To Live Freely: Part Eighteen

Yesterday I discussed three different domains of truth: the truth of the physical world, the truth of society, and the truth of morality. I made my case for each being well-founded and constant, even if at times mysterious. I argued that they all originate from outside of our individual selves, yet are inseparably integrated in us as well. I also considered the strange paradox where we all believe in these realities to some degree, yet we try to violate their rules even so. Each one of us seems to believe in the truth, but also disbelieve it in part. And this uncertainty makes it very difficult, even impossible, for us to live in full harmony with these realities and achieve our greatest potential.

Having acknowledged the problem, I turn now to an important passage of scripture, some of the most quoted verses from the Bible.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. - John 1:1-3

Much has been said about the meaning of the word “Word” in this passage. It sounds a bit strange to our ears, because a “word” is a conceptual and impersonal thing, but here it is being used to describe a personified being, indeed the fundamental being. Of course, the passage isn’t just talking about a word, it is THE Word. It is the fundamental Word, the ultimate Word, the Word before all others. It is the Word that we are told made all other things, defined all other things, gave form to all other things. This Word is so fundamental and foundational that without it there was “not any thing made that was made.”

I have spent a great while talking about the systems and rules that we see in the created universe, from physics to society to morality. As I said before, these systems clearly originate from outside of us. They were present before we were, and they will exist after we are gone. These verses from John explicitly identify the Word as the author of these laws and systems of reality. And if this Word is the word that defines the laws and systems of reality, then that Word must necessarily be true. For if it were not true, then all of reality would not be true either, nor our very existence. In fact, not only must the Word be true, it must be THE Truth. The fundamental Truth, the ultimate Truth, the Truth from which all these other truths are derived.

The Word is the Truth, and the Truth is the author of all the other truths that we observe, infer, and feel. Any attempt to live outside of the created truths is therefore an attempt to live outside of the fundamental Truth, and any attempt to live outside the fundamental Truth is an attempt to live outside of created reality. To deny the Truth and live against it is to deny the entire fabric of the universe, our own selves included, and frustrate our very being. It is not that it is merely advisable to live in the Truth, it is that it is only possible to live living in the Truth. Any attempt to exist outside of the Truth is to begin to undo one’s own creation, to unravel oneself into nothingness, to vanish into outer darkness.

What a problem, then, that we violate the Truth every day!

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of sin is death - Romans 3:23, 6:23

It is a problem that we do not have the power to resolve either. As beings of the Truth, we cannot change the Truth. Nor can we change our own state back to being in harmony with the Truth after we have violated it, for the unmaking of ourselves is, in fact, instantaneous, only artificially prolonged by the grace of God.

And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time - Alma 42:4

Of course, this probationary period does us little good if left to our own devices. We, ourselves, have no way to rectify the fact that we are now fundamentally disconnected from the Truth of the universe. And this is where the rest of John 1 comes into play. For, after defining the Word’s external authorship of all the elements that make up our reality, John then proclaims:

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. He was in the world, and the world was made by him. - John 1:14, 10

The creating Word came to live within its own creation! No longer just an external force, the creating Word now became an internal being as well. “It was made flesh and dwelt among us.” At one level that obviously represents the man Jesus Christ walking and teaching in Israel, but the penetration of the Word actually went much deeper. Jesus, himself, taught that he would be in us individually!

My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. - John 14:23

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. - Mark 14:22

I in them, and thou in me - John 17:23

The Word is made our flesh, and it dwells inside of us!

Be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts - Ephesians 3:16-17

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. - 1 John 3:24

What does this mean? It means that the Word that made the Truth that all of our existence is predicated upon can also come into our hearts and make the same Truth in there as well.

Though we have violated the external Truth, we can be reconciled to it by having it remade internally. Thus, we cease to be damned by the uprooting of ourselves from the external reality, because we are now sustained by the same reality existing anew within us.

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life - John 4:14

To live at all we must live in the Truth. To live in the Truth, we must be reconciled from our sin. To be reconciled from our sin, we must have that fundamental Truth that lays at the foundation of all reality planted within our hearts. To have the Truth planted in our hearts, we must receive the creator of that Truth, the Word, even Jesus Christ.

Jesus does not just come to invite us to join him in outer heaven, he comes to put heaven inside of us! And I do not mean that figuratively. Though I do not begin to understand how, in some way, entirely literally, Christ comes to put the seed of all created reality within our own being. All of the cosmos is made anew within us!

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

- Revelation 21:1-7

This is what it means to live in Truth!

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Mark 6:12, Doctrine and Covenants 6:9

And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

Say nothing but repentance unto this generation; keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed.


And they went out, and preached that men should repent
Say nothing but repentance unto this generation

I have spoken a bit about how we can conduct ourselves when trying to enlighten the minds of others. If we establish a genuine and loving relationship first, and are motivated by that love for them, and are providing the instruction that will help them at their unique moment of life, then we have the ideal situation for teaching truth.
But sometimes our teaching isn’t directed towards someone who is already trying to become their best self. Sometimes we aren’t just nudging an already mostly-correct direction. Sometimes someone is doing things that are definitively wrong and they fully intend to carry on with that behavior. And in this situation, whether we can succeed in dissuading them from that course or not we have a moral obligation to try. They need to be reproved for their own sake (to caution them from harming themselves), and they need to be reproved for the sake of those around them (to caution them from harming others).
This is obviously a more touchy subject and I’ll dedicate the next several posts to considering it. For now, though, let us at least let acknowledge that while the gospel message does encourage the seeker it also reproves the sinner.

Dealing With Failure- Personal Example #1

I want to explain a little more of my personal experiences, and the two conundrums that inspired this particular topic of study. The first of these deals with the steps of repentance I was taught to follow as a child.

I understood that to repent I must sincerely feel sorrow for what I had done wrong, confess my wrongs to God and anyone else I had harmed, make restitution as possible, and then not do that behavior anymore.

Now I actually think this description for repentance is fine, when understood as a process, and not a singular event, particularly in regards to that last step. I do believe that there are times that you can swear off a certain behavior forever, but far more common is that even when I feel genuine sorrow for my wrongs and wish to never do them again…I probably will at some point.

Thus there were times that I was told I needed to repent of a misdeed, and if I did it again, was asked why I hadn’t really repented, as I was still showing the same wrong behavior. And this was quite disheartening, and eroded my confidence in my ability to repent and become a better person.

Yes, at times, I needed to be more sincere in my efforts to improve, but also there were times when I actually was improving, I simply had not attained perfection yet. In those moments I believe I would have been greatly helped by an understanding that sometimes repentance means not repeating the wrong behavior…eventually. It means we try again and again, recommitting after each slip, doing the wrong thing less and less, soldiering on through the process of letting God change our hearts, until finally we no longer are subject to that sin.

The Need for Law- Alma 11:37, Helaman 5:10-11

And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

And remember also the words which Amulek spake unto Zeezrom, in the city of Ammonihah; for he said unto him that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.


And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins.
The Lord should come to redeem his people, but not to redeem them in their sins.
It is important to note that the gift of Christ’s law, which rescues us from the condemnation of divine law, does not give us free license to sin and carouse about without a care for the welfare of our soul.
We often make the mistake of thinking of law as simply being a set of punishable rules, but really it is a guide for living a purposeful life. We obey the laws of our nation not only to avoid being thrown into prison, but also that we may establish a community that is nurturing and safe. Imagine if we could break the laws and steal and cheat and kill without punishment. Yes, we would avoid imprisonment, but also our societies would disintegrate into utter chaos.

Not to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not merely cosmetic. It does not take sinners, who remain sinners, who indulge in sinful thoughts and actions as a way of life, and then stamp them with a “fit for heaven” label that doesn’t belong. Rather it takes sinners, and it teaches them how to live purely.
Obviously there is a delicate line here. Because even those who are sincerely trying to follow the gospel are going to make wrong choices along the way. And I don’t just mean ignorant mistakes, I mean that they will willfully and intentionally do something that they know is wrong. And for these sincere-hearted, but imperfect souls, there does need to be grace. There does need to be some degree of understanding and pardoning of guilt.
To what degree? Well, that isn’t for me to judge. That falls under the purview of Christ himself, and he alone can tell us how aligned we are in his eyes.
What I do know, though, is that he intends for us to repent when we have these shortcomings. Even knowing that we are sure to slip again, he does expect us to keep moving. And when we do commit to try again, he gives us a purer heart that wants all the less to sin. He is saving us from our sins, slowly moving them apart from us until we have no more desire for them.

The Way That Things Are- Question

One of the fundamental claims of the gospel is that it teaches “truths.” There are those that view the gospel as nothing more than a suggested way to live life, or as a wishful description of how things ought to be. But the gospel does not state that it is either of those. Its clear and bold proclamation is that it defines things exactly the way that they are. It does not purport to be a way, it insists that it is the way.

Whether the gospel is effective depends entirely on whether that claim is true or not. We are told not to perform sinful actions, because those behaviors are inherently wrong. That is just the way that they are. And are they? If not, then the gospel has lied to us and has nothing of value to offer. If so, then we truly ought to abstain from them for our very own benefit.

My personal experience is that the gospel is correct in its claims, and if anyone wished to dispute my faith, they would have to illustrate why the truths proclaimed in the gospel are not actually truths.

With this study I would like to further establish how the gospel is bold in defining universal truths, and in dividing right from wrong. I wish to find examples that reinforce the notion that the gospel is the source of truth. I will also consider the folly of treating any of its precepts as mere “suggestions.”

In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you have come to view the gospel as a source of truth in your life. Have you ever had to overcome a tendency to view its teachings as recommendations? What truths of the gospel ring the most true to you? Did that faithful belief come naturally, or was it something you had to cultivate over time?

The Family of God- Matthew 18:20-22

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.


For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them
Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Before today I was already quite familiar with both of these accounts: the one where Jesus promises to be in the midst of a group gathered in his name, and the other where Peter wonders how many times he is expected to forgive another. But until now I had never contemplated that these moments are placed one immediately after the another.
It makes for a fascinating contrast, one where Christ is calling for unity, and then we have Peter trying to find out when he is allowed to create a division. It is as if Peter is asking “at what point can I not be expected to gather with a particular other?”
And Jesus’s answer is, essentially, never. We must not forget that Christ made his own company among sinners. Not only repentant sinners either, remember that he did some of his most beautiful work shoulder-to-shoulder with the man that would ultimately betray him. The world around him was rotten at times, but he still stayed a part of it.
In the end, we are all we have. God isn’t giving you a backup planet with new brothers and sisters if you can’t work things out with the current set. As such, we should stop looking for opportunities to write off a particular brother or sister as a lost cause, and instead start gathering together.

The Resurrecting and Enabling Power of Jesus- John 9:1-3, 6-7; John 5:5-6, 8-9, 14

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked…
Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.


Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
Jesus is not confined to only healing the innocent, Jesus is not limited to only rescuing the sinner. When we are made the victim of circumstance or another’s cruelty it might be easy to assume this is just our lot in life and we have to bear it. When our suffering is due to our own guilty actions it might be easy to assume we have forfeited the right to be healed.
The simple truth is that no one is outside of the healing power of the Savior. The reasons for your anguish do not matter, the depth of that anguish does not matter. The Savior is not the Savior of some, he is the Savior of all.

He saw a man which was blind from his birth.
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
When reading of so many miracles it can be easy to feel forgotten when we have endured our own afflictions without relief. Perhaps we have even asked for healing and still it has not come.
Perhaps it is that lack of healing that has leads us to those thoughts of “well I deserve this punishment” or “this is just my cross to bear.” It is helpful in these moments to remember that those Jesus healed had often been oppressed for a very long while, too. It does seem that God lets us bear our burdens for a time, lets us experience the natural consequences of our actions for a time.
But that doesn’t mean the Savior is either unwilling or unable to heal us. Indeed, we know that in the Resurrection every remaining burden will be unfettered by his miraculous resurrecting and healing power.
One of my favorite scriptures is one full of remarkable pathos, and it beautifully attests to exactly this. From Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

Commandments and Personal Revelation- Mosiah 4:29, Isaiah 42:21, Doctrine and Covenants 58:25-26

And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.

The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.

They shall counsel between themselves and me. For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things;


For there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them
It is not meet that I should command in all things
The simple truth is that there are too many permutations of possible actions for a written law to ever encapsulate the entirety of all forbidden behavior. Even the same action can be considered both right or wrong, depending on its context.
Those that seek loopholes in any law will always be able to find them, no matter how far the law bloats itself to try to and thwart their mischief.

They shall counsel between themselves and me
He will magnify the law, and make it honourable

If I am to have any hope of truly following the commandments I am going to need some sort of constant and living guidance. A pastor will never be available enough to guide me in every life situation, and two different pastors might even give me conflicting advice.
The only solution, then, is to have personal revelation. Or as these above scriptures describe it: to counsel with God and learn from Him how we should magnify the law in our individual circumstances. By communing with Him and receiving instruction perfectly fitted to our need in that moment, we are finally able to dispel any ambiguity and act with full confidence.