Browsed by
Author: Dan McDonald

He healed on the Sabbath

He healed on the Sabbath

Today’s guest blogger is my 14-year-old daughter, Sophie. Her name literally means “wisdom.” I think she is aptly named.

As I was thinking of what I would include in my talk I thought about what Jesus did on the sabbath day. I was looking at scriptures when I came across Luke 13: 10-17. It says,

“10 And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. 13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. 15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? 16 And ought not this woman being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? 17 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.”

God isn’t giving us strict confining rules, and do’s and don’ts but instead showing us and giving us guidelines on how to find happiness and peace.

 I love that story; it reminds us that no matter the day any act of kindness and service can be done. As I have been reading my scriptures I realize that God isn’t giving us strict confining rules, and do’s and don’ts but instead showing us and giving us guidelines on how to find happiness and peace.

He constantly was helping people, comforting many, healing the sick, casting out devils, and much more. The sabbath day is a day to remember and act on Jesus’s example. It is a day where we can find peace and comfort, by, serving, loving, accepting, and understanding those around us.

“Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.”

St. Francis of Assisi

For example, there was a day that I noticed a girl that was struggling. After church I decided to make some chocolate chip cookies for her. When I delivered them, I saw the joy light up on her face. I immediately felt happy and closer to my Heavenly Father.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your act of kindness is. Simple things like cleaning dishes, writing a note, and listening to someone will bring you closer to your Heavenly Father and you will feel peace and happiness.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” By acting on God’s example, we will find our Identity and purpose, and our faith will grow as well as our hearts and spirits. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Loving God Means Loving Yourself

Loving God Means Loving Yourself

“For behold, he said: Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son.” (Alma 33:16.)

And then, not so suddenly, it dawned on me that salvation is not about changing how God feels about me. It’s about changing how I feel about God and myself, which are synonymous. It’s discovering that loving God means loving myself.

Jesus claimed complete identity with God.  (John 10:30-39; John 14:7-11.)  “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,” said Jesus. (John 14:9.)  He claimed that he and God were one and the same. (John 17:21-22.)

Can you imagine how your family, friends and neighbors would react if you made a similar claim? This is precisely why Jesus was labeled “demon-possessed and raving mad.” (John 10:20.) 

Remarkably, Jesus saw you as an extension of himself. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.”  (John 15:5.) His great intercessory prayer was that we “may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”  (John 17:20.)  His greatest desire was “that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me.” (John 17:22-23.) The greatest yearning of Jesus is that you might stop seeing yourself as separated from him!

Jesus tries to communicate his oneness and solidarity with you through the ordinances. Hence, at baptism you were immersed in him, the living water. (John 7:37-39.) You eat his flesh and drink his blood each week, literally, chemically and biophysically having him become part of you.  (John 6:53-56.)  You are called by his name—again, merging your identity with his. (Mosiah 5:7-9; see also Alma 5:14; Alma 46:15; D&C 20:77, 79.)

Jesus also does this through his teachings. He tells you that whatever you do to others you do to him (and that whatever others do to you, they do to him).  (Matthew 25:40, 45; Mosiah 2:17.) In countless scriptures which, for whatever reason, we tend to bury and never discuss, you are reminded that God can possess and dwell in your body. (John 6:56; Acts 7:48; 1 Corinthian 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; 2 Timothy 1:14; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17-19; 1 John 4:12-13; Alma 34:34-36; D&C 130:22.)  How many ways can Christ say that he is with us … that he is part of us!!!

You are part of the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things.

As you move towards full acceptance of this reality, you discover you are part of the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. Your very spiritual DNA is the same as his, the light of Christ, which “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space.” It is “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed” (D&C 88:12–13; see also D&C 88:6-11; Moroni 7:16, 18.).  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”  (John 8:12; 1 John 1:5; Ephesians 5:14.)  You are an extension of this light and love, just like Jesus said. You, too, are the light of the world! (Matthew 5:14.)

This same force of light and love was enfleshed at the birth of Jesus.  (John 1:1-14.)  It was enfleshed at your birth, too. You were formed from the same mold!  (Genesis 1:27.)

Being awakened to your inherent light, feeling beloved, feeling worthy, feeling good enough, feeling hope, feeling adequate … that is atonement.  That is salvation.  Atonement is awakening to the knowledge that nothing can separate you from the love of God.  (Romans 8:31-39.)  It’s not about changing God’s mind about you.  It’s about changing your mind about God. It’s about remembering who you are and accepting the reality that you are good enough for God.

Unfortunately, much of religion has become so toxic, beating in to you the idea that you’re never quite good enough, that you’re never fully worthy, that you can always do better. No wonder we have an epidemic of anxiety, depression and suicide on our hands! What kind of parent would send such toxic messaging to her or his child? If you are stinging from the venom of shame and inadequacy can the antidote be found by casting your gaze in a different direction … by choosing to see things differently … by believing in a different message … by seeing the message or Messenger differently? It can’t be that easy … can it?

When the Israelites were bitten by “fiery flying serpents … he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished.”  (1 Nephi 17:41.)  All they had to do was look to the brazen serpent—a type of Christ (John 3:14-15)—but they wouldn’t look because they thought that was just too easy.  (Alma 33:19-20.) Surely the God they thought they knew wouldn’t make it so easy!  The God they knew made things much more difficult.  The God they thought they knew made everything complicated and expected more from them. Ironically, it was their toxic ideas about God that killed them, not the venom.

Likewise, your toxic ideas about God—not the inevitable venom of life or the toxicities you have absorbed—is what ultimately kills you!

So I ask, will you believe that by seeing things a different way you can be healed of your insecurities, your anger, your wounds, your toxicities, your hurts, the venomous ideas and toxic beliefs you have held inside of you?  I ask, “if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief[?]” (Alma 33:21.)

Can you see that if Jesus is who he said he was, then you are who Jesus says you are? (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34.)  You are one and the same, different aspects of the same reality! Branch to vine. Light inside of Light. You are the beloved son!  You are the beloved daughter!  You are good enough. When God said, “This is my beloved son [or daughter], hear him [or her]” he was talking about you! He was asking you to listen to your inner light … the Christ buried in the womb of your innermost self.

The discovery of your own true identity is synonymous with the discovery of God. This will come to you as the still, small voice of assurance from deep inside that trusting yourself is trusting God. That loving yourself is loving God. I love how John Philip Newell described it: “Christ’s soul and our soul are like an everlasting knot. The deeper we move in our own being, the closer we come to Christ. And the closer we come to Christ’s soul, the nearer we move to the heart of one another. In Christ, we hear not foreign sounds but the deepest intimations of the human and the divine intertwined.” 

As a father, my greatest heartache is seeing my children suffer needlessly because they simply aren’t aware of how wonderful, worthy, capable, and loved they really are. The greatest gift they could give me is to confidently love themselves. Our identities … our hearts … they are so intertwined that when they wound themselves, it wounds me deeply. When they are bruised, I am bruised. When they are broken, I am broken. But there is no greater hurt than when they can’t love themselves. Don’t you think your Heavenly Father feels the same way about you? Now can you see that loving God means loving yourself?

Deny not the gifts of God! (Moroni 10:8.) If the atonement is a gift, you shouldn’t have to earn it. In fact, you can’t and won’t. (See 2 Nephi 2:4 ; 2 Nephi 25:23; 2 Nephi 26:27 ; Mosiah 2:20-21) Believe that “ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ[.]” (Moroni 10:33.) Then live your days not to earn God’s love but to reveal it; not to merit God’s love but to share it. Show people who you really are and you’ll show them who God really is. If “come follow me” means anything, it should mean that.

For more ideas and discussion on this and other related issues, please read my books Gethsemamnesia and Built to Love, available now in paperback.

Imagine There’s No Heaven … And You Might Just Find It

Imagine There’s No Heaven … And You Might Just Find It

So many of us walk away from church on Sunday feeling heavier instead of lighter.  So many of us leave with troubled hearts, filled with the heavy burden of not measuring up, feeling that we will never be good enough or that we should always do better. But this can’t be what Jesus intended for his church. Jesus said he came to give us peace, not to take it away.  (John 14:27.)  Jesus came to help us feel unburdened and light, not heavy.  (Matthew 11:28-30.)

Does church leave you feeling inadequate?

If this is how you feel a lot of the time, read on.  I think I may have something helpful for you.

I want you to imagine with me for just a minute.  I know you most often think of the commandments and teachings of Jesus as things you must do or follow to make it to some yonder, future heaven.  But I want you to suspend that way of thinking for just a moment.

Assume with me that you’re wrong about that.  In fact, if it’s helpful, assume that there is no afterlife or heaven, no “reward” at the end of the race.  Instead, assume for a moment that this life is all there is and the commandments are instructions about how to find peace and happiness in mortality … how you can achieve a little heaven on earth right here and now.

If you were to go back and re-read the scriptures from this perspective how would that change things for you?

For example, Matthew 5:44—”bless them that curse you”—would no longer be part of your entrance fee to heaven.  You wouldn’t have to feel shame, guilt or unworthy of God every time you “break” this commandment.  You wouldn’t have to feel like a failure just because you can’t live up to this seemingly impossible standard. Instead, you might just discover that this “commandment” of Jesus is actually a very practical and helpful way of letting go of anger and finding peace so that you can be happy right here and now.

The commandments and teachings of Jesus are not requirements for admission to God’s presence but are helpful tools for living happily.

For example, I have found that keeping the commandments brings immediate blessings, like the peace I feel when I have held my tongue, been the bigger person, or done something kind to someone who wronged me.  (Mosiah 2:24; Alma 34:31-32.) I have also found that breaking them brings natural consequences such as addiction, fear, anger, anxiety, conflict, etc.  These are the punishments and consequences spoken of in the scriptures. But I no longer worry about pleasing or angering God or losing credit towards my entrance fee to heaven when I die. 

I primarily see the commandments and teachings of Jesus not as requirements for admission to heaven but as helpful tools for living happily. If you want to find peace and happiness, try living the way Jesus said we should live.  If you don’t … don’t. 

Eating everything on the buffet will make you feel worse, not better.

But please don’t tell me I’m going to hell or that God is angry at me because I can’t eat every jot and tittle of food from the generous buffet of guidance, help and instruction Jesus so lovingly laid out for me in the scriptures.  I’m not eating that bread. (Matthew 16:6, 11-12.) Jesus was trying to feed my soul, not suffocate it.

God wants you to change, not so you are worthy of him, but so you can be happy like him. 

Moreover, that’s just not how God is. The first thing the Book of Mormon teaches us about God is his “goodness.”  (1 Nephi 1:1.)  Nephi testified that God is full of “power, and goodness, and mercy.”  (1 Nephi 1:14.)  His promise was to “show … you … the tender mercies of the Lord.” (1 Nephi 1:20.) The last thing the Book of Mormon teaches us about God is that he is gracious.  (See Moroni 10:32-33.) God is not some narcissist who wants to be worshiped and who gets offended any time we don’t do things exactly his way.  He’s not obsessed with obedience.  He doesn’t have a dominant-submissive obsession. He’s not an inflexible rule-obsessed Pharisee.  It’s very simple.  God is love.  (1 John 4:7-21.)

God loves you just the way you are!

God loves you just the way you are, and nothing can or will ever change that. (Romans 8:31-39.)  I choose to believe what King Benjamin said—it’s not about being good enough, it’s never been about being good enough, and it never will be about earning or deserving anything … the sooner you realize this, the happier you’ll be.  (Mosiah 2:20-21; Mosiah 4:11-12.)

In contrast, some hold the dismal view that the purpose of mortality is “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:25.)  That’s just silly.  First, God already knows everything—there’s nothing for him to find out.  (D&C 38:1–2.) Second, of course we’re not going to keep every commandment—otherwise, the atonement wouldn’t have been prepared from the foundation of the world.  (Mosiah 4:6.) Simply put, this view seems doctrinally unsound and very unpersuasive.  Thank goodness we don’t believe in sola scriptura.  (See Book of Mormon, Title Page (“if there are faults they are the mistakes of men”).)

God is not a rule-obsessed Pharisee.

No, it’s not about keeping all the rules or changing so that you’re good enough for God. We’ll all be redeemed. God wants us all back. (Mormon 9:13.)

God wants you to change, not so you are worthy of him, but so you can be happy like him.  (Alma 41:10-11.) Ironically, if you live as if there is no heaven you might just find a little bit of it right here, right now. And if you’re fortunate enough to create a little heaven on earth, that’s the way you’ll spend eternity. (Mormon 9:14.)

For more ideas and discussion on this and other related issues, please read my books Gethsemamnesia and Built to Love, available now in paperback.

Your humanity matters more than your theology.

Your humanity matters more than your theology.

It is time for men and women of good will, from all walks of life, and from all faith traditions to set aside their theological differences and become built to love.  It’s time to quit being like the Levite and the priest—with our noses so buried in tradition and theology that we overlook or pass by the wounded and the weary along the roadsides of life.  We must become more like the Samaritan, who demonstrated pure love.  (See Luke 10:25-37.) The time has come to set aside the lesser doctrines and focus on the “weightier” matters.  (Matthew 23:23.)  Love!  Love, my dogma-oriented friends, is the gospel of Jesus Christ, not a series of rules, regulations, traditions, practices, tenets, theologies, duties, creeds, assignments and so on.  To Jesus, how you feel and then act toward others is so much more important than what you believe.  Your humanity matters more than your theology.

Why do you think Jesus repeatedly made the theologically-apostate Samaritans or publicans the heroes of his stories?

I love the way James puts it.  “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”  (James 2:19-20.)  In other words, “Do you think you worship the true God?  Your faith is monotheistic?  Big deal, the devils also believe in one god.”  God doesn’t care if your theological conception of him is correct if you can’t visit the sick, feed the hungry and clothe the naked.  “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”  (James 2:14-16.)  “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction ….”  (James 1:27.)

Doctrine, dogma … that’s not love.  Having a correct theological understanding … that’s not love.  That’s not at the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Why do you think Jesus constantly railed on those of his own faith tradition, the Pharisees?  Why do you think Jesus repeatedly made the theologically-apostate Samaritans or publicans the heroes of his stories?  Because what you feel matters so much more than what you believe.  Right action trumps right belief every single time.  The religion of Jesus was the religion of love and common human decency, not dogmas, programs or theologies.  Feeling love for others, showing love for others … those were the “weightier” matters to Jesus.

It’s time to get our priorities straight.  It’s time to build God’s kingdom, not by converting the world to the theologically precise concept of God but to the theologically abstract and universal concepts that Jesus taught—common decency, respect and love.

Instead of focusing on what divides us, we should be striving to find common ground, looking for what unites us.

I call upon you, as an individual, to become built to love.  But I also call upon leaders of churches and congregations everywhere.  I call upon pastors, priests and preachers.  I call upon bishops, cardinals and ministers.  The time has come to set aside your theological differences to the degree necessary that you can work together to stem the dark tides of evil, terrorism and hatred rising in the world today.  If we remain divided, we remain distracted.  If we remain distracted, evil will continue to grow.  It is incumbent upon us, as disciples of Jesus Christ, to rise above our theological differences and work together to stem the tide of evil and hatred in the world today. Instead of focusing on what divides us, we should be striving to find common ground, looking for what unites us.

People of faith everywhere should be pooling their resources to feed each other and the world.  Instead of spending millions on self-serving ministries, we need to work together to better take care of the sick and eradicate the proliferation of disease.  Instead of kingdom builders we need builders of the Kingdom.  Instead of using so many of our resources to compete for converts, we ought to be using more of our resources to educate and heal the world, dig wells that provide clean water, and clothe naked children.  We ought to be diverting more of our resources to building up and nurturing humanity.  Wouldn’t we bring more people to Jesus Christ if we showed the world what being a disciple of Jesus Christ truly meant?  Wouldn’t they see the good that we Christians can do and want to be a part of something so great?  The world won’t care what we know until it knows how much we care.

It’s our choice.  The world will change either with us or without us.  Jesus Christ will come again and he will have a world that is ready to receive him.  He will have a world that is built to love.  Our hearts will be softened and knit together in unity and love, either by the calamities and destruction that is foretold or through our own volition.  The choice is ours.

For more ideas and discussion on this and other related issues, please read my books Gethsemamnesia and Built to Love, available now in paperback.