Monday, August 5, 2019

Outward Performances and the Law of Moses

As I began to study the Come Follow Me lesson for this week, my attention was drawn to the section titled "My outward actions must reflect and increase inner conversion." The early Saints after the Savior's death still believed that they were required to practice the rites and rituals of the law of Moses to obtain salvation. I was then intrigue by this assertion in the manual:
This may seem like a problem that doesn't apply any more since we don't live by the law of Moses. But as you read Paul's writings... think about your own efforts to live the gospel.
This got me thinking about all of the rites and rituals we perform or participate in as members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Why, if the law of Moses has been fulfilled, and we profess to follow Jesus Christ, do we continue to participate in rites and rituals?

The first thing I did was head to Doctrine & Covenants Section 132 for a little refresher on the New and Everlasting Covenant (which is really most of what the temple rites and rituals are about). As I studied about the marriage covenant and sealing power and authority I was reminded that the New and Everlasting Covenant is in regards to exaltation rather than salvation.

Salvation vs Exaltation

In Moses chapter 1 verse 39, the Lord tells Moses, "Behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

President Russell M. Nelson taught, "To be saved - or to gain salvation - means to be saved from physical and spiritual death." This salvation comes because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and His atoning sacrifice. We are all saved. This is what fulfilled the Law of Moses - Christ died for us, and made that eternal sacrifice so that we can all be saved. The Law of Moses was a way to remind the Jews that Christ would come and would die for all the world.

President Russell M. Nelson continued, "To be exalted - or to gain exaltation - refers to the highest state of happiness and glory in the celestial realm." This is different from salvation because it is not something that just comes to everyone - we have to make certain covenants and promises, and we make those covenants and promises through rites and rituals that are reminiscent of the Law of Moses.

Rites and Rituals

When we make covenants and promises with Heavenly Father toward our exaltation, such as baptism, receiving the priesthood for worthy males, and making temple covenants, we do so only once for ourselves. We are baptized only once ever for ourselves, and we participate in temple covenants only once for ourselves. Unlike the Law of Moses, where the rites and rituals had to be performed regularly, we only perform those rites and rituals once for our own exaltation, or eternal life. The only rite or ritual we perform multiple times for ourselves is the sacrament. However, partaking of the sacrament, while an important practice for remembering the Savior, is not essential for exaltation.

Outward Symbols of an Inner Commitment

So why all the rites and rituals? What is the point, if we believe the Law of Moses has been fulfilled and that salvation is given to all men, regardless of what we do?

The Book of Mormon gives a stirring account of some early Saints who lived prior to the life of Christ but knew of Him and the fullness of His gospel. Essentially, they already knew that Christ would come and that He would give us the beautiful gift of the atonement. However, they were still required to live the Law of Moses and participate in those rites and rituals.
Yea, and they did keep the law of Moses; for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled. But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them.
Now they did not supposed that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come.
The Saints in the Americas did not keep the Law of Moses because they thought they needed to do all of those things in order to gain salvation. They kept the Law of Moses because they used those rites and rituals to strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ.

Likewise, we are not required to take the sacrament, or participate in temple ordinances. Even if we have made covenants for ourselves in the temple, there is no requirement to return to the temple for our own exaltation. We did what was required. So why go back? Why take the sacrament? The Book of Mormon gives us this beautiful explanation and admonition: "to strengthen [our] faith in Christ."

It is easy to think of partaking of the sacrament and attending the temple as some kind of check box. Each week we take the sacrament on Sunday, "check"! Each time we attend the temple to perform vicarious works for the dead, "check"! We will probably get a lot more out of the rites and rituals that we perform regularly if we approach it as the Saints did in the Americas - as a way to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ.

The section from the Come Follow Me manual ends with these questions:

Are your outward performances, such as taking the sacrament or attending the temple, leading you to conversion and strengthening your faith in Christ? How can you ensure that your outward actions are leading to a change of heart?

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Cut to the Very Center

Today in fast and testimony meeting I was thinking about my parenting in the past several weeks. I have been in lecture mode, and I was reflecting on ways I could teach my children (specifically my teenagers) without lectures. It is one of my life goals to raise my children, especially my teens, to be self-reflective, self-motivated, and hard working. I try to lead by example, but sometime I am afraid that my lectures are obscuring my example, and they become discouraged or disinterested in growth.

Then I was thinking about how as parents we spend a lot of time helping our children with course correction, and how they may not always appreciate that at this time in their lives. I know that I probably didn't appreciate the helpful criticism of my parents when I was a teen.

But now that I am in the position of parent I actually crave helpful criticism. It would be so helpful to have people in my life speak out and point out those areas in which I can improve. In the first book of Nephi chapter 16, Nephi admits that he has been lecturing his siblings, and that "the guilty take the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center." Every day I feel the need to be cut to my very center. I am not a finished product - far from it - and I need all the cutting down I can get.

I am in a stage of life where the people who speak truth to me are typically speaking truth in general terms and to a large group of people, and not specifically directed at me. It is up to me to reflect on my own life and personality and allow words of truth to cut me "to the very center". This takes a lot of humility, and an enormous ability to rely on and hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Both are areas of life that I struggle with and work on every day.

Perhaps as I work to teach my children about self reflection, self motivation, and hard work, I can use examples from my own life, and allow them to consider if the truth is cutting them to the very center, causing them the discomfort of growth. Then we can learn together, and I can focus on my own personal growth more than lecturing my teenagers.

What do you use as a source of truth to help refine you and cut you to the very center? If you have teens (or if you were a teen) what strategies helped you teach (or learn) self-reflection, self-motivation and hard work?

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