Reflections on the Cross (Easter 2017)

Then​ said Jesus unto his disciples, If any ​man​ will come after me, let him ​​​deny​ himself, and take up his ​​​cross​, and ​​​follow​ ​​​me​. (Matt. 16:24)

What does the cross mean?
As one of the most universal symbols in the world, to Christians it means their dependence on Jesus Christ—a reminder of their faith. To people under Roman rule, it surely meant death. The Romans sometimes punished people to death by crucifixion—an excruciating, drawn-out, public form of asphyxiation. This image must have been deeply ingrained in the minds of the people of Judea during the ministry of Christ. During his ministry, Jesus invited them to ‘take up the cross and to follow him’ (Luke 9:23). This may have been quite a morbid invitation and it must have been prophetic to see the Master literally carried the cross to His death. It was through this death that God made an atonement for all Creation.  So, was Savior’s invitation to ‘take up the cross and follow him’ an invitation to martyrdom? Mostly Christians focus on the following him through good works. However, there are many lessons that can be extracted from the sacrifice of our Redeemer (e.g.: love, humility, diligence, temperance, patience, consecration, etc.). Besides the salvation of our souls, the atonement must also be a life lesson, too. What is that ultimate teaching? 

Even though The Quran and The New Testament are at odds about many details of Jesus’s life and death, but there is one title that stands out to me and they both agree on: Word (John 1:1-5; Quran 3:45, 4:171). For the Christians this means, ‘the word made flesh’ (John 1:14). Christians claim he is the Son of God, while Muslims state he is not; rather, Jesus is the Word because God (Allah) caused the Virgen Mary to conceive miraculously through it being a creative mandate—His word. “Indeed the likeness of Jesus to God as the likeness of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, ‘Be,’ and he was” (Quran 3:59).In other words, The Quran says that Jesus is a manifestation of God’s creative power in the same way that Adam was. Because: “it is He [Allah] who gives life and causes death; and when He decrees a matter, He but says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is” (Quran 40:68).

No matter how one sees Jesus as being the Word, there no doubt that Jesus lived by “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4, Deut. 8:3). Appropriately, the word Muslim literally means “one who submits to God” ( Jesus definitely submitted to the will of the Eternal Father in all things. Perhaps, it is through continual communion with the Spirit of God that Jesus can say “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” (John 5:19). The ultimate lesson of from the cross is to allow your old self to die and be reborn as a disciple of Jesus Christ, who was ‘the Word made flesh.’

[This reflection was the result of conversation with my wife’s about her Young Women’s lesson on Easter Sunday.]

Additional reading:

Reflections from Sunday School: The True Value of the Bible (Apr. 9, 2017)

The last couple of years, I have enjoyed reading books on philosophy, science and classic literature for learning and faith (D&C 88:116). Brigham Young said:

It is our duty and calling as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels…or any of the various and numerous different sects and parties…it is [our] business to gather all truths in the world… (DBY, 248)

In this reading venture, I am, in part, searching for little gems of truth (D&C 93:24) that can be found in writings of philosophers, authors or have been passed down in various world religions. Ever since my eclectic approach of devouring books, I feel like I have become quite competent at evaluating writing prose.

In Sunday School, we were talking about the purpose of gathering. The teacher stated simply that the Lord gathers His people is for temple worship. He said that the bringing of Israel out of Egypt and, the eventual returning into the promised land, was not complete until King Solomon built a permanent temple; and, so it is now, that God is gathering the saints for them to build temples. This concept rang true to me. I, then, began to ponder on the significance of temples. Then it dawned on me: the value of the Holy Bible is not its great literary prose, irrefutable truths and wisdom for all humanity (although there are many), or well-developed stories—they are the covenants! The Bible is proof that God personally makes and keeps covenants with His children. A covenant is, as the LDS Church traditionally defines it, “a two-way promise.”

The Old Testament is full of covenants, here is a list of a few of the far-reaching ones:

  • God promises not to flood the Earth again. (Genesis 9:8-17)
  • The Abrahamic Covenant: a promised land for Abraham’s descendants [the House of Israel] (Genesis 17:6-8), his seed multiplied as “the stars of the heaven” and the sand of the sea shore (Genesis 22:17), and a blessing for all families of the Earth through him [Abraham] (Genesis 12:3).
  • The promise of a Messiah. (e.g.: Deuteronomy 18:15, see Act 7:37)

The Abrahamic Covenant is especially significant, in my opinion, because it is the reason why God is so concerned with gathering the House of Israel—to fulfill his promises. Moses brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt to bring them back to their promise land. God keeps inspiring prophets to call them to repentance and to turn back to the one true and living God. (Jeremiah 10:1-15) Later, prophets began to prophesy that the twelve tribes of Israel would be scattered among the whole earth to be regathered in the last days (See Jeremiah chapter 10 as one of the many examples). Jesus came to make “a new covenant with the house of Israel” (Jer. 31:32) and “[he] put the law…inward” (v. 33). (The Sermon on the Mount is a great example of how Jesus taught the law should be put in the hearts.) Jesus taught the Apostles to give His followers bread and wine in memory of His body and in His blood (Matt. 26:26-28), which is the “new testament [i.e.: covenant].” God knows the beginning to the end. His covenants are for all His children.

It was necessary for Jesus Christ to come among the Jews, and then be rejected and killed as “an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53); so that the promise God made to Abraham to bless all families of the Earth could be fulfilled. How could God not offer salvation to all when His chosen people rejected “the Word made flesh?” (John 1:14) And so the Jesus was a “light to the Gentiles, that…[he] mayest be… salvation unto the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6) Now, by lifting up his “hand to the Gentiles,” and setting up His “standard” through the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 49:22) after the “falling away” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4), he can bring the Children of Israel back to their promised land on gentiles shoulders; so that all shall know that God makes and keeps promises with His children.

I am grateful that the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon testify of the covenants of a loving Heavenly Father with His children. (Ezekiel 37:15-28, 2 Nephi 29) The Bible is still the most popular book in the world ( —perhaps it’s the covenants!

Reflections from Piazza della Signoria

Even after nearly 500 years, Florentine architecture and art, especially sculpture, has stood the test of time as great accomplishments. Twenty-first century eyes try to imagine humans building five-story high arches and ceilings; and, not only that, painting masterpieces on them. We have created sculptures in the exact image of man—every vein and muscle. 

Nature doesn’t seem to respect it. The birds will stand on their heads and defecate. Water from the sky will leave leave mineral deposits to mare its image. Only by knowledge of history can we appreciate these edifices. 

Nowadays, we can program machines to build these things. We can print a 3D image of everything. Does the Architect of the universe scoff at how we worship the creations of our own hands? We surely do not hold nature up on a pedestal, or put it on a shrine. We will destroy it until we are left without sustenance for life. 

Every generation believes it is the greatest, neigh unto a god, even to the discrediting of His existence. Nature knows of our nothingness, although it fears our ignorance. I hope that generations of this century can find a solution to our ignorance—to become one with the Great Creator is to enter, uninterfered, with His ecology. His creative genius brings endless variation in design and unique consciousness to everything that has life. Our current path to diety is unsustainable and will end in our own demise.

(19 June 2016, Florence)