Intimacy: There is nothing more precious in life than appropriate intimacy. It means inviting someone else into your life, your thoughts, your being. It modifies and enriches your identity. The erotic or physical, aspects of real intimacy do not stand alone. They are the ultimate physical expression of a union which involves the intellect and the whole range of human thought, emotion, and purpose.
Monday, March 28, 2016
Walk the Walk: The jargon of today includes quips about talking the talk and walking the walk. The Lord said this before you heard it anywhere else: “And the members shall manifest before the church, and also before the elders, by a godly walk and conversation, that they are worthy of it, that there may be works and faith agreeable to the holy scriptures -- walking in holiness before the Lord." D&C 20:69)
Whisperings of the Spirit: Never hesitate to act upon the whisperings of the Still Small Voice within you. You may not be given a second chance. The Spirit doesn’t raise His voice.
Winners: We all came to this earth as winners, worthy of a full opportunity to achieve Exaltation and attain the “Lifestyle of the Gods” following the earthly experience.
Work: Work can be more fun than play. Few things can be more enjoyable in this life than the experience of fully giving oneself to a worthy job or cause. Nor does anything bind people together in friendship so strongly as working together in worthwhile labor.
Worship: The highest form of worship that the Lord expects from us is that we serve the least of these his brethren. It’s OK to serve those who are not the least, also, but if we are not anxiously engaged in service, our Salvation is not secure.
Worthiness: Man’s status in the eyes of God is determined totally by the choices he himself makes; not by any factor which is not a product of his own agency.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
This blog is a tribute written by my youngest son in honor of my eldest. I post it here because it is, not only a beautiful and fitting commendation of my firstborn, but also a comprehensive essay on the law of primogeniture, the special status and responsibilities traditionally associated with firstborn son in any family.
Rob the Firstborn
by JJ Brown (the last-born)
The LDS website under Gospel Topics, says this about the role of a Firstborn:
In the patriarchal order, the firstborn son is the heir and inherits the leadership of the family upon the death of the father. This is often spoken of in the scriptures as birthright (Gen. 43:33). Under the law of Moses, the Firstborn son was regarded as belonging to God, and special ordinances were provided for his redemption (Ex. 13:12–15; 22:29; Num. 3:45; Luke 2:22–23). The eldest son received a double portion of his father’s possessions (Deut. 21:17); and after his father’s death, he was responsible for the care of the mother and sisters.
Moses wrote that a father’s Firstborn “is the beginning of his strength” (Duet 21:17). The importance of the role of the Firstborn is emphasized throughout the Bible up until the time that Father in Heaven’s own Firstborn came to Earth. Then, the focus shifts to Him.
The Apostle Paul tells us that the Father seemingly chose Christ to be his Firstborn spirit child based on qualities of his pre-spirit intelligence.
JST, Romans 8:29
29 For him whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to his own image, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
In spite of the possible preselection of a father’s Firstborn, the scriptures teach us that the position must still be earned. Apostle Orson Pratt taught about this:
"Reuben only was called the first born of Israel until he lost his birthright, through transgression, which, we are told in the 5th chapter of first Chronicles, was taken from him and given to one of the sons of Joseph. But so far as age or birth was concerned, Reuben was the Firstborn; and had it not been for his transgression, he would have inherited a double portion of his father's substance, for that was the law in ancient times." (Journal of Discourses)
Ishmael was born first but did not earn his Firstborn position, so it was given to Isaac. Esau did not earn his Firstborn position, so it was given to Jacob. Reuben was also born first but did not earn his Firstborn position, so it was given to Joseph and eventually his second son, Ephraim. God said, “I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my Firstborn.” (Jeremiah 31:9).
So the Firstborn is preselected for an extra endowment and extra responsibilities but must then live up to them. Rob lives up to his station.
Rob is the only living person I know, who I can easily imagine playing a role in a Bible or Book of Mormon story. I can see him running from Potiphar’s wife, I can see him seeking more for his family and asking Mahonri Moriancumer to use his gifts for guidance. I can see him leaving his nets behind to follow the Savior. I can see him preparing defenses against invading Lamanites. When it comes to the Gospel events, Rob fits into them, whether it’s a story in the past, or a prophecy of our future. It is impossible to imagine Rob being anywhere but on the side of Enoch, on the side of Samuel the Lamanite, on the side of Moroni, or on the side of Moses.
As the Firstborn, he points us all toward the right, toward Christ and our Father in Heaven. Righteousness is his motivation. When you look upon a righteous Firstborn, you are also looking in the direction of the Father. This is why Venus is the Evening and the Morning Star. Venus is closer to the Sun than we are, so it is in the horizon at night toward the sun as it sets and in the morning sky near to where the sun comes up. When we look toward Venus, we are looking toward the sun. Christ the great Firstborn is also known as the Morning Star. In the absence of the sun, just before it appears in the morning or after it has left in the evening, the Morning Star is there. In the absence of the Father, the Firstborn should be there.
When my visa to Italy was delayed while I was in the MTC, and I was sent to South Carolina to await my visa. Rob was travelling himself and was able to meet me at the airport before I boarded my flight. Because of our age difference we hadn’t interacted a great deal one on one as adults, and I felt good knowing that even though my parents couldn’t be there, Rob was able to meet me. He sat down and talked with me for a while before he had to run to his gate, but before he left he left me an envelope and asked me to read it later.
I opened it on the plane and read his thoughts about me. Then he shared with me the words of Heavenly Father as they had come to him the night before on my behalf. He wrote that those words came to him while he had been praying and thinking on my situation. The words were pure revelation and changed my life and my mission. But I don’t credit Rob for that advice. I credit Rob for being my worthy elder brother, for praying and thinking on me, and being willing and able to receive revelation in place of my earthly father and my Father in Heaven. If felt natural and right for Rob to fill that role in my life.
Rob holds the family together horizontally. When there is a trial or trauma, Rob is always central, playing his role well under the direction of a worthy and humble father. Rob is often the one administering and overseeing the plan that is agreed to by the father. Rob’s influence and interest don’t fade away until the problem has faded, and even then there is often follow up.
Rob holds the family together vertically. Rob is the one who stays in touch and holds onto our connection with our living ancestors. He’s the one who shows up at the Brown and Johnson events. He’s the one who often instigates our own family reunions. His heart is turned to his fathers as well as to his own father’s descendants.
I feel our family is special, and that our most special assets are only now being born. I feel this family is a foothold of Zion in Babylon and will be of specific and critical use to Heavenly Father in the Last Days. I feel that Heavenly Father put one of his most worthy administrators as the First Born over this family for a wise and important purpose, and with Rob at the helm I am confident we will not fail. If he were made Presiding Bishop, my confidence in the well-being of the Church would increase.
We will follow our righteous father, but if he dips out of sight due to distance or health, our elder brother will be there in the direction of righteousness, just like our dad. If we look to him, we will be looking in the right direction. He is our own Morning Star.
This blog is my review of a small book with a big message for Christians of all denominations. The book was written by a brilliant lawyer who is a close friend and a member of our LDS ward. Because of this review, he has asked me to edit a new book he has written on God's love and how we are meant to represent him in bestowing it on one another.
GETHSEMAMNESIA – By Daniel J. McDonald
Forgotten Lessons from Gethsemane, Golgotha, and Beyond
A Book Review by Robert L. Brown
This small book is a resounding wake-up call for professed Christians, like myself, who tend to bask in the comfort zones of regular church attendance, tithing, cursory scripture study, occasional temple service, etc. (temple worthiness) but fail to consistently strive for fullest understanding of what it means to “come unto Christ.”
Human Suffering -- “GETHSEMAMNESIA” reminds us that suffering can become a sacred experience, a unique opportunity to tap into the Atonement. We are reminded that, while Christ’s suffering pays for forsaken sin, it does not automatically remove the pains of life, no matter how righteous one might be. Some of the most righteous and spiritual people we know are those whom we have seen suffer the most.
When we properly apply ourselves to the Atonement (not the converse), Christ gives us the strength to bear our adversities. It does not necessarily remove them. Jesus suffered them all – in addition to paying for the Fall of Adam and those sins of which we are able to repent – so that He could know them; so that he might more perfectly empathize with us and help us grow through the things we suffer.
“He suffered to create a portal of common experience – a temple if you will through which we can reach beyond the veil and commune with him.” Peter said, “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:13)
Dan puts it this way: “I am convinced that although God has the power to heal us, he refrains in many cases because he yearns to commune with us so much that he draws us into his bosom through the sanctuary of suffering, which is more sacred than any temple.”
The Mortality of Jesus -- In Chapter 1, Dan points out how we do the Savior a disservice as we tend to forget that the perfect God figure, Christ, was also the sinless but otherwise fully human figure, Jesus – not totally free of human frailties, as we tend to assume. The mortal Jesus didn’t want to suffer any more than we do. Not once but three times he prayed to the Father that the bitter cup pass from him.
He knew from the beginning that there was no ‘other way,’ yet, when faced with the immediate enormity of it, the ‘mortal’ Jesus momentarily shrank; but the ‘divine’ Christ had the strength to say, “… nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) This conflict of wills does not quite fit our general views about perfection.
Chapter 2 reminds us that when Jesus prayed the third time, he prayed even more earnestly. “And there appeared an angel from heaven strengthening him.” (Luke 22:43) Can there be a prayer for deliverance when there is no doubt, fear, or contrary will? Can there be a strengthening where there is no human weakness?
Perfection -- “Perfection is not what we think it is. It is not the absence of weakness or defect. It’s the paradoxical combination of weakness and strength.” It is the Savior’s triumph over doubt, fear, and weakness that make him so magnificent and his love for us so perfect.
God does not make mistakes, but he made us with flaws and made us prone to make mistakes. It is not a sin to be handicapped or weak; except, perhaps, in the case of weaknesses bought upon ourselves through the misuse of agency. God made us weak so he could strengthen us. We should not beat ourselves up because of those weaknesses. What is a sin is to fail to accept divine help when in need of strengthening, as Christ did in Gethsemane.
Obedience vs Submission -- Chapter 2 also enlarges our definition of submission. We are taught that we must submit to the Savior’s will, much as he submitted to the will of the Father. This is an absolute requirement for the level of salvation to which we, as Latter-day saints, aspire. My dictionary calls submission “obedience or compliance without resistance.” The author contends that submission, in the gospel context, requires more refined definition. “True submission and true faithfulness always requires resistance.”
Obedience to requirements that come easy to us or that we ‘would have done anyway’ is not what conditions us for Exaltation, for life in a celestial environment. For obedience to qualify as submission it must involve the exercise of agency in the suppression of one’s own will. True submission is doing the hard stuff -- like putting off the natural man and putting on Christ, loving your enemy, or keeping the Sabbath Day all the way holy.
“Jesus proved that being a human is extremely painful. He proved that being a disciple is even harder.” But, as it was for the Savior, our moment of true submission is actually a triumph -- and brings an abundance of joy.
‘Nothingness’ – The author cites numerous scriptural references that affirm the nothingness of man, along with an equal number which admonish us to obey his commands and become perfect even as he is. Then he asks: “If you are weak and prone to sin, by nature, how then is it that you can be expected to become sin-free? If you are carnal, sensual and devilish by virtue of your mortality, how is it that he can expect you to be godly? If you are a born sinner, how can he expect you to become a saint? And the answer is:
Change – A mighty change in us is, of course, the answer, but whose job is it to bring that about? If we are nothing, can we turn ourselves into something as perfect as God? How can a ‘lump of clay’ mold itself into a beautiful vase.
Dan cites a full half-dozen scriptures which all affirm that it is not our job but God’s, to effect that miracle. He reminds us of what should be obvious; that if we could do it through ‘gritty determination’ alone, there would have been no need for a Savior.
Surrender – “When you realize that overcoming your weaknesses is not your battle, you can declare, as Paul, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’” (Philippians 4:13) But we need to acknowledge our nothingness and approach God with a broken heart and a contrite spirit to ask for this intervention, and then exercise unwavering faith that he can and will transform us into one of the precious sons or daughters of Zion that Jeremiah speaks of in Lamentations 4:2.
Prayer -- Chapter 3 teaches new and/or forgotten things we need to know and remember about prayer; the main point being that prayer is not so much a means of communication as a tool for changing oneself. “You will eventually lose faith in prayer if you expect God to change your circumstances when the real point of the venture is to change you.” Answers to your prayers are most likely to come in the form of what happens to you during or as a result of the actual prayer.
Love and Service – It’s really all about love. If we love the Lord, we will serve him – by serving others. He has told us that way to best serve him. (Matthew 25:34-45) We come to love most those whom we serve most devotedly. When we come to love God, the Savior, our neighbors, our enemies, and ourselves unconditionally, as Christ and the Father love us, everything else will have fallen into place.
There is yet more in this small book, but my purpose in this review is not to point up all of its very salient points, but rather to entice you to acquire the book and be blessed by its teachings as I have been. The book can be gotten from Dan himself or ordered from lulu.com.
 The passages in this review printed in italics not otherwise credited are taken directly form the book. The highlighting of key phrases is mine.
Monday, March 7, 2016
PERDITION -- We tend not to worry much about the condition of perdition (eternal torment in ‘outer darkness’) because we are taught, informally, at least, that to qualify for that punishment one would have to be at a super high level of spiritual development, or in other words, have a true witness of Christ in our hearts and minds, and then offend the Holy Ghost by denying Him.
The bad news is that if we don’t quite quite meet the spiritual requirements that would qualify us for perdition if we were to deny Christ, we likely also lack the central and essential requirement for Exaltation!
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
AN EYE SINGLE . . .
I have written about Zion and about the veil, inspiration, consecration, The Holy Ghost, binding Satan, the condemnation related to unbelief, about agency, and about striving. I keep coming back to what I have read and learned from the Book of Ether and from Nephi about the veil and who has control of its drawstrings. I continue to strive to more fully understand what the Doctrine and Covenants (84:54-57) is trying to tell us about being under condemnation because of our unbelief. Vanity seems to have something to do with it, according to verse 55. I guess that must mean that we rely too much on our own understanding instead of truly seeking, asking, and striving for these higher blessings.
We know from the teachings of President Ezra Taft Benson, that at least part of this condemnation relates to us, as a church, for not having paid the attention that we ought to the teachings of the Book of Mormon. But the Spirit tells me to keep looking for a more complete definition of this ‘unbelief’ that is still stealing away so many promised blessings.
I keep asking myself, what is it that we don’t believe? The best answer I have come up with so far, is that it refers to our disbelief in ourselves, our ability and/or worthiness to have the same access to angels, miracles, and “the visions and blessings of old” that really haven’t returned that much, despite what the song says.
I also keep coming back to D&C 88:67-68: “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.
“68. Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you . . . .”
I have a deep suspicion that if I could fully understand and achieve the “eye single” thing, that the rest of it would fall into place of its own accord. Having an eye single to the Glory of God is kind of like laying our burdens at the Master’s feet. We all believe in it, but nobody teaches us how to do it.
Why are we so reluctant to tackle those precious things that we can only learn by the Spirit? Could it be the workings of that nebulous level of belief that most of us have in ourselves?