Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Calling of the Twelve Apostles

This week, I spent time studying Matthew 10:1-4 and Mark 3:13-19 in order to learn about the twelve apostles. They were Simon Peter, his brother, Andrew, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew the publican, James, son of Alphaeus, Lebbaeus also known as Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaaninte and Judas Iscariot. Some interesting information about three of them: James, son of Zebedee was one of the inner circle of three chosen to be with the Lord during certain events, he was also beheaded by Herod. John, brother of James, was also a part of the inner circle of Christ, we also believe that John 21:20-23 means that John has not died, but has been allowed to remain on earth to continue the work of the Lord until the second coming. What I especially loved about these two brothers, is that they were named the Sons of Thunder by the Savior. I'm looking forward to learning more about this. In reading up about the apostles, I enjoyed learning that Philip's name means lover of horses. I'm sure that by looking at my blog, you may have realized that I have a thing for horses. Philip was also from Bethsaida.

 What does it mean to be an apostle? In the Bible Dictionary, it states that the word apostle means one sent forth. An Apostle is set apart to forth into the world as a special witness to the divinity of Jesus Christ and to the reality of his resurrection. In Matthew 10:5-42, the Savior prepared his disciples for their responsibilities in proclaiming the gospel. His teachings prepared the disciples to deal with the many situations they would encounter as they proclaimed the gospel. He taught them not to worry for their food, clothing or shelter, but that all would be provided. He taught them to go serve in his name by healing the sick, raising the dead and casting out devils. He told them where they should go and preach and what they should do if they were or were not received. He taught them that they would be presented to all manner of men in his name and they should rely on the spirit to guide them in what they were to say. He taught them to not worry about losing life, but to fear those who would destroy souls. And finally, he taught them to declare his name and serve without thought for gain and reward and that they would receive the greatest rewards for doing so. These teachings taught the apostles what their duties would be, when to leave without regret and move on to the next assignment, that the Lord would care for their shelter, food and clothing, and that the spirit would speak through them when necessary.

I loved reading up on the twelve apostles and the calling of Peter, James and John was particularly touching. The Savior approached Simon Peter and came aboard his ship. He asked Peter to push out somewhat from the shore, and then proceeded to teach the people on the shore. When finished, he instructed Peter to cast his net in a certain place. Peter had been fishing and unsuccessful all day and stated as much, but nevertheless, he cast his net. Immediately, his net was full to overflowing and broke. He called his partners to come and help and the filled both ships to overflowing. Simon Peter fell to his feet and in humility, expressed his belief that he was a sinful man for doubting the Savior. Simon Peter's partners were James and John, sons of Zebedee. They, too, were overwhelmed by the miracle of their overflowing nets. Then Jesus reassures them, telling them that from now on, they would be fishers of men. They got to shore, and Peter, James and John dropped their nets, their very livelihood, and followed the Savior without question. Their prompt response reminds me that I can apply their action to any calling I may be asked to do or any spiritual nudge I may receive, and quickly go and obey the Lord. When someone is on my mind, or I think of an act of service, that is the Lord asking me to follow him. Sometimes it’s hard to drop what I’m doing and I’m so easily distracted by my hectic life, but when I stop what I’m doing and immediately and humbly follow through, I know that I’m showing the Savior that I’m willing to follow him. He knows that I'm imperfect, faltering and weak. But I know that when I make the effort, he'll help me and my hectic, crazy life will be the richer for it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Baptism of the Savior


This week, I want to review the baptism of the Savior. Why was he baptized? If he was a perfect and sinless man, why did he need to be baptized? Even John the Baptist questioned the Savior when he approached him and entreated him for baptism. In Matthew 3:14, John reacts to this request. " But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" How could he, John, an imperfect man, baptize the Savior, when baptism is supposed to be a symbol of becoming clean from sins and accepting Christ as one's Savior? The Savior explained that it was to fulfill all righteousness and John accepted, proceeding to baptize the Savior. When Christ arose from the water, the Holy Ghost descended like a dove and the voice of God was heard from the heavens, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

What does it mean to fulfill all righteousness? In 2 Nephi 31:6-11 gives three reasons for Jesus Christ being baptized.

1.   To show the Father that he would be obedient in keeping his commandments
2.   To be an example to the children of men
3.   To show the children of men the way to return to Heavenly Father by making the first commitment to keep his commandments

Baptism is a gateway for the path of repentance and obedience that, if faithfully followed, will lead us back to Heavenly Father. The Savior was absolutely perfect and by entering the waters of baptism, he showed that even he who was perfect, would enter into a covenant with Heavenly Father to be obedient in all things and keep the commandments of God. He submitted himself to the will of the Father in this as he did in all things, humbly and meekly, showing us by his deed and how he performed his deed, how we can become the children of God. 

In reading this I came across a bit of confusion. To preface, I need to state that I believe the Godhead consists of three separate individuals, God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. While they are one in purpose and action, they are three separate individuals. This scripture passage, Matthew 3:16-17 seems to support this as all three were present and manifested in three separate ways. First, Jesus Christ was in the water, as soon as he arose from the water, the Holy Ghost descended like a dove, and thirdly, the voice of God was heard from the heavens proclaiming that Jesus Christ was his son, in whom he was well pleased. My confusion comes in when discussing the appearance of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost doesn't have a physical body but his appearance would still be that of a man. Did John see the dove and the Holy Ghost? Seeing the dove was part of a predetermined sign that would indicate that this baptism was in accordance with God's will and sanctified by him. After reading the student manual, I'm still confused. Did John see a dove, did he see the personage of the Holy Ghost and his descent was like a dove? Or did he see both? 2 Nephi 31:8 stated that the Holy Ghost descended in the form of a dove and Matthew states "descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:" When I have experiences of feeling the Spirit move me, it makes me think that John saw the personage of the Spirit descending like a dove and lighting or enveloping the Savior. It would cause a sweet and undeniable feeling of joy and gladness. In the end, it doesn't matter that I'm now quite sure how this should be visualized. All I need to know is that it did. I'm grateful for my Savior, for his beautiful example of perfect humility and submission and obedience. I'm thankful for John's example of humility and his righteous desires. It's a lovely thing to study this story and examine myself to see where I can improve and try to be faithful to those baptismal covenants I made long ago to try to follow the Savior. He is my hero.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Who was John Baptist? An LDS Perspective.

Artwork by Liz Lemon Swindle

The purpose of this blog entry is to fulfill a class requirement, help me deepen my understanding of the New Testament and share what I've learned.

This week, I've read Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, and John 1 and 17. In order to help me deepen my understanding of the scriptures, I chose to work on studying up on John the Baptist and why his ministry was important. I was drawn to this particular assignment because I was touched by the two assigned chapters from John. I was excited to be studying the words of such a great man, who's birth was surrounded by miraculous events, and who was called to be the preparer of the way for the Savior. In the LDS Bible Dictionary, it states that John was the last of the Old Testament prophets, the first of the New Testament prophets and the bringer of the priesthood into this last dispensation.

John's parents were descended from the lineage of Aaron, they were very righteous and obedient followers. His parents, Zacharias and Elisabeth, had been unable to conceive children. They both were visited by the angel Gabriel at different times and told that Elisabeth would bear a son and he should be called John. The birth of this child would cause them to have joy and gladness and many others would rejoice at his birth. Zacharias was serving in the temple at the time and seemed to harbor some doubt, and was given a sign by being struck dumb. Elisabeth felt the babe within her leap, when Mary visited her and she knew that Mary carried the Son of God. When John was born, the Elisabeth said he should be called John, but the people attending thought she was wrong and went to Zacharias, who, still being dumb, wrote that the child should indeed be called John. Immediately, his dumbness left him and he was able to praise the Lord and prophesy that his child would be a prophet of the Most High.These miracles testify of the greatness of John and the importance of his mission on earth.

John's mission was to prepare the people for the ministry of the Savior. He did this by teaching salvation and remission of sins. He baptized the Savior and knew he had done so because of the prophesied sign of the dove. He prepared the disciples to follow the Savior. The Savior praised him for his faithfulness and diligence in fulfilling his mission, he referred to John as “a burning and a shining light” (John 5:35). The prophesy that many would rejoice in his birth has come true. Every follower of Jesus Christ must rejoice that this great man was born and exemplified what a follower of Jesus must do. He did many things that only he could do, but his humble example shows how we might follow the Savior and bring others to him by diligently following his word and sharing the gospel.