Tag Archives: Book of Mormon

“Holiness to the Lord–Our Preservation”

Browning P1000865 Blog

Jonathan Browning was a gunsmith, a careful craftsman known for inventing the repeating rifle and for the quality of his work.

Browning was also a man of belief who wanted to bear witness of his faith in God through his works.

We know from his life story that in the late 1830s in Quincy, Illinois, Browning, the well-known gunsmith, was looking for religious truth. He found it among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were fleeing persecution. They had been driven out of Missouri in the middle of the winter of 1838-39 by mobs emboldened by the support of a governor who ignored their rights. At the small historical museum in Quincy today, you will read that Browning was one of those who assisted the suffering members of The Church of Jesus Christ when they fled into Illinois.

Jonathan and Elizabeth Browning investigated the Church carefully and found the religious truth they had been seeking. They were baptized and soon moved to Nauvoo, Illinois, the city being built by members of their church on the Mississippi River. Eventually they would follow the Mormon Trail west to settle in Utah.

At some point, Browning developed a desire to express his faith through the works he crafted so carefully. But how could a gunsmith do that?

Jonathan Browning crafted a small, engraved plate to be mounted on the stock of a rifle. On it were these words: “Holiness to the Lord—Our Preservation.”Browning P1000868 Blog

The first four words in this inscription come from Exodus 28:36 in the Old Testament. “Holiness to the Lord” was to be engraved on a small plate of pure gold affixed to the mitre that Aaron or his sons wore when officiating as high priests before God. Today those same four words are found on the front of every temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world, in the native language of the country. The words indicate that everything done in those temples is to be undertaken in holiness and dedicated to the glory of the Lord.

The other two words inscribed on Jonathan Browning’s small engraved plate are mentioned in Psalms 145:20, where it says, “The Lord preserveth all them that love him.” This message is extended and emphasized more forcefully in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which affirms: “. . . he will preserve the righteous by his power . . . . Wherefore the righteous need not fear” (1 Nephi 22:17).

It seems ironic that the inventor of the repeating rifle chose to testify that our preservation is in our faith in God, not in our weapons. This does not mean that we will not suffer mortal death—we all surely will—but that we will be preserved in God’s eternal kingdom. As we read the writings of King David in Psalms and the record of the prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon, they seem to be speaking in eternal terms. David says, “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations” (Psalms 145:13). Nephi writes: “. . . the Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might, and power, and great glory.

“And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture” (1 Nephi 22:24-25).

Today, it seems, too many of us may be relying on our weapons for preservation. They might be concealed weapons we carry. The might be called fitness routines, or special diets, or financial programs. They are all intended to protect us against things that can happen in this life.

But perhaps we should all be more concerned about the really long-term future. Perhaps we might want to spend more time learning to recognize the voice of the Shepherd so that we can be preserved in His eternal fold.

 

 

Why I Believe

NativityThe longer I live, the more it seems to me that those who truly believe in God—those who live as though they are actually going to meet Him someday—are generally happier and more productive in life.

They could respond easily to the admonition of Peter to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Admittedly, I have been shaped by different experiences than other people, but still, it is difficult for me to understand why some people do not believe in God, especially because there seem to be so many things that testify of Him.

I cannot comprehend atheism. It seems to be the most ignorant and most superstitious of all philosophical positions about God—ignorant because it stubbornly refuses to pursue certain avenues of learning about Him, and superstitious because it clings desperately to the need to be right. After all, the alternative is simply too horrible to contemplate.

For a time in high school, one of my best friends was an agnostic who was steeped in science. He said he did not know whether God exists, but nothing in his experience convinced him that Deity was involved in the affairs of mankind. That seemed at least a rational position; he could not affirm the existence of God because he did not know from his own experience.

But it is a big leap from there to the assertion that God does not exist. Every atheist’s argument that I have ever heard boils down in the end to this: “I know that God does not exist because I have not seen him.” That is supposed to be convincing? The most effective, most rational answer I have ever seen to the atheist’s assertion is this from a prophet in the Book of Mormon: “And now what evidence have ye that there is no God . . . ? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only” (Alma 30:40).

A god by definition does not have to respond to man’s demands to prove Himself. Yet all I know of Heavenly Father suggests that He is willing, even eager, to testify of Himself to us, His beloved children—on His own terms.

I am reminded here of the scientific method. When scientists set up experiments to prove or disprove a hypothesis, they try to take into account all the factors that could influence the outcome. They recognize that there may be influences they do not yet understand or have not seen. And yet, with regard to knowledge about God, some will record the result of the experiment without actually carrying it out—without taking into account the factors of faith that would be crucial to knowing God. They say, in effect: “There could not possibly be anything about this situation that I do not yet understand.”

The arrogance of that is almost stunning.

My high school friend and I agreed it would be impossible to “prove” the existence of God by any mortal means.

And yet I know that God exists.

Some would ask if I have seen Him, or heard His voice.

No, I have not seen His person or heard Him speak to my mortal ears.

But I have heard Him. He has answered my pleas very specifically and spoken to me in my heart in ways that were incontrovertibly true. Sometimes He has done it through other people, sometimes He has done it directly. But no one else could have known the specific questions in my heart and mind, nor could anyone else have answered in ways that were so undeniably beyond mortal capability.

Will I share the details? No. Those answers are sacred to me. They were gifts to me alone to strengthen and guide. They would not apply to everyone in general, and I will not risk sharing them with anyone who may not treat them as sacred.

But I will promise you that you can get answers for yourself. All you have to do is set up an experiment in faith that admits the possibility of God. If you truly want to know, He will answer you in His own way—in the way that will be most understandable and plain to you—and in His own time. (I think I can also promise that if you go into such an experiment with the attitude “This isn’t going to work,” you will be right.) You may be surprised at the result of your experiment in faith. My high school friend eventually became a Christian, though I never heard from him how that happened. The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis once considered himself agnostic. His conversion to Christianity and deep faith are a matter of public record.

God would never compel you to believe; that isn’t His way. He allows us freedom to choose what we will believe and how we will act—with the understanding that we will eventually be accountable to Him. But as a loving Father, He is eager to respond if we extend our trust to Him.

Of course we can use the freedom He gives us to live our lives trying to ignore Him. If we do this, we can never know with any mental or spiritually certainty that He is there.

But please do not tell me that you know He is not there because you have not seen Him. That is no evidence. That is arrogance.