Sunday, January 21, 2018

TENDER MERCIES

If what the statisticians say is correct, I am in a definite minority when it comes to the number of books I have read after finishing my educational reading. I won't attempt to have anyone believe that all of my reading has been in the categories of faith promoting, educational or enlightening, but I did find a great deal of enjoyment, excitement and entertainment as I escaped into the imaginary worlds of my favorite authors of fictional writings.

During my retirement years I have attempted to go through the volume of the Great Books of the Western World by following the outlined 10 year course. I did very well in getting through the first six years, but Tolstoy’s War and Peace slowed me down and I have found myself struggling to get very far into the seventh year.

I may be misremembering, but I don't believe other than reviewing chapters for tests I have ever read a text or any other non-scriptural book more than once. I have no idea whether that is a good thing or not!

Gratefully, my employment kept me grounded in those writings which were faith promoting, educational and enlightening. However, I long ago gave up on arriving at an accurate number for the times I have read the Holy Bible, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon along with the holy writings of the major non-Christian religions of the world and some writings of very minor or ancient religions.

What follows in this Thought are some ponderings I have spent many hours wondering about and some very personal conclusions with which I have felt secure and comfortable. However, I hasten to say that these conclusions came from my journey and I in no way want anyone to feel like they have any universal applications.

The Old Testament – Pearl of Great Price


I will start by expressing my gratefulness that it is mainly from these two volumes of scripture that we gain the testimony of two of the three pillars, upon which Elder Bruce R. McConkie indicated the salvation of all mankind rests. Therein, we find the words of the prophets testifying that the Creation happened by the power of God and the Fall came about that men might be able to go through a probationary period with a physical body.

All too often, when reading the Old Testament and its second witness of the actuation of the Creation and the purpose of the Fall found in the Pearl of Great Price, I find myself feeling like the Nephites, who Nephi said couldn't understand the writings on the Brass Plates (a parallel volume to portions of the Old Testament) because they did not understand the thinking of the Jews. My problem is that I constantly come away from reading the Old Testament with more questions than answers which may in part be attributed to another teaching of Nephi, that there would be many plain and precious teachings changed or lost from the Old Testament.

Questions like:

I know there are consequences attached to choices, but God as described in the Old Testament often appears to be very selective in which of His children He favors. Where is the inclusive God I believe in?

The Lord of the Old Testament seems to not only bless people because they are obedient to His commandments, but because they are able to defeat other nations in war. Where is the God of Peace I believe in?

The commotion and confusion, stench and filth which attend the most sacred religious ceremonies as explained in the Old Testament definitely revolts me since I do not have the mind of a Jew. Where is the spiritual serenity which I believe to be necessary for the proper attitude of worship?

I too often find myself going through an exercise of picking and choosing as I tread the pages of these scriptural volumes.

The New Testament:

As I have read and taught from this volume of scripture, I am grateful that as Jesus the Christ fulfilled the Law in mortal sojourn, He also dramatically changed the tenants of the gospel from an emphasis on all that we should avoid doing to those things we should be doing.

From the Sermon on the Mount, He gives us a lifetime challenge of attributes of Godliness which we should be attempting to inculcate into our lives and make them an eternal part of our being.

The Savior’s summation of all the words of the law and the prophets being included in the commandments of loving the Lord God with all our might and strength and our neighbors as ourselves brings beauty in its simplicity to religion. In spite of the doubt which scholars place on the authorship of the books of the New Testament, there is little doubt of the change which has been wrought upon millions and millions of hearts because of the loving messages credited to those writers.

I have long felt that if we come away from studying the New Testament without an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the Atonement of Jesus the Christ along with His being uniquely qualified to accomplish that wonderful act of salvation and possible glorification for all of humanity, and that if it is to be but a behavioral manual for good people, we have not as yet gained the wholeness of this New Testament.

Because of non-acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity and our belief in the Godhead being made up of three distinct beings, I have often had to be careful not to leave a study or teaching of the New Testament finding that I had supplanted the importance of The Father with and overenthusiastic admiration of The Son. Gratefully the Son often reminded us of His subservience to the Father.

Doctrine and Covenants:

It is a well-established fact that no structure will ever exceed the strength of its foundation. Likewise, organizations and nations cannot succeed if the foundation established by their formers is faulty. As the Doctrine and Covenants approaches its 200th anniversary of publication in one form or another and with the knowledge that the words found in this book are revelations received by Prophets of God, the strength of this foundation stands as a support upon which all the revelations of the Latter-Days have been built.

Although the Doctrine and Covenants is the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I have found its greatest value comes when we personalize the instructions and conform our lives to the concepts found therein.

I am convinced it is only after we have a testimony of the origin of this foundational document, that we will also be able to adhere to the additional instruction which comes from the Lord to the continuing line of Apostles and Prophets.

I am grateful that the commission found in the Doctrine and Covenants, to teach and invite all to come unto Jesus Christ, amplifies the inclusiveness of His kingdom.

The Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ

Once I left the four year curriculum rotation of the Seminary classrooms and entered those of the Institute, I regularly found myself using the Book of Mormon as the subject matter for the classes I taught each year. My class load each semester would rotate over several years to include the other courses, but every semester at least one class I taught was on the Book of Mormon.

I know I am bordering on being flippant when I say the Book of Mormon ‘hums’ to me, but there is absolutely no doubt that the understanding and the love of God which fills my heart has its beginning and ending in my love for the Book of Mormon.

In the very beginning of his writings, Nephi declares he is going to show us the tender mercies of the Lord. (1 Nephi 1: 20) and as Moroni finishes his record he gives us the exhortation to remember the tender mercies of the Lord. (Moroni 10:2, 3)

It is that Father and that Son who have filled me with Their love and caused my love for Them to consume my being.

The teachings in the Book of Mormon bring remembrances of times before my mortal birth when counsel and instructions were received from Loving Parents and noble and great, spirit brothers and sisters.

The prophets boldly proclaim Heavenly Father is the God of all mankind and that He has been active in all nations among all peoples.

The Book of Mormon causes the light of the Plan of Happiness to burn brighter and illuminates the path I must walk to enjoy the fruits thereof.

I can declare with what certainty I am presently privileged to have, that I have indeed been blessed with an abundance of knowing the tender mercies of the Lord.


THOUGHTS FOR A SABBATH DAY – WILLIAM L. RILEY

EDITED BY – KATHLEEN W. RILEY