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May 26, 2021 A ministering message: Paradox

If only I had the talents to write as so many others can. I have a dear friend who for the past couple years or so believes "might be going through an Abrahamic Test". It is not up to me to judge. For who am I to Judge. I do not know all the ways of the Lord. Do you? But the tests that this individual is going through contains a great many paradoxes.

At first glance one might think this individual is being led astray and has given up the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, so many signs points that this individual has a sincere deep love for our Heavenly Father and the Savior Jesus Christ. This individual is ready to follow where the path lies. Is this person path any greater a paradox than that of Abraham and Isaac. "Thou shalt not kill". yet, go and sacrifice your son to me.

I Wonder When He Comes Again. Tabernacle Choir

What are the Paradoxes that we often must endure as we grow and mature in the gospel and our desire to someday be worthy of our own Abrahamic Test. A series of test that will lead us into the presence of Jesus Christ. Is this possible? Can we really grow enough spiritually that we can visit with the Savior face to face? Is this only for prophets and apostles, or the super "Molly Mormon Righteous"? and I quote'

What Is an Abrahamic Test and Can I Get Through Life without Having to Face One? By Gale Boyd - Oct 13, 2019

Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son. For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified (D&C 101: 4 – 5).

This is one of those scriptures that almost gets me running for the door. We’re supposed to liken the scriptures unto ourselves, I know, but when I read about the Abraham and Isaac thing and try to put myself in Abraham’s place (or Isaac’s for that matter), my knees get shaky.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fastens everything it says and does on the goal of exaltation. We never get a Sunday School lesson on how to get to the terrestrial kingdom. Sanctification is what we are all about. Sanctification requires passing Abrahamic tests.

Not every Abrahamic test is as trying or bitter as was Abraham’s and Isaac’s, but two well-known situations in Latter-day Saint history were still terribly difficult: plural marriage and Zion’s Camp. The D&C makes it clear that these tests separated the lukewarm Saints from the dedicated ones.

Joseph Smith said, “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that [a] man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints…” (History of the Church, 3:379-381). So, passing an Abrahamic test (or two, or three) is highly worth it.

I Stand all Amazed

Truman G. Madsen "The blessings of Abraham"

Thing is, you may have already passed an Abrahamic test and not even realized it. Let’s look at the requirements of an Abrahamic test and see.

What is an Abrahamic test? The Lord personally (through the Spirit) calls us to do something

  • The thing the Lord personally commands us to do

    • Is unusual

    • Is illogical according to our current understanding

    • Seems risky

    • Could be viewed as craziness to others

    • Requires sacrifice

Heavenly Father watches us as we move through the requirements of an Abrahamic test. Sometimes He’s satisfied with our progress and the process, and the goal at the end is not important to reach. Other times, the goal sets us on a new path that bears a lot of surprisingly wonderful fruit. Sometimes we only see in retrospect how we have benefitted.

Zion’s Camp Let’s see how Zion’s Camp fits the standard of an Abrahamic test. Latter-day Saints had been driven from their land in Missouri and were under the constant threat of mob violence. Governor Dunklin had offered protection to get them back to their land, but couldn’t afford them protection once they got there. In Kirtland, Joseph could perhaps pull a force of Mormons together to protect the Saints once they were restored to their property. Joseph received a revelation confirming that decision (Section 103) and began efforts to recruit men and money for the march. Meanwhile, the citizens of Jackson County got wind of the coming “Mormon army” and raised the battle cry. They burned 170 buildings belonging to the Saints and set about organizing their defense.

By the time the brethren of Zion’s Camp reached the Mississippi River, their army numbered over 200 men. That’s paltry few. To most of the men, the idea went against all reason. It was springtime and a very important time to be attending to growing food. Poverty was always a challenge, so attention to the crops and livestock could be a matter of life and death. Once the camp got underway, disease and hardship struck. Many turned against the prophet. Although the camp was protected by a miracle from the brutal mob that greeted them in Missouri, Joseph called off the venture just before the goal was in sight. Those who stuck by Joseph through the whole trial and remained faithful became the future leaders of the Church.

Other Abrahamic tests Plural marriage fit all the characteristics of an Abrahamic test. The very idea was appalling to most of the Saints. Joseph bid them get their own spiritual proof that the commandment was from God. Some who did seek this truth had the heavens opened to them. So they knew this bizarre commandment was from God, but many felt like it would destroy them and the Church.

Although we still all hate the idea, plural marriage raised up seed to the most righteous men of the Church. Those families were the backbone of the Church. It also provided for strong women who, though strong, still needed support.

Obtaining a handcart and setting out to Utah from Winter Quarters (London, Liverpool, New York City, etc.) was an Abrahamic test. Pioneers received letters from their nonmember families admonishing them for risking their lives and the lives of their children to follow a “cult leader” into the unknown. They went because the Spirit strengthened them in that direction, but it seemed crazy to everyone else in America. It was a huge, risky, endeavor that took a lot of faith and sacrifice, but the fruits of their courage are remarkable.

Our personal tests Were you happily pursuing your college degree in a field you thought you were meant for and then received a prompting that you should change your direction? “No!” You were thinking. If I go to this other school and change my major, it will add a year to the time it takes to get a degree. I already have housing in (*name of college town*), too! Your family was astounded that you would even consider a decision like this. (Maybe you switched from business to art!) It sounded crazy to them and to your friends, too. But you listened to the Spirit and launched out on a wing and a prayer.

Hooray! You passed an Abrahamic test.

The same thing can happen when you consider serving a mission. The Spirit is urging you to do something a little off what you expected, like to consider not serving when you thought you would serve, or vice-versa. With cultural expectations, sports, career, relationships all tugging at you, making a decision by the Spirit can be an Abrahamic test.

Have you decided by the Spirit to bring another child into your family by birth or adoption even though it didn’t make logical sense? Have you sold or bought a home because the Spirit prompted you to? Changed jobs? Moved to another state or country for no logical, visible reason? All Abrahamic tests. Congratulations.

Everything the Church is doing right now with Come, Follow Me, new programs for youth, and other changes, is to bring us closer to the Spirit so He can direct us. As chaos increases in the world, our own reasoning won’t serve us as well as the Spirit will for making decisions for ourselves and our families. We will need to be ready and willing to pass Abrahamic tests. Looking back, our family has a number of these tests under our belts. Our lives have been much more of an epic adventure because we passed them. Although difficult, they were huge blessings in our lives for which we’ll be eternally grateful. I recommend them to everyone!

You Raise Me Up

The Abrahamic Test Larry E. Dahl

Everyone who achieves exaltation must successfully pass through an Abrahamic test. Let me repeat. Everyone who achieves exaltation must successfully pass through an Abrahamic test. The Prophet Joseph Smith, in speaking to the Twelve Apostles in Nauvoo, said: “You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God. . . . God will feel after you, and he will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.[1] That is not a particularly comforting thought, but it is one that cannot be ignored if the scriptures are taken seriously. Why must there be an Abrahamic test? And how can we all be tested like Abraham was tested? Why use Abraham as the standard? What is there about the test Abraham experienced that is universally applicable? When our test comes, will we recognize it? How can we prepare?

Mortal Testing Intended and Purposeful

It is interesting to review the Lord’s own statements about His intent to test and try His people. In the very beginning, in the planning stages of this earth, the Lord said, “We will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:24–25). All things, not just some things! The angel taught King Benjamin this same truth: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19; emphasis added). To the beleaguered Saints being driven out of Jackson County, Missouri, the Lord affirmed that He would “give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith. And whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name’s sake, shall find it again, even life eternal. Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy. For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me” (D&C 98:12–15).

Five months later the Lord declared, “Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son. For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified” (D&C 101:4–5). Notice the two words chastened and tried. Is there a difference in meaning between the two? A careful examination of the scriptural use of these two words shows that chasten is generally employed when people are being corrected or punished because of disobedience. Tried, on the other hand, is used to describe what happens to the righteous. In Doctrine and Covenants 98:12, the Lord specifies that the faithful were to be tried, even unto death. Both chastening and trying are needed in the process of becoming sanctified. Indeed, one of the meanings of chasten is “to make chaste or pure; purify; refine,”[2] and one of the meanings of try is “to make pure by melting or boiling.”[3] The Saints needed to be chastened “in consequence of their transgressions” (D&C 101:2). In addition, they needed to be tried, even as Abraham, in consequence of their righteousness. In a revelation to President Brigham Young, the Lord explained, “My people must be tried in all things, that they might be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom” (D&C 136:31). The Lord’s intent is clear—those worthy of His kingdom will be tried and proven, even as Abraham.

Abraham’s Test Even as Abraham! Concerning Abraham’s test, the biblical record says simply: “God did tempt [the Joseph Smith Translation says “try” instead of “tempt”] Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:1–2). What is not discussed at that point in the record is the seeming incongruities, even contradictions, that Abraham must have faced when he received that command.

First, consider the matter of human sacrifice. Abraham, as a young man, had been saved by the Lord from being offered as a sacrifice himself at the hands of an apostate priesthood who worshipped false gods. These idol worshippers offered to their gods “men, women, and children,” specifically those who “would not bow down to worship gods of wood or of stone” (Abraham 1:8–11). The Lord had told Abraham to leave the area because of those evil practices (see Abraham 1:14) and go to a strange land that would eventually belong to his descendants (see Abraham 1:16–18; 2:6). Now he was being asked to offer a human sacrifice—a hard thing to reconcile. Further, God had made it clear to Abraham on several occasions that it was through Isaac the blessings of the covenant were to come to Abraham and to the whole world. Those blessings are the heart and soul of bringing salvation to the children of men, for the promise was that the seed of Abraham, through Isaac, would be scattered among and bless “all the families of the earth” (Abraham 2:8–11). How could that promise be fulfilled if Isaac were killed? Besides, Abraham loved Isaac dearly. After all, he had waited anxiously for Isaac to be born for at least twenty-five years from the time the Lord first promised him an heir.[4] That wait alone would be an Abrahamic test for many. And this long wait troubled Abraham. Several years after the promise of a son at Haran, after Abraham had traveled from Haran, through Canaan, to Egypt, and back to Canaan, and still no child, Abraham asked the Lord for an explanation. He even proposed that perhaps a child born “in my house,” meaning a child of one of his servants, could become his heir. Without any details about how or when, the Lord simply reaffirmed the original promise of literal seed: Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. (Genesis 15:1–5) To Abraham’s credit, “he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). More time passed. Sarai gave Hagar to Abraham, and Ishmael was born. Thirteen more years passed. Abraham was now ninety-nine years old, and Sarai was eighty-nine.

And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed [the Joseph Smith Translation says “rejoiced”], and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old bear?

And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, Sarah, thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. (Genesis 17:15–19)

When Sarah heard the news, she “laughed within herself,” realizing that both she and Abraham were “old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with [her] after the manner of women” (Genesis 18:11). I suspect most of us can empathize with Sarah’s reaction. But the Lord’s response was sobering—” Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18:12–14). “At the set time of which God had spoken,” Isaac was born (Genesis 21:2). Can you imagine the joy that Abraham and Sarah must have felt—joy accompanied by deep gratitude and an undeniable realization of the power of God and the surety of His promises? They had waited for such a long time, yearning and praying and living righteously. The blessing had finally come. Surely now all would go smoothly. In their old age, they could quietly witness the continued fulfillment of God’s promises through Isaac. Or could they? First came family problems: Ishmael mocked Isaac and concern grew over who would be Abraham’s heir. Hagar and Ishmael were sent away to be cared for by the Lord. Shortly thereafter came the unthinkable requirement: offer Isaac as a sacrifice!

Now, keeping in mind the historical events we have reviewed, try to put yourself in Abraham’s place for a moment. How might you have reacted? I can feel myself wanting to say “No. It can’t be. Human sacrifice is an abomination. All the blessings of the covenant are to come through Isaac. This doesn’t make any sense to me. I have been obedient. I have been patient. And besides all that, I love him with all my heart. I don’t want him to die. This is too painful. Why does it have to be this way?” For some reason, it did have to be that way, with all its seeming incongruities and inconsistencies. And it was painful for Abraham. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “if God had known any other way whereby he could have touched Abraham’s feelings more acutely and more keenly he would have done so.”[5] In spite of the hurt, Abraham passed his test. The Genesis account does not describe Abraham’s thoughts or feelings or questions. It matter-of-factly says: “And Abraham rose up early in the morning . . . and went unto the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3). But the Apostle Paul bears witness of Abraham’s profound faith in God: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Hebrews 11:17–19).

In spite of the mind-boggling contradictions of the situation, Abraham had faith to proceed. He had full confidence that somehow God could and would fulfill all His promises, even though the one through whom the promises were to come was bound on an altar and Abraham’s knife was raised to slay him. It was not until the last, precarious moment that the Lord stopped Abraham, saying, “Abraham, Abraham: . . . Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:11–12). What faith! What discipline! What a sterling example! No wonder Abraham is held up as the model!

This is the Christ

Now there is not much my simple mind can add to all of this. Isn't it a paradox that our Heavenly Father the God of all would send his only begotten son to this earth to work through the atonement. What Father would do something like that to their son. But, He knows that by this paradox, we all will have the opportunity to return back to his presence again. To my dear friend or any of you who endured this long post.

For any of us on the Covenant Path. Follow the Holy Ghost. Period!. Trust in the Lord. But always, always, always. Use the paths the Lord has given us to help us stay true and faithful. What do the scriptures tell us? What does the Living prophet of God teach us?.

Have we developed that relationship with Jesus Christ so close that we know Him? Will the spirit testify to every fiber of our being that we are on the Covenant Path? Are we following the testimony borne to us by the Holy Ghost? Are we sure never doubting that we are following the spirit, or is there room for doubt? If there is, perhaps we need to even more earnestly seek guidance from the Holy Ghost.

I testify that Jesus is the Christ. If we are called to go through a very major Abrahamic Test, I testify that you will be guided, no matter how different or odd the test might seem. But, the Lord will not let you flounder if you continue to move forward with faith. How long will your "Major" test be? For most of us, I would think will probably be a series of tests. For our ways are not the Lord's ways.

He and our Heavenly Parents love each of you. They await with open arms to draw near. We are the ones not them, that keeps them away. Love your family. Love your neighbor. Don't be so quick to judge another individual or group of people. We do not know what the Lord might be telling them. Our only concern is to love each other as the Savior loves us.

I bear my witness that our Heavenly Parents and our elder brother each live and love you!!

And so do we Steven and Debbie.

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