Thursday, August 25, 2011

Shashua -- taking delight in the law of the Lord

"Unless thy law had been my delights,
I should then have perished in my affliction."
-- Psalms 119:92

Not after our trials, but during the very worst of them, we can experience happiness, delights or pleasure (Heb. shashua), by focusing on the law -- the word -- of God.

I am reminded of the vision of the Prophet Lehi, in which he saw a rod of iron representing the word of God, leading to the Tree of Life, the love of God. While partaking of the fruit brought ultimate joy, we can believe that the journeyers also experienced delight along the way by "holding to the rod."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Doctrine and Covenants 38: Beauty of Doctrine

This week, I will finish seven months of study of the passage of scripture titled "Doctrine and Covenants 38." Such a dry, utilitarian title obscures the incredible beauty of this revelation.

If the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants attributed to Joseph Smith, first prophet of the Restoration, were indeed merely creations of his own mind, we would see them evolving in complexity over time, as the youth became a mature man. We forget sometimes just how young Joseph Smith was as leader of the Church.

But Section 38 was revealed when the Church was not even a year old, and the Prophet himself was only 25 years old. It is a fully mature,expansive passage that reveals not his mind but that of the omniscient, eternal God who revealed it to him:

"Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made ...

... Let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practise virtue and holiness before me ...

... Let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness ..."

I see these particular verses as highlighting the grand themes of the revelation: The introduction, declaring the majesty, power and imminence of God; the principles of the Zion society that He was preparing to restore to the earth -- a people of equity, purity and compassion preparing for the return of the Messiah; and the call to share the word.

Verses 31 and 39 have been footnoted to 2 Peter 3:14 and Haggai 2:8, respectively. Most apppropriate. Following the footnotes last night, I was powerfully impacted by the reality that our Eternal God works upon the same Plan that He has always had, "never varying from that which he hath said," and that all of these verses,though vastly separated in time and place, fit together beautifully, being ultimately from the same Mind, to declare the same principles of Zion, Paradise on Earth, whether amongst the ancient covenant Children of Israel, the earliest Christians or the saints of the Restoration.

God is in charge, all things are His, Zion will see the Desire of Nations, Messiah's rule of equity for all, with the glorious temple of God at its center, served by a people prepared in heart.

And I picture the Prophet Joseph on that frosty January day of 1831, gathered with the saints at Fayette, N.Y., with but a wood fire to warm the room; I hear the scrape of boots on the rough floor and the rustle of ladies' skirts. Then the light of heaven shines upon Joseph and he begins to speak the words of revelation and all the congregation is hushed as the very Laws of Zion are set forth again in supernal beauty.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

die Mauer

This month, Germany marks 50 years since the building of what may have ranked as the ugliest piece of architecture in human history -- the Berlin Wall, die Mauer as they called it.

It is gone now, along with the totalitarian state that erected it to imprison its own citizens. It seems inconceivable that some Germans today are expressing nostalgia for it ... but it is human nature over time, in all societies, for the rough edges of memory to soften and blur.

My father visited then-East Berlin in the 1980s,when it was still under the Communist boot heel. He remembers the sadness on the faces of the people, and the grim, gray streets.

In my home library is an old book from that era,"Berlin, East and West." It closes with this note:

"There is a popular Berlin song with a refrain that goes, 'In fifty years it'll all be over' ... These are the words of the optimist. The pessimist knows that short of nuclear holocaust, the only thing safe to predict about the future of East and West Berlin is that they will go on existing ..."

The optimists were right this time. Today, a reunited Berlin has regained its place among the great metropolises of the world, with a people reknowned for generosity and zest for life.