  Verily, verily, I say unto you, that there are records which contain much of my gospel, which have been kept back because of the wickedness of the people; And now I command you, that if you have good desires—a desire to lay up treasures for yourself in heaven—then shall you assist in bringing to light, with your gift, those parts of my scriptures which have been hidden because of iniquity.

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 42:14-15, 56-58 (February 9 and 23, 1831)  And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach. And all this ye shall observe to do as I have commanded concerning your teaching, until the fulness of my scriptures is given....Thou shalt ask, and my scriptures shall be given as I have appointed, and they shall be preserved in safety; And it is expedient that thou shouldst hold thy peace concerning them, and not teach them until ye have received them in full. And I give unto you a commandment that then ye shall teach them unto all men; for they shall be taught unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and people.

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 45:60-62 (March 7, 1831)  And now, behold, I say unto you, it shall not be given unto you to know any further concerning this chapter, until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known; Wherefore I give unto you that ye may now translate it, that ye may be prepared for the things to come. For verily I say unto you, that great things await you;

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 73:3-4 (January 10, 1832)  Now, verily I say unto you my servants, Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, saith the Lord, it is expedient to translate again; And, inasmuch as it is practicable, to preach in the regions round about until conference; and after that it is expedient to continue the work of translation until it be finished.

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 90:12-14 (March 8, 1833)  And now, verily I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment that you continue in the ministry and presidency. And when you have finished the translation of the prophets, you shall from thenceforth preside over the affairs of the church and the school;

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 93:53 (May 6, 1833)  And, verily I say unto you, that it is my will that you should hasten to translate my scriptures, and to obtain a knowledge of history, and of countries, and of kingdoms, of laws of God and man, and all this for the salvation of Zion. Amen.

LDS Doctrine & Covenants 94:10 (August 2, 1833)  And again, verily I say unto you, the second lot on the south shall be dedicated unto me for the building of a house unto me, for the work of the printing of the translation of my scriptures, and all things whatsoever I shall command you.

LDS Articles of Faith 1:8  We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

Joseph Smith: On Error in the Bible

"From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points, touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled." History, 1838-1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805 - 30 August 1834], p. 183. January 25 - February 16, 1832)

"From what we can draw from the scriptures relative to the teachings of heaven we are induced to think, that much instruction has been given to man since the beginning which we have not...We have what we have, and the Bible contains what it does contain; but to say that God never said any thing more to man than is there recorded, would be saying at once, that we have at last received a revelation; for it must be one to advance thus far, because it is no where said in that volume by the mouth of God, that he would not, after giving what is there contained, speak again." (Letter to the Church, circa March 1834, p. 143.)

"[There are] many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelation of the Holy Ghost to me." (The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat & Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 211; From 11 June 1843. spelling and capitalization modernized).

"I believe the bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers; ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors." (History of the Church, 1838 - 1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843 - 30 April 1844], p. 1755. October 15, 1843).

"God may correct the scripture by me if he chooses." (Words of Joseph Smith, 191).

"I have the oldest book in the world and the Holy Ghost. I thank God for the old book, but more for the Holy Ghost." (Words of Joseph Smith, 345).

Joseph Smith's Work of Translation

Thus, the work on the New Translation began in June of 1830, starting with work on the Book of Genesis and the vision of Moses. This was just after the Book of Mormon was published and the church was organized, both in the Spring of 1830, which was a very busy time for the work of the Restoration. The translation and review of the New Testament was completed on February 2, 1833 and the Old Testament was completed on July 2, 1833.

Why Was the New Translation Never Published?

Although the New Translation work was completed 11 years before the prophet's death, it was never published in its entirety during his lifetime. During that time, Joseph continued to revise the manuscripts to prepare them for printing and excerpts from the New Translation were published in early church periodicals and various verses were also used in the Lectures on Faith. The failure to publish the New Translation was not due to any lack of effort on Joseph Smith’s part, but was rather due to the saints inability to provide the temporal support to Joseph so that he could complete the work. As early as 1831 through nearly the end of his life, the Lord instructed the saints to temporally support Joseph's translation of the Bible as well as it's publication. Regarding the way in which the New Translation should be published, Joseph Smith said the following: "It is not the will of the Lord to print any of the new Translation in the Star; but when it is published, it will all go to the world together, in a volume by itself; and the New Testament and the Book of Mormon will be printed together." (April 21, 1833, Letterbook 1, p. 35). As early as August 6, 1833, a month after the New Translation was completed, Joseph Smith stated the following: "You will see by these revelations that we have to print the new translation here at kirtland for which we will prepare as soon as possible" (Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams to Edward Partridge, August 6, 1833, Joseph Smith Collection, Church History 235 Library). This statement had reference to the printing press owned by the church that was destroyed in July of that same year just as the translation work had completed, and that a new printer would need to be sought for. Such an approach would require the enlistment of a printer to typeset the entire Bible, a very costly endeavor in those days. Thus, the primary reason for the New Translation not being published during the lifetime of the prophet Joseph Smith was a lack of available funds and temporal support of the prophet. The saints also faced many other challenges and difficulties during this period, which made the accumulation of sufficient funds difficult. However, several sources show that Joseph felt an urgent desire to publish the New Translation and regularly expressed disappointment that the Saints could not raise the money to get it printed:

  • The following revelation was received in February 1831, “And if ye desire the glories of the kingdom, appoint ye my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and uphold him before me by the prayer of faith. And again, I say unto you, that if ye desire the mysteries of the kingdom, provide for him food and raiment, and whatsoever thing he needeth to accomplish the work wherewith I have commanded him.” (LDS D&C 43:12–13.) The "mysteries of the kingdom", as a direct result of the knowledge revealed in the translation, were promised as the saints sacrificed to support the work that Joseph was asked to do. 
  • Later that year on October 25, 1831, also during the process of translation, at a conference of the church in Hiram, Ohio, Joseph Smith petitioned the saints for temporal aid to enable him to do his work, specifically mentioning the translation of the scriptures: “Brother Joseph Smith, Jr. said … that the promise of God was that the greatest blessings which God had to bestow should be given to those who contributed to the support of his family while he was translating the fulness of the Scriptures...that God had often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness in the Church...and except the Church receive the fulness of the Scriptures that they would yet fail.” (Far West Report, p. 16, quoted in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938, p. 9). 
  • The journal entry of Reynolds Cahoon of November 9, 1831 indicates he was sent on a mission to gather funds for the translation work: “Started for hiram to fulfill my mission to the churches which was given to Br. David and myself to obtain mony or property for Brs Joseph and others to finish the translation.” (Journal of Reynolds Cahoon, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). 
  • On 25 June 1833, the Prophet wrote to Brother W.W. Phelps in Missouri: “In regard to the printing of the New Translation: It cannot be done until we can attend to it ourselves, and this we will do as soon as the Lord permits.” (History of the Church, 1:365). 
  • Again on April 23, 1834, the Lord asked the saints to publish the New Translation: “And for this purpose I have commanded you to organize yourselves, even to print my words, the fulness of my scriptures, the revelations which I have given unto you.” (LDS D&C 104:58.) 
  • Again on June 18, 1840, the plea went out to support the work of Joseph in the spiritual affairs of the church, including the publication of the Bible: "[for] the time has now come, when he should devote himself exclusively to those things which relate to the spiritualities of the Church, and commence the work of translating the Egyptian records, [and] the Bible.” 
  • And again in July of that same year, two elders were called to collect money for the publication of various books, including the New Translation: “To all whom it may concern:—This is to certify that Elders Samuel Bent and George W. Harris are authorized agents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, being appointed by the First Presidency and High Council of said Church to visit the branches of the Church … to obtain donations and subscriptions for the purpose of printing the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, hymn-books, the new translation of the scriptures. … We do hope the Saints will do all in their power to effect the object proposed. [signed] Joseph Smith, Jun., President.” (History of the Church, 4:164). 
  • And again, on September 1, 1840 an “Epistle of the First Presidency to the Saints Scattered Abroad” included a call to the members of the church to provide financial contributions to the building up of the kingdom and specifically “the printing and circulation of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, hymn-book, and the new translation of the Scriptures.” (History of the Church, 4:187; also Times and Seasons, vol. 1, no. 12, Oct. 1840, p. 179).
  • On January 19, 1841, in a revelation to William Law, the Lord spoke about publishing the New Translation: “If he will do my will let him from henceforth hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph, … and publish the new translation of my holy word unto the inhabitants of the earth.” (LDS D&C 124:89.)
  • On January 15, 1842, the Times & Seasons contained a notice that the “Trustee [Joseph Smith] needed time to arrange the scriptures, including the New Translation of the Bible … for the press.” (Vol. 3, no. 6, p. 667).
  • In February of 1842, the Council of the Twelve published a notice in the Times & Seasons, requesting assistance from the saints, especially in the building of a temple and supporting the prophet so that he could work on projects “such as the new translation of the bible, and the record of Father Abraham [can be] published to the world.” (Vol. 3, no. 9, March 1842, p. 715.
  • On October 15, 1842, another announcement was made in the Times & Seasons “the new translation of the bible, and the book of Doctrine and Covenants are entirely dependent on the liberality of the well-disposed for the cause of our Redeemer.” (Vol. 3, no. 24, 15 October 1842, p. 958.) 
  • On March 1, 1843, the Council of the Twelve issued another epistle requesting financial and material aid for the prophet to enable him to bring forth the spiritual things of the church, specifically mentioning the “revelations, translation, and history”:
    • “BELOVED BRETHREN:—As our beloved President Joseph Smith is now relieved from his bondage and his business, temporarily, and his property, too, he has but one thing to hinder his devoting his time to the spiritual interests of the Church, to the bringing forth of the revelations, translation, and history. And what is that? He has not provision for himself and family, and is obliged to spend his time in providing therefor. His family is large and his company great, and it requires much to furnish his table. And now, brethren, we call on you for immediate relief in this matter; and we invite you to bring our President as many loads of wheat, corn, beef, pork, lard, tallow, eggs, poultry, venison, and everything eatable at your command, (not excepting unfrozen potatoes and vegetables, as soon as the weather will admit,) flour, etc., and thus give him the privilege of attending to your spiritual interest.
A little over a year later, Joseph Smith was murdered and the New Translation remained unpublished. Despite all the attempts and reminders to gather funds to support the work of publishing the translation, it was never completed. It can be concluded that the major reason for failure to publish the New Translation of the Bible is the inadequate response from the saints in providing temporal assistance. It would appear that the work of translation was largely acceptable to the Lord very early on, and although the manuscript itself and other details were not completely ready for the press at that time, it was the lack of effort and acceptable sacrifice on the part of the saints to provide the means for the publication of the New Translation to become a reality.

New Translation after the Death of Joseph Smith

Emma Smith retained the manuscripts and documents pertaining to the New Translation and was not willing to turn them over to the Quorum of the Twelve. In 1845, John Bernhisel asked Emma permission to use the manuscript to copy notes into his own KJV Bible. The LDS Church has Bernhisel's Bible in its archives, but it contains less than half of the corrections. For many years the "Bernhisel Bible" was the only New Translation source for LDS Church members living in the Salt Lake Valley. In 1866, Emma Smith gave the manuscript into the custody of the RLDS Church, of which she was a member and her son Joseph Smith III was the prophet-president. In 1867, the RLDS Church published the 1st edition of the New Translation and obtained a copyright for it (which has now expired). The publication committee added chapter and verse divisions patterned after those in traditional Bibles (rather than following those on the manuscripts), and they standardized spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. The RLDS Church (CoC), still retains the original manuscripts and publishes the Inspired Version through its publishing arm, Herald House Publishing.


After more than 184 years since the conclusion of the work on the New Translation, a complete edition has now been published, faithful to the process of translation followed by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. and including all of his edits and revisions. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will notice many significant and important differences between the LDS KJV and the Restoration Edition of the New Translation, published this week. No more is there a need to flip to an appendix (and lose your train of thought in the process) or to search through footnotes in order to find revisions made by the prophet Joseph Smith. All additions, corrections, and deletions are made unabashedly and seamlessly within the text itself, to be read in one continuous flow of revelation and truth. This is truly a gift to be cherished, studied, and appreciated by all seekers of truth.

It is not the point of this post to castigate the early saints for their failure to follow the counsel received from the Lord to support the work of translation. Coming from an institution that is allergic to any discussion of its past failures, its member are unable to learn from them. Only by learning from our past mistakes will we be less likely to repeat them. The early saints were prophetically warned: "except the Church receive the fulness of the Scriptures that they would yet fail". Thus, the inability of the saints to muster the will to publish the New Translation was likely a key contributor to the interruption in the restoration following the death of Joseph Smith. The publication of the complete New Translation of the Bible represents a step in our collective repentance before the Lord for taking His word and work lightly. 

Reference: Matthews, RJ (1983). Joseph Smith’s Efforts to Publish His Bible “Translation”. Ensign, Jan, 57-64.