Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

The Life of Holiness, Romans 1:2-4 (pp. 47-70)

Posted by Robert C. on March 13, 2013

(See the reading schedule and introductory post here. Note: I’m deviating slightly from the posted schedule since the original schedule overlooked how the discussion of verses 3 and 4 starts on p. 52.)

Verse 2

Jim begins with a discussion about digressions, and about connectives that function as punctuation. This is because verse 2 begins a five verse digression. I especially like Jim’s discussion of the contrast between our scientific culture, where “we prize simplicity and getting to the point,” and how this contrasts with the tendency for Paul (and Paul’s culture) to place more value on in-depth digressions: “digressions allowed writers to show how [various facets of the subject matter] are interconnected” (p. 49). I think Cheryl’s comment #3 in the previous post nicely expresses the challenge in our fast-paced modern society of valuing the kind of depth and interconnectedness that a more patient style of writing and thinking affords.

Next, Jim discusses three terms, promised, prophets, and holy scriptures (pp. 49-51). Together, I think these three terms establish an important and intriguing emphasis on the power of language. Jim doesn’t get into this issue too much here, but I’m intrigued by the link between the emphasis in verse 1 on Paul’s own calling to be a messenger, and the manner in which he was set apart to preach the good news of the Gospel. There’s a kind of proliferation at work here with the word-as-sword that comes to Paul, and causes him to separate from the world, and the manner in which Paul’s calling as an apostle enacts the repeating pattern of messengers carrying God’s promises that establish/effect the good news of the Gospel.

Paul, however, is not simply reiterating the understood message of the prophets, but providing a reinterpretation of Jewish scripture, in light Paul’s conviction regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ (pp. 51-52).

Verse 3

The language in this verse establishes a connection between divinity and humanity: Jesus is God’s son, but our Lord (pp. 52-54). Note: “Lord” here is the same word as Jehovah/Yahweh in the Old Testament.

One of the most unique and enduring ideas that Christianity offers to other cultures which have recognized the fallen(/tragic) nature of humankind, is the manner in which this divinity-humanity gap is to be bridged: “the gap is not crossed by the human becoming divine but by the divine becoming human” (p. 55). This condescension of God represents God’s response to our suffering, and this is the essence of Christian salvation.

Jim next offers a fascinating discussion regarding the tension between the spirit and the body (pp. 56-58). The gap between divinity and humanity is parallel to the tension we often experience between the spirit and the body. So, Paul’s description of Christ being God’s (spiritual) son, but also “the seed of David according the the flesh” already suggests the manner in which Jesus Christ stands as a kind of bridge between this gap between spirit and body, on the one hand, and divinity and humanity, on the other (Jim also discusses this on pp. 64-65 in the context of “the Son of God” in v. 4).

The mention of David, who represents a golden age for the Kingdom of Israel, makes me wonder about the relationship (and tension) between God’s heavenly kingdom and earthly kingdoms (a tension I obliquely referred to in my previous post on Jim’s introduction). It seems that God’s kingdom on earth represents a particular kind of reconciliation of differences and tensions that we face in modern society and diverse communities. I continue to be intrigued with these tensions, and I am particularly interested in how God’s word can play a role in establishing this kind of communal reconciliation.

(My thinking is that even though we are all different from each other, when we read a single text, we are united in a way that is analogous to the way choirs and orchestras unite in singing a particular song together, even though different voices, parts, and instruments are used. In a sense, I think something similar occurs when we understand Christ’s calling as a type of our own calling, and we enact the same “music” by taking upon ourselves the name of Christ. Compare Jim’s discussion of Paul’s call as a type of Christ’s call on p. 60.)

Verse 4

Jim shows how verses 3-4 can be read chiastically (pp. 69-71). On this parsing of the verses (which differs from the structure inherent to the Joseph Smith Translation, as Jim points out), the center of the chiasm is the beginning of verse 4: “who was declared to be the Son of God in power.” Jim spends a fair bit of time effectively discussing his alternate translation of this important phrase.

Jim’s rendering of verse 4 is as follows:

but who was powerfully appointed to be the Son of God, in other words, he was appointed according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead (namely Jesus Christ our Lord).

The word “appointed,” in Jim’s translation, invokes the same Greek root as the word “separated” in verse 1 (p. 59). Again, on my reading of these verses, there is a very strong emphasis on the power of God’s word to effect a separation between what is worldly versus what is heavenly (or holy). Given the title of Jim’s book, this mention of Christ’s appointment “according to the spirit of holiness” will surely prove very important to our unfolding understanding of (Jim’s understanding of) Paul’s message.

Jim provides a very nice discussion of the contrast between a modern vs. ancient Greek conception of perfection (pp. 60-63). This discussion serves as a means for Jim to provide us with his commentary on Paul’s conception of holiness. I think it resonates quite nicely with Jim’s lengthy discussion of the term slave/servant/bondsman in verse 1. Basically, Jim argues that being perfect entails doing that which we are appointed to do. This is a rich conception, and I think it’s the crown jewel of this week’s reading.

Jim goes on to offer a very nice discussion of possible alternate understanding of the phrase “according to the spirit of holiness” (pp. 65-68) In the same spirit of the richness afforded by digressions, that I referred to in the beginning of this post, Jim suggests that the the “indeterminacy of this verse is not a defect, but a blessing” (p. 68). Jim’s discussion of these indeterminate meanings is also quite rich, and further discussion of those issues here would surely prove interesting and fruitful. But, alas, I’m already late posting this, and modern (and scientific…) demands on my time require that I end the discussion here.

What are your thoughts on this week’s reading?

11 Responses to “The Life of Holiness, Romans 1:2-4 (pp. 47-70)”

  1. Jim F. said

    Just a small correction: I think that Robert has misunderstood what I was trying to say,which probably means I should have said it better. Robert says “‘Lord’ here is the same word as Jehovah/Yahweh in the Old Testament.” That isn’t correct.

    The English word Lord translates the Greek word kyrios. Fitzmyer says that Palestinian Jews of Jesus’ day used the equivalent Hebrew word, adoni, “Lord,” to refer to Yahweh. So when Paul uses the equivalent Greek word in a Palestinian Jewish linguistic context–then he is probably also using the word to refer to Yahweh.

  2. Jim F. said

    Let me also add a couple of thoughts: it is interesting that God’s response to our suffering is divine suffering. I’m not completely sure what to do with that idea, but it at least suggests that there is no answer to the problem of suffering if “answer” means “solution that puts an end to the problem.” Divine suffering is a slap in the face to any hope for an end to all possible suffering.

    With regard to the mirror of the heavenly kingdom that is the earthly kingdom: the Lord’s prayer tells us to pray that the divine kingdom on earth might become like that which exists in heaven. I like what you say about the unity created by reading a text together, and I especially like your comparison to the choir. Presumably the different reading voices of the heavenly reading choirs sound more melodious than we do, but that harmony is something we can aim for, without aiming for all of us to sing exactly the same note at the same time.

    Thanks, Robert, for something that I know takes time when you have very little of it.

  3. cherylem said

    Thanks Robert for these notes and Jim for your extra comments. Saturday mornings seems to be a time when I am able to comment and I’ll add a little bit here to what Robert has already written. Robert has outlined these pages well. I confess that as I share some thoughts regarding this section of Jim’s book, I am a little anxious as to how Jim will treat God’s wrath and the debasement of the body and the condemnation of that debasement later in the chapter. I have not read ahead . . . so the anxiety lies low and humming for now.

    I actually wrote more about this anxiety but decided to save it in my own personal musings for now. Suffice it to say that I continue to find the slow read achingly lovely, but I fear the sucker punch.

    Religion is like that for me – even our religion. During my conversion to Mormonism when I was 27, my biggest fear was that while I found the conversation experience overwhelmingly powerful – in perhaps the sense that “powerfully appointed” is used in these verses – there was the fear that I was doing something terribly foolish, that later I would say that the experience made a fool of me. Thirty five years later the conversion experience has held true. But I still do not trust Romans . . .

    Enough probably inappropriate self-revealing.

    Reading verses 2-4 word by word brings to mind the work of any translator – how does one render the text into English, so that we can not only understand the meaning intellectually, but feel the meaning spiritually? How does this help us to understand the mind of Paul as well as the thoughts of the early Christian community who would read/hear this letter? How does reading with digressions (see Robert’s notes above and Jim’s explanation on page 47) both slow us down and fill us up regarding our interaction with the text? Is this text worthy of such a slow read? Many commentators give the whole of verses 1-7, for instance, just 3-4 paragraphs, if that. What is Jim asking us to do, by going so slowly word by word, relating to the ancient Greek, digressing with specifically Mormon interfaces? Paul probably spent less time writing these 3 verses (which may be formulaic) than Jim has done talking about one or two words.

    Yet, in spite of these questions and even perhaps because of them, toward the end of this week’s reading I had this experience of gulping in air and feeling entirely weepy. Something was happening as I engaged with Jim’s text and Paul’s text and my own thoughts. Some things regarding the text and those thoughts:

    1. It seems really important and significant to me to read the early Christian works, including our NT texts. My Catholic friends know the works of the early Christian fathers (I had a discussion with one last night – but more on that later), for instance, and I have tried to rectify my own ignorance of these texts by studying them myself. As Mormons, we believe that Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was real, and similar to experiences related in the Book of Mormon. So it is important – an fortunate for us to have the texts – to understand how he viewed his own relationship to Christ the annointed one after that experience, how he understand salvation, and how he understood his own life after his conversion. Reading word by word, phrase by phrase, with digressions, connects us in almost in a mystical way to understanding the spirit of the text. It is – or can be- a “with power” kind of reading.

    2. Jim talks about digressions as being similar to punctuation in the text, at the same time adding richness and depth (p. 49).

    By the way, in order to follow the slow read, I photocopied page 21 so I could constantly refer back to the entire segment being discussed.

    3. In speaking of “his Son” or “his Son Jesus Christ our Lord,” Jim makes the points that the “gospel is not an answer to the problem of suffering, or a resolution, or even a dissolution of it. The gospel is a response to suffering. It is the announcement that God has joined with us in our suffering (page 55).” I’m not sure i like this idea, really. There are many many days I wish we had a God that would not join our suffering, but eliminate it. When I am hungry, what good is it to have someone who will starve with me? Better to have someone that will bring me food . . . If I am raped, what good is it to have someone who feels the rape with me? Better to have a God that eliminates all rape. So I accept this reading, and again, open myself to understanding it. But the understanding hurts a bit, because it assumes that human suffering will continue, and not end. Evil will exist, and not go away.

    4. I want to point out that Christ was “made” or “birthed” a seed of David, but “appointed” or even “powerfully appointed” to be the Son of God. These are 2 different processes: one physical, the other spiritual. It was easy to miss or forget, but Jim gives us a little digression on Christ as both son and father on page 60 as he discusses this double birth (?). I put a question mark there because Jesus seems to have been born in some way at his resurrection. The rest was gestation. It is the resurrection that constitutes the fulfillment of the atonement.

    5. Jim refers us to Leviticus 19:2, relating being “holy” to being “perfect” or being perfectly set apart, or defined, for and by the work we are set apart to do. This gives a whole new richness to being set apart in our callings at church, and being set apart from others in our life.

    6. Regarding the phrase “with power” as in the KJV: “declared to be the son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness (not the Holy Spirit, by the way” or in Jim’s alternate translation: “powerfully appointed to be the Son of God, in other words, he was appointed according to the spirit of holiness,” Jim gives us 3 alternate readings, and refuses to name one as definitive, though he give us the one he *thinks* is most appropriate. Instead he says: “we cannot decide once and for all how to read the phrase.” In other words, Jim is asking us to be comfortable with ambiguity. (This is where I started gulping for air, I think.) LDS are not too comfortable with ambiguity. Plus . . . would Paul’s readers have understood this a certain way, not given 3 different (and possibly more) meanings to the phrase? How do we understand texts we cannot understand? How important is the Spirit – whether the Holy Spirit or the spirit of holiness – in our reading and understanding?

    Also, wouldn’t it be interesting in Gospel Doctrine or in our youth Sunday School classes to take a scripture and ask people to come up with 3 different ways of understanding the text? I think I’ll try that very soon.

    As a digression, this is important in our current D&C study, as we study the texts now available at the Joseph Smith papers website. The text is literally changing before our eyes . . .

    7. I’m going to comment on the resurrection elsewhere – on last week’s start of a discussion on the atonement.

    All I have time for for now. I’m interested in others’ comments. I hope others are reading along – if not, please start!!!

    • Jim F. said

      Good stuff here, Cheryl. You should write your own piece on Romans or Philippians or . . . .

    • James Gartner said

      First, I second Jim’s comment above. And Cheryl, I love reading your words.

      I won’t spend much time here, as I realize this may well be an aside. But some thoughts on Cheryl’s #3 above: Cheryl, your comments are provoking when you write of the difficulty you have with a God who has joined with us in our suffering—how you’re not sure you like this idea—how if hungry, if raped—what good is it to have someone who will starve with me, who feels the rape with me. Finally you say, “it assumes that human suffering will continue, and not end. Evil will exist, and not go away.” You mentioned Cheryl, that you started the Hansen atonement paper, and I will be curious if you have more to say on this at its conclusion.

      In this paper Hansen says there is a point to God’s weeping, and then of course Gethsemane, beyond just a God joining with us in our suffering. As Hansen says, “Suffering has an effect on him, and it is that effect (or change) that makes possible human redemption. The power of redemption comes through his expanded knowledge and sensitivity, which he then expresses through his role as mediator.” Point being, Jesus’ suffering was largely for him, for us. The suffering was necessary not to “satisfy” some law, but necessary so that “Jesus (could grow) in the knowledge of persons that reaches fullness only through total compassion” (quoting Hansen). It is with that added knowledge, according to Alma, that Jesus would be able to deliver his people: He takes on him our infirmities so that he might know according to the flesh how to relieve/succor his people. I think it is through this added knowledge that the Holy Ghost can then transform. Continuing Alma 7:12-13, “Now the Spirit knoweth all things;” –God’s/Christ’s knowledge then allows for the transformation process to begin.

      “he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth” (D&C 88:6).

      (An aside within my aside: I emphasized “God’s/Christ’s” immediately above because of Alan Goff’s commented on the moral influence theory of atonement, and the Hansen paper, saying how these theories “don’t need a deity, just a good moral instructor. And any moral teacher will do.” –I think Alan was speaking in general of the moral influence theory of atonement, which is true, but perhaps not specifically of Loren Hansen’s paper (or am I wrong Alan?). Hansen’s point, I believe, is only a deity could fully experience our pain and suffering. –Any mere mortal could not do this. The best, the kindest, the most empathetic person could not endure it, literally. It took God to do so.)

      • Jim F. said

        Cheryl, you may want to read Jacob Baker’s paper on suffering. (The easiest way would be to ask him for it via LDS-Herm.) He gave it today at the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities conference.

        As I heard Jacob, he was making a powerful case for why the only acceptable God would be one who would, ultimately, be with us in our suffering. He did so by more-or-less reenacting the story of Job.

        Yes, the view does assume that, since God is not omnipotent in the classical sense, suffering will continue. As long as persons have agency, evil remains possible. As long as we live in relationships with one another, those relationships can bring pain. God can promise us the best that is possible, but he can’t promise us the absolute absence of suffering without, at the same time, promising us the absolute end of relationship and agency.

  4. cherylem said

    Sorry for the typos – working hard at getting something out and screwing up in the meantime. which should help make it comfortable for others to post . . .

  5. Robert C. said

    Jim #1, thanks for the clarification — I think your book is quite clear about this, I was just being sloppy.

    And thanks to everyone else for the fascinating discussion!

  6. joespencer said

    Thanks to everyone for the discussion thus far. My apologies I’m coming to it so late.

    First a note: Since there’s enough talk here of Jim’s relatively brief discussion of theodicy, allow me to recommend Jim’s longer and more detailed discussion of this theme in “Rethinking Theology: The Shadow of the Apocalypse,” which can be found online here, as well as in Faith, Philosophy, Scripture, a collection of Jim’s essays.

    Much of this week’s reading seems to me to be laying the groundwork for the discussions of Romans 5-8. (I find that fascinating, since relatively little has been changed here from Jim’s Romans 1 book. Jim was already laying the groundwork for what he wouldn’t write for more than a decade.) By paying close attention to the two “births” of Christ—one according to the flesh, and one according to the spirit—Jim sets up the basic tension that will be worked out in later chapters, in particular in Romans 7. This groundwork allows Jim eventually, through an anticipatory glance at verse 7, to offer a third fundamental question being asked in the letter. Let me see if I can build up to that moment.

    The spirit/flesh business comes to a climax, in my view, on page 58, when Jim brings D&C 88:15 to bear on his discussion: if the soul is the body and the spirit, then “the life of sin, the life in which spirit and body are at odds, is thus a life in which the soul is alienated from and at odds with itself.” The consequence, Jim explains, is that “the atonement is not only a reconciliation of the human with the divine, but it makes possible the reconciliation of a person with him- or herself, the reconciliation of flesh and spirit.” On pages 59-60, Jim further clarifies that it is this task of reconciliation between body and spirit or between flesh and spirit that gives Paul to privilege the resurrection as the primary symbol of the atonement: “The war in the flesh between the various aspects of our character (see Romans 7:8-23) is brought to an end through the resurrection, which is a type and symbol on the one hand and a literal fact on the other. Thus the resurrection is an apt symbol of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice.” My only qualm at this point is the distance, however minimal, that calling the resurrection a “symbol” places between the resurrection and the atonement. Might it be that the resurrection simply is the atonement? Might it be, in other words, that the resurrection, by reconciling flesh and spirit through its triumph over death, has the atonement as one of its effects?

    That’s a pretty minor quibble, so I’ll leave it as a quibble. I certainly agree with Jim’s main point. And I love where he takes this next. If our end is to be reconciled in precisely this way—spirit and flesh united—then it’s in the accomplishment of that reconciliation that our perfection is to be obtained. To be perfect is, for us, to be the children of the Resurrected One in that our flesh no longer wars against the Spirit.

    Jim then weaves together this idea of perfection, the reconciliation of spirit and flesh, and the idea of holiness. At first, I’ll confess, I was a bit confused about exactly how all this was supposed to come together, particularly because perfection slides into the discussion from an oblique angle, being more implied than discussed in Paul’s words, and even then being implied at first only in connection with Christ’s definition. But more careful reading set me straight. The key is Jim’s reference to verse 7, found only in a footnote on page 61. The point, I take it, is that holiness is not only what characterizes the spirit through which Christ is defined/declared the Son of God; it is also that into which the Christian, as Christian, is called. And if holiness is connected to perfection (through the link between Matthew 5:48 and Leviticus 19:2), then the parallel between Christ’s being declared the Son of God and our own task of coming to be the sons/daughters of (or in) the Son of God says much about where all this is headed.

    All this, it seems to me, lies behind Jim’s third approach to the central question of the letter to the Romans (first and second approaches can be found on pages 30 and 36): “It may even be that this letter is an interpretation of Leviticus 19 for the Roman saints. If so, still another way to put the question of this letter is, ‘What does it mean to be holy?’ ‘What does it mean to be sanctified?'” (p. 61). Here Jim marks a transition from the more general questions of what it means to be owned by God (p. 30) and of what it means to recognize that God is one’s owner (p. 36) to the more specific question of what being owned and recognizing the fact suggest about the way one lives. The way I live if I come to see that I’m God’s is the life of holiness.

    What that means, of course, remains to be discussed in detail. And that, I take it, is where we’re headed with Romans 5-8….

  7. […] Romans 1:1 (pp. 21-46) [-Kirk C.] 3/11: Romans 1:2 (pp. 47-68) [-Robert C.] 3/18: Romans 1:3-7 (pp. 69-88) [-David G.] 3/25: Romans 1:8-15 (pp. 89-110) [-Robert […]

  8. If we had to, could we perform to our fullest, I mean our maximum potential if the stakes were life and death? When that level of urgency is greatest we mortals tend to put our utmost into a situation, dig up and find intestinal fortitude, courage, and anything else needed, and just do and not consider failure as an option. We forget ourselves and do for the better good. This is the stuff heroes are made of. We react or act in accordance to the training we receive and practice, the intellectual rehearsals, or perhaps, reflectively, meditatively, and pray fully.

    What about providing for our families, a career, overcoming an obstacle in our paths, or anything else? We must, but do we practice here and in the now; do we truly trust God, pay a full tithing, consecrating our all, even everything we have, if necessary for building up God’s kingdom? Even when we are completely broke? Let’s not forget the mighty power of FAITH. Are we filled with light enough for this gift? Sounds nice and easy, right? Wrong? Remember the mustard seed? It is my experience that we pay more lip service than actual doing, believing, trusting, and having complete faith, and that all things will be for God’s glory and that all else will work it-self out. And if it doesn’t work itself out to our expectations, then what… what is really most important? I do not recall ever receiving an easy pass card upon entrance into mortality. Has anyone received such a pass, please step forward and show your pass. Is it transferable? A few of us can sure use it. We must remember our purpose here in mortality and ever keep that purpose to the forefront of all we do. The scriptures teach and show us that. Do we really love God with all our might, mind, strength, and our whole soul? Do we invite the power of Godliness and live a life of holiness?

    I’m going to go out on the limb, and some will not believe me or something worse, but with recent turn of events and circumstances, especially in light of a particular friend; I feel impressed at this time. It’s only in that spirit I do so, period. So if anyone has anything negative please don’t be cowardly and identify yourself openly, even as I am doing. I am in no mood for pettiness. That said, because of the ever presence of evil lurking about, some things will only lend itself behind closed doors. It is not that I have so much more to share, although I may, it is the substance of that which I would share that concerns me deeply.

    EVIL is everywhere. Yes, evil is ever present and lurking all around in the highest to the lowest of places, in all of earths organizations, institutions, governments, and I am sorry, and deeply saddened to say even within our own cultures and churches, even at these open online forums.

    I will go out on the limb again, and share an experience I had about 2 years ago (give or take) with my stake president. I had been going through much in the way of work, family, church and you name it problems. And on one occasion the stake president came by our ward to visit and I bumped into him in the hallway. We chatted with some small talk and common pleasantries, and out of nowhere evil came at me very visibly. I could see it, it was so fast and furious and scared the daylights out of me and said to me, something to the effect, going by memory now; he (my leader) already knows your situation, he’s asking you questions that he already knows the answer to, and doesn’t care about you anyway. I immediately, found way of escape from the stake president, when others approached, and raced off to the chapel, where I was teaching gospel the doctrine class that day. I was a bit shaken and then as we had opening prayer the lesson began and the spirit once again came upon me and within the lesson. For more than a year I wanted to tell him of this encounter and could not, until finally when we were face to face for my temple recommend interview, I mustered the courage to tell him of this experience, and asked if on that day, he had felt anything odd about our encounter that day, and he looked at me a bit curious, and said no. I was pretty embarrassed and wanted to crawl under the chair, until he said, as a matter of factly, you just had a Joseph Smith experience. Okay, now I was all ears, and he reminded me of the first vision and I was like wow, I never thought of my experience, or of anything Joseph Smith like, and I felt a bit ashamed that I hadn’t before spoke of this with him. It has been a lesson which I have pondered over and over for more meaning since. I was expecting the sirens and psych ward look from him. But quite to the contrary he demonstrated wisdom, love and respect for what I shared.

    Something happened to me that special day, when our family was sealed for time & eternity. When I came out of the temple, and what happened, forever altered my understanding and vision of things and life that gave it new and deeper meaning. It was truly, “as if” the eyes of my understanding had been opened up. I later saw and felt evil spirits lurking about in shadows or images about the people, as they were walking to and fro, at the open air market. I was a bit freaked out by this. Although I briefly made mention about this occurrence, I never really discussed this in depth with anyone. If you could put robes on these people, it felt as though, for a moment, I saw something reminiscent of Christ’s times. I am feeling a bit skittish even sharing this and there are some more things as I mentioned that I will not share in such an open forum.

    Also, I do not believe anything that happens to any of us, are by mere chance or by coincidence. With this in mind, I also believe we are continually putting out or giving invitation to, so to speak, by our vibration, or vibrational frequency.

    We can only attract that which is within our vibrational vicinity. So what are the vibrations we are emitting? The better we feel, act, do, and become, the better our manifestation of the reality of that which we desire to create.
    Also, this is one of the reason’s I feel that serving and doing good to others out of pure love, and joy, brings to us good karma and blessings.

    Do we know the true meaning of responsibility or response- able or ability to respond? Whatever we may think, say, feel or do, these are our actions, and responses for which we, and no one else, are responsible. This is a hard lesson to absorb and accept, and for some it may be easy to see but hard to live. It seems we have been taught to believe and think the express opposite. We think our words have no consequences even when the intentions may be noble. I am well aware of my own weaknesses and that which I have said or say continually. But right now this is not about me. Do we consciously choose our response and action and reaction to others and life in general? When things do not work out, do we blame others for our actions or reactions or are our first thoughts, apathy, defeat, negativity, resentment, or any other hidden thoughts of despair?

    I think it takes not only a scholar but a spiritual warrior to do the work necessary to overcome this, and I’m not sure, for many of us, that we every really do but certainly we can do so much better.

    Is it any wonder we sometimes feel imprisoned or trapped by our circumstances? Do we become enlightened, on the other hand, are no longer spell bound? Do we choose to no longer see what may have been an illusion? Do we take full responsibility for our act ions, and as a consequence, always hold our own destiny in our own hands? Do we become free?.

    D &C
    117 Therefore, verily I say unto you, my friends, call your solemn assembly, as I have commanded you.

    118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.
    [Notice anything here? AND as all have not faith….what exactly does that mean, and isn’t a question we can answer? …even by study AND faith…seek all these things by study & faith].

    131 Let him offer himself in prayer upon his knees before God, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant.

    133 Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever.

    May you walk and travel in the steps of faith and that peace may come upon you, even as the running rivers and your righteousness as the waves of the sea. May God ever be with you my friend!

    On those days when we have special need of heaven’s help, we would do well to remember one of the titles given to the Savior in the epistle to the Hebrews. Speaking of Jesus’ ”more excellent ministry” and why He is “the mediator of a better covenant” filled with “better promises,” this author—presumably the Apostle Paul—tells us that through His mediation and Atonement, Christ became “an high priest of good things to come.”
    Every one of us has times when we need to know things will get better. Moroni spoke of it in the Book of Mormon as “hope for a better world.” For emotional health and spiritual stamina, everyone needs to be able to look forward to some respite, to something pleasant and renewing and hopeful, whether that blessing be near at hand or still some distance ahead. It is enough just to know we can get there, that however measured or far away, there is the promise of “good things to come.”
    My declaration is that this is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, especially in times of need. There is help. There is happiness. There really is light at the end of the tunnel. It is the Light of the World, the Bright and Morning Star, the “light that is endless, that can never be darkened.” It is the very Son of God Himself. In loving praise far beyond Romeo’s reach, we say, “What light through yonder window breaks?” It is the return of hope, and Jesus is the Sun. To any who may be struggling to see that light and find that hope, I say: Hold on. Keep trying. God loves you. Things will improve. Christ comes to you in His “more excellent ministry” with a future of “better promises.” He is your “high priest of good things to come.” Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘An High Priest of Good Things to Come’,” Ensign, Nov 1999, 36


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