Sunday, 29 March 2015

Sermon: Tolerance

Brothers and sisters it is an honour to be able to speak to you today. To all those that are here and also throughout the world. Today I wish to speak with you on a subject I have had to learn about a lot this last week, tolerance! It seems that with suffering with ill health from time to time, I find that I want to do a whole lot of things, but I can't, I have had to learn a lot about tolerance. I have had to learn that tolerance is a virtue that we need in our very turbulent world, a world filled with great chaos and strife, war and violence, and all manner of things which are trying our faith left, right and centre. However, at the same time, we must also realise and spot that there is a difference between tolerance and tolerate. Just because you may have tolerance toward someone or something, does not grant whatever it is or whoever they are the right to do wrong, nor does it obligate you to tolerate any misdeeds which have taken place. It is therefore fundamental that as Latter Day Mormons, we need to understand this vital virtue, the very virtue of tolerance!
 
Jesus Christ gave us two great commandments, the highest objectives in this mortal life are summed up in the two greatest commandments, two commandments which have never before been fully realised by hardly anyone. But, if we are to understand tolerance, we must also understand what these two great commandments are, we must also understand the reality of living these in our own personal lives. These two great commandments of which I speak are, loving God the Father and also loving our neighbours, those around us, when we do this then we take on a whole new outlook on things. When we love both the Father and our fellowmen, we take on a whole new recognition of our own lives, understanding that we are not free to do just what we want, but rather, that we must live our lives showing gratitude, honour, and respect. We need to be obedient to both of these commandments, which means that when we are obedient to both of these commandments, then we are also obedient to all the fundamental laws of the Gospel. But, it also means, just as Mosiah had summed up, that when we are serving others, we also are in the service of our God.
 
The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ reaches out to all backgrounds. We have been asked by the Saviour to reach out to all nations as told to us in the holy scriptures when it says "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, unto the end of the world. Amen"  (Matthew 28:18-19)
 
It is our mission therefore to go and to baptise all nations, teaching them to keep His commandments. With that comes an additional need for tolerance. This means that we are reaching beyond our own borders, we are literally reaching hands across borders in fellowship and in love. One of the hardest things that may come about when we are doing this is to learn to love those who live in other lands that we might have considered being enemies to our own people in our own nations. But, rather than looking at it like this, we need to look at it in terms that they are a part of our own people, the human race. The real understanding of the two great commandments can only come when we learn to have tolerance for those not of our own home land. When we learn to have tolerance for those of other nationalities, when we learn to have tolerance and love toward those who perhaps in Muslim nations, we then learn that we can have great concern for them having tolerance for them, while not tolerating their beliefs, we have great tolerance for them, great compassion for them, and we want to help them and to fellowship them just as anyone who has not before had a chance to hear the restoration. Indeed we need to show that our tolerance is greater than there's, for we say to the world today to join with Christ of you own free will, gone are the days when men of the west say convert or die, for this is not the way of the Father or the Son, but the one whom was cast down.  It is for this reason that intolerance of other nations and people is one reason why we have wars and conflicts which take place all around the globe, indeed much of the conflict in the Middle East today is because one set of people are showing total intolerance for others. The situation that is effect throughout the world has nothing to do with religion but intolerance. We know that humanity is in the grip of something which it needs to strive to come out from under, but it will not be the case until the nations learn that intolerance is nit the answer and to look for the time when Jesus Christ returns. But for us, as children of the Father and followers of the Christ we can learn tolerance for other nations. In our walk along the path of life we may come into contact with those people that do not share the same beliefs as ourselves, does this mean that we have no responsibility toward them? No, rather it means that we should still show love towards them, that we should still have great tolerance for them and show them the love of God, to educate them in the role and life of the Saviour for the sake of their own redemption, and in doing so we share with them the truth of the Restored Gospel and what is holds for them. Then if they desire baptism, we take them down into the waters of baptism and give them the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
 
There are risks with tolerance, this may sound silly but let me offer some more important information on the side of caution. There is an assumption amongst many people that says, that if a little of something is okay, then a lot of something must be even better, but, this is not always so! For example, why would one take a prescription medicine that might help to relieve their earache and because it has helped that earache, take even more, so much so that they have overdosed? Mercy can also oppose justice, so then, tolerance with limit can also lead to giving permission for things to go too far. So with this, we might want to just take a look at how much tolerance we should afford, especially if we have been wronged numerous times. Remember that while we have tolerance, it does not mean that we have to continue being wronged. The Lord has drawn boundary lines upon tolerance. Just as in the early history of the Church in this dispensation, the Lord has drawn lines with how long the Saints stayed in an area in the midst of great persecution. So the Lord from time to time made provisions for the Saints to move around, an event which was symbolised in the Bible by the forty years in the desert of ancient Israel.  Just as we as parents, no matter how old or young we teach our own children not to do certain things, if you are parents to younger children it might be not to run and play in the street. Our Father through his Son our Saviour Himself has taught us to not tolerate evil. “Jesus went into the temple of God, and overthrew the table of the moneychangers” (Matt. 21:12; Mark 11:15) Though He has great love for the sinner, the Father cannot at all look upon sin with the least degree of allowance hence the need for a Saviour. Real love means that we may compel courageous confrontations, not acquiescence! Real love in no way supports self-destructing behaviour which only leads toward more damage, therefore, we must be responsible in what we do.
 
Tolerance Demands Mutual Respect. In our desire to commit to the Saviour, we must scorn sin, yet while scorning sin, we love those around us. For example, since the attacks on the world trade centre and the London underground and the continued unrest we find ourselves in today with many of the Muslim nations within the Middle East there are those who have  began showing great hatred and still do and this anger is turned towards their Muslim neighbours. They hate them with a passion for the terrorist attacks, for the murder and the bloodshed that many belonging to this religion have spawned and are still indeed spawning all over the world. Let it be clear that while we can hate what took place and what is still taking place, we should never forget that we should love all men and that includes Muslims. Does it mean that those terrorist attacks represented Muslims or Islam as a whole? Of course not, so therefore, we should love them as our own neighbours, we may not agree with their beliefs, indeed we do not, we may not agree with the way they choose to live and we may have massive cultural and religious differences, indeed we have, but in the grand scheme of things we are all children of God and we are all living together on this planet which has to be tended, subdued, and shared with gratitude. We are all children of our Heavenly Father. Each one of us is able to help make this world a more pleasant experience if we only work at it together, therefore, we should never let the sin of our natural man stand in the way of loving those whom we might think are our enemies, just because a few are standing as the enemy. It is morally unacceptable for us as Latter Day Mormons to deny anyone or any group their dignity on the tragic and abhorrent theory of racial and or cultural superiority, for we are not better than they, we are but equal with them. Therefore, I urge the Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ to recommit themselves to the time-honoured ideals of true tolerance and mutual respect that should be afforded everyone. We acknowledge that there are more people than us and that they come from differing backgrounds, cultures, and races and although we know that the gospel of Christ restored is his plan for us and none other , we should however have great tolerance for them, desiring to live in peace and coexist together until The Lord Jesus Christ should return and bring all people under His rule to know truth.
 
Remember that we the Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ have been wronged, many times, indeed we continue to be wronged by many people and we know that that feeling is not nice nor is it something that we wish to export to anyone, so therefore, let us reach a hand of fellowship and love toward others who are different from us. Let us carry this on in our messages of hope and love toward all people, that they might see that the Lord’s church is not a church which hates, but a church that loves, a church of  peace and tolerance. To this end, I leave these words with each of you. Amen.
 
Prophet Matthew P. Gill

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Sermon:- God and Christ are Two Separate Persons

"My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17)
 
I wish to express to you at this time the churches teachings concerning God and what we believe. In answering the following question "Are God and Christ two persons, or are they only one person?" My opinion is of no importance, but rather it is what Christ himself said on this matter that is important and which frames our belief in this church. Jesus Himself appealed to certain standards of evidence when He said, "It is written." There is no doubt that the Scriptures present God and Christ to us as two persons, before, during, and after the brief life and mission of Christ on earth.
 
We have the word of God in the beginning of revelation to us in the first chapter of Genesis; however because of the plain and precious things lost from the scriptures we are left with the following from the King James Version of the Bible: "God said, Let us make man" (Genesis 1:26). Now I ask to whom was God speaking? Certainly to some person separate from Himself in identity and capable of working with Him in the creation of man. The matter is cleared up for us through the revealing work of or prophet Joseph Smith and the Inspired Version of the Bible where it states: "And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man" (Genesis 1:27).
 
Here we have the Father speaking to His Only Begotten Son who had been with Him from the beginning, again let us look at the following verse it says "I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten (another person), Let us make man." There is no recorded evidence that at any time after this event the Son became merged into the personality of His Father and lost His own identity, I must be stressed that is not the doctrine of our church. Christ's ideas of oneness, unity, is different to our own mortal understanding. It is written of the city of Enoch, "The Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind" (Doctrine and Covenants 36:2). It is true that Christ said, "My Father and I are one." He also prayed earnestly to His Father that His followers might become one "even as we are one." God and Christ are one in the same sense that He wished His followers to be one. We are told in the Book of Mormon that "plain and precious" things had been taken from the Scriptures which were to be restored. We have noted that one of them (as restored in the Inspired Version) is a very plain statement concerning the creation of man. God said to His Son, "Let us" make man.
 
In the third chapter of Genesis in the Inspired Version of the Bible, we have another of those very plain and precious things restored to us. The ultimate salvation of man was under consideration in the life before this and we see Satan appear before God and he said, "Behold I, send me, I will be thy Son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost ... wherefore, give me thine honour." After this another person appeared before God, of whom it is written, "But behold, my beloved Son, which was my beloved and chosen from the beginning, said unto me; Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine for ever" (Genesis 3:1–4). Here we have the word of God that His Only Begotten Son talked with Him as to another person and volunteered to do the will of the Father, not demanding glory for Himself. As we all know the Father rejected Satan because Satan planned to "take away man's agency" and become the first great dictator, saving men whether they wished to be saved or not. God, the Father, chose Christ, the Son, to come to earth with a gospel of persuasion and love and show us the greatest love of all for it says: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his Only Begotten Son." Thus we find the Father and the Son, two distinct personages, planning together with each other the creation and salvation of man.
 
The origin of confusion for a lot of people seems to have grown out of the fact that some of the prophetic writers have given to Christ, the Son, certain titles that are reserved for God, the Father and him alone. In an introductory note to the Book of Mormon the statement is made that one purpose of the book is to convince Jew and Gentile that "Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God." The title, "the Eternal God," may be modified by the preceding words that "Jesus is the Christ." The title, "Christ," as we know this title is always reserved for Jesus. This statement in the preface seems to embody one by Nephi which is much more explicit in its reference to the Christ: "And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also, that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God." Let us stop for a moment and take note that in the very same connection Nephi speaks of the Father and the Son as two persons, for he says: "...until they [the Jews] shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God;... and when that day shall come, that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name ... the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state" (2 Nephi 11: 26–28). And again: "...according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (2 Nephi 11: 36). Therefore it is without doubt that Nephi clearly understood that one was the Father, the other the Son.
 
Certainly the Book of Mormon has no new and mysterious doctrine on this point that is drastically different from that in the Bible. However the Bible can be confusing on this matter if one approaches it from a single mind set, and has not the revealed voice of God. For example, in the ninth chapter of Isaiah there is a wonderful little prophecy concerning the coming of Christ, it says: "...his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." This statement may be modified by the ensuing verse which says that He shall reign upon the throne of David and be called a prince. Probably the one passage of scripture that most lends itself to support of the argument that the Father and the Son are one person is the following from Luke 10:23 of the Inspired Version: "...no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it." However it must be noted that even in that passage it is still Father and Son. There is no doubt that though Father and Son were two persons(as represented in the first chapter of Genesis in the Inspired Version of the Bible), yet in their work they were one to an extent that we cannot comprehend except it be revealed (and this oneness we also are to attain). This passage must be interpreted to harmonise with the overwhelming number of scriptural statements which clearly present Father and Son as two persons; yet one in the sense Christ had in mind in His great prayer for His disciples, "Holy Father, ...that they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:11, 22). Father and Son are one in the same sense that Christ wished His followers to be one, and He certainly did not expect or desire that they should all become one person. As Latter Day Mormons we remember that Jesus himself said, "I am come in my Father's name" (John 5:44). Since He did come in His Father's name and with His message and authority, it is not surprising that some of the prophetic writers gave to Him titles commonly reserved for the Father, thus causing some confusion.
 
Jesus sometimes spoke of Himself as "the Son of Man," sometimes as "the bridegroom". On a memorable occasion He put His stamp of approval on a title which recognised the relationship of Father and Son. He had said to the apostles, "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God". Then Jesus with very evident pleasure voiced His approval of that statement, in these words, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:16, 17, 18). The Father in heaven had revealed to Peter that Jesus on earth was His Son. This sonship is all important that Christ said, "upon this rock I will build my church" meaning the gift of revelation that Peter was given to reveal unto him the title and office of Christ.
 
In the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon there is a record of an address by Abinadi containing a remarkable prediction of the coming of Christ. In one part of the discourse Abinadi attempts to explain the theology of the oneness of the Father and the Son which had troubled people at that time, very much like today. However with all due reverence we must state that this should not be made the basis of any radical conclusions not in harmony with many plain statements in other prophetic utterances. Abinadi's sermon might be mistakenly taken to evidence a belief that the Father and the Son always were one person; however, again and again he speaks of them as two separate individuals persons, Father and Son, and of the will of the Son and of the will of the Father. There can be no will without personality. Christ had a will of His own, free agency, and He chose to bring His own will into accord with that of His Father. Here, as many times in the Bible, these two wills of two persons are mentioned, one only in their complete agreement.
 
Anyone who is familiar with the scriptures alone will know that they abound in definite statements indicating the separate personalities of God and Christ, no matter where they are found they testify of two persons.
 
From the Bible: A
 
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)
 
He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son (2 John 9).
 
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. (John 10:37)
 
As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21)
 
And I will pray the Father. (John 14:16)
 
I send the promise of my Father upon you. (Luke 24:48)
 
I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. (John 17:4)
 
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23:47)
 
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Romans 8:34)
 
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:3)
 
Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. (1 Peter 3:22)
 
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)
 
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
 
The following statement is found in the King James translation of the Bible, John 1:18: "No man hath seen God at any time." That singular declaration is in conflict with testimonies found elsewhere in the Bible. Isaiah saw the Lord "sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6:1). Jacob declared, "I have seen God face to face" (Genesis 32:30). Moses, Aaron, and seventy of the elders of Israel "saw the God of Israel" (Exodus 24:9–10). The statement, "And no man hath seen God," found in the King James Version, is clarified in the Inspired Version as follows: "And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved" [John 1:19].
 
That is in accord with the Master's own statement, "no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
 
Indeed as seen from the many verses in the Bible alone we have been given direction on the nature of Christ and the Father, and as Latter Day Mormons we have truth revealed through other sources as well but I say to you have we forgotten the final testament of  Stephen when he was killed by a mob, do we not remember the vision of the man, he had this vision: "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55–56). This was after the resurrection and ascension of our Lord. He saw God and Christ as two persons, Stephen was filled with the Holy Ghost, which would scarcely have given him a false and utterly misleading vision. The substance of Stephen's vision is confirmed by unimpeachable scriptures. After Christ had given to His apostles His last commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, He was received up into Heaven and the scripture records: "So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God" (Mark 16:20).
 
These visions of old all come full circle when we remember the vision of our prophet Joseph Smith. The first vision and the revelation it contained opened up this last dispensation and also set upon the road the course for the Restoration. When the young Prophet had gone to the forest to pray, his first vision came to him gloriously, he said: "I  was enwrapped in a Heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day. They told me that all religious denominations believed in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to "go not after them," at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me".
 
Thus in the very beginning of the Restoration the young Joseph who would latter go on to become the Prophet, saw in vision saw two personages, he saw God and Christ as two persons, separate and apart. I ask you brothers and sisters was the Prophet seeing double and under a delusion concerning such a vital matter, his first great spiritual experience? Was God giving him a deceptive vision? We will not and we can not ever give credence to either of those positions. No! we state here today in full vigour of our belief that the Prophet actually saw two persons. Both spoke to him, this experience was so convincing that the Prophet wrote that though he were slain he could never deny it. He was slain, and thus with his blood sealed his testimony to the truth of that sublime experience. Let nothing therefore shake your faith in this anymore than it did Josephs. After the many testimonies which have been given of Christ, "this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him, that he lives; for we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:3)
 
In conclusion I wish to remind you of the last days of our Saviour, just before He went out from the "last supper" into the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord offered up a wonderful prayer. More than once in that petition He prayed for His disciples and for all those who might believe their message that they might be "one". He used these very explicit words, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are" (John 17: 11). It is obvious to us that Christ did not pray that those present with Him, and the hundreds of thousands who would believe on their testimony, might become one great big man, one person. They were to be one even as He and His Father were one, or, to transpose the thought, God and Christ are one in the same sense in which He wishes His followers to be one. It is said of Christ that "he loved righteousness and hated iniquity". Since He and His Father desire always to do the right thing, the righteous thing, and since all truth is known to them both, they are eternally one in their choices and in their work. As we "grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth" we come nearer the time when His prayer shall be answered and we shall be one, as He and His Father are one.
 
It is my fervent prayer that we his church, The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ and we as Latter Day Mormons may live to understand the nature of the two great influences in the universe God the father and His Son Jesus Christ. I pray with all my heart that we as Latter day Mormons will strive to understand that relationship more than any another for without this understanding we can never, ever, fully understand the nature of the work that we are about. I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of our Father God, be with you forever and for always. Amen.
 
Prophet Matthew P Gill

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Sermon: Christ Like Knowledge can Change Us

My brothers and sisters it is an honour and pleasure to be able to address you for the first time in my capacity as the presiding bishop of the church. From the Sixth Lecture of Faith we read "For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honour and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also, counting all things but filth and dross for the Excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, requires more than mere belief, or supposition that he is doing the will of God, but actual knowledge: realizing, that when these sufferings are ended he will enter into eternal rest: and be a partaker of the glory of God." Then we read from the Fifth Lecture of Faith we read "the Spirit of the Father: which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments: and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all: being filled with the fullness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one."
 
As our knowledge of Jesus Christ grows our desires change from materialistic dreams, into a passion for feeling the spirit in our lives, with a hunger to partake of God's glory. As we keep his commandments and grow, we understand his grace and partake of His Atonement, we find our selfishness changes and our hearts are opened to our fellow men. As I think about those changes my mind is drawn to The Book of Mormon. The account of Alma the Younger and the sons of King Mosiah, in The Book of Mosiah, chapter 11, from verse 112-125 we can read their account, from there experience they received knowledge about the true nature of their Saviour. They started to change there sights onto heavenly goals. Later we learn about the sons of King Mosiah with their newly found knowledge and faith were so touched that they had changed there whole hearts and now loved even their enemies the Lamanites. in Chapter Twelve verse 5 we read:- "Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; Yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment, did cause them to quake and tremble. And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them, for they were the very vilest of sinners."
 
I pray that as we grow in spirit that we will be blessed to have such a knowledge as these men did of our Saviour. That we may have that same deep desire to care about everyone regardless of who they are or what they have done. That we may love thy brother as thy self. It is my fervent desire that we develop true Christ like attributes and become one with our Savior and care about everyone. Let us not forget that as members of The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ that we have the truth and we have an obligation to know the truth for ourselves and to share it with all men, no matter their station in life. It has been my pleasure to give this, my first address for the church and I hope that my words have touched your sprits in small way. May God bless you all. Amen.
 
Presiding Bishop Elder Paul Barber

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