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Aint’s, Faints, or Saints?

I’m pleased and honoured to be with you today. It is good to be together again. As I helped to prepare the sacrament this morning, as I was breaking the bread, I thought of a scripture in 1 Corinthians 10. I wasn’t planning on using it today, but it fits into what I was going to say so I’ll talk about it a bit. Paul was writing to the Church in his day. He said:


I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.


This is Paul-speak for—Here is something a bit deep, slow down, and read carefully.


The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we [being] many are one bread, [and] one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread (1 Corinthians 10:15-17).


Paul explained that we take one loaf of bread, break it up, and pass it to different disparate people. However, these people are all striving to be one and to be more like Christ. For, if they are not one, they are not His. [1] As the members of the Church work together in community to perfect themselves as Saints and become one, they bring the pieces of the bread, within them, back together again to become His Church—a type of the body of Christ. The broken bread becomes one loaf again. We all share in that one Life, that one Loaf, that Bread of heaven—who is Christ. This is part of what it means to take His name upon us.


There is a miraculous transformation involving the elements of the sacrament, but it is not as our brethren and sisters in other faiths might understand it. It is not the bread on the sacrament table or altar that becomes Christ’s body; rather it is the person taking the sanctified bread into her, as she sits there in the congregation, she becomes an integral part of the body of Christ. It is this communion, [2] as Paul calls it, that makes each of us who partake members of His body, members of the Church. [3] The bread does not become the body of Christ; we become the body of Christ.

This is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—that title tells us whose church it is and who is in it. I have been studying recently in the Doctrine and Covenants and I’ve come across some verses that apply to our times.


D&C 88:83 He that seeketh me early shall find me, and shall not be forsaken. 88:84 Therefore, tarry ye, and labor diligently, that you may be perfected…


Early can mean early in one’s Church experience and also early in one’s life. I hope you are all seeking to know Him, for this is the best moment in your life to do that. The promise is, if you do it, that He will always be with you. We are to tarry, stay firmly grounded where we are and work at our salvation to be perfected—to become more complete.


88:86 Abide ye in the liberty wherewith ye are made free; entangle not yourselves in sin, but let your hands be clean, until the Lord comes.

We are asked to stay free and not entangle ourselves in sin. We need clean hands when the Lord comes.


As the name of the Church indicates, we are in the latter days.

88:87 For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig-tree.


A common scriptural description of earthly and cosmic commotions to precede the second coming are mentioned first—earthquakes, a hidden or faded sun, a reddened moon, and stars that appear to vanish. Can you think of a physical scenario on earth that would have all these signs coming from one cause? I don’t think we need much imagination this week to see how such things could happen.

D&C 88:88 And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people. 88:89 For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand. 88:90 And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.


Many of you have served missions. Missionaries have been going out to warn the world and testify to them since 1830. These testimonies count for something. Since many have not heeded the voice of the missionaries, the Lord will soon testify to the nations with these voices of nature.


Yea, it [the Restoration and the coming of the Book of Mormon] shall come in a day when there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands; And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places. Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations… (Mormon 8:29-31).


The ravages of nature that will accompany the latter-day events come from mankind’s failing to heed the testimony and call to repentance sent by God. God’s wrath and indignation come from the world’s persistent rejection and disregard for His messages.


Not all the signs of the times are in the heavens or amongst the bad guys on earth— some are in our minds and in our hearts.


88:91 And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.

All people—that’s rather inclusive! It will affect everyone.


This will be a time of turmoil and disorder. People will lose hope and lack courage. Fear, anxiety, and depression will be the ruling emotions of these latter days. Emotional heart failure will be in epidemic proportions in peoples around the world. One of the greatest of God’s gifts to His children is the gift of the Holy Ghost—His role as the Comforter will be of great use to the Church in these times.


Part of our need for personal revelation to withstand the events and surrounding emotions of the latter days is that the Revelator, the Holy Ghost, is also a Comforter. What we will receive by that revelation from the Holy Ghost is a sense of confidence, comfort, peace, and direction in a world in commotion.

Each of us needs to decide what kind of person we are going to be in these latter days.

· Will we leave the Church and be a Latter-day Ain’t.

· Will we stay but flop around like a dying fish and be a Latter-day Faint

· Or will we choose to live as a Latter-day Saint.

No matter which one we choose, we will have troubles: Dis-ease—Heart Failure— Discomfort—Troubles, fiascos, disasters, and failures.


There are only two main causes for trouble in our lives: The ones we choose to bring on ourselves by breaking our covenants with God and then all the rest.


Sin:


This is the easiest because it’s completely within your control and whatever it is, it can be gone in days to weeks. Not fixing it is exhausting, it depletes your heart and your energy. It brings darkness into your life. You have to live within the bounds of your value system—if you don’t it’s debilitating.

I have seen many people in my clinical practice as a family doctor. Many of their troubles come from real illness or adversity in their lives. Sometimes it comes from their just not knowing how to manage their life. They just need to be smarter or more experienced. And sometimes it comes from sin. The doctor’s office is not a place to call someone to repentance, so I don’t suggest that they would be a lot happier if they’d just keep their covenants. I have to say things like: it takes a lot of energy to swim against a value system that you have internalized for many years. Perhaps you need to match what you’re doing with what you think you should be doing.

However, to those of you here in this setting I can just tell you to live the gospel and be obedient. That is the easiest and the happiest path through these latter days. You will find that that will take some sacrifices of your time, your needs, and your means. You need to pay your tithing and fast offering. You need to live the law of chastity.


Sex is a great gift from our Heavenly Father. It is meant to take us somewhere: bridle your passions Alma told Shiblon. This is a riding the horse metaphor. We should understand that around here. You don’t get anywhere with the horse of sexuality if you pen it up, tie it up or shoot it dead between the eyes, saying that you’ll never use it. It’s very safe to sit on a dead horse, but it doesn’t take you anywhere.


At the other extreme, if you jump on with no reins, grab onto the mane and yell, Yahoo! You might get an exciting ride, but it is very unlikely that you will get where you wanted to go. You will end up somewhere else, and you and others will often be injured.

You need to use sexuality the way you’re supposed to—be attracted to people, get to know them, go out, get engaged, get married, use and explore all that the gift can give you. You need to take the reins and learn to let sex take you somewhere as you steer it within the bounds the Lord has set. Figuring this out is the work of a lifetime. Don’t think you understand it now. You don’t really know much about it yet. What you might see in movies or on the internet is a counterfeit. Sexuality is an approach to learning about our relationship with Christ. If you misuse sexuality, you don’t just get unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted disease, you miss learning how you are to relate to Christ.


Throughout the scriptures He used sexuality as a metaphor for His relationship to the Church. He was the Bridegroom and Israel or the Church was the bride. Apostasy or leaving the Church was always marital abandonment—cheating—whoring after other gods.


Pornography, masturbation, acting out sexually are dead ends—they stunt and blunt real sexuality. Let’s face it—you don’t meet very many nice people while masturbating. These sexual aberrations take the Spirit from you and just increase your chances of not having sex take you where it needs to.

In working out your own sexuality, don’t drag others down. I know that young women can lead young men astray, but it is still chiefly the men who are the instigators of this misuse. You young men (especially those who’ve been missionaries and have taught these principles to others and committed them to live them)—whose role are you playing if you come home and try to push past the bounds the Lord has set.

Who are you—really? A young woman might well ask.


I’m your brother—just here for a nice time with you—just relax—this will be nice. It will feel good.


You say you’re my brother, but you’ve come here to persuade me to disobey Father in Heaven?


Well, whose role is that? We’re back in the garden here. If the girl can be taken to be Eve—the mother of those not yet living—you are certainly not playing the role of her Adam.


Don’t go over to Satan’s side mouthing his lines so easily—have a bit of respect for yourselves—you’re better than that.


· Find some work and do it, don’t be idle.

· Find someone to serve.

· Exercise your faith: pray about your intentions in the morning and then report back every night on how you did. Anyone doing this sincerely and consistently won’t go far wrong.

· Try to change

· Confess: Small matters can be discussed in your prayers.

· Large matters that put your membership in question need to be talked through with a bishop. We don’t confess to a bishop just for embarrassment and humility. We do it because our serious sins push the Holy Spirit away from us and we need to consult with someone who has the keys to receive revelation on our behalf and tell us what we need to do to get the Spirit back in our lives.

· Reparations —do what you can to make it right if others have been hurt or offended.

· Take the sacrament thoughtfully with a specific purpose in mind. The ordinances and keys of the Aaronic Priesthood fix these things to do with sin.

· When the Spirit comes back in your life that tells you that it’s done and over with from God’s perspective—that’s justification. The Godhead has a unity of thought. If the Holy Spirit is OK with being with you, then the Father and the Son feel the same way. You may not be OK with you yet, but that’s a different matter.

Adversity is all other troubles in life that aren’t sins. It’s often called tribulation.

Illnesses especially chronic ones (physical or mental), dysfunctional families, abuse (yours or your ancestors), injuries, etc..


Adversity can come from our lot in life: socioeconomic issues, gender, body type, complexion, cultural/racial stereotypes —no one is very happy with who they are at some points in their life. We all have our troubles.


These are not as easy as the sin pile of stuff. They may hang around longer. They take months or years or decades to work through. They are custom-made to sanctify us. They are in our lives to build the divine nature within us.


My personal opinion is that they were custom designed to teach us what we had not been able or were not willing to do in our premortal life. Here we could come and overcome our weaknesses through grace. That’s why we’re such poor stuff at times, we are all sent here smack-dab in the middle of our weak points. I think that’s Moroni point in Ether 12 and Paul’s similar notion in 2 Corinthians 12. So learn what your weaknesses and trials have to teach you. That’s the process of sanctification.


Get some help—counselling, see a doctor, (try more than one if it’s not working). Some counsellors and doctors don’t always know what they’re doing—that’s why we call it practicing medicine. Anyway, if one person isn’t helpful or doesn’t work, then try another. Persist and get some help.


Use the ordinances of the gospel, especially those of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Its keys and ordinances fix these adversity things: confirmation which gives you the Comforter, get a priesthood blessing as you need it for adversity. There’s no quota. Heavenly Father doesn’t run out of things to tell you. Read your patriarchal blessing frequently. It will tell you about your possibilities and what gifts you’ve been given or need to develop. Do temple work (find names and take them to the temple—cleanest kind of service you’ll find). These are all ordinances or gifts of the Melchizedek priesthood meant to help us with adversity and the trials of life.


Keep at it—endurance, patience, longsuffering are divine attributes we are here to learn.


Two stories—then I’ll stop. First a story about sin.


John 8:1-11


1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. 3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him…


The legal experts and the Pharisees had devised a strategy by which they could have Jesus arrested for attempting to usurp power reserved to Rome, or at least have Him discredited before the people as a potential prophet and Messiah by having Him deny or contradict the Law of Moses. They felt that they would have a good outcome—whatever He said.


This occurred at the feast of tabernacles. By Jesus’ day the festivities of the harvest festival of Tabernacles had degenerated, for many of the Jews, into a wine festival rather than a religious expression of thanksgiving. This harvest festival coincided with the production of the first vintage of wine for that year—the nouveau Beaujolais spirit. There were the formal temple ceremonies, but as always not everyone attended the religious services. Elsewhere in the city people were drinking too much while sleeping out-of doors in makeshift booths-Sukkoth to commemorate their ancestors’ forty-year travail in the wilderness. The combination of a general party atmosphere with drunkenness and outdoor sleeping arrangements made it relatively easy to find someone committing adultery. This was one of the requirements of the Jewish leaders’ plot that would have been readily at hand.


They brought before Jesus a woman whom they said had been taken in the very act. There must have been a man too. Where was he? (Sigh!—‘twas ever thus) However, this poor soul was dragged into the Court of the Gentiles in the temple before Jesus the Master Teacher for judgment. It was commonplace to bring lawbreakers before rabbis for a ruling on the punishment that should be meted out.


The Jews who brought her accused her and at least two bore witness of her sin. Then they asked their question which enclosed the trap set for Jesus. They had no thought of the human cost to the woman—her humiliation, her fear, her exposure to public view and her ruined reputation. They did not work here for her repentance or her salvation. Their evil intent was to entrap the Master.


The trap was simple. If Jesus affirmed the Law of Moses and said that she must be stoned, then He would be pronouncing a death sentence on her. They could then accuse Him before the Roman officials (who were likely alerted and hovering nearby) as taking upon Himself a power and prerogative reserved for imperium—Roman authority. He would be committing treason. That was the hoped-for alternative as far as the Jewish authorities were concerned, for treason carried the death penalty by crucifixion. If they could have Jesus dead and hung on a tree as a sign of God’s curse [4]—they would be done and finished with this false Messiah.

If He said that she should not be stoned (as was the current practice since that law had not been enforced in Israel since the Davidic monarchy at least—more than six hundred years before), then they could denounce Jesus to the common people as attempting to deny the provisions of the Law of Moses—thus He was a false prophet and no Messiah. Such was the trap.


John 8:6b …But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 8:7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8:8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.[5]

Jesus did not respond to their question at first. Many have speculated about what He wrote in the dirt—we don’t know so you can imagine whatever you’d like. When they persisted in demanding a ruling from Him, He arose and said:


…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her


John 8:9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

When He said that, they were pricked in their conscience by the things that they had done, and perhaps even by what they had just done to her. Their consciences led them to leave—the eldest leaving first. Finally, Jesus and the woman were left there alone.


I understand their leaving. I have enough things on my conscience that I understand why they would walk away. What is more difficult to understand is the end of the verse

Why did she stay?


She could have left after they had all gone. Jesus was bent down and not looking at her. She could have slipped away in another direction from the Jewish elders. She had doubtless been embarrassed. One would think that at the first opportunity she would have left. The other thing to consider was that she might have thought that she should get away from this rather strict rabbi—after all He had said that they could stone her. They all heard—He that is without sin among you…. But I would bet that the words that she heard most clearly were—…let him first cast a stone at her. He had said that they could stone her—with a proviso that had sent them away. He had gambled a bit with her life—taken a chance on their consciences.


Why would she stay in such a circumstance?


I agree with St. Augustine in this matter.[6] He said she stayed because along with perfect Justice she had encountered perfect Mercy. I think she felt safest with Him—with gentle Jesus.


· Do we have sins?

· If we were brought before Jesus and accused of them, how would we feel?

· How does the account of this woman’s experience help us?

· If she could feel safe with Him in her extreme circumstance, how do you think that we will feel about being before Him?

John 8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 8:11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.



After writing more on the ground, Jesus raised up and saw that all had gone but the woman. He asked her where those men were who had brought an accusation against her. She said that no one was there to bring a charge against her. He did give her good pastoral advice, telling her to repent and to avoid her past errors. This was not Jesus’ forgiveness for her sins. He did not condemn and then forgive her—He passed no condemnation—Neither do I condemn thee.


Likening This Scripture Unto Us—We must take seriously the account of this story and place ourselves into it.


· Are we the woman?

· Have we been embarrassingly caught in sins?

Of course we have! The lesson we should learn from this role was stated above. We can feel confident coming into His presence, even though we have sinned. He is the safest place to come when we have done something wrong. We may recoil and feel that we cannot come into His presence, but come we must. If we come with real faith in Him and in His atonement, accompanied by sincere repentance, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and we shall not be condemned.


As John told us earlier:


For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).


He did not come into this world to hold court on us. He came to save us.


Mark 5: 22-34


"And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; (He was the local stake president— [arché-synagogue]) and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. And Jesus went with him and much people followed him, and thronged him.


And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, (she must have been an American having been bankrupted by her health care needs—although she could be Canadian since she’s waited 12 years for help) and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, (see doctors aren’t always helpful) when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. The Greek word here is: ‘imavtion [himation] meaning a garment or covering. It also means atonement.


For she said, If I may touch (Greek [haptomai]-to touch, hold on, clutch, embrace— there is no indication in the context to use one meaning over another. We may choose from the four.) but his clothesI shall be whole (Same word 'himation' — garment or covering. KJ translators once again trying to make Mark more literate and less literal. But the pun is lost in English, a legitimate translation is If I can just clutch or hold onto the edge of His atonement—I shall be whole). [7] And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue (again, an unhappy translation, the Greek word is dynamos- power) had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, (crowd) and said, Who touched my clothes? (Himation again, could be atonement) And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith [8] hath made thee whole [9] ; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague [10]." [Mark 5:22-34]


This is a beautiful and significant story. It illuminates the faith of a woman in the midst of the adversity of sickness, who having done her all, makes a gesture of belief and hope in God's ability to reach out to her as she reaches out to one she believes to be His Anointed.


In the midst of the crowd [world] there was a woman [all of us] who had an issue of blood—dysfunctional uterine bleeding—usually easily fixed in our day with a pill or an IUD, but not in Jesus’ day. It meant a problem of adversity which she may have interpreted as sin. A woman with a bloody flow was unclean. She could not go to the courts of the temple as she would defile it and all within. She could not attend synagogue. She could not go where people were preparing food. She could not prepare food for anyone, not even herself and have it be kosher. She could not touch her children and have them be ritually pure. She could not have sex with her husband.


She has had this problem for twelve years. Twelve is often a number that represents spiritual fulness or completion. She may have spent the necessary time for her benefit on this bit of adversity. The woman had tried many physicians, people of worldly knowledge and judgment, but was made no better for their ministrations. Indeed, she worsened from day to day. And she had spent her all in seeking their help. This is the person at the bottom.


She has heard concerning Jesus. She has not done great works in his name, bathed his feet with her tears, or served in his Church from what we are told. But she has done all she can do on her own about her adversity. She hears of him and conceives within herself the idea that if she can but touch the hem or border of his garment as he walks by; she will be healed. So she reaches out and touches it, and immediately the fountain of her blood is stopped. This is going to the root of the problem. It is not just that the blood ceases to trouble her, or appear, or become noticeable to others etc. No. The problem is stopped at the fountain, at the source. This is no superficial fix, no temporary job. She knows within herself straightway that she is healed. This is an apparent and evident miracle to her. The grace is palpable. A legitimate translation of her thought might be: "If I can but embrace the edge of his atonement, I can be holy/healthy/whole. So she does this act and she is healed from the scourge or the plague. The Greek word used here, mastix, [11] has the sense of a whip or a scourge. It represents a sin or trouble that we have been beaten with, or more likely, with which we have beaten ourselves.


To heal a problem requires an output of energy, of power. Jesus has felt that power leave Him and He wished to know who approached with such faith as to draw it out of Him. The woman is frightened and trembles. She came and confessed what has been done to her. All of us must apply for healing from adversity in the same way. We must all reach out and clutch, hold on to, touch, and embrace the covenant edge of Jesus' garment/covering: the Atonement: which is full of grace and truth as the angel told Adam.


Where do we find Jesus these days? He doesn’t walk among us so that we can reach out and touch His robe. How can we touch the edge of the atonement? Here at the sacrament table. Here at the temple. Here in the Church where the members constitute the body of Christ. When Jesus had the people come and touch His body at Bountiful, I don’t really think He was trying to prove that He was the Christ. Who really doubted it after all that had happened? I think he was having them come and touch His wounds because that is what connects us. He didn’t have them touch his biceps, but His woundedness. It should not surprise in our wards that when we meet people and “touch them” as the body of Christ, that what we meet are wounds.


We must bring all these members to Christ, to the sacrament, to the temple. They must feel the Saviour's touch in their lives.


And, by the way, the stake president’s daughter came out of it all right. She was fine.


Christ can lift our adversity. He can cleanse whatever sins we may also have. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. Our work may be slow and evolutionary, but the Saviour can lift us in His own time and in His own way suddenly by a redemptive influx of grace. To see this and to be a part of it is to have a gift of grace for us as well. We must help all around us to have trust in a loving and tender God who sees into our hearts and measures all with mercy and perfect justice.


He is closer than we believe and kinder than we imagine. I testify of Him and of our loving Heavenly Father.


Patriarch Terry Smith

Endnotes

1 D&C 38:27

2 Common union: Latin communionem (nominative declension communio) meaning fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing—if one is denied this association one is placed outside of or “ex”– communion—excommunication.

3 See 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 for Paul’s elaboration on this doctrine.

4 Deuteronomy 21:22-23

5 It is interesting that this is the only place in scripture where we see Jesus writing. As the Word of God, He wrote no words that we have. He told the prophets to write His words, but wrote none Himself.

6 St. Augustine of Hippo, Tractates on the Gospel of John, Tractate 33.

7 Greek swzw [sozo] lit. to make sound, or figuratively to make healthy, hale, whole, holy, wholesome. The declension of the word in Mark is swqhvsomai [soothesomai] the root of which is sozo, believe it or not. It's an irregular verb and that's the 1st person singular future passive conjugation.

8 pistis pivstis faith, faithfulness, steadfastness - a word in Greek that implies action coupled with belief, not just mental acceptance.

9 sozo - sound, healthy etc

10 mastix mavstix scourge or whip [With his stripes, we are healed Isa 53:5]

11 The root of our word—masticate—to chew up.

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