Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nov 11: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Holidays, Latvian History, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ

All: Well, we have zone conference tomorrow, so I have to send this off today. Therefore, my steps look a little weak. It's 65.77KM (84,320 steps). So, yeah.

The only picture for this week is from the grocery store. Look carefully. Do you see something...odd? I thought it was hilarious, and couldn't not send it. (p.s. from Jordan's mom. It is a yellow creature on the top of the left hand shelf, which was one of Jordan's favorite Pokemon creatures ") (But look at the food, too--it's cool to see what they have!)

Culturally, I have something fun to inform you all of. Today is Lāčplēša Diena – The Day of the Soldier, if I understand correctly. Anyway, they honor all people who died for Latvia's freedom today. I'm not exactly sure how, but it'll be big. And Latvia's Neatkarības Diena (The Day of Latvia's Freedom), which is the first time that a portion of Latvia was recognized as an independent, free nation, will be the 18th of this month, also. Celebrations for that will be huge. This is when Latvia was first freed from Russia's rule after the Russian revolutions and such in 1918. By the next year, all of what is now Latvia was recognized as Latvia—a separate, free nation. They then got smashed by Germany and such. Then Russia came back in. And these poor people have been fighting to keep their independence and have somehow (miraculously) preserved their language. About every century they were conquered anew by another land:

Before 13th Century: they were a bunch of tribal groups.
13th C-16th C: They were called Livonija, and were founded by Germany.
16th C: Polish
17th C: Sweedish
18th C: Russian
20th C: Freed from Russian rule 1918.
Taken over again 1941 by Germany
1945 by Russia
1991 they became independent Latvia again.

Each time there was a change in power, there were a great many people killed. Our Latvian teacher told us that it was a miracle that Latvia survived as a language. The four districts of Latvia are: Kurzeme (divided into two areas: Kurzemes and Zemgale), Vidzeme, and Latgale. Latgale is where Daugavpils is (on the eastern side, and the Latvian they speak there is really weird), Vidzeme is in the middle, and Kurzeme is the western side (Liepāja is in Kurzeme). I do believe that is all correct. Anyway, moving on now.

This week, as far as missionary work goes, was very slow, rough, and forced E. Weideman and I to figure out what we could do to be more effective and better at what we were doing. It took a little work, but the spirit is quite strongly with us, and I feel we will do good from here on.

Now, as I promised: a discussion on the Atonement of Christ the Lord. A small recap: Because of the Fall, all mankind are subject to both physical and spiritual death. By ourselves, we are powerless against those deaths (Alma 34: 9). But, God knew that it must be that way, and to preserve our freedom to choose, he sent His Son to open to us a path to return to Him (John 3: 16-17).

Now, our scriptural record of the actual Atonement is quite brief: Matthew. 26: 36, 39, 42, 44 (36-44), 27: 46, 50 (35-50), 28: 5-7; Mark 14: 33-36, 39 (32-41), 15: 34, 37 (25-37), 16: 6; The most informative of the four gospels is found in Luke 22: 41-44, Luke 23: 46 (33-46), 24: 5-6, 36-39; John has no record of the events that transpired in the Garden, but he does record John 19: 30 (18-30), 20: 9, 13-17. And such is our scriptural record for the most important event in the life of mankind. Luke is the most detailed of all the four accounts. Then, we have multiple prophesies and visions of this event, but these are the first-hand witnesses. The Atonement of Jesus Christ consists of his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, his sufferings again on the cross, His death, and His resurrection.

That he was resurrected is put beyond doubt from the following (and many other sources): When he appeared to his eleven apostles and others in Jerusalem (Luke 24: 36-47), and when he appeared as a resurrected being to the inhabitants in the Americas. Note that the first verse here listed is the Father introducing the Son. (3 Nephi 11: 7-17). All of these witnesses handled His body. Note that he reclaimed His body, as they "saw [Him] have."

Resurrection is the joining of the physical body together with the spiritual body of a person, never again to separated (Alma 11: 43). Because Christ was resurrected, He has power over death (Alma 11: 42), and so we all, too, will be resurrected, regardless of how we lived (Alma 11: 44-45, 1 Corinthians 15: 20-22). Because we will be resurrected, we will stand again in God's presence for the judgment (Heleman 14: 15), and it will be possible for us to receive an eternal reward (2 Nephi 9: 6-12). The Resurrection is a free gift to all. Men, therefore, are unconditionally saved from physical death through the power of Christ's resurrection, and through His grace.

Note, however, that the atonement is conditional as to salvation from spiritual death. We must act here, and follow the gospel of Christ to receive a forgiveness of sins, be cleansed, and return to God physical presence once more (Helaman 14: 15-18 -- Note especially verse 18). Christ sets the conditions of repentance. If we do not observe His conditions, then it is for us as if there had been no redemption made (Mosiah 16: 5-8--note v 5; and as Christ Himself has said in these Latter days: D&C 19: 15-19). If this is unclear to you as to why this would be the way God would work concerning sinners, let me share a parable with you, similar to one I heard when I was growing up.

There was once a certain farmer. He wanted land, a home, a car, etc. He took out a large loan to be able to purchase all he desired. The farmer signed a contract, took the money, and obtained his desires. He worked hard, and repaid the creditor as he could, but as time went on, he began to be more slothful in his work, and did not do all that he should have done. Besides, he thought, the deadline is so far away. What do I have to worry about? Well, the deadline arrived, and he was unprepared. The creditor arrived, and demanded his money. The man was unable to pay. According to the law of justice, the man was shackled, and was to be cast into prison and all his possesions sold to pay the creditor. But along came a friend of this poor man, who was very wealthy. The friend offered to pay the creditor that which was his due, according to justice, and set the farmer free. The friend, however, required the farmer to pay him back. But he reset the terms of the contract between the two of them so that the farmer, through work and effort, would be able to pay it back. It would be possible. It would still be work, and lots of it, but the farmer could do it. With that parable in mind, I invite you to read the following verses from the Book of Mormon, Alma chapter 42:

12 And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience;
13 Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.
14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence

Here, we see that we are lost. We cannot pay according to the law of justice, that which is due of us. But:

15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.
• • •
22 But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
23 But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.
24 For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.
25 What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God. (Alma 42: 12-15, 22-25). So what we have is that we now are indebted to Christ. We must follow His requirements, if we are to be given the mercy that He has promised. I would encourage you all to read that entire chapter, for it is incredibly powerful in explaining the atonement and why we must repent.

The Atonement is an enabling power in this life for us. Christ did not suffer only for our sins. He also felt every sorrow, weakness, pain, temptation, sickness, worry...in short, all things we feel and experience (Alma 7: 11-13). He knows how we feel, and He knows how to best help. We can pray for His help, and He will be willing to offer it. We must remember, however, that we are greatly indebted to our loving Friend, and we must still do all we can to help ourselves. When we do that, Christ will offer us all the additional help we need. But if we do nothing, then Christ cannot help us. We must ACT. That is the main point here.

As for the conditions of the new contract, I will discuss them next week. They are known as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and are very straightforward. This is where everything comes together.

Additional verses: well, this is a little tricky, because there are literally thousands of verses throughout the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants I could use. I will grab some of the most poignant ones:
Explanation of Justice and Mercy, and how the two laws are connected to the atonement: Alma 42: 1-2, 6-28.
Christ, explaning his role in the Judgement: D&C 45: 3-5.
In the Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ, number 3, note the conditions.
Ephesians 1: 7, Colossians 1: 14, Mosiah 13: 28; 2 Nephi 2: 6-9.

I invite you to study these, and search out more. This is what you must know in this life. I bear my testimony that these things are true. I know that Christ in reality did suffer and atone for all our sins. The word for "Atonement" in Latvian translates to "the complete purchasement of sins." In reality, we are bought with a price, and we must now do what is in our contract. There is nothing more powerful than feeling the cleansing power of the atonement in your soul. That I know without doubt. And I have felt its power continue to build me up.
I love you all. Until next week.
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

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