Monday, September 28, 2009

A House in Order

I would like to tell a story.

In this story, a man was very ill. On his death bed, he whispered for his family to draw near. Through barely-heard whispered words, they heard what he wanted most of all in this, his final hour.

They were surprised at the request. But, wishing to honor it, they made a phone call. A man in an expensive suit was summoned. He, too, put his ear to the old man's lips.

Upon hearing the old man's request, the well-dressed man straightened up and laughed out loud. "I know you're dying, but you must be crazy, too!" he said to the old man. "You think I'm going to issue you life insurance?" And he walked away, still laughing, and the old man died uninsured.

What a ridiculous story, you might be saying at this point. And you would be right. Yet, at the same time, how many of us approach our spiritual preparations in just this manner?

Doctrine & Covenants 93:43 says very clearly that we must set our houses in order if we wish to be delivered. This is a commandment that is both spiritual and physical. We see an example of physical deliverance - the blessing that comes with following this example - in the story of Lehi. In the case of his family, obedience wrought preparation (1 Nephi 2:1-4). And thus they were able to make their preparations and take flight from Jerusalem, evade those who would pursue them, and survive years in the desert before at last being brought to the promised land that would be their inheritance.

But how do we set our house in order spiritually? Joseph Smith had this to say:

"All men who become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fullness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fullness of that glory, if they do not lose the whole."

- Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith

(Deseret Book Co. 1989) p. 309

And there you have it: the way to put our houses in order spiritually is to receive "the fullness of the ordinances of [God's] kingdom." And what are these ordinances? There are five which every man and woman must receive in order to enter into God's kingdom:

1. Baptism (John 3:5)

2. Gift of the Holy Ghost (John 3:5)

3. Priesthood Ordination (D&C 84:42; D&C 121:36; D&C 76:50, 57)

4. Temple Endowment (D&C 124:39, 46)

5. Eternal Marriage (D&C 131:1-4)

There are a few words that need to be said in particular about Nos. 3 and 5. First, No. 3:

Yes, this applies to everyone. One of the major guffs that I have encountered in my discussions and interactions with others not of our faith is that women have "lesser" roles in the Church. Of course, at this point in my life I can just laugh and point at my wife and say "You think I'm in charge?"

It's a pretty compelling argument.

But for those who are not convinced, they may then say, "But only men get to hold and exercise the Priesthood in your church," which I have found to mean that they erroneously equate Priesthood with "ruling." To this there are two responses:

1) The Priesthood cannot be used for one's own benefit. I am a Priesthood holder. I ordain people, I have the power to baptize and to bless. I am instructed - commanded - to use this power to benefit all humanity. But there is one person I cannot bless, one person I cannot ordain, one person I cannot give anything to through my Priesthood: myself. The Priesthood is designed to serve others, and has a built-in mechanism to both void and avoid any would-be acts of self-service.

2) Those who think that the Priesthood is a "men's only" affair (many of whom are, sadly, members of our own church) have not taken the time to study the doctrines we have received from our leaders. An example:

"Priesthood is not chauvinistic. The priesthood is 'without father, without mother,... having neither beginning of days, nor end of life' (Heb. 7:30), nor maleness nor femaleness. It is head to them both. Male and female alike come under it and must understand their true relationship to it, one to serve as priest within it, the other eventually as a priestess. Men here are given the priesthood power, but both man and woman must bring themselves into submission unto it, rather than she unto him [the man] as a person. The man must assume the same relationship of honor and obedience to priesthood truths and doctrines that the woman does. That is, it precedes them both."

Gib Kocherhans, "The Name 'Melchizedek': Some

Thoughts on Its Meaning and the Priesthood It

Represents," Ensign, Sept. 1980, p. 19

[italics in original; boldface added]

The other issue to be raised is, of course, that of No. 5: the necessity of entering into eternal marriage as a prerequisite to entering into the highest of glories and greatest of kingdoms. For it is true that there are those who, through no fault of their own, will not ever find someone who will take them to the Holy Temple and participate with them in this act. But, as with all things, God is just and merciful. And so it is not so much that He says we must achieve all five of these in our lifetimes, but only that we must receive them eventually. It is for that very reason that the work for the dead is performed in the temples that now cover the face of the world.

However, in our lifetimes it is true that we must be moving forward. These five saving ordinances are like rungs on a ladder to the top of a building. We must climb to the top to receive the prize. We may fall. We will fall. But we get up. We endure. It is not that we are required to reach the prize on our own - no one has the strength to do that - it is enough that we "endure to the end" (3 Nephi 15:9). It is enough that, when we fall or falter, we look up and reach to the next rung, whichever that rung may be.

And when the end finally comes, when our strength falters for the last time and we feel ourselves falling for that last time, this time never to have strength to climb again, we will find that a strong hand has grasped ours. We will find that someone who has been broken by our fall now has strength to lift us up.

We will have climbed as best we could.

And in so doing, we will have earned the prize.

1 comment:

Laurel Nelson said...

I love that quote on the priesthood, very good! :) As always, a well written and insightful post!