Thursday, September 30, 2010

Counsel with thy Brethren

Today I read Alma 52, which is a continuation of the war chapters. The thing that really struck me in this chapter is how well Moroni, Lehi and Teancum work together in these dark times and that they work as a council and not with Moroni dictating what is going to happen. When Amalickiah's brother, Ammoron, takes over the leadership of the Lamanite army, instead of insisting that he knows best, Moroni holds a council of war with Teancum and several of his chief commanders.

This reminds me of the leadership of the church and how a bishopric or a stake presidency functions. I'm sure that in this case the ultimate descion was Moroni's, but he valued their opinion and asked for their help in overcoming these obstacles.

The thing that really amazes me in this chapter is the audacity of the Nephites. They want Jacob, the Zoramite, who has taken over the city of Mulek to come out and fight them on the field of battle. I can't help but wonder what they hoped to accomplish by such direct methods? I don't really believe that if the situation was reversed the Nephites would have left their fortifications to do battle with the Lamanites. So I have always found that part of this chapter to be a little strange.

Nevertheless, through their efforts, they are able to retake the cities and are able to continue defending the cause of their people. This chapter also kind of reminds me of the repentance process. The Nephites, through their inattentiveness on the matters at hand, lost several citites to the Lamanites. Now they must struggle to regain them and get back to where they had once started from. This reminds me of us. We sometimes fall, or stumble and then have to struggle mightily to get back to where we started from and to progress even further.

I think that is just another part of what we are supposed to take away from the war chapters. Also, however, like I mentioned earlier, there are other things we can take away from these chapters. The cohesion of the Nephite command for one thing. They were a great example to us on being unified and being one in purpose. This is even more important during times of crisis. We need to make sure that we are unified in purpose with our spiritual leaders and following their counsel and direction to us. As we do this, the Lord will bless us for our faithfulness. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First set thine own house in order

Today I read Alma 51, where Moroni deals with the kingmen for the first time, Amalickiah comes to war against the Nephites again, and Teancum slays Amalickiah. This chapter always reminds me of the instruction the Savior gave to first set thine own house in order.

Moroni was a man who truly understood this principle. He knew that in the past part of the reason his people had lost to the Lamanites was because they were not unified. They did not have their people united against the Lamanites. So Moroni first and foremost decided to get his own affairs in order before tackling the larger challenge that the Lamanites presented.

As I read this morning I couldn't help but think, how often are we like the Nephites? How often do we ignore the issues in our own lives that cripple us spiritually but we've got plenty of advice to share with those that might be going through something similar or going through something we know nothing about. THIS is exactly what the Savior was cautioning against when He taught that we needed to first get our own house in order.

I also have always found it interesting that for all intents and purposes, Teancum committed murder in this chapter. Now, I think the situation is much like that Nephi faced, where it is better that one man should perish than an entire nation suffer, however, unlike Nephi we are not told that Teancum was prompted by the Spirit to do this. However, given the remorse Moroni and Lehi feel when Teancum dies, I think it is safe to say that Teancum was definitely a man of the Spirit because a man like Captain Moroni would not be friends with a murderer.

It is also interesting to me to note that no matter how difficult things get for the Nephites, Moroni never declares marshal law. He always goes through the government when it comes to matters that concern the people as a whole outside the scope of the war. When the kingmen would not help, he petitioned the government to give him the power to compel them to service or be put to death. I often wonder what went through his mind when Pahoran would get requests like this from Moroni? I mean, if he's anything like me, he probably felt that Moroni already had such power since, even though not directly, it still fell under the jurisdiction of the war. But Moroni was a man who loved liberty and very much would do things by the book.

And again that is why he is one of the ultimate examples in the Book of Mormon. He is a man who loves order, a man who, even though he has great passion, has perfect temperance. He was in complete control of his passions. He knew that Pahoran would not fault him for taking the steps he did, but he still wanted to do things in their proper order. Truly Mormon was right that if all men could be like that, then the powers of hell would be shaken forever! May we all grow to be more like Moroni, Lehi and Teancum. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

There Never was a Happier Time

Today I read Alma 50, which covers several years of Nephite history and introduces two very important men in the Nephite history, Teancum and Pahoran. In this chapter the Nephites are still very much under treat of war by the Lamanites and for one of those years by themselves even.

However, the part that makes me most intrigued is the line that Mormon says from the time of Nephi down to this, there never was a happier time for the Nephites than now. I find that a little odd personally. I mean, that's a little like saying the Americans were never happier than during the 13 day Cuban missile crisis! The threat of war was very, very real for these people, and yet they were happier than they had ever been. Why is that?

It was because they were keeping the commandments of the Lord. As the times grew more dire, the Nephites became more diligent in keeping the commandments. In a few weeks, we will read in Helaman where the Nephites were very, very wicked and yet the priests of the church were astonished by the amount of people joining the church and being baptized! It all comes down to opposites.

Have you ever had something ridiculously good happen to you? Was it ever tainted because you knew something equally bad was going to happen very soon? I sure have. Of course I've also had the other end of things too where something really bad happened and it was mitigated by the fact that I knew something good would happen soon. I think that is what is happening with the Nephites here. They are faced with invasion by their enemies and so they are tirelessly working for the welfare of their loved ones, which is service which we have already talked about how service breeds love, and Moroni and the sons of Alma are constantly preaching to them that they need to keep the commandments so that the Lord will be with them.

I've also had times, as I'm sure most people have, that I am so happy that even when bad things start to happen, it doesn't phase me. I'm so high on life and the Spirit that the bad thing that happens is not enough to kill my natural high. I think that is how the Nephites are at this period of time. We know it's not the happiest they will ever be, that comes much later. But it is nice to know and have confirmed that happiness comes from within, not based on external circumstances.

It really is true that we have full control of our own happiness. If we are living a life that invites the Spirit to be with us the majority of the time, then we will be happy and we will be able to CHOOSE to be happy. I've lived both kinds of lives, within reason the things I did wrong were not horrible grievous sins but they did drive away the Spirit, and I MUCH prefer to be happy and have the Spirit around me. I'm sure the Nephites did too. Until tomorrow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Battle between Good and Evil

Today I read Alma 49, where the Lamanites come against the Nephites for the first time after Amalickiah is their king. This chapter to me is interesting because it again shows the integrity of both the Nephites and the Lamanites. It's also a good reminder not to promise anything that you can't deliver. The Lamanite chief captains swore to attack the city of Noah no matter what and it led to their deaths and over a thousand of the Lamanite's deaths.

But the thing that strikes me about this chapter is the fact that the Lamanites had evolved to meet the changes in the Nephites. In the battle with Zerahemnah just a few years earlier, the Nephites had worn armor to protect themselves. Now, in this battle, the Lamanites are now wearing armor.

This is just like the adversary and his angels, when we resist a temptation, whatever it is, it comes back to attack us again later, even stronger than before. And if we are not ready for it, then we will fall. The Nephites in this chapter, if all they had to protect themselves were their armor, then they would have been slaughtered by the Lamanites because they would have been on equal ground and there were many, many more Lamanites than there were Nephites.

But Moroni understood this principle, that you have to always be preparing for the next attack. You can't stand still. Life in the Gospel, to me, is kind of like being on a moving sidewalk, like they have at the airport, but it's moving in the opposite direction that you are walking and trying to get to. If you stop moving, even for a second, you are going to lose ground. That is because in the gospel there is no standing still, there is no staying at the same level. You are either progressing or regressing.

I will give you an example from my own life. When I was in college, I was really bad about reading my scriptures. In fact, from the time I finished my mission, to the time I started really reading them again on a daily basis, I don't think I ever went so much as a month straight where I read my scriptures everyday. My spirituality started declining. I started watching rated R movies again, my language was not as clean as it should have been, I was moving backwards because I was not doing anything to keep myself moving forwards. The only thing I was doing on a consistent regular basis to keep myself going in the right direction was I was attending church every week.

Now, 10 years after my mission ended, instead of building on the wonderful base I made for myself on my mission with the scriptures, I am still working towards getting back to where I was. I think I am almost there again, at least where the scriptures are concerned. Fortunately I met a wonderful woman who would not allow me to continue with such vices as swearing and watching inappropriate media. As I slowly but surely walk against the grain that is the natural man, that sidewalk that moves in the wrong direction, I am almost back to that spot I allowed myself to leave 10 years ago. And once I get there, I have to go past it, or I will just fall, again.

If you all take nothing away from today's post than this, please learn this and learn it well: there is no standing still in the gospel. You are either progressing, or sliding back towards the natural man. I promise you that. It's not enough to just not sin. We have to actively take steps to get better and progress. It has to be a conscious choice. Think back to our moving sidewalk analogy, can you walk on it without paying attention to it? Maybe, but your likely hood of falling is significantly greater and if you fall on the morality sidewalk, you will travel a LONG way in the wrong direction before you can regain your feet.

And of course, since the sidewalk we are on is moving in the opposite direction of the way we want to go, we also have to contend with the other people on it, not just those moving the same direction we are who may be slower, but those who are only too happy to let the sidewalk take them where it will. If we stop to talk to those people....well you get the idea. We must be like Moroni and constantly defending ourselves and improving our protection against the adversary. As we do so, we will become better than we were today and slowly but surely accomplish our goal of eternal life! Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Labor exceedinly for the Welfare of your people

Today I read Alma 48, which is where most people talk about the character of Captain Moroni and Mormon makes his famous statement about Moroni which we have actually already discussed. The rest of the chapter is about what Moroni is doing to prepare his people and the fact that it is no sin to protect your lives and those of your loved ones if you were not guilty of the first offense.

The phrase that stood out to me in today's reading is where is said that Moroni did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people. And I got to wondering what that means. What does it mean to labor exceedingly for the welfare of your people? I think it all goes back to what the Savior said to the Israelites when he was alive as recorded in Mark 8:35: "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it."

I think it has to do with being in service to our fellow man. Have you ever noticed if you read the 4 gospels, that Jesus never does anything for himself? I mean aside from the normal eating, sleeping and other things the body needs to stay alive, everything else He does is for someone else. There are even recordings of when He was trying to sleep and He'd get woken up, He would go out to the people and minister to them. Have you ever noticed that after his conversion we really don't have any recordings of Alma doing anything for himself beyond bodily needs either? Nor Captain Moroni. Do you see a pattern here?

I remember one time talking to my Dad and he told me a story about a friend of his from many years ago. The friend was apparently starting to lag in his church attendance and not enjoying going to church anymore. So I'm not sure how he got the idea but he decided to stop worrying about himself while at church. He would volunteer for everything, no matter what it was. And he noticed that within a few short weeks, he was looking forward to church each week and was really happy in life in general.

I discovered the same thing years ago. I'm pretty sure I have recorded the story previously but long story short, I realized as a teenager that I was happiest when I was giving service, no matter what the service was. Anytime I notice I'm starting to feel unhappy about something or need a pick me up, I look for opportunities to serve. And that's exactly what this scripture is talking about. It doesn't mean we all have to run out and join the armed forces and protect our lands, although you can do that if you so desire. What it means is to lose our selves for Jesus' sake and for the sake of the Gospel. To live our lives for others, not for ourselves. We need to overcome our own selfishness if we ever hope to live with God again someday. Do you think God does anything for Himself? Well, to be honest I have no idea, but I'll bet the vast majority of what he does is for us, His children.

The Book of Mormon is many, many things to lots of people, but the one thing it is for everyone, is a road map for a happy, successful life. If, as Elder Bednar says all the time, we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we will understand that. Hopefully I have helped point out enough spots where that is true that you all can believe it and understand what we are saying. I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you want to have a happy life here on this earth, serve others. If you want to overcome depression once and for all, live a life of service to others and forget about yourself. That is the true way to be happy. It's why temple worship feels so good! Because everything you do in the temple except for that first time, is for others. Think about it, ponder it and if you want to know the truth of MY words, pray about it, and you will see I am right! Until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Poisoned by Degrees

Today I read Alma 47, where Amalickiah gains his power over the Lamanites. Also in this chapter we have Lehonti, who is the opposite of Captain Moroni for all intents and purposes. We talked yesterday about how Moroni was valiant and even though he did not enjoy it, he killed his own people who would not promise to uphold liberty and freedom. He cut out any and all dissention right at the beginning. He was valiant to the end and resisted evil. Lehonti however, is a very different matter.

He started off so well. He did not want to do what he was commanded to do, what he knew was wrong. He resisted his temptations 3 times, flat out refused to even entertain the idea and kept to his guns as it were. However, the 4th time, when he thought he would be in control of the situation and be able to accomplish what he thought he wanted, he yielded. How differently would this entire period of history for the Nephites and Lamanites have turned out if he had been stalwart like Moroni?

And as it always is with sin, this is not where the story ended for poor Lehonti. The story states that Amalickiah had one of his servants administer poison by degrees to Lehonti until he died. And that is exactly what happens to us with sin. It is very, very rare that someone just jumps right into sin and commits adultery or commits murder. They are almost always led by the nose from sin, to sin, to sin until the Light of Christ has gone out of them completely. And that is what is meant by the scriptures where it says the devil leadeth them carefully down to hell.

But that is how he has to do it. Take a good upstanding LDS young man and woman. They have been taught their entire lives to wait until marriage to have sex. Neither of them would ever dream of violating that rule. And yet they, like Lehonti, resist the temptations the first time, the second time and even the third time, but that fourth time, when it seems like they are still in control, they yield on that first step. And then they are poisoned by degrees until they find themselves pregnant out of wedlock and their salvation at risk.

I remember being in college and my roommate started dating a really wonderful girl. After they had been dating for a month or so he came to me and asked me my thoughts on kissing and French kissing while dating. I remember I looked at him and told him that I was going to tell him something that he had probably never been told before. I told him that there was absolutely nothing wrong with French kissing before marriage. The problem though, is that French kissing is not the end, it’s a step. I went on to tell him that the problem with kissing and French kissing before being married is it starts out feeling wonderful, but pretty soon, it’s old and commonplace. It awakens emotions that need to be properly contained by marital covenants. I told him again that there is nothing wrong with kissing or French kissing, and for that matter there is nothing wrong with sex. BUT, they each have their own time and place to be used properly, and that is why the prophets and apostles strongly caution against French kissing before marriage, because most of us are not strong enough to resist the poisoning by degrees that starts the moment you start kissing, let alone French kissing.

I remember when I met my wife and we started dating and she told me that she had never kissed a boy and didn’t want to until her wedding day. I remember at first being a little sad, I really liked her after all, however when that wore off, I remember being extremely relieved that I didn’t have to worry about us nearly as much. The decision was made, we were not going to yield even a little. We were going to be Captain Moroni’s and cut out the potential cancer that could weaken us and make us unworthy of a temple marriage.

I am also reminded of the analogy of a stagecoach company that needed a new driver for a very dangerous route, one that took the coach on a very narrow stretch of road next to a cliff. They narrowed it down to 3 drivers and each driver was asked how close they could drive the coach to the edge. The first driver said he could get within 6 inches of the cliff and be OK. The 2nd driver said he could do 4 inches. But the third driver merely said, “I stay as far away from the edge as possible.” The 3rd driver was hired. It is like that with us, be it the Law of Chastity or the Word of Wisdom or any another commandment. We should stay strong and not even come close to approaching the edge.

As we stay strong against our temptations, we will find that we are strengthened and the next time we are tempted by our sins, it is a little easier to resist, and so on and so forth until we are no longer even tempted by that vice again. May we all be Moroni’s and not Lehonti’s. Until tomorrow.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Captain Moroni

Today I read Alma 46, which most people will recognize as the chapter that Captain Moroni hoists the title of Liberty. I however, view this chapter as a good example instead of why Mormon later says his famous line about Moroni that if all men had been and would be men like Moroni, it would cause the powers of hell to shake. This chapter helps us understand why that is.

The reason Mormon said that about Moroni, and the reason it is true, can be found in verse 35. Moroni would not allow any dissention on the cause of freedom and liberty. When the people of Amalickiah were captured Moroni offered them a choice, swear an oath to uphold liberty, or be put to death.

Now to some that may seem harsh, but it is necessary. I remember a Sunday School lesson once that my Dad actually taught on the Old Testament. He talked about the Israelites taking over Israel when they moved in after their 40 years of wandering and how the Lord commanded them to slaughter every man, woman and child. My Dad asked why that was and no one had an answer. Then he said something profound. It only takes one spec to make something imperfect. Just one small, tiny imperfection makes it imperfect. The Lord knows that, that is why we are commanded to be perfect. Moroni knew it too.

Moroni recognized that if he allowed these people to live, who openly stated that they had no intention of upholding the freedoms of the people, it would spread like a cancer. He knew that as harsh as it was, just like a cancer, it had to be cut out immediately before it could spread. He was actually quite ruthless about it. But think of the benefits that were gained from doing this! What if each of us could cut out the imperfections in each of us just as effectively. What good could we do?

If each of us were as brutal with ourselves as Moroni was with the dissenters, the powers of hell really would be shaken forever, never to recover. If each of us could root out our imperfections with such tenacity, there would be peace on earth. That is why every man should strive to be a Captain Moroni. We should each of us strive to be the type of man who will not rest when an imperfection in ourselves is found until it is purged. That is why every young woman should strive to marry a Captain Moroni.

Now it should be pointed out of course that Moroni was not a bloodthirsty man. I fully believe that he took no pleasure in doing what had to be done. It was necessary and so he did it, but I believe it was hard for him to do. And that's the difference between Moroni and a tyrant who kills those who will not follow him. In the coming days we will talk more about Moroni and who we should all strive to be like him as we read the rest of the war chapters. For I believe this is the very reason they were included in the Book of Mormon. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Reality of the Atonement

Today I read Alma 45, the last prophecy of Alma before he died. Except Alma didn't die, the thought is he was translated just like Moses was. That gives me great hope as it should to everyone.

We all know that Alma the Younger was one of the young men who went about seeking to destroy the church. By his own admonition he was one of the very vilest of sinners and he spiritually murdered several people. You don't get much worse than that. If we really think about it, he probably committed every sin in the book except denying the Holy Ghost and committing murder. And yet here he is being translated, or being received straight up to heaven without having to die first.

2 verses above this verse it talks about how God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. We know this to be true, and yet He took Alma into His bosom. Do you understand what that means? The Atonement works! I know that we all understand that the Atonement does what it is supposed to, but most people at some point will doubt the efficacy of the Atonement.

Last Sunday we had Stake Conference, as I have mentioned. Our Stake President spoke first during the Sunday session and one of the things he said really stuck with me. He said that many, far too many, people feel like they can never forgive themselves, that they have sinned too much. His response to those people kind of surprised me at first, but it doesn't anymore. He said he tells them that to think that way is to deny the Atonement. It's as if we were standing before the Savior and said to Him, "I know you have suffered for the sins of others, but you did not suffer for mine." Such thoughts are a mockery of the most sacred event that has ever happened.

He also said that this goes the same for people who say they cannot forgive themselves. In all honesty, yes I know Alma was an amazing man and prophet, but I can't help but wonder if his story is given such a central stage for so much of the Book of Mormon as an object lesson to others that yes, there is hope for you, the Atonement DOES work. I mean think about it. The sons of Mosiah were just as bad as Alma, and yet they are only given central stage in the Book of Mormon for 9 chapters.

Now, Alma also kept the record of the church for almost 20 years before his translation. However, I believe that was purposeful too. With a few exceptions, none of us will sin more than Alma did in his youth. And yet the Atonement worked for him. It worked so well that he was fully converted and could not sit idly by the scriptures say but was compelled to go out and preach the word. Some days I wish I could fully devote my life as he did to preaching the word of God. The only people I am aware of that do that in this day though are the apostles. So I have to be content to just be a good example and spread the gospel to those in my sphere of influence, and of course by writing this blog.

We should never fall into the trap of believing anything the devil tells us, especially if it concerns the Atonement. If you ever have questions about the Atonement, make it a matter of prayer and study the Atonement. You will quickly be put back on the right path. But I will end with this thought that again comes from my Stake President during Stake Conference that later Elder Bednar wholeheartedly endorsed. The Savior has already paid the price for every sin we will ever do! It's already been done. All we have to do is stop sinning and move on to better things. And I repeat, to not forgive ourselves is to deny the Atonement.

The Atonement works, and we have evidence of it here in Alma 45. Don't take it lightly, and if you have in the past, it is time to repent. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Today I read Alma 44, the continuation of the account of the Nephites battle against Zerahemnah. Believe it or not, the part of this chapter that stands out to me as a whole is integrity. Integrity is known as the adherence to a moral or ethical principle. And the person who's integrity impresses me in this chapter is Zerahemnah.

By this chapter, the Nephites led by the armies of Moroni and Lehi have completely surrounded the Lamanites and it is only a matter of time before the Lamanite army is wiped out. Moroni being a good and righteous man offers them a way out, but giving up their weapons and promising to never return again to battle. Now, most people when they read Zerahemnah's response probably can only think about how stubborn he is that he won't promise Moroni such a simple thing to save his life and the life of his men. However, look at his response: "...but we will not suffer ourselves to take an oath unto you, which we know that we shall break, and also our children;"

Believe it or not, that is showing integrity. The reason he would not take the oath and save his people is because he knew he would not be able to keep such an oath, and rather than lie and take the oath with the intent to break it later, he chose to die instead of break an oath. THAT is powerful! Now, Zerahemnah was an evil man who came up to war in the first place, and he was by no means the only person who felt this way, he's just the only one in this chapter.

Think what it would mean in this day and age if people would rather die as opposed to break their promise. What a world that would be. No more contracts within contracts. How amazing would it be when even a promise made to an enemy was sacred and would be kept. We are told that once upon a time in America men and women also had such integrity, but not anymore. Not very many people feel this strongly about keeping their word anymore.

What is even more amazing to me about this chapter is the fact that there would be no real consequences if Zerahemnah made the oath and then broke it beyond his potential death in a war which was a certainty anyway if he went to war. How many people do things only out of fear of punishment? I'm ashamed to admit there are things in my past that I did only because I didn't want to get in trouble. But no, there would have been no punishment for breaking such an oath beyond the personal and perhaps social shame of it. And yet he chose death rather than to take an oath he knew he could not keep. I'll say it again, that's powerful!

I wish everyone kept their word that studiously. I wish I did. I could certainly be better about it. I do find comfort in that I think most people do try, but people's memories are not what they used to be. I know that is mostly my excuse. But I do enjoy when I have the reputation at work that if you give me something to do, it will get done and get done right. That is what it means to keep your word.

We may not be able to have the integrity of the Nephites and Lamanites and studiousness of keeping our word right away, but being able to keep your word is a reputation you can build on, one day at a time. Hopefully each of us can examine our lives and find where we are lacking in keeping our word and for what reason and work on correcting it. It really is that important. I know I will make changes to do so. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The War Chapters

Today I read Alma 43, the beginning of the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. As a teenager, I had never really thought about it much, because I was a teenage boy and enjoyed them, but as I've gotten older I've often wondered why in the scriptures did Mormon include the war chapters? Moreover, why THESE war chapters? As we read the rest of the Book of Mormon, there are other wars, some that went on longer and were much more involved, so why did these war chapters get included?

The answer is because they are unique and we can learn something from them. A part of me doesn't wonder if it might also be because Moroni was one of Mormon's heroes. I mean he even named his son after him. But I think that is a very small part of it. Because no matter how much he liked and thought of Moroni, Mormon would not have included these chapters if the Spirit had not prompted him to do so.

So the real question we have to ask ourselves is what can we learn from these chapters? Well, for starters, there are some VERY remarkable men in these chapters and during these years of the Nephite history. Moroni, Lehi, Teancum and Pahoran for starters. Also I believe it is important for us all to know that it is ok for us to defend our lands from those who would seek unrighteous dominion over us.

There is another aspect too. Unrighteous dominion does not only come in the form of physical power. Think about what is happening in the world today. We are being bowled over by those who would subject us to their ideals and their whims. We are under fire because of our morals and our believes and some even dare to call us bigots because we do not engage in what they term "tolerance". I think we are to learn from these chapters that we are to stand up for our rights, for our liberties and our religious freedoms. We are to be the city on the hill and to be the light shining into the spiritual darkness of this life and this world.

In a few chapters hence we will discuss the character of Moroni himself. I do not wish to steal my own thunder by doing it here. But these men in this particular chapter, did not stand idly by when their ideals and freedoms were threatened. Nor did they allow themselves to be called bigots because they stood up for what is right.

We are currently under fire in this world and being pushed ever closer to the cliffs of destruction and people, instead of standing up to the evils of the world and being united as the Nephites were, are going along as docile as a herd of cows to the slaughter! I think these chapters are meant to remind us that we are meant to stand up for what is right and to fight, in the appropriate channels of course, for what we believe in and for what we know to be right! Hopefully we can expound on this thought in the coming weeks. Until tomorrow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Justice vs. Mercy

Today I read Alma 42, the concluding chapter in Alma's talk with Corianton. This is the chapter where he really lays out the plan of salvation to his son, who is having trouble understanding it and mistakenly thinks it is not just for God to restore evil for evil.

However, as Alma points out to his son, God HAS to do that. Because He cannot rob justice. There are laws that even God must follow. He cannot break them anymore than we humans can defy gravity without assistance. Alma really does lay it out on a very, very basic format for Corianton.

The central message that I take away from this chapter is that Mercy cannot rob Justice. Now, the important thing to understand here, is we are talking about paying the price for the suffering sin causes. I hope by now I have made it abundantly clear that where we finally end up is going to be determined completely by us, meaning what kind of life we have lived, what type of person we are and what things we enjoy. And no matter where we end up, we will be happy. I hope that is clear to everyone who reads this, since we've only talked about it, oh about 5 times so far! :)

No, Alma is talking about the effects of sin and paying the price for sin. THIS is the part that mercy cannot rob justice. Somehow, someway, someone has to pay the price for all sin that has ever been done, or ever will be done. And He has already. Jesus Christ has already paid the price for everything we will ever do. However, there is a price we too must pay to take advantage of this Atonement. It is not free, like the resurrection is. And those who choose not to take advantage of the Atonement will have to suffer for their own sins, needlessly since the Savior has already done it!

But because the Savior has already met the demands of justice for each of us, if we allow Him to, all we have to do is pay His price He asks of us to take advantage of it. The price He asks is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. He only asks that we live a better life going forward than we have in the past. That we live the kind of life He lived. Sadly, for some, that is WAY too high a price to pay. I cannot understand that thought. Oh I can understand being trapped in sin and desiring a way out and so because of the sins which do beset us we cannot find the way out, that I can understand. But what I cannot comprehend are those who look at the price and laugh or scoff at the notion of not doing what they want and of someone else telling them what to do. Biding them down to bondage I think Korihor called it in Alma 30. It is people like Korihor that think living a good, kind, sin free life is too high a price to pay, which is sad.

We have already dealt with the idea that we receive our reward according to our desires, that we will obtain the degree of glory that we desire! We have also already dealt with the concept that we need God's help to change ourselves if we aren't satisfied with our current desires. And so we have come full circle and in the course of 4 chapters have examined the plan of salvation. I will leave you with one final thought that Elder Bednar shared with us on Saturday night. He said that the blessing from living the commandments is more commandments.

Now on the surface that doesn't seem like such a good thing to some people. Even I was taken aback right at first. But that is because those people have forgotten or don't understand what commandments are. Remember, as we have talked about in the past, commandments are attributes of God. So really we can look at it this way, the blessing of living the commandments is more knowledge of God's character! Or we can even break it down even further, the blessings of living like God, is understanding God even better and being given the opportunity to become even more like Him! Now it makes more sense. Now it DOES seem like a blessing. It's all about how you perceive it and what your desires are, a theme it seems like we have been talking about all weekend.

As Elder Bednar constantly says, those who have eyes to see and ears to hear will understand what I am saying. Others might think I am crazy, but it is my testimony that the things I have taught over the last few days as we have examined Alma's counsel to his son are true. That Jesus suffered so that we may not have to. That we have the choice to determine what type of person we want to be and with God's help we can be that person. This I so testify in the sacred name of the Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wickedness Never was Happiness

Today I read Alma 41, a continuation of Alma's talk with his son Corianton. In this chapter Alma talks more about the judgment and about the type of person his son is. This chapter also contains the line, "wickedness never was happiness".

Yesterday in Stake Conference Elder Bednar said something that reminded me of this chapter. He gave us a measuring stick to determine what our level of conversion to the gospel is. He asked us to examine our lives and to find out if we enjoy living the gospel, or do we find it a burden?

I thought that was really profound and yet really simple. It goes along with what we have talked about before this and really makes you evaluate yourself. It makes you think about what type of friends you hang out with and how you are spending your time. Elder Bednar also made the statement yesterday that the world has nothing to offer, nothing of real value at all.

Nothing about the world brings happiness or even joy, just gratification, another statement Elder Bednar made yesterday. I know it doesn't seem like it, but he really did talk about more than just the type of people we are. Verse 6 contains a really interesting phrase, "desired righteousness". Like we've talked about before in the past it really is all about what type of person we are. And that is really the key I think, what are our desires?

We can change ourselves. The scriptures teach us that this is the time to prepare to meet God, and we can repent and we can change ourselves. The problem is we need to want to change. Some people have been deluded into thinking that they are happy not living the Gospel. That's why it is important to surround ourselves with those that help make it easier to live the Gospel. That's how I knew I wanted to marry my wife. When I was considering whether or not to marry my wife, I was amazed at how easy it was to live the Gospel. That's when I knew that she was the one for me.

As we grow, we have the opportunity to live whatever life we want to live. It is a true test of who we want to be when there is no longer anyone to tell us what to do anymore. I don't believe people when they say they are only doing things to check it out and find out if they want to keep doing it, to see what's it like, what the hype is. People use this excuse all the time to do things they should not be doing, like drink alcohol. There is no reason to drink alcohol to find out what it is all about, all you have to do is watch other people make the mistake. People drink alcohol because they want to, regardless of what they say.

The long and short of it, we are who we choose to be. Just like we will end up where we choose to end up after this life. Our actions will determine where that is, and where ever it is, we will be pleased with it, because we will be surrounded by those people we want to be around. We can make changes and can ask God for help in changing ourselves, because we can't really change ourselves on our own. But with God's help we can change ourselves. All we have to do is ask Him. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Life after Death

Today I read Alma 40, the continuation of Alma's talk with his son Corianton. From what Alma writes in this chapter, his son Corianton, was very confused why the Lord would explain the plan of salvation so far in advance to mankind. Like Alma, I am left to wonder why he would be confused or troubled by this fact. I too believe a soul is just a precious before the Lord came to Earth as it is now.

As Alma proceeds to lay it all out for his son, we are given a glimpse into the Spirit world and what it will be like. Today was a wonderful, full day. Today I worked from 6:30 am until 2:30 pm when I then left for Stake Conference. For Stake Conference, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles came and visited our stake. I was able to attend the Priesthood leadership sessions which was entirely a question and answer session and attend the adult Saturday evening session with Crys and Rayne.

Both sessions were wonderful and as Crys and I were eating dinner afterwords I was commenting on how wonderful it was to me that Elder Bednar commented on so many things that I have touched on in this blog and moreover, that what he said agrees 100% with what I have put here on my blog. That was a good feeling. One of the questions he was asked during the Priesthood session deals with exactly what Alma 40 talks about, the life after this one and the final judgment.

Elder Bednar mentioned that he shakes the hands of thousands of people every year and every time there are those that will not look him in the eye. He says it is because they are afraid of what he might see in them and that is the judgment right there! They are uncomfortable to be around him, because he radiates goodness and the Spirit. If they can't even stand to be around him, who is human, how and why would they want to be around Heavenly Father?

The most compelling part of this chapter for me though, is the fact that Alma doesn't feel the need to have it all figured out. He states that he knows there will be a resurrection, and that all will be resurrected, but he has no idea how it is all ultimately going to play out, and he's OK with that! That to me is very cool. How many people delve into the deep mysteries of the gospel, having to know every single detail, and yet, Alma who gets translated a few short months after this conversation with his son, is OK knowing it is all in God's hands.

Elder Bednar actually invited all the Priesthood brethren to study Mosiah 23 - Alma 40 to learn about leadership from Alma. From tonight's meetings, it is clear to me that Alma is one of his heroes, and I can understand why. Alma was a perfect example of ministering one to one, directly to the people, just like the Savior did. I thought it was pretty neat that I have spent the last month and then some studying those exact chapters and blogging about them.

As you can tell, my thoughts are really scattered right now. However, there truly is not very much I can expound on from chapter 40 right now, Alma puts it all so eloquently, and I am still full of the Spirit from Elder Bednar's talks. Perhaps next go around I will have more to say on Alma 40 than I have tonight. Perhaps not. Until tomorrow.

Friday, September 17, 2010

We are always being watched

Today I read Alma 39, Alma's opening statements to his son Corianton. Corianton was one of the two that had gone with Alma to the Zoramites along with Shiblon. Unlike Shiblon however, Corianton did not preach the word as he should have. Rather he left the mission field and went after a prostitute named Isabel.

As can be imagined, Alma is deeply grieved by this and he makes a statement in what might arguably be my favorite verse in the Book of Mormon. In verse 11, the 2nd half of the verse, Alma says: "...O my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words. " In my last set of scriptures, I had written in the margins under this verse, "we are always being watched".

How many of us who read this who are Latter-day Saints have heard someone say when they discover we are LDS that they used to know an LDS person and then they proceed to tell you exactly what type of person they were. You can also tell by the way they describe the person and the way they talk about it, how they feel about the church, and in 90% of the cases if it was a bad LDS person, they don't like the church, and vice versa.

As unfair as it may seem, people judge the church based on their one interaction with an LDS person. But as I think about it, this is not so uncommon. We do it with everything. We do it to people of different elasticities than ourselves, different cultures and backgrounds and even different cities. We have all had that experience where we meet 1 person from a place and think to ourselves, "Oh that must be how everyone from (insert name here) is."

Unfortunately, since most LDS people are not in the habit of announcing who they are, the people of the world are much more likely to meet two people from Montana in the course of their lives as they are to know that they have met two LDS people. However, if someone has met an LDS person who lived their religion, they are VERY adept at recognizing another one. I have had dozens of people come up and ask me if I am LDS that I know for a fact I never mentioned it to them. They just know the signs. I am not shy about the fact that I do not work Sundays because of my religion, that I don't drink alcohol, don't smoke or drink coffee or tea. While I have a slip up every now and then, people recognize that I don't use swear words or other foul language, that I don't tell off color jokes.

In a way that is a HUGE compliment, that I am doing a good job of living my religion. On the other hand it is a tremendous pressure. I sometimes feel like a bug in a jar, and all eyes are on me. I really hate it when I hear people say, "Wow, I would have never thought I'd hear you say that, Fred." That lets me know, no questions asked, that I have screwed up. And it always helps me be better next time I am faced with that scenario.

I have no idea how often is happens, but I wonder how many people meet another LDS person and reminisce about me and say that they knew a "Mormon" once and they liked him and he was a good person, etc, etc. I sincerely hope that no one speaking about me mentions they knew a "Mormon" once and boy was he a such and such. But one never knows. I think sometimes we meet people who recognize us as LDS but don't ever say anything. Hopefully in those cases, I have left a good name for our religion in their minds, but I know myself and it's all too possible that I may have been having a weak moment and left them with a sour taste in their mouth.

I will end here because I could literally go on for days on this subject. Suffice it to say, be who you want people to remember you as, always. Because they will remember you once they know you are LDS, and by the time they realize it, the impression is already made. So live your life the way you want to be remembered. That is how I live mine and I have very few regrets. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rely upon the Lord

Today I read Alma 38, Alma's words to his son Shiblon. He gives some good counsel to his son, but it is also considerably shorter than what he says to his other two sons. I believe this may be because of Shiblon's faithfulness, based on what Alma says to him.

The part that resonates with me, is when Alma mentions the adversities Shiblon suffered at the hands of the Zoramites and the fact that he did not revile against them. But rather he bore it all with patience and gave Alma much joy. He mentions that the reason Shiblon could do that is because the Lord was with him.

This reminds me very much of the old poem, footprints in the sand. Where a man has a dream that he is walking along a beach with the Savior and is upset because at times there is only one set of footprints visible, and it was during the most rough parts of his life. When he asks the Savior why he left him just when he needed him most, the Savior replied that those were the times that He had carried the man.

I've had times like that, times where I was faced with something and I wasn't sure how I could get through it, or when I look back at it, I don't know how I did get through it. I had one of those moments just a week or so ago actually. I woke up in such pain as I have never felt before in my life and it went on, and on, and on. It was a very difficult day, and I truly believe the Lord was with me, helping me get through it.

It can be a challenging thing to rely on the Lord though, to relinquish that control over your life and leave it up to Him. The hardest time I had with it was when I wanted to get married so badly. I was looking everywhere, trying everything I could think of. And yet, I kept receiving blessings saying marriage was being withheld for a reason and I just needed to be patient, that it was so close. I'm sad to say that I didn't so much as relinquish control to Him as I did give up in bitterness. That was one challenge in my life, of my own making even, that I could have handled so much better. But I am human and fallible. I make mistakes with the best of them.

The really sad thing that occurs to me as I sit here and think about it, is how many of our trials are of our own making. Our sins and the effects of sin are completely of our making. Our shortcomings as people, most of them anyway, are of our own making. We are commanded to rely upon God and turn to him to help us with our weaknesses. Per Ether 12:26 we are given weaknesses for the express purpose of getting us to come to God.

The funny thing about trials though, is yes they do stretch us, but they are perfect for us and usually when we hear about other people's trials we begin to realize how good out life really is. I am one of those lucky people without many trials, it makes me worried that maybe I'm not living a righteous enough life and so Satan is not concentrating enough on me :p, my wife says it's not that I don't have trials, I'm just really adept at forgetting the harsh moments of my life. Since I can't remember, I can't tell if she's right or not. LOL. Nevertheless, I digress. Our trials are perfect for us and usually just what we can handle. Yes sometimes we see other people's "trials" and complain that why can't we have that trial, or want to shake our head in disgust that someone is having trouble with that.

And then there are those people that tell you about their life and you just blanch in horror and wonder how they ever got through it and thank the Lord that your life is so easy. But regardless of what our trials are, we need to rely upon the Lord and make Him our partner in all things. Then will we be able to accomplish all things and we can say as Paul did that we have fought the good fight. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Words of Christ

Today I read Alma 37, the closing remarks to his son Helaman. Alma spends his time with his son giving instructions on what to do with the sacred writings and why we have them. He especially spends time talking to him about the record of the Jaredites and to keep the secret combination oaths away from the people.

The last half of the chapter is more about keeping the commandments of God and Alma ties in the Liahona and how just like Lehi and Nephi of old used it to find their way in the physical wilderness, so we too can use the scriptures to navigate through the spiritual wilderness we find ourselves in everyday.

Alma makes a statement in this chapter, he comments on how easy it is to keep the commandments of God. Many people would disagree with him and state just how difficult it is to live the commandment, but really, if you think about it, they really are easy. The problem is we get in the way and make it difficult on ourselves. I mean, honestly, who really wants to start smoking? But people do it because they want other people to like them. People start drinking because they are curious why so many people drink alcohol. And sex, well again it's the curiosity and the unwillingness to control ones own appetites.

That is how it all starts, and then once those vices have you in their clutches, it is extremely hard to get out of them. But really, if one just makes the decision to not indulge in those things, it is remarkably easy to stay away from them. However, I believe Alma is also referring to living the Gospel and using the scriptures to find truth and use them to enhance our lives.

Sadly, believe it or not, I find it a little difficult to apply the scriptures to my everyday life. Now, obviously I can relate them to me, hence the blog :), but in everyday settings, I don't consciously bring them to the forefront of my mind and how they can help me in my life. That is what I have always thought it would mean to liken the scriptures to my life. Now some might say I'm being silly because this blog is all about likening the scriptures to myself, in a way, but I feel I could be doing a much better job of it.

The thing that gives me comfort, is I feel that's how most people feel, including the prophets. Nephi wished he had better control over his emotions and could better live the commandments. I take comfort in that. One of my goals is to eventually have a biography of all the latter-day prophets. So far I have Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Howard W. Hunter and Gordon B. Hinkley. The one thing that stands out the most to me, especially with President Hunter and Hinkley, is that they were men, fallible, makes mistakes, men. I think most people idolize the prophets so much that we forget that, like us, they learn line upon line, precept upon precept. I mean, President Hunter got denied a temple recommend when he wanted to get married because he didn't pay a full tithe! I was glad that got included in his biography, it gives a regular joe like me hope.

Yes, giving heed to the word of God and living the commandments is easy. Very easy in fact. However, we let ourselves and our pride get in the way, as it does all too often with most things of the Spirit. Perhaps, like Nephi, I should actually be praying for more control over myself. One thing is for sure, I can be doing better, but then again, so could we all. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Retain in Remembrance

Today I read Alma 36, the first part of Alma's talk to his son, Helaman. A couple of things caught my attention this read through that I'm not sure I noticed last time. The first one is part of Alma's conversion story. I have read this chapter many, many times. And always before I had noticed that all it took for Alma to receive release from his torment was to cry out to Jesus Christ and then he was granted peace from his sins.

However, this read through I'm not so sure. I could be entirely wrong, but it sure seems to me that for 3 days Alma is paying the price for his personal sins. We read in the scriptures that those who choose not to take advantage of the Atonement must eventually pay the price for their own sins. Generally speaking, even those who do take advantage of the Atonement are racked with guilt and sorrow for the things they have done.

And yet as I write this, my mind is led to the book of Enos. I remember when one of my older brothers was taking the discussions from the missionaries. He had been inactive in the church most of his life and was coming back to church and he asked how do you deal with the guilt of a sinful life. I remember at that time I felt inspired to share with him Enos 1:5-6 where God forgives Enos of his sins and Enos says that his guilt was swept away.

Just as Alma records actually. So I can't help but wonder if the guilt and pain those of us who are truly remorseful feel are part of that process. If maybe it is just a small, small portion of what the Savior felt when he paid the price for all of our sins. I've often felt though that paying the price for your sins was to feel the pain that other person felt, be it physical or spiritual or emotional, the pain we inflicted on them. That would seem like justice to me. It would also explain why the Savior needed to feel every pain and sickness we would ever feel. But it's just a thought and I have no idea if it is true or not.

The second part that stood out to me, is the fact that Alma really emphasizes the fact that he retains in remembrance the great things the Lord has done for his people in freeing them from captivity, over and over again. I can't help but wonder why Alma thought this was important enough to mention to his son 3 times. One could argue that if we do not learn from our past we are doomed to repeat it, but I think there is more to it than that. It's not just Alma the Younger who asked his people to remember the great things the Lord has done in delivering them from bondage.

The answer that I keep coming up with, is it is an object lesson. One meant to teach that without God's help we are truly helpless and can do nothing. Each time the Nephites get into bondage with the Lamanites, it is only with the help of the Lord that they are able to escape. And each time, the prophets ask the people to remember this fact. Partly I think this is because humans are fallible. But there may be more to it than that. It may have to do with the way God rescued the people. I honestly don't know.

I just think it is interesting that the prophets remind us to remember how the Lord has already blessed our lives, especially in the case of those who were at one point in bondage to someone else. I do think that it is because humans are so fallible and so prone to forget and turn away from the Lord. But that is my own personal opinion. It has merit though if you think about it. How many people do you personally know who have served missions and yet today want nothing to do with the church? My guess is like me, it's far, far too many. So, as Alma said, retain in remembrance the great things the Lord has done for you. Until tomorrow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Spirit of Love

Today I read Alma 35. This chapter is where the Zoramites kick out all those that believed in the words of Alma and his brethren. This is a theme in the Book of Mormon and sadly it still continues to this day. There are far, far too many instances in this day and age where someone joins the church and their family disowns them.

As the people of the Zoramites who believed left their homes and lives behind, they traveled over to the land where the people of Ammon, the former Lamanites lived. The people of Ammon took in the Zoramites and fed them, clothed them and even gave them land to live on. The most heart warming part of this story is that the people of Ammon asked for nothing in return. They were even threatened by the ruler of the Zoramites and did not care, they still took in the poor of the Zoramites.

This is the true Spirit of love, or the Spirit of Christ. This is exactly what King Benjamin was talking about in his famous speech, particularly in chapter 4. The true Spirit of Christ is to love thy neighbor as thyself. We have already talked about this concept and what it really means to love thy neighbor as thyself. As I read chapters like this I can't help but wonder what the world would be like if everyone in the world was filled with this Spirit of love.

I thik the answer is obvious. There would be no more war, no more hate, no more adultery, no more theft, etc. The world would truly be a paradise. We actually have a record of such a people in the first part of 4 Nephi. It says that there never were a happier people and I believe it.

When I was a teenager I used to get so frustrated with my parents because they would always drag me off to service project after service project. It wasn't until I was an older teenager, around 18-19 that I realized that I was never happier than when I was serving others. I realized that when I was serving people that the Spirit of Christ would fill me and I would be so happy that I couldn't help but smile all the time and let it shine forth. When you do what the Savior actually said, to lose your life, you truly do find it. And if everyone were filled with this Spirit, it would truly destroy priestcraft as it did with the Zoramites. Sadly, prophecy tells us that such a thing will not happen until the Savior comes again. We can dream though. :) Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Spirit that inhabits this Body

Today I read Alma 34. This is the chapter that contains Amulek's portion of the teachings to the Zoramites. It is generally referenced for several different things, usually prayer and repentance. The part of this chapter that usually sticks out to me is in verse 34 where Amulek teaches against the doctrine of death bed repentance.

He doesn't label it as such, but that is the gist of what he is saying. The verse itself says, "Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world."

We have already talked about this concept before in my blog. The reason death bed repentance does not work is because true repentance is a changing of attitude, a changing of how we handle things and of who we are. Even if we could repent on our deathbed, we wouldn't want to. Sure people might think they want to live with God again, but if they were that type of a person that they lived their life in debauchery and sin, they would be extremely uncomfortable.

I remember when I attended BYU - Idaho, I had a Book of Mormon class and we were talking about the tender mercies of God and I raised my hand and mentioned that it was a tender mercy of God that He doesn't force us to come back and live with Him, because for some people, that really would be hell. They could not imagine a worse fate than being around someone that good all the time. I think I have mentioned this before today, I honestly can't remember.

Today in Elder's Quorum for our lesson we talked about building a pattern in our homes, a pattern of prayer, learning, love and testimony. I was thinking about it then and even more now, that those things are things that most people don't find come naturally to them. They have to work on it to make it part of themselves. The Spirit is what changes our very nature. It is only the Spirit that can make things look unappealing to us. Despite intellectually knowing that wickedness never was happiness, there are certain things that I know for a fact are horrible and I should not partake of them, that I must admit at certain times of my life I have been attracted to them. Nothing I did on my own changed that fact either, it was only when I turned to the Lord and enlisted His help did I start to make headway in overcoming that desire to sin.

But that is what true repentance is, it is having the faith to reach out to God so that He can help you. That is why you cannot truly repent without first having faith. You can say you're sorry and that you will never do it again, but chances are that you will fail. It is only with His help that you can truly overcome it, because it is only with His help that you can change who you are in order to change.

It is a wonderful thing to make those changes in your life too. It is a wonderful thing to be confronted by the sin that has been your stumbling block and be able to laugh in its face and walk away with your head held high and know that it is no longer that stumbling block it was in your life. Just as the scriptures say, it really is line upon line and precept upon precept. As we learn to place our trust upon Him, we will WANT to change ourselves. Then, as we strive to become better, we don't need to even worry about death bed repentance because we will have changed our Spiritual nature, and as Amulek taught us, that same wonderful spirit and desire for righteousness will still inhabit our body. I look forward to that day with gladness in my heart, as I hope all of you do too. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Today I read Alma 33, the first part of this chapter, Alma is teaching the men he has been talking to that they can pray anywhere they want to. Halfway through the chapter however he switches to the principle of witnesses and shows them just how many people have testified of Christ.

We have already touched on how absurd it really is that so many witnesses are not enough to convince some of the reality of Christ. The only thing I really want to say about it is just the fact that the people these days remind me a lot of the Israelites that Alma talks about in this chapter where all they had to do to live was to look at a brass serpent to live and they wouldn't do it! You'd think they might have thought to themselves, "Well, what the heck, I mean I'm going to die anyway, I might as well look." But no! They wouldn't even do that. Sadly in my profession I meet people like this all the time.

But I don't want to dwell on this. I'd rather focus on the wording Alma uses. When he is talking to the farmers who have been cast out of their synagogues, Alma calls prayer worship. That is really fascinating to me. How many people in this day and age really think of prayer as worship I wonder. I know I fall into this trap all the time, my prayers are 90% asking and only 10% thanking. I think I've gotten a little better since my daughter was born, but not much.

I think one of the reasons I don't generally think of prayer as worship to God is because I have always kind of felt that we more worship Him when we live the kind of life He would want us to live. But as I read the scriptures today, I really think my prayers could use a tune up. I remember how I used to pray as a missionary, how I would take my time and really talk to God, and they were very, very heartfelt. These days I feel my prayers have become almost routine.

Now, one of the ways Latter-day Saints are good at worshiping God is through the singing of Hymns. We learn from Doctrine and Covenants 25 that hymns are a prayer unto God. It's one of the reasons I love to sing hymns to my daughter. I want her to know from her earliest age that we love God in this household and that we worship Him and want her to feel that love for Him too.

One of Alma's chief points he is making to the Zoramites is that you can worship God anywhere you want to. But as we have also discussed already it IS very important to attend church so that God can be worshiped in a multitude of ways. So the Zoramites desire to attend church was not a bad one. Alma is merely addressing the mistaken belief that they can only pray to God in church and that they should only think about God once in a week. That is an important distinction to make, lest someone read this chapter and mistakenly think that Alma is saying it is not necessary to attend church. But the Zoramites have forgotten so much, that Alma is having to teach them very quickly and correct a lot of wrongs all at once.

For those who love God, the form of worship is very important. As I said, I personally feel that living the kind of life He wants is the best form of worship, but God needs all kinds of worship, prayer, hymns and emulation to just name a few. The one thing I will definitely take away from this chapter though is the knowledge that I need to pray better. Until tomorrow.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Because your ground is barren"

Today I read Alma 32, the famous chapter on faith. Because it is so typical that most people only use this chapter for the 2nd half of it, the lecture on faith, I had thought not to talk about faith. God however has other plans. But I do not wish to talk about the fact that faith is compared to a seed. I wish instead to discuss one phrase that Alma tells those farmers who came to him. He told them that if the seed was good and it would not produce it was because their ground was barren, something every farmer could relate to.

That phrase stuck with me. As a missionary, I saw many people who the seed took root in their soil but allowed the seed to be destroyed by spiritual crows or neglect. In Alma's speech to these men, he mentions that the seed must be nourished. President Gordon B. Hinkley also mentioned that one of the 3 things each new convert needs is nourishment by the good word of God.

It is true that each new convert to the church needs to constantly be nourished by those who are strong in the faith. They will have many questions, they will need help and usually the person they trust the most at that point is the missionaries. I remember we helped a young woman named Sherry get baptized that each week she would come to church with questions written down that had occurred to her during her reading of the Book of Mormon that week and she and I would spend about an hour discussing her questions and helping her learn. I think my favorite question she brought me was "Who is Moses?". I remember being dumb struck for a moment and she continued that people keep talking about Moses in the Book of Mormon but she had no clue who that was. She had never heard of him and so I spent about 10 minutes telling her all about Moses. Those are some of my fondest memories from my mission.

However, the need for nourishment by others does not absolve the new member, or old member, from nourishing the seed on their own. Most new converts to the church have a hunger to learn, to do, to know. Somewhere along the lines that fire dies down. I've seen it dozens of times. It also happens to missionaries who come home. I remember I once heard someone say, "If you want to feel the Spirit like a missionary, you need to live like a missionary." For most of us, that is just not possible in this world. but there are things we can do to maximize our spirituality.

Another time, when my roommate was being taught by the sister missionaries, one of them commented on the fact that we played a lot of video games. She commented that she hoped we read our scriptures half as much as we played our games. As you may have already guessed, we did not in fact read our scriptures even a 10th of the time we spent playing games. And my spirituality suffered for it. But it was as Alma said, it was not because the seed had gone bad, it was in fact because I had allowed my ground to grow barren through neglect.

I remember when I was the Stake Young Single Adult Representative and 2 young women in particular fell away from the church despite our best efforts. They had been the victim of spiritual crows eating the seeds, as the Savior put it in the parable of the sower. The seed was good and was just beginning to take root when someone came along and did/said something to them to make them doubt the goodness of the seed. As a result those young women fell away from the church. To this day I can't help but feel I should have done more.

All too often, we mistake the things of God with the things of the world. I have blogged in the past about a friend who thinks God is ok with his life because his life is going well. But I know he is not nourishing the seed in him and it is barely alive. I've often been amused by the statement, I was offended. What that actually means is the person's pride was hurt and so they stopped giving the seed nourishment until in some cases you would never have known they at one point had the seed take root in them.

I could honestly go on for quite some time about this, but I think the point is clear. We need to make sure the reason the seed does not take root in us is not because of our own neglect. The seed is good, the message is pure. If we have a problem with it, the problem is with us. And deep down I think each of us that fall into that category, whether permanently or temporarily, know it. It can be hard to look yourself in the mirror at first when you know what you are doing is wrong. I should know. Sadly, like most sin, it becomes easier over time until in some cases we have convinced ourselves that the issue is not us, but the seed itself. And thus we carefully braid our own cord and dance and skip merrily on our way down to hell.

May we all recognize our own personal needs and attend to them in a timely fashion. No one should have to suffer for their own sins, not when the Savior has provided a way for us to avoid it. May we all strive to live a life as pure as He did. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Living Your Religion

Today I read Alma 31, where Alma and his friends start their mission to the Zoramites. The part of the chapter that stood out to me was the fact that Alma observed that the Zoramites went to church one day a week and then never spoke about God at all again until the next week when they would say the same prayer as everyone else.

There is a lot of this going on in our day and age too, even among the LDS population. I even fell into the category for a period of my life. I remember hearing a story once about Joseph Smith being asked what made the Latter-day Saints different from other religions. He said it was the gift of the Holy Ghost and truly he was right. However, it could just as easily be said, we live our religion every day.

Now, there are of course many, many people who faithfully adhere to the tenants of their chosen religion and who pray many times a day and who make it known that they love God and fear Him. But sadly in this day and age at least in America, they are the vast minority. Most people may claim to be religious and claim they fear God, but do not live the most basic of commandments, let alone the principles of their own religion. Just as there are many, far too many, Latter-day Saints that do not live their religion either.

I remember the first time I heard the term Molly Mormon and Peter Priesthood and how they were meant to be derogatory terms for people who followed the commandments a little too closely. Now if you had someone call you that and you were to ask them what's wrong with living the commandments perfectly, they would exclaim that is not what they mean. However, I feel that if someone were to call me a Peter Priesthood, my response would simply be, "Thank you". I would take it as a compliment that I was known as someone who would not live a wild life and disobey God in all that I do.

Yet people all too often hate to be referred to as a "good two shoes". Why is that? Why is it when someone calls us what we are STRIVING FOR, do we get so bent out of shape and take the attitude instead of, "I can be bad if I want to" and then break some law or commandment. Aren't we trying to be perfect? I sure thought that was the goal here. So why is it so horrible to have someone tease us about how well we are doing?

At the various jobs I've had when someone would say something along the lines of "Geeze, Fred. You just don't do anything bad do you?" I would smile and say, "Not if I can help it." That is the goal. To have people recognize us for who we are, ambassadors of Christ. We are striving to be like Him. To do the things He would do if He were here. We should be grateful when someone tries to make fun of us for being too good. It means we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.

To live our religion is to live so that people can see Christ through us. So that when people ask us if we are a Latter-day Saint, it is no surprise to them that we say, yes we are. To live like Alma lived his life. When he went to Ammonihah, everyone there already knew who he was and what he stood for. That is the kind of life I want to lead. The kind of life that people apologize to me when they swear in my presence, the kind of life that I am not afraid to call Christ my friend. The kind of life I can be proud to have my daughter see me live. That is what it means to live your religion. And it is a good life if I do say so myself. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

All Things Denote a Supreme Creator

Today I read Alma 30, the chapter with Korihor. I have always found this chapter interesting, mainly because of the stupidity of Korihor. I mean, if an angel appeared to me and said "go forth and reclaim this people because they have gone after a false God and there is no God", my very first question would be, Ok if there is no God, then who are you and where did you come from? I mean, really, come on now.

I also like this chapter because I like to know what the Nephites knew. For example, this is the chapter that first reveals the Nephites knowledge of Astronomy. Alma cites the fact that the planets have a set pattern as proof that there is a God. Things like that fascinate me.

It also intrigues me that so many people persist in the belief that there is no God when, like Alma says, they have all this proof that there is a God. The sheer regularity of the universe, in every aspect to me, proves that there is a God. The fact that human beings have been born, grow up and and all reach the same milestones within days, months or in some extreme cases, years of each other scream that there is a higher power to me.

I don't understand how people can watch for the past 6000 years and realize that a baby will start walking around 1 years old and will start getting his teeth at the same time as other babies do, and will hit puberty around the same time as everyone else does, and think that we are all just a product of mistakes and happenstances. There's also the fact that hundreds of people testified that they saw the Savior after he was crucified, a feat that if it were repeated in a court of law would be enough to convict ANYONE of any crime. And yet the devil manages to convince people that there is no God. Manages to squash that hope in each of us.

It all boils down to pride. Pride is what makes us think that mankind is the epitome of power and authority, even when we don't have any true power at all. Pride is what makes mankind think they invented all the wonderful things in the world. Pride is what makes us deny a creator. Pride is what makes us ignore all the signs we have been given.

I personally think that not believing in God would be lonely, sad and depressing. I don't know what would drive me to get out of bed in the mornings. But luckily for me, there is a God, and He has revealed himself to mankind so that we may have a hope and know where to look for salvation. It is a comforting thought to know that I will live again, which we have already dealt with on several posts. As we go through this day and all the days we have left on this earth, may we all recognize all the many signs we have been given to know that God is there, and He loves us. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

An Instrument in the Hands of God

Today I read Alma 29, where Alma wishes he were an angel so that he may be more effective in declaring the word of God unto all the world. His one desire in life is that he may be an instrument in the hands of God to help in bringing some souls unto repentance.

I too have a desire to be an instrument in the hands of God. I love being able to assist in His holy work here. It is truly a wonderful thing. Ever since I was a teenager I have longed to be an instrument in God's hands. For awhile there I would call myself a spiritual Boyscout. Boyscouts are always told to leave a place better than when they found it. As a spiritual boyscout, it was always my desire to leave a person better off than when I found them, in whatever way possible. There are periods in my life where I feel I could have done better about it, but I think I've done ok.

It always amazes me the various types of people here in the world. I LOVE to help people. It just blows my mind that there are people that don't care about the happiness of other people. Now, I don't mean a people pleaser, or a "yes" man, I mean I genuinely want people to be happy and have the righteous desires of their hearts. I recognize that you cannot please everyone and I don't try to. But I try and do little things that can make people happy. And if a person lets me into their life, I try and help them and help them improve their lives in what ever way possible. That is my desire of the heart. I have always felt a connection between myself and Alma the Younger for that. He is one of those people I cannot wait to meet. I would like to think that we would be friends.

The other part of this chapter that struck a cord with me was in verse 4. In this verse, Alma teaches the principle that God cares about what is important to us and will grant us our desires, so to speak. I would definitely add that you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. I remember I once had a wish that I asked of God, and much to my sadness He gave it to me.

When I was in college, I dated a girl for several months, a girl that I knew God did not want me to marry. But I loved her and so continued to date her, and when the inevitable happened that we broke up, my heart broke. I was so sad and lonely for months. During the lowest point of my hurt I asked God to never let me feel this way again, that if a girl was not meant for me to not let me date her. So essentially I told God that I didn't want another relationship except for with my future wife. Much to my heartache and consternation, He granted me my wish.

I made that wish in 2004, and I did not meet my wife until 2007. Holy cow what a wild ride those 3 years were! I met girls that I fell for hard and in some cases I knew they felt the exact same way about me, but they would never date me for some reason. Something would always come up, or they would just not date me even though they wanted to. I could not figure out for the longest time. Finally sometime in 2007, I think it was about a month before I met my wife, I remembered that I had asked God for just this, and He in His love for me, granted me my wish.

I am currently in the midst of another such "wish" I asked God for help with and He is helping me like the loving Father He is, but again just not in the way I thought He would. I am still grateful for the help though and for the love He has for me that He would grant me my wishes even if they weren't quite what I thought they were at the time. I guess my advice would be to everyone is the next time you think you want something, think long and hard about it. Analyze it from every angle and make sure it is exactly what you want before you ask for God's help with it. Because He loves us and He WILL help you and give it to you. You just may come to realize that it wasn't what you thought it was.

The age old adage is true: "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!" Until tomorrow everyone.

Monday, September 6, 2010

"yet they rejoice and exult in hope..."

Today I read Alma 28. It's a very brief chapter where Mormon comments on a war that was had at that time between the Nephites and Lamanites. Mormon also comments on the fact that a great many of those who died were not prepared to leave this world.

It is a wonderful thought having a knowledge of the plan of salvation when a loved one dies. I have already blogged about this and will not spend much time on this subject. However, the plan of salvation is also a comfort even before someone passes away.

Yesterday a friend came by the hospital to see my new daughter. As we were chatting she smiled and said that she was mine forever now. I had not thought about it in quite those terms until she said it, but now as I look at her I smile to myself and remember that thanks to my wife and I being sealed for time and all eternity, that yes indeed my daughter is also sealed to us forever.

And I think that's what the title of this blog is meant to convey. I was thinking the other day how the love I have for my wife, I really don't feel the same way as I did when we first met and those heady days of love. These days, I look at my wife, or especially I feel it when she does certain things for me, my heart just fills to bursting with love for her to the point I can't stand it.

After my daughter was born, one of my brothers called and asked me how it all went and in the course of our talking, he asked me if I cried at the birth. I mentioned that I had but not in the way he thought. I did not cry at the miracle of it all or at the joy of seeing my new daughter, I cried out of concern for my wife. Now, she was never in any real danger, but just the natural pain of childbirth and seeing her in that much pain caused me very real pain and I couldn't help but cry. At times I feel like a total wuss when things like that happen. But I love my wife more than my own life, and I feel that love so acutely that it overfills my emotions and tears come out, much like feeling the Spirit very strongly. And everytime I feel that love for my wife I feel tremendous joy at the knowledge that we will not be seperated at death.

And I think it is that joy that Mormon is talking about in this chapter. I have joy in the knowledge that my loved ones who have passed on and I will be reuinted when I die as well and that most of my loved ones are prepared to meet God, and so I too exult in the hope that we will be together again through the tender mercies of a loving God. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pefectly Honest and Upright

Today I read Alma 27. This chapter is all about the people of Ammon and their flight from the Amalakites to the Nephites. It also talks about the character of the people of Ammon which has already been talked about a little bit in a previous post.

A phrase describing the people of Ammon stood out to me in this chapter. It described them as being perfectly honest and upright. I can see how some people would think that this phrase is a little obscure, but to me I picture a people who personify the 2 greatest commandments: to love the Lord they God, and to love they neighbor as thyself.

I have always found it interesting that the second great commandment is not to love our neighbor, but rather to love him as we love ourselves. We are being commanded to love ourselves in this chapter, which I think many people have no problem with, in fact it seems most people have a problem with loving themselves too much, known as pride.

So what does it mean to love our neighbor as yourself? Well, let's think about the things we do for ourselves, we would never let ourselves go hungry, or go without clothing or other necessities. We would never call ourselves names, or mock ourselves for our imperfections, we would never cast ourselves out into the cold or shun ourselves because we were different. I realize there are in fact people who would do such things to themselves, but I think that is a learned behavior and another form of pride. The average person would not do the things that I have listed above.

Therefore, it stands to reason that if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we should not do those things to our neighbors either. When i picture the people of Ammon, that is in fact what I picture. I picture a man returning from the fields, tired and worn out. As he is walking home, he sees someone by the side of the road begging for food and stops and helps him to his feet, brings him home and sits him in his own chair and helps him to eat his fill before even taking a bite himself. I picture this man giving the other his best set of clothes and giving him a bed to sleep in for the night. I picture a people that unfriendliness is a word that holds no meaning and is a foreign concept for them.

Moses 7:18 defines Zion as having one heart and one mind, with no poor among them. With this in mind, we learn that Zion is not a physical place, although there is a spot picked out for the city of Zion, but Zion is rather a society, a state of being. The people of Ammon were a Zion society I think. That is what it means to be perfectly honest and upright. I do not picture someone who is perfectly honest as someone who is cruel with their words and in telling the truth, but rather someone who goodness just flows from. Someone that you know there is more to them than what you can see and you desire to know what it is. Someone that even if they were so inclined, they could not hide the truth of who they were. Someone that let's their light shine forth. They were the kind of person I try to be every day.

Each of us has it in us to be like this. It is hard and requires a lot of work. But we get there bit by bit, little by little, with God's help. Have you ever noticed that no prophet in the Book of Mormon ever prays to have a trial taken away? They always pray to have strength to endure it well, or to make it through the trial. I noticed that fact when I was a teenager, about 15 years ago actually, and since that time I too have tried to never ask that a trial be taken from me, but rather that I may be strengthened to endure it well. And I believe it is just this mentality that has helped me through those rough times. We have to go through them if we are to grow, but we don't have to grow through them alone. We have the best help imaginable and all we have to do is ask for it, He will never turn us away. And with His help, we can accomplish anything. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blessed is the Name of My God

Today I read Alma 26, a very fun chapter comprised entirely of Ammon glorying in God and the great success they had as missionaries to the Lamanites. This chapter is a good example of the pure joy that comes from feeling the Spirit as strongly as these men did for 14 years.

Any person who has ever served a mission can relate to the pure joy they feel when they see someone they have come to love make positive changes in their life. I remember there was one girl I helped get baptized who went on to serve her own mission and even get married in the temple. I can only recall a few moments in my life that even come close to rivaling those moments when she told me of her plans.

This chapter is perhaps most well known for Ammon boasting in the goodness of God. As we have learned from the late chapters of Mosiah and the early chapters of Alma, Ammon and his brothers were the very vilest of siners and Ammon accutely feels the justice that would have consigned him, his brethren and all those he had come to love to a fate worse than death. But because of the tender mercies of God, such is not their fate.

And thus Ammon is carried away unto boasting in the goodness of his God. I too have felt the urge at times to shout from the rooftops about how wonderful the Gospel is and how wonderful the Atonement of Jesus Christ is and what it can do for us all if we will just allow it to work in our lives. I too feel the urge to shout out blessed is the name of my God.

In some cases it is wonderful what God has blessed us with. It is simply amazing to me what God allows us to participate in with His guidance. By the next time I blog I should be a new Dad with my baby daughter being born into this world. It is amazing to me that God allows us to help with bringing new life into this world. I will have more to report then. Until tomorrow.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Trials give us humility

Today I read Alma 25. This chapter is taken up in its entirety by the story of how even more Lamanites were converted to the truth by the things which they suffered. As the chapter tells us, the Amulonites, Amalakites and those Lamanites not yet converted attacked the Nephites and are soundly defeated. Following this defeat many of the Lamanites are led to remember the words they were taught by Ammon and his brethren. This angers the Amulonites and they start killing the Lamanites. Not a wise move apparently. This caused the rest of the Lamanites to declare war on the Amulonites which according to Mormon, was still happening almost 600 years later.

There's not much to talk about in this chapter but it got me thinking about human nature. The book of Ether tells us in chapter 12, which we'll get to much later, that God gives mankind weaknesses so that he will be humble and turn to the Lord. This is the pattern that mankind follows unceasingly and with few exceptions.

Mankind typically, if everything is ok with their life, want nothing to do with God. They don't need Him, have no use for Him. Mormon, in the book of Helaman, which we will also get to later, also tells us that mankind is quick to forget the Lord and only by constantly giving them trials and threatening with death and destruction does mankind stay faithful to God.

If you are old enough, you actually saw this exhibited perfectly on September 11, 2001. When the World Trade Centers were attacked, America rallied like it hadn't since December 7, 1941, the bombing of Pearl Harbor. People turned to God, sports games ceased for a week. People started helping their neighbors and religions across the country saw a boost in baptisms and converts. But as time dulled the wounds inflicted by all those deaths, so too did the Spirituality of the nation dwindle.

When I used to read the Book of Mormon prior to 9/11, so for me as a teenager and a missionary, I used to wonder how after just having the Lord save them, could the Nephites be so degenerate and sinful again in just the space of 5 years! I couldn't believe it, until I saw it for myself, first hand. Prior to 9/11 America was on a path that would eventually lead to its destruction if not altered. Now, after 9/11 not only have we gotten back on that path, it seems we are in the express lane and I am left to add my voice to Mormon and cry "how quick [man is] to hearken to the words of the evil one" (Helaman 12:4).

It's really sad that most of mankind is this way. There are very few exceptions to the rule. It may not seem this way, but if you think of it the way it is, the world has a population of 6 billion, 1% of that is 6 million, so probably I would say on average there are somewhere less than 10% of the entire world that falls into this category, less than 600 million people in the world. It sounds like a lot but really it's not. It's a very small percentage really and people really misunderstand what happens. I have a friend who is convinced his life must be acceptable to God because it is going so well. I on the other hand if I don't have a trial every now and then wonder what I must be doing wrong. :)

I don't like talking about such morose topics, but I feel that the Spirit guides me when I write this blog and feel that somewhere, sometime and somehow, someone will get something from this. I think Mormon must have felt this way too. I feel sorrow sometimes for Mormon, I think he had a very thankless job. It must have been really hard to spend so much of his life focusing on the eventual and utter destruction of his people. I feel much the same when I write about such things like today's post. It saddens me but at the same time, I feel that this is what God wants me to blog about today. I may never know what good will come from today's post, but like Nephi I feel this was a personal commandment from God to me and I must obey. Until tomorrow.