Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Four of the Most Amazing Promises in All Scripture

For years now I have gradually increased my focus on how certain phrases in the scriptures are worded to help me dig deeper into the spiritual layers of the words of prophets and our Savior. Having Asperger's syndrome makes it a lot easier to really dissect the phrasing and really get down to the juice caramel center of Holy Writ.

One of the key passages that I have repeatedly noticed uses some pretty awesome phrasing is Matt 5:5-8. These four verses each contain one key word that solidifies them as not only some of the most comforting promises in all scripture but also some of the most ironclad. That word is "shall".

I absolutely love any time the Lord makes a promise and says that the blessings we receive as a part of that promise "shall" come to pass.  There are no ifs, maybes, buts or unless's, etc. The promises made with the conditions spelled out are guaranteed. You don't find that kind of thing very often in this life. So many times have General Authorities taught that living the gospel does increase the chances of overall happiness but rarely guarantee when or how or even how often that will happen because of the Fall. But the promises in these verses are ironclad and guaranteed. I want to give each of them separate and deliberate attention to show what I have seen and felt as I have studied them. Let's pick 'em apart.

5. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Many times, as illustrated above, the real meaning of certain verses in scripture comes out more by focusing on what it doesn't say. Let's look at the word "inherit." If you inherit something, you didn't get it by working for it or because you deserve it, but because someone else earned, bought and/or acquired it and you get to have it because you happened to be in some sort of legal will or perhaps bloodline down which said thing has been passed for generations. You get it because of who you are, not what you have done.

In the case of this verse, Jesus promises us that those who are meek will inherit the earth. Whoa, wait a minute, did you catch that? The entire earth? As in the whole physical globe, the planet we call earth, the entire planet, will become the property of the those who are meek? That's all there is to it? The answer is an incredible YES! Does that sound too simple? Did you immediately think "ummm... hold on, sir, there's more to it than that"? Well, lets look at what it means to be meek and see if we can find out if it's really as simple as the phrasing our Savior used.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, one of His apostles, said the following about meekness.
  • "Meekness is thus so much more than a passive attribute that merely deflects discourtesy. Instead, it involves spiritual and intellectual activism: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra 7:10; see also 2 Chronicles 19:3, 20:33). Meek Nephi, in fact, decried the passivity of those who “will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness” (2 Nephi 32:7). Alas, most are unsearching—quite content with a superficial understanding or a general awareness of spiritual things (see Alma 10:5–6). This condition may reflect either laziness or, in Amulek’s case, the busyness usually incident to the cares of the world.  Intellectual meekness is a persistent as well as particular challenge. Without it, we are not intellectually open to things that we “never had supposed” (Moses 1:10). Alas, some have otherwise reached provincial and erroneous conclusions and do not really want to restructure their understanding of things. Some wish neither to be shaken nor expanded by new data."("Meek and Lowly”, Oct. 21, 1986 Devotional at BYU)
I think it becomes much clearer why, of all the attributes of God Jesus chose to use as the most prominent of those who would inherit the earth, He chose meekness. Elder Maxwell describes this virtue as not just one of holding back when the time is not right to speak or act, but also - in contrast - as a virtue that expands the mind and soul, emboldens and fine tunes the spiritual senses and glorifies a man or woman who can stand in quiet, yet brilliant and unyielding majesty in the presence of the prideful and benighted of the world; someone familiar with, as President Monson said, the "glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so."

Such meekness is surely a forerunner of Godliness and a one of the keystones in the marble arch of charity. No wonder only those who have it are given the unconditional promise of inheriting the earth itself.

6. And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Anyone who is more well versed in the New Testament will see slight difference in wording from the King James Version. The last phrase "with the Holy Ghost" is only found in the Lord's similar discourse to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon as the resurrected Lord.

A few years back, I had wondered and discussed with my wife the idea of having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost with us every second of every single day and wondered if it was truly possible. I mean, we all sin and render ourselves unworthy of the full presence of the Holy Ghost many times a day with things we do wrong that we don't often think twice about, so is it really possible? Even the Lord tells us "my Spirit shall not always strive with man" (D&C 1). But then I realized that the only reason the Holy Ghost doesn't always strive with us is because we are not following the counsel of King Benjamin, which, if we do, we are promised constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. King Benjamin says this:
  • 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. And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true. (Mosiah 4
Wow! Did you see that!? Yes, we CAN be filled with the Holy Ghost, according to the Lord's promise in Matthew, if we are constantly hungering and thirsting after righteousness. That's obviously more easily said than done. There are seemingly innumerable means the devil uses to distract, deceive and discourage us, but I find comfort in President Nelson's words, "It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought. But when we do, our doubts and fears flee." And we've been given an incredible promise when we do, being filled with the Holy Ghost. Just as an additional incentive for you and I to narrow our focus on righteousness and thereby receive such an amazing gift, here's a small description, limited by mortal words, that paints a picture of what it's like to be filled with the Holy Ghost by Parley P Pratt:
  • "The gift of the Holy Ghost...quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates, and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings, and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness, and charity. It develops beauty of person, form, and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation, and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being."

7. And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

This goes along well with Helaman's discourse to his son Corianton about the law of restoration. He teaches that "the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful."

The interesting thing I noticed right away with this is that if we look again at what verse 7 isn't saying. In this case what this verse isn't saying actually reveals more about the doctrine taught here by the Lord. The agreement in this promise is strict and straight to the point and further explained by Jesus in Matt 7:2, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." He can be as merciful to us as we are to are to each other. If we can come to completely forgive every wrong ever committed against us and let the Lord deal with justice, His atoning sacrifice becomes fully efficacious in our lives and we are thus forgiven completely for every sin we fully repent of.

That's the other reason Matt 5:7 is so powerful. It teaches us the often disregarded aspect of forgiveness from the Lord. We are so often taught that to be forgiven of sins we must fully repent and this is unequivocally true, but ultimately, there are technically two things that we must do in order to have complete forgiveness from the Lord. Repent fully of all our sins and forgive everyone for every wrong committed against us or anyone else. Both are required according to the Son of God. If we compartmentalize others and use our insufficient, weak, out-of-context judgement skills as the standard by which we measure the worth of others and how we should feel and think about them, why on earth would we have the right to expect that the Lord should just wipe our slate clean and bring us to Celestial Glory if we can't come to love everyone - yes, everyone - the same way He does? (even if not to the same intensity)

I can imagine many who just read that and thought right away, "do you realize how tall of an order that is? That is... huge! I completely agree, but then again, as Elder Holland put it, "...salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?"

This single short verse is loaded with what it says and what it doesn't say.

8. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God

I think this one has to be my favorite out of all of them. I personally know a few people aside from those publicly taught about in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have seen our Savior in person. They have each confirmed what Joseph Smith said about being in His presence, that "His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters" (D&C 110:3).

We know of so few who have seen either the Father or the Son and yet, in His mortal ministry, the Son gives us the very formula in just eleven words to have that very same thing happen to us. It stands to reason, of course, that this must mean being pure in heart is quite hard to achieve, given that those who saw Him because they were pure in heart - as opposed to the wicked who saw Him because of the prayers of the righteous and the justice of God - seem to be so few and far between in the annals of recorded history. Still, our Savior doesn't make us any promises or tell us how to do something or give us commandments without making any of it possible. I wonder if some of you are already thinking, "Yeah, but there are a lot of hard things to do in the restored gospel that we have been promised are possible that are still ridiculously difficult."

My only response to that is to echo Elder Holland again when he said the following. And keep in mind that since repentance is synonymous with positive change, you can substitute almost every instance of the word "repentance" with "change" below, as I already have,
  • "You can change anything you want to change and you can do it very fast. It is another Satanic falsehood to believe that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to [change]. It takes exactly as long to [change] as it takes you to say “I’ll change”—and mean it. Of course there will be problems to work out and restitutions to make. You may well spend—indeed, you had better spend—the rest of your life proving your [change] by its permanence. But change, growth, renewal, and repentance can come for you as instantaneously as it did for Alma and the Sons of Mosiah. Do not misunderstand. [Change] is not easy or painless or convenient. It can be a bitter cup from hell. But only Satan would have you think that a necessary and required acknowledgement of sin is more distasteful than permanent residence in it. Only he would say, “You can’t change. You won’t change. It’s too long and too hard to change. Give up. Give in. Don’t repent. You are just the way you are.” That, my friends, is a lie born of desperation. Don’t fall for it." (emphasis added) ("How To Change" Liahona, Feb 2017)

I still haven't seen Him, but I know it's possible to do so because I know people who have and I aspire to reach the point where I'm "D&C 4:6" enough to see Him. I know that as I pray for God to purify my intentions and my desires that He will dispel my fears and make me into someone who can see Him in person, and I want you to see Him, too. Lets purify our hearts along side our Savior together, shall we?