– A is for Adam, B is for Baptism, C is for Covenant

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” – Mark 16:15, 16

This verse contains the last charge that Christ gave to his apostles as he told them to go forth and preach. He gave them as part of that charge what they were to accomplish by their preaching. The warning given is harsh and states that people (all the posterity of Adam) who hear the gospel message and reject it will be damned. Damnation in this context means that they cannot live with God eternally. Those that do believe are asked to show their belief by submitting to the ordinance of baptism and are those that will be saved.

Baptism is for Identification:

The New Testament writings of Paul talk about being baptized into one “body” (see 1 Corinthians 12:13). That has reference to the “body of believers”, or the “body of Christ”. Baptism is for the purpose of identification with Christ through which we become a part of the church. It is your invisible badge that you wear.

This event of baptism is really just the beginning of a journey. It is the making of a covenant (promise) to God that for your part you will take the name of Christ upon you, which means you will be an example to the world of someone living the true Christian life by traveling on the strait and narrow path. We are thus separated out from society and made “one in Christ” in this special group.

“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:27

Repentance and the Holy Ghost:

Baptism is meant to be symbolic. One of its symbolisms is that of being washed clean. It is not however the physical act of the water baptism that is cleansing the person. It is the power of the Holy Ghost that sanctifies us and cleanses us.

We are sanctified by the Holy Ghost through the power of God. Redemption comes through the atoning blood of Christ that allows this cleansing to take place. The sanctification by the Holy Ghost is what makes us pure and spotless before God.

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” – Acts 2:38

You can’t fool God

Many Christians are well aware of and have experienced a water baptism. This physical baptism in water does not accomplish the actual sanctification of a person. This is only half of the process. In order for the process to be complete, one must experience a baptism of the Spirit. This is also referred to as baptism by fire.

The day of Pentecost in the ancient church was an extreme case of the baptism by fire happening where the Holy Ghost descended and actual fire and a rushing noise was experienced. Through the baptism of fire, sin is burned out of the repentant sinner. This is related to the person being born again and becoming a new person in Christ.

The insincere cannot fool God. They may have the water baptism, but will not receive the baptism of the spirit. The baptism by fire is the experience resulting from receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” – John 3:5

I invite you to read about baptism and to seek out one in authority to administer this ordinance. Don’t stop there, because the physical act is the outward sign. The true effect of it will be a baptism of the spirit.

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– What are you aiming for?

In both Greek and Hebrew, the word “sin” literally means to “miss the mark”. Imagine an arrow being shot from a bow and being off aim of its target. A person breaking God’s commandments is not on the narrow path aiming for Eternal Life.

Let’s now look at the word “repentance”. The Greek literally means to “change one’s mind” or to “turn around”. In reference to the sinner, it would involve the correcting of their aim back towards the straight and narrow path leading to Eternal Life with God.

“For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd…” – 1 Peter 2:25

This verse above refers back to the more ancient verse in Isaiah 53:6 which reads – “All we like sheep have gone astray”. The analogy is that Christ is the shepherd and mankind are the wayward sheep. He never gives up on us and is continually calling after us. In our act of repenting we turn to Christ and return to the fold. The prodigal son was always a sheep even when he was in the pig pen. He heard the voice of God and came back home. To repent, a person must turn from something, to something. This involves both the mind and the heart of an individual.

The story of the children of Israel being afflicted by the bite of the poisonous snakes teaches us a great lesson on faith. All that the people had to do in order to be healed from the venomous bite was to look up to the image lifted on the pole and they would be saved. It takes the overcoming of our worldly pride and fleshly tendencies to take that step and look to Christ. God certainly knows our hearts and can discern those that are making the honest attempt and are exercising faith in Christ.

Why repentance is needed

Nothing unclean can dwell with God. Without the atonement, we would all be subject to death and hell. The fundamental gospel teaching is that Christ died for our sins to make it possible for us to be forgiven through faith in him. Forgiveness comes through the blood of Christ which will cleanse us from our sins. We are raised from our corruption to incorruption. Through the blood of Christ we can become white, meaning pure before God. The blood of Christ keeps on cleansing us – “I have been saved, I am being saved and I will be saved.”

“These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” – Rev 7:14

The work of sanctifying of a person is accomplished through the Holy Spirit which is the power emanating from God the Father to accomplish His work and apply the Atonement in our lives. Once you have left the pig pen, don’t go back.

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” – Heb 10:26

What are you waiting for? Have you heard His voice calling you home?

– Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone

Faith is a principle of action. We say we have faith in Christ and are saved, but that is just the beginning of the path that Christ has asked us to follow.

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” – Galatians 2:16

The scriptures here and elsewhere show that the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ and done away with. The law was never intended to be followed to bring salvation, only to point people to Christ and to focus their faith on Him in order to be saved. It was specifically put in place to be a method of schooling the people. In fact, the law was really impossible to keep and only showed how short we had come. It was as a mirror to show our imperfections.

Of course we can ask – what about works in general, outside of the Law of Moses, such as acts of service? What would we consider things like visiting the sick and lonely, or giving time and means to the poor? Of course these “works” are not the same as the “works” in the Law of Moses mentioned in these verses. The Law of Moses required specific rituals and requirements to teach the people. We can simply say that the good works that a person performs brings rewards. Ultimately, as we find in Titus 3:5 we are justified by the grace of Christ:

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” – Titus 3:5

Ok, so don’t be confused. I keep saying and quoting scripture that clearly states that all we need is faith alone to be saved by the mercy of God. So it is truly Jesus Christ alone that saves us as we have faith in him. Yet faith will never be alone in our lives. It must always be accompanied by something else. We will see fruits of righteousness appear in our life. Paul taught that faith must also be accompanied by charity, which is a pure love as Christ has for each of us.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal…And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.” – 1 Cor 13:1, 13

Charity is mentioned as the most important of all! Without it, our faith would be in vain and is just a little “tinkling cymbal” or a “sounding brass”. “Sounding brass” was an ancient means of using hollow resonating wood or metal chambers to help amplify the sounds in outdoor theaters. Our faith is hollow if we are not also filled with charity.

It seems tricky to interpret the true meaning behind this doctrine in the New Testament, but don’t get hung up on it. It really is simple. We must perform good works as a manifestation of our faith, but that is not what saves us in Christ. Charity is a natural outcome of being a Christian where we should want to reach out and help people. Christ often went out of His way to minister to someone.

“shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” – James 2:18

– An interesting by-product of the Civil war‏

The Mormon prophet Joseph Smith ran for President in 1844. He did so with the goal of bringing more power to the federal government and to unite the nation in its liberties. In those days, mobs had been free to persecute the Mormons. It was up to the individual states to make their own freedom guarantees, and so far none had come to the aid of the Mormons. The federal government had not even been able to mandate Rights for all people in all states. The Bill of Rights that was ratified in 1791, did not actually apply everywhere. Even the first amendment, that guaranteed religious freedom, and the second amendment, that gave people the right to bear arms, was not being respected. Joseph had experienced first hand the lawlessness that existed in the United States. He had sought redress for the suffering Saints, and was told that the federal government had no power to intervene.

Tragically, the prophet Joseph Smith was assassinated in 1844 before he could carry out his full campaign for president. His political platform outlined how he would empower the US president to send an army to suppress mobs violating the rights of US citizens. He also stated that he would eliminate slavery and “pay every man a reasonable price for his slaves out of the surplus revenue arising from the sale of public lands, and from the deduction of pay from members of Congress.” Before running for president, he had spent several months in Washington D.C. meeting with the President Van Buren, senitors and congressmen and also writing all the main men running in the upcoming presidential election. He received no commitments or interest from anyone on his views. Joseph stated the following.

“[I would not have run for president] if I and my friends could have had the privilege of enjoying our religious and civil rights as American citizens, even those rights which the Constitution guarantees unto all her citizens alike. But this as a people we have been denied from the beginning. Persecution has rolled upon our heads from time to time, from portions of the United States, like peals of thunder, because of our religion; and no portion of the Government as yet has stepped forward for our relief. And in view of these things, I feel it to be my right and privilege to obtain what influence and power I can, lawfully, in the United States, for the protection of injured innocence.” – Joseph Smith

With the prophet Joseph dead, and no one else on the horizon to pursue changing the nation as a whole, there was no other course for the country other than to face a terrible civil war. What then was the result of that war? Was it simply to end slavery? That was big part of it. But in addition, it created a stronger federal government that could now guarantee the rights of its citizens. No longer would it be possible for states to completely disregard the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Temples could then dot the land, and people were free to worship. Joseph tried to lead the nation on an easier path, but that was not to be, and the country had to go through some trying times in order to repent and become one again.

– Some interesting facts about President Lincoln, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon‏

I recently read a fascinating book that presented some interesting information connecting Abraham Lincoln and the Book of Mormon. The book is entitled “The Lincoln Hypothesis” by Timothy Ballard. I will not give you all of the details, as you might wish to do further reading from the book on your own. Here is the main point of the book – President Lincoln was influenced by the Book of Mormon and was strengthened from what he read during the darkest days of his life while he was president during the civil war.

Lincoln was president from March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865, the date he was assassinated. Lincoln had won his parties nomination in an unlikely contest that was from the start a rather lopsided contest against him. The election victory thus went to Lincoln, an obscure backwoodsman. Abraham Lincoln was prepared and lead by God in a miraculous way to accomplish a great work in America. God had placed Abraham Lincoln as president and now God would further qualify him for his great work.

The Confederates attacked Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and the North enthusiastically rallied behind the Union and president Lincoln. Lincoln then concentrated on the military and political dimensions of the war. His primary goal was to reunite the nation. All of this stress of the civil war weighed heavily on president Lincoln. Then, a personal tragedy struck the Lincoln home. His eleven year old son Willie  contracted typhoid fever and suddenly died on Feb 20, 1862. President Lincoln spoke of him, saying “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so. It is hard, hard to have him die.” Mary Lincoln was too devastated to function anymore.

With the stress and tragedies of life, Lincoln suffered bouts of depression. He often could not sleep and paced the hallways. To help out, a new nurse was hired to care for their remaining son . This woman was Rebecca Pomroy and was a deeply believing Christian. She often conversed with Lincoln and guided him to seek a more spiritual life. Lincoln at this time started spending a lot of time reading pocket copy of the New Testament he had in his possession. President Lincoln also happened to have a copy of the Book of Mormon during this time. He started to spend much time in prayer.

In November of 1861 Lincoln personally walked into the Library of Congress and signed the ledger to check out a copy of the Book of Mormon. The ledger still exists with Lincolns signature in it. He then kept the book in his possession for more than eight months and finally returned it in July 1862. But why had he checked it out? Did he read the whole book, and what influence did it have on him?

It is possible that even the exact Book he checked out is still in the rare books collection also. The author of the book I read actually went there and asked to see the book that was possibly checked out by Lincoln. It had several pages that had obviously been dog eared. One page had actually been folded three times to specifically mark it. That page is in Second Nephi where Isaiah chapter 5 is quoted. Interestingly enough, in 1865 when President Lincoln was sworn in for his second term, he asked to have a large Bible brought out for him to lay his hand on for the swearing in and had it opened to Isaiah chapter 5. People present later recorded that after the ceremony, he picked up the book and kissed verse 25. Here is that verse:

“Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” – Isaiah 5:25

A few weeks after returning the Book of Mormon, Lincoln presented the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet on the date of July 22, 1862. He had fully come to realize that all who inhabit the American land should be free and that the country needed to repent of its sins.

In the end, Lincoln was assassinated, but in the process, the nation became unified and adopted the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments that ensured that the Bill of Rights pertained to all citizens and to abolished slavery.

– Spiritual Detox

I have occasionally gone on a special diet in order to detox my body from the ill effects of processed foods. One of the things I drink from time to time to help with that is dandelion tea as it aids the natural filtering capability of the liver. If you give your body the right food and cut out the bad, you can eliminate the impurities lodged there. Then you can have better overall health, such as lungs that are able to absorb oxygen easier, a healthy digestive track and many other benefits. It is clear that there are bad things people commonly ingest into their bodies. To get completely free from them, you need some amount of detox to completely rid your body of them. You have to stick with it and not let one ounce of the bad back in you body.

There is a direct analogy to this that has to do with our spiritual diet and the need for a detox to cleanse your spiritual self. What has your diet been of television shows? What has been your diet of music? Have they been clean and wholesome? If not, these spiritual impurities build up toxins in your spirit that drag down and chain your soul. The following describes what happens if you let evil influences poison your spirit with toxins:

“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” – Titus 1:15–16

Get on a new diet that rids your sprit of the toxins you have built up and feed your spirit with the diet that a Saint should have. You don’t need to be on your new diet for weeks or months to feel the effects of the detox, effects will be immediate. Your diet should consist of – worship, fasting, prayer, scripture and good music.

The spirit as well as the body is in need of constant nourishment. Yesterday’s meal is not enough to sustain today’s needs. An infrequent reading of “the most correct of any book on earth,” as Joseph Smith called it, is not enough. (History of the Church, 4:461.) You must read the Book of Mormon every day. Then you will experience the fruits as follow:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance…” – Galatians 5:22

– How do you know?

I heard a preacher once take for the title of his sermon – “If you were tried in a court of law for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” It is an interesting question to ponder. A similar question to ponder would be the following. How do you know if God has identified you as one of His sheep that has heard His voice and have been sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise? Here are my signs for knowing if a person is a true Christian.

1. They rely on God and endure faithfully to the end, having been identified by their baptism of water and being led by the Holy Ghost
Read Second Nephi chapter 31. Here is an excerpt. It speaks to what we need to do after we are baptized.

“For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost. And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life…after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” – 2 Nephi 31

2. They have the countenance of Christ about them
I can see it in a person’s being. It is the spirit inside that is really beaming forth that people can sense.
“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him.” – Alma 5:14

3. They have troubles and trials
God chastens those he loves. “I will try the faith of my people.” (3 Nephi 26:11). I heard it said that you can judge a person by the enemies they have. True believers will stand out in a crowd and will be persecuted on occasion. This should become more and more apparent as the world becomes more and more wicked.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matt 5:11 NIV

Even Christ was derided. People even accusing him of being a drunkard and possessed of the Devil. The following scripture however gives us great comfort.
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

4. They believe in Prophecy and God speaking to mankind today
Modern revelation is a necessity to gain salvation, for without it we cannot have the revealed word or authority unto salvation. Without revelation, there will not exist the church and kingdom of God, and without that there is no salvation. We need the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s Word and His purpose for us, providing us with personal revelation. Joseph Smith once said the following.
“…any man who says he is a teacher or preacher of righteousness, and denies the spirit of prophecy, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; and by this key false teachers and imposters may be detected.” – Joseph Smith

5. They love and praise God and others and seek to keep the commandments and serve others
“If ye love me keep my commandments” – John 14:15

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” – James 1:27

These people will be more concerned about others than themselves and will always be looking for someone to help.

6. They are humble and repentant
“Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble” – Alma 5:27

7. They show forth good works
“By their fruits ye shall know them” – Matt 7:20