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Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Gift of Charity, Part 4: Karma and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

In my last blog post, I mentioned this blog’s Facebook group, and how it is a safe, moderated forum with one singular focus: Jesus Christ, His characteristics and becoming more like Him. It has several forums for subscribers as well:
  • "The Real Jesus,” where you'll get to know the REAL Jesus. We discuss how you can experience the actual personality of Jesus in your daily life in ways that will deepen not only your faith, but also your understanding and closeness, with Him.
  • “Striving for Zion,” where we discuss how to become more
  • “Sweet Words of Prayer” -- An active, dynamic, unofficial prayer roll, as well as a place where we can learn about and exchange insights on how to have more effective prayers.
  • "Wonderful Widows" -- A place for women who have lost their spouse due to death.
  • "Grieving Moms" -- For women that have lost children due to death (including miscarriages).
  • "Busy Moms" -- Moms of all ages who find it challenging to find time to prioritize the things of God.
Today, I’m proud to announce another new forum:

“Great are the Words of Isaiah” -- Here, we discuss the Book of Isaiah, one chapter a week. If you’ve always wanted to better understand the Book of Isaiah, you now have a safe place to study his words.

When Egos Collide

A question for you:

In your past, has there been a time when a person or organization unjustly wronged you? Or, have you witnessed someone behaving in such a way, that you knew it was only a matter of time until they harmed themselves or someone else?

That was me. Last week.

Until then, I worked for a local non-profit group (as a consultant, on the side) for over a year and a half. During that time, I frequently reminded the non-profit’s officers that if they consistently catalyzed senseless, needless drama instead of being focused on the work at hand, I would disassociate myself from the organization (it has had a long history of drama almost destroying the organization from within). Well, as fate would have it, this last week, the non-profit chose the drama, and I disassociated myself from it. The disassociation also took quite a bite out of my monthly income. It still stings.

I discussed this unfortunate turn of events with a friend who is an acknowledged expert in this non-profit’s specialized field for decades, She has seen this non-profit wax and wane, come and go for several decades. Based on her experience, knowledge of the board and many other factors which she itemized, she had no doubt that it would struggle, and likely fold, within a few years. “It’s a cycle,” she said. “It’s sad when time and again, egos divert an organization from meaningfully helping thousands in the state.”

After my conversation with my friend, I pondered all the good that could have come from the organization had it been more committed to checking egos and drama at the door. I also wondered what opportunities, what joy, board members would have experienced had they tempered their own senses of self-worth.

Is Karma a Gospel Doctrine?

“Karma” is Buddhist/Hindu concept that states the way you live your life will affect you. It’s the spiritual principle of cause and effect, where the intent and actions of an individual influences the future of that individual. It’s perhaps the ultimate form of “what goes around, comes around.” or even "poetic justice."

There is a concept in Judaism called “midah k'neged midah,” which is translated as "value against value" or "measure for measure." It essentially means that one's actions affect the world, and will eventually come back to that person in ways one might not necessarily expect.

The word “karma” isn’t found in any scripture nor general conference talk. Yet as I go through life, I get the sneaky suspicion that it’s a very real thing, and quite likely, doctrinally supported.

We are taught since we are babies about sin and its effects. We learn of living a life of charity vs. the Final Judgment, of reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7) and living by the sword vs. dying by the sword (Matthew 26:52). Even Job 4:8 says that those who seek trouble usually find it.

Jesus said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:37-38). He also said “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10).
“There is a law [I believe it’s called “the law of the harvest”], irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it [that blessing] is predicated” (D&C 130:20-21; comments mine)
Clearly, we are blessed when we love, emulate and obey God, and are condemned, maybe even cursed, if we do not.

Then again, I see innocent children dying of cancer, people dying on 9/11 and Isis beheading Christians. Did these people deserve their fates? I also see criminals getting off scot-free and dynasties of madmen ruling as unopposed tyrants. Do they deserve their wealth, power and influence?

An Eternity to Contemplate Our Actions

Credible arguments can be made on both sides of the karma question.

So, where does the truth lie?

When all is said and done, it’s God’s Plan of Salvation -- conditioned upon our actions (and inactions) in the here and now -- which dictates our eternal placement in the hereafter. Now is the seed time; afterwards, it’ll be the harvest.

In that respect, all the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos who got away with murder will face an incomprehensibly horrible day of reckoning. Conversely, those who have innocently suffered -- especially in the name of Jesus -- will face an incomprehensibly far brighter afterlife.

It’s called “Restoration”

About 2,100 years ago, another man -- a father -- had a similar discussion about these issues with his son. Here’s what he said:

“And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?
O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.
Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.
For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.” (Alma 41:12-15; emphasis mine)

Restoration -- it’s a pretty sobering doctrine. What do you “send out”? Do you contemplate that during the day? Do you evaluate that nightly with God?

Did you judge rashly? Then you’ll be judged rashly. Did you condemn? Then you’ll be condemned. Were you merciful? Then you’ll have mercy. Did you forgive? Then you’ll be forgiven. Did you love? Then you’ll be loved.

Sometimes, as Alma explained, that good or evil “restoration” won’t happen in this life. If it doesn’t, then it will in the next:
“Therefore, O my son, whosoever will come may come and partake of the waters of life freely; and whosoever will not come the same is not compelled to come; but in the last day it shall be restored unto him according to his deeds.
If he has desired to do evil, and has not repented in his days, behold, evil shall be done unto him, according to the restoration of God.” (Alma 42:27-28)
Several others in the scriptures believed that no one-- I repeat, no one -- escapes the skillful hands of karma:
“And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works.
And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord;
Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation. And thus it is. Amen.” (Helaman 12:24-26)
“He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.” (Helaman 14:31)
“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” (3 Nephi 14:2
“For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.” (3 Nephi 27:12
“For behold, the same that judgeth rashly shall be judged rashly again; for according to his works shall his wages be; therefore, he that smiteth shall be smitten again, of the Lord.” (Mormon 8:19)

Why Revenge Isn’t in your Plans

In my opinion, we shouldn’t worry about the punishment which may be headed to others. Brigham Young counseled that unless we ourselves are prepared for the day of the Lord’s vengeance when the wicked will be consumed, we should not be too anxious for the Lord to hasten his work. Instead, he said “Let our anxiety be centered upon this one thing: the sanctification of our own hearts, the purifying of our own affections” (Journal of Discourses, 9:3).

When you pick a path, you choose the place it leads to. I hope you’ll choose charity. Sometimes it begins in our hearts. Sometimes it begins as we see that actions or inactions of others, and vow to never be like them.

That’s one of the beauties of Jesus Christ’s gospel, and perhaps the wonderful upside of karma or restoration: the concept of hope and well-being from "sending out" the good, no matter if it’s via your actions, words or thoughts. You can be proactive. You can be anxiously engaged in a worthy cause.

It all begins when you seek out, learn about, emulate and continually praise the author of all goodness and all righteousness, Jesus Christ.