Tuesday, September 21, 2010

D&C 78, 82, and 83

This is my response for the third reading assignment in my religion class (yes... after catching up I got behind again). This grouping is under the topic "Consecration: An Inheritance in Zion".

Doctrine and Covenants, section 78
Historical background: This revelation was given in March of 1832, when Joseph Smith was in Ohio. The Saints (shortening for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) were moving around a lot trying to find sanctuary, and it was really important for them to support each other, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This instituted the foundations and principles behind tithing and the law of consecration - a system where all of the church members sacrifice according to what they have and in return get the things they lack. The modern-day application is for members to donate "10% of their increase" to the Church (tithing), and in turn, the Church uses the money to build chapels and temples, fund schools and church activities, and run "bishop's storehouses" for families to get food and other staples in times of economic need. 
The first couple verses of this chapter reiterate the message, "When I (God) speak to you through my prophet, you need to listen to him, because he is my authorized mouthpiece, and I'm trying to tell you something for your own good!" Verses 3 and 4 makes me think of D&C 132:8 "Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion." I think that is an important God-like characteristic that identifies His Church and that should identify His people (I'm still working on that one...). Those verses also note that helping the poor is part of "the cause... to the salvation of man, and to the glory of your Father who is in heaven." I don't understand very well the connection is verses 5 and 6 between equality is earthly things and equality in heavenly things. 
I do understand though, verse 7: "For if you will that I give unto a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you." In fact, I think it's so important that I'm giving it its own separate paragraph (I am aware that this is technically the formatting for quotes). A lot of people complain about all the rules in the Mormon (LDS) church. But see, this scripture is the key to understanding why it's important to follow these rules (besides the very good reason that "God said so"): these commandments and requirements prepare us for the celestial world, which is where we want to be. God's giving us the recipe for becoming like He is! (see Matthew 5:48) If we learn to not only love our friends, but to love even our enemies, that helps us to be more like God because God loves all of us, His children, even when we make mistakes and do stupid things. I was going to give another example, but all of the commandments come back to loving God and loving each other (Matthew 22:37-40). So, commandments aren't given in order to be restrictive or exercise authority over others - they are given because they will show us the way to live that will bring us closer to God (we will be able to live with God after death, we will feel His presence through the Holy Ghost in this life, and we will become more like He is). Celestial glory is the best there is, and like a father, that's what God wants for us, so He shows us how to get there. 
Verses 8 through 12 discuss how Joseph Smith and others entered into a covenant, or a contract with each other and with God to impart everything they had to the church and to receive again according to their needs (the law of consecration). Living by this covenant helps us to prepare for heaven by fostering obedience to God (humility is another characteristic of Jesus Christ, who is obedient to the Father in all things), charity among people (being willing to share what you have and give to those who don't have what they need) and temperance (being happy with what you have, instead of always wanting extra - even if you can afford it, do you really need to own four cars if you live in a two-person family?). I think that in verse 13, the "preparation" is the covenant, which is "whereby you may accomplish the commandments which are given you". When you make a covenant or promise with God, it's a bidirectional deal: when you do your part, God promises blessings in return. Added strength and ability to keep the commandments seems to be a common blessing from such covenants. So when we make a covenant with God, we are under greater condemnation when we don't follow the commandments, because it would be breaking our promise, but God also helps us to keep the commandments for our sake. Verse 14 also tells us something of the mind of the Lord - an "ulterior motive" in getting the Saints to take care of each other's welfare is so that they can relieve themselves from debt and "stand independent". Anyone who has been in bondage - whether debt, addictions, stubborn habits, etc - knows that you lose some of your freedom in the doing; for me, I frequently incur sleep debt from staying up too late, which makes it hard for me to get other things done that I need to because my body insists on getting paid back in hours of sleep. Is it any wonder that God would have us be a free people and not be enslaved to gambling debts, more-expensive-than-necessary car debt, facebook addictions, physical/bodily addictions like smoking, and other such vices? I like verses 17 through 22. As it says in verse 17, we really are like little children, because we don't understand everything that God understands. In 1833, some people thought tobacco was kind of gross and messy, but no one thought it could kill you; God, on the other hand, made our bodies, and that's when Joseph Smith received the revelation called "the Word of Wisdom" (D&C 89) with a health code for the church. It wasn't until many years later, in the 20th century that physicians realized that smoking leads to cancer. Haha, this reminds me of something my mother says all the time: "I'm smarter than you think I am!" We don't always understand the reasons why God gives us commandments, but that's why we need to get to know Him, realize we can trust Him, and be obedient even when we can't see the end result. In fact, in verse 18 God reassures us that "Ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along." When we do what God asks us to do, good things happen :) He will take care of us, and He will bless us.

Doctrine and Covenants, section 82
Historical background: In April of 1832, Joseph Smith was in Missouri. The section heading says that the occasion was a general assembly where Joseph Smith was sustained (aka: ratified by the congregation) as President of the Church. That chain of succession (with each President of the Church being sustained) has continued since, and Thomas S. Monson is currently the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The first seven verses of this chapter are concerning the effects of sin and forgiveness. Verse one reminds us that we must forgive each other if we expect to receive forgiveness from God. Because we are all mortal, we all sin (verse 2), and thus we are all required to repent if we want to be clean. Verse 3 is very important to realize, and supports the statement that God's judgments are just - "For unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation." (Hence why sons of perdition, as I discussed in my response to D&C 76, are in such big trouble. To paraphrase someone else, it's as though they look into the noonday sun and say that it's nighttime; they have a sure witness and reject it). If you know more or are more aware of the consequences of your actions, you're in bigger trouble when you break the rules. Ouch, verse 4 just struck me in a new way that calls me to repentance: "Ye call upon my name for revelations, and I give them unto you; and inasmuch as ye keep not my sayings, which I give unto you, ye become transgressors." I've had many years to study the gospel and come unto Christ, and many times that I have received inspiration through leaders, priesthood blessings, reading the scriptures, prayer, etc; I believe this is a rebuke that is very closely related to the preceding verse (v. 3), wherein I have asked for revelations and received inspiration, but have I acted on it as I should? Today's lesson in Sunday School was also related to this, in that we have a modern prophet who speaks for the Lord today - do I know what he has said most recently? Have I made it a part of my life? Sadly, the answer is 'no', I haven't been as diligent as I should. I am accountable for the "light and truth" that I've received, to act on it and make it a part of my life. There's a lot I can improve on there. The great promise in verse 7 though is the promise of forgiveness after sincere repentance: "And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God." When we truly repent, God forgives us of our sins and our slate is washed clean. If we don't truly repent, and we return again to our sins, we aren't promised that cleansing (because we just muddied ourselves again). Verse 10 is also a very important scripture to understanding how God works. It reads, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." God makes agreements with us: if you follow this commandment, you'll get this blessing, and the promise stands. God is perfectly just and fair, and perfectly loving; He is never responsible for a broken covenant. He does everything He can to help us, and we're the ones who often fail Him when He wants to give us a blessing. When we put our faith, trust and obedience in Him, we will receive the promised blessing. Verse 11 through the end of the chapter is specific instruction to Joseph Smith and other church leaders at the time to enter into a covenant with each other "to manage the affairs of the poor" (v. 12) and to give to "every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just" (v. 17). When God gives us commandments, He helps us obey them. The Lord says, "here is wisdom also in me for your good... And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents... to be cast into the Lord's storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church--Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God" (verses 16, 18-19). Under this system of the Lord's, everyone surrenders their everything to the Lord, and in turn receives both what they need and what they want. It helps us to become less attached to earthly possessions and keep Christ as our first priority, as well as develop the love that comes from and perpetuates sharing with our neighbors (and, as Christ said in the parable of the Good Samaritan, everyone is our neighbor). The chapter is finished with promises of peace, blessings, and "the kingdom", conditional on our steadfastness (verses 23-24).

Doctrine and Covenants, section 83
Historical background: This revelation was also received by Joseph Smith in Missouri, shortly after the previous one in section 82. It deals with responsibility and accountability for the welfare of families.
In the six verses of the chapter, it basically comes to this: "Women have claims on their husbands for their  maintenance" (verse 2) and "all children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age" (verse 4). Parents together are responsible to care for and provide for their children, and if they don't have the assets, they can lean on the church for aid. That's the idea behind the "bishop's storehouse", to provide for families and individuals when they are unable to care for themselves. Nowadays, the storehouses are also centers where families can get help and training to find a job in addition to groceries and other needs in times of duress. If my thoughts are correct, I think that when they are financially stable again, it's expected that they'll give back in some way (monetarily or in volunteer hours) so that the system can go on to help others.

I'm slowly trying to catch up, in this and other homework!

1 comment:

  1. Katie--I know that you worry about getting everything done, but I want you to know that I love reading your blog posts. You are thoughtful, honest, and have wonderful insights each time. Oh, and I hope you don't mind but the title of Mom is always right rally intrigued me. :) You are delightful!