Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Continual Scene of Bloodshed

Today I read Mormon 4, where the Nephites begin their inevitable destruction. As I was reading this chapter today the verse that stood out to me the most was verse 11 particularly the part about the people delighting in the shedding of blood.

It got me to wonder, what does it mean to delight in the shedding of blood? I can understand it when the scriptures say it was a continual scene of violence but what does it mean that people delighted in the shedding of blood? I think it means that the people were no longer affected by seeing someone die. And what's worse, if they were an enemy I think they would probably have cheered about it.

One of the reasons I wondered about it, is I think about our culture. Now, many of us have never seen someone actually die right in front of us, but we have all seen movies where the bad guy dies at the end and I am sure like me, you all have cheered about the fact that someone so bad got it in the end. However, think about other movies and shows you have seen. Think about shows that imitate reality, shows like CSI and Law and Order, where you are shown a crime, one that could happen in real life. Does it bother you at all to see such horrible things placed before your eyes? Or do you enjoy it as entertainment? I promise you that our Father in Heaven sorrows over such shows.

Do we find delight in the shedding of blood for our entertainment? While it is true that unlike ancient Rome we do not watch men kill each other for sport, and we do not sacrifice men and women to idols for our false religion, do we maybe not find too much enjoyment in seeing people killed for our entertainment in TV and movies? If we are no longer moved by the carnage we see on TV and the movies , then we are starting to lose the Spirit of the Lord and need to check ourselves.

No I do not think we are as bad as the Nephites or Romans in delighting in bloodshed, but I think we are on our way there. It sickens me the amount of shows there are about murder and killings and that they are such popular shows. There are shows about serial killers and shows about drug usage. We rationalize that the shows are ok because we are watching police officers stop serial killers and stopping the people committing these horrid crimes, but the problem is no one is affected anymore by the crimes they are witnessing happen on the TV or in these movies. If you hear people talk about them at all it is only in passing as they tell you the exciting parts of the shows, etc.

As most of you should already be aware, the road to hell is a slippery one. It does not happen overnight most of the time and it happens in stages. People do not grow up delighting in bloodshed, even if it is all around them, Mormon is proof of that. They are at first repulsed by it, then they tolerate it, then they ignore it, then they become intrigued by it, then they accept it and finally take delight in it. The same process is true for all sins, pornography, drugs, alcohol usage, you name it. If you do not stay in the repulsed stage, you are in danger. It saddens me that such shows and movies are so popular and that people take delight in them because it is part of the slippery slope to destruction.

We must each of us stand as beacons of goodness and light to show the way to those around us that we can be better, that we can do what is right. As we do this we can slow if not alter this course we have set ourselves on. Stand tall and be believers of the word, not hearers only. As we stand for what is right, people will notice. Do not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, do not be ashamed to not watch those shows and to tell others why you don't watch them. You too can be an example for good in this world. Heaven knows we need all the help we can get. Until tomorrow.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Mission of the Book of Mormon

Today I read Mormon 3. In this chapter Mormon refuses to lead the Nephites any longer because of their wickedness. You really have to wonder about the Nephites and their sheer audacity of why they would boast of themselves and why they would so completely reject the Lord and the help He gave them. I suppose that if you really did not believe in the Lord and did not believe that He could or would help someone especially in a battle. You would have to be pretty obstinant though to disbelieve all your own people's history.

I have to wonder what would it be like to pray for your people but to have no faith in your prayers. I cannot really imagine praying for something but not believing at all that Heavenly Father will grant me my prayers. I know I have said it before but I really feel so sorry for Mormon and what his life must have been like.

I have to wonder if the only thing that kept Mormon going was the knowledge of just how important his work was. The important part of this chapter is Mormon telling us the purpose of the Book of Mormon. I almost wonder if the reason Mormon puts it in this chapter is to reassure himself of his mission and the importance of the Book of Mormon and the work he is tasked with doing for the Lord.

The Book of Mormon is of course to witness that Jesus is the Christ and that He is ever mindful of us and of all people. That He has a plan for us and that despite Satan's influence, he will not allow us to flounder in the dark and with half truths. He will not allow us to be unclear of the truths we need to know in order to return to live with Him. He knows that plain and precious truths were lost in the Bible and that the Book of Mormon would be needed to clarify the truths that were lost.

As I sit here and write this I can't help but wonder when Mormon was deciding what to include in the Book of Mormon as he read over all the records how much of the information he was allowed to pick and how much the Lord asked him to specifically include. I think he was allowed to choose a great deal of the content of the Book of Mormon because I think like Nephi he would not have done anything contrary to the will of the Lord.

It must have been very satisfying for Mormon to know that he was doing such an important work and that the Book of Mormon would be had amongst all peoples and nations. He truly did have a very important job and the importance of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated. The true purpose of the Book of Mormon is to testify of Christ and it most certainly does that over and over again. I do think this interesting that in this particular chapter, as Mormon is reflecting on the sad state of his people he mentions that he wants to prepare all peoples to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. You can definitely see how influenced Mormon is by what is going on around him and how he wants to help all peoples avoid a similar fate.

I think Mormon would be happy to know how his work is helping millions of people to find Christ. I think he would be happy to know that through his efforts millions of people have been prepared to stand before Christ and be judged where without his efforts they would have been doomed to eternal damnation. I think he would be happy to know the full extent to which his mission has been accomplished. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Sorrowing of the Damned

Today I read Mormon 2 where the Nephites and the Lamanites engage once more in an ongoing battle. I know the Lamanites are constantly being painted as the bad guys of the Book of Mormon, but they really take the cake for me. I mean these guys never seem to get tired of killing the Nephites! They keep coming after them again and again and again. It really is kind of sad for the Nephites but at the same time you can only feel so sorry for the Nephites because they kind of bring it on themselves in the sense that they never repent at this point.

The one person I do feel sorry for, perhaps more than any other person in the entire Book of Mormon, is Mormon. He really had it rough and as he states in this chapter a continual scene of violence was continually before him ever since he was of the age to behold the workings of man. As I've mentioned before it is really tought to behold such scenes of sin when you are trying to live the gospel and so I really feel sorry for Mormon. The only other person I can feel quite as sorry for is Moroni. He also had it rough, he lived alone for over 40 years!

I thought today thought we would talk a little bit about godly sorrow. Mormon mentions in this chapter that he had great hopes for his people because they sorrowed but his hopes were in vain because it was the sorrowing of the damned. I have long known, probably since I was a missionary, that there is a difference in godly sorrow and regular sorrow. Regular sorrow is indeed the sorrow of the damned because it does not lead one to repent of their sins. For example if you do something wrong and get caught, most of the time you are only sorry that you were caught, otherwise you would have confessed and forsaken the behavior before the point where you were discovered, most of the time anyway.

However, godly sorrow is sorrow that leads to true repentance, that leads to changed behaviors. The best way to describe it that I know of is found in an old seminary video I saw when I was in seminary. It is about a girl who was in an interview for her living ordinance recommend to get married in the temple and she confessed to a sin in her past. When she was denied the recommend she exclaims what are my parents going to think. The bishop corrects her by telling her she ought to be more concerned with what the Lord will think. Godly sorrow is indeed being more concerned with what the Lord thinks of us than what others will think of us.

I have mentioned that when I was younger my mother used to remind me that every wrong I did caused the Savior to suffer more. To me that is part of being concerned with what God thinks. If the Nephites had been truly repentant of their sins, they would not have been sorrowful for their lost brethren and for the fact that the land was cursed. They would have been sorrowful because the land was cursed because of them! They would have been concerned with their standing before God. For those who have read the Doctrine and Covenants of the church, you know there are several revelations that came about because a certain person was concerned with their standing before the Lord. I have sought a blessing several times in my life for just such a reason, because I was concerned with what the Lord would have me do.

It is extremely important that when we repent we have godly sorrow and are not just sorrowful because we were caught. I'm pretty certain that we can't truly repent of our sins unless we have godly sorrow. Otherwise why would we repent? Prehaps it is possible but I think it would be next to impossible to change our nature and our behavior without it just like it was impossible for the Nephites to repent without it. As we strive to be more concerned with what God thinks of us than what mankind thinks of us, we will find it increasingly easier to do what is right. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Sober Child

Today I read Mormon 1, where we actually start to read the account of the Nephites during the lifetime of Mormon. Right off the bat we learn that things are not that great for the Nephites but that Mormon is, much like the Stripling Warriors of Helaman, a sober child. So we already know that he has all the qualities that go along with being sober that we have discussed in the past. He was in control of himself and as is made clear by Amaron's decision, he was a child who could be trusted with all the scriptures of the entire Nephite civilization at only 10 years old!

I think that is really amazing actually. I have seen many a 10 year old male in my time and even was one once and I can't think of a single one that at age 10 I would have entrusted the history and scriptures of an entire civilization to. Most 10 year olds are not what I would describe as being sober. They are not in control of their emotions and perhaps what's even more interesting to me about Mormon is he was so observant. He is writing this chapter and most of chapter 2 in the past based on what he remembers. Think back to when you were 10 years old or even 11 years old. Would you have remembered that your people went to war? Perhaps, but would you have remembered that your people put 30,000 troops in the field? Probably not.

But we quickly realize that Mormon was no ordinary child. We was well suited to the task given him. We are told that at the age of 15 he saw the Savior and conversed with Him and as Mormon puts it, he tasted of His goodness. I am willing to bet that at least 99% of the people reading this have not personally seen the Savior and conversed with Him, but Mormon was righteous enough at age 15 that he was given that tremendous blessing. We've talked a lot about living the gospel and about being happy living the gospel. I promise you that no matter how good you are at living the gospel, if you are not happy living it, you would not enjoy a personal visit from the Savior. He's too good and it's like being around the most righteous person you have ever met in your life times 2 at least. And at age 15 Mormon had achieved what some of us never achieve in this lifetime or ever, a genuine happiness and peace living the gospel.

I find it interesting that Mormon was forbidden at this time to preach unto the people of Nephi. I believe that was done for his protection. We already know that the Nephites do not like being preached to by prophets, can you imagine what might have happened if they started hearing it from a 15 year old boy? Think about the last time you were doing something you weren't supposed to do. Perhaps you lost your temper, or whatever, if you have children or know children think about the last time they reminded you that you are doing something you shouldn't be doing in the middle of you doing it. Did it turn out well? Of course not, the natural man in each of us took over and it made it 10 times worse than if the child had said nothing at all. Can you imagine what might have happened to poor Mormon if he had started preaching to a blood thirsty nation like the Nephites and telling them that they need to repent? I bet he would not have survived a month!

That is my own thought and theory of course, but I feel pretty strongly that it was for his own protection that he was forbidden to preach to the Nephites. I do feel a great sense of sadness that Mormon had to live during that time period though. Having found such true joy in living the gospel as we know he must have had, to live in such a time when sin was in abundance, it must have been very horrible for him and made him very sad. I feel bad that he had to endure such sin in front of his face nonstop. I know I sometimes get disgusted with the sin that I see in front of me on a daily basis and it is nothing compared to what Mormon was called upon to endure. But we will see more on that later on in the book of Mormon.

Once again we find someone who is sober standing out amongst the multitudes of people in the land, much like we stand out in our day and age as being sober if we are living the gospel. As we learn to love living the gospel and keeping the commandments we too can taste the goodness of Jesus and learn to be more like Him and find true joy in the journey. Until tomorrow.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Influence of the Spirit

Today I read 4 Nephi. I have always liked the book of 4 Nephi as it is a wonderful study in both what happens when the Spirit is poured out upon a people and what happens when a people start apostatising. It is really sad to watch the people of Nephi digress after the entire population was converted to the Lord.

It makes me wonder however about the effectiveness of the Spirit of the Lord. The entire people were converted to the Lord in a matter of 2 years according to the scriptures and the people stayed converted, all of them, until 200 years later just about. And there was no crime at all among the people due to the Spirit of the Lord. That is because the Spirit of the Lord has the power to change people's nature and disposition so that they no longer desire to do evil. I firmly believe that the reason the people started falling away after 200 years is because they were part of the 3rd if not 4th generation and were part of the generation that had not personally met Jesus.

But you have to wonder why the Spirit that was poured out upon the land started to lose it's effectiveness? But if you think about it, the Spirit of the Lord is not a deterent to sin. We know this because Satan apostasised in the very presence of the Lord. So we know that while the Spirit of the Lord if allowed into one's heart is the ultimate deterent against sin, it is not a sure fire thing. People still have their agency always and can choose to overcome the influence of the Spirit.

Alma taught us in Alma chapter 31 that the word of God has the greatest potential to lead people to do that which is good. And truly it does. After the Lord visited the Nephites the people were converted to Him wholly and completely. They had no more desire to do that which was evil, much like the people that heard King Bejamin's speech. The interesting thing to me is that the Spirit was poured out upon them so completely that the rest of the people who did not personally meet Jesus were also converted to the Lord and also had no more disposition to do that which was evil.

That is what is truly remarkable. It does not surprise me at all that the people who met the Savior were converted, but given my personal experiences it is surprising to see that the people who did not meet the Savior were also completely converted. However, I think it is a lot easier to be good when everyone else around you is also being good. Or perhaps the Spirit was just that strong, stronger than any of us have experienced.

Unfortunately the second half of the chapter is much sadder and harder to read because of the gradual decline of the Nephites and their return to their sins and apostacy. It doesn't really spell it out for us in the scriptures what started the decline of the Nephites other than pride and their great many possessions. However, even before that we are told that there was a section of the Nephites that fell away and desired to become Lamanites. We are not told why but I would imagine that it was quite similar to why the rest of the Nephites fell away.

The key I think is to make sure we are staying as true to the Spirit as possible and not sinning on purpose. As we strive to do what is right we can avoid the pitfalls that are around us we can keep the Spirit strong around us and keep working towards perfection. We each of us have to work towards perfection one day at a time. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A God of Miracles

Today I read 3 Nephi 29 and 30. I generally like to just read one chapter and talk about it, but chapter 30 of 3 Nephi is only 2 verses long. The neat thing about both of these chapters is that they are written to us, the people in the latter days.

Moroni covers the same topic later in the final chapter of the Book of Mormon but here Mormon spends some time talking to us and letting us know that God is a God of miracles and that He does not turn to the left or to the right. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. That is really important if you think about it.

What good would a God be that could not be relied upon? How could we have faith in Him? How could we trust anything in the Scriptures? We couldn't and we would be stuck with a view of God much like the Greeks had of a several gods that were cruel and merciless. The fact that God does not change His mind and does not deviate even a little bit is a comfort and lets us know that we can rely wholy upon Him.

Now, having said as much we must now spend a few moments talking about the times that God has supposedly changed His mind. I submit to you that God has not changed His mind and that all He does is part of His plan. Let's look at a few examples. How about the lost 116 pages? God at first told Joseph no, twice! But on the third time He allowed Jospeh to loan Matrin Harris the pages. Sounds kind of like He changed His mind. Or perhaps He was using it to show forth His wisdom and power over the devil. As long ago as 592 B.C. God was aware this event would happen and commanded Nephi to create a second set of plates to record the spiritual things and record their leaving Jerusalem even though Nephi knew perfectly well that his father had already recorded it. Sounds to me like it was all part of the plan.

Here's a big one, the priesthood being able to be held by all worthy males regardless of race. Some people might look at that story and say that God changed His mind since he kept telling the prophets, especially Spencer W. Kimball, no. Or was it merely that the church and even the world was not ready for it to happen at that time? Think about the state of America in 1830. People with black skin were slaves in most states and treated as subclass citzens even if they were not slaves outright. Now, imagine what would have happened to the fledgling church if they had announced the doctrine of all men being equal in the sight of God and given them the priesthood. I truly believe that all the country would have united against the church and erradicated it off the face of the earth. God waited until after all the battles over the rights of all men were fought here in America. Until America stopped looking at men and women with black colored skin as subpar to those who had white colored skin. God did not change His mind, rather America had to change its mind.

Now that you are convinced that God does not deviate to the right or the left, let's talk about miracles. If God does not change yesterday or forever, why would He suddenly stop performing miracles? He wouldn't, unless as in our examples above, mankind had changed. As Moroni states in his own book in the Book of Mormon later, if miracles have ceased it will be because no one is left to perform them, no one believes. I was once asked by an aethiest friend why I believed in God and my answer was that I had seen too much. And I truly have, I have seen miracles and events happen that are truly miracluous. I have had my life spared in ways that defy all physics and should not have happened. And yet they did and I am still here before all of you writing this. I think our definition of what a miracle is has changed is all. We keep wanting to see someone walk on water or turn water into wine. Truly those were miracles. But what about the other miracles in our lives that we see almost daily?

What about the people that are cured of their cancer? What of the people that are in car accidents where the car is destroyed and the climb out totally unscathed? What of a blessing given that states in detail a medical condition the recipient has that the speaker has no background in or no knowledge of? Miracles happen if we know where to look and what to classify as a miracle. God has not changed, we have changed. Our spiritual needs have changed. But as we continue in faith and stive to do what is right, we can be used as an instrument in His hands and we can see miracles happen and perhaps even perform a few. I have, and you can too. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Today I read 3 Nephi 28 where the Savior grants unto His disciples a boon. 9 of them desired to skip the Spirit world and go straight to be resurrected and join Jesus in the Kingdom of our Father, at least that is how I have always read it. The other 3 however desired something completely different. They desired to remain on earth carrying on the work of the Lord until the Second Coming.

I have often heard that the greatest sacrifice anyone can make is to give up their life for another, or in other words die for someone else. I disagree. I think these 3 and John the Beloved have made the ultimate sacrifice that someone can make. Think about it. How hard is it to lose a loved one? How hard is it to watch people suffer? And these 4 men have been dealing with this for thousands of years.

When one is full of the Spirit being around sin and seeing sin is very painful, both spiritually as well as physically. I honestly don't know how these men have survived all this time. They must be comforted by the Holy Ghost is the only thing that I can think of. I often wonder if someone saw them in today's day and age would they notice something was different about them? Would anyone notice that they were full of the Spirit and it could not be contained in them? Or have thousands if not millions of people met them or walked by them none the wiser?

I do find it so interesting that God did not want their names recorded. I have wondered why that is many times. What would it mean if their names were recorded? Why would it matter? I still do not have an answer for it but that is ok. If it were truly important I would seek an answer to it, but it is honestly only a curiosity and nothing more. I do wonder about the effects of being full of the Spirit none stop for hundreds and thousands of years though. When I read the verse about nonbelievers casting them into a den of wild beasts and them playing with the beasts as if they were a suckling lamb I did immediately think that it must be because they are full of the Spirit. I will bet that the animals could feel the Spirit that was in them and that is what made them so docile and friendly. I imagine much the same would happen were Jesus suddenly to appear in the middle of a savannah.

The history buff in me has often wondered how neat it would be to have the opportunity to do something like this and to live for thousands of years and never die and see great events unfold. However all too often those that are later classified as great events are terrible events that would drive the Spirit away. Cities fall due to battle or sin, plagues sweep the land, men who have given over their hearts to Satan do unspeakable things, how hard would it be to view such things and feel the Spirit leave you on a consistent basis? I can only imagine and shudder at what these 4 men have endured.

I agree that giving up ones life for a loved one is the ultimate test of love as the scriptures say, but giving up ones life for the Lord, that is the ultimate sacrifice. The good news is that we too can duplicate this sacrifice. If we live our lives in accordance with the gospel and serve Him in the way we are supposed to, we too are losing our lives for His sake. It is a wonderful thing to be full of the Spirit and be closer to our Heavenly Father, but it will make you all the more uncomfortable in this world. Television and movies will be less appealing, idle time will be less relaxing and you will be driven to spread the word and the light within you will shine forth unabated and you will find opportunities to share the gospel at all times. It will then be up to us to take advantage of them. That is what it means to lose our lives for His sake. It is challenging but it is also the most rewarding thing we can do in this life. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What manner of men ought we to be?

Today I read 3 Nephi 27 where the Savior comes back to the disciples only because they are praying to know the name they should give the church and its members. Jesus comes and gives them an important lesson in doing all things for Him, in His name.

Verse 27 is a very popular verse that people will often quote to show that we should be like Jesus is. However today I noticed something interesting. Jesus isn't just saying be like Him. He is saying it in relation to His earlier statement. It is a "because....therefore" statement. He is saying because you will judge this people, therefore I want you to be like me. Isn't that interesting? Have you ever noticed that before?

The more I think on it, the more sense it makes to me. Think about human nature. Most especially think on the relationship between a child and his/her parent. If the parent tells the child not to eat a cookie for instance but eats one himself, everyone who has ever been around children for more than a day knows that child will cry out in outrage at the unfairness of it all. Or take the teenager who wants to go out to a questionable party. If the teenager knows that his/her parents were a party animal when they were younger, how effective do you think the parent's stance is going to be with the teenager.

Now, I have often wondered where in the wide world this idea that life needed to be fair ever came from. Children often seem born expecting everything to be fair. The idea really is silly and very juvenile and yet we stubbornly cling to it when we are adults too. Yet as silly as the idea is, we hold on to it to try and make some sense of things and of the world. Think how often you hear people declare that something is just not fair. It's quite often. Now, think about how most people will react when the judgment comes. We have already discussed that almost everyone will already know in their heart how the judgment will come out in relation to them. But we also all know that despite that fact it will not stop some people from declaiming the judgment as being unfair, etc.

Now think for a moment just how much louder those people will cry out or rage if they knew that the people judging them were once like them but had repented? Each of you knows as I know that their cries of outrage would be heard in the farthest corners of heaven. Jesus knows this too so He tells His disciples to avoid this situation and be as He is thereby not even creating the situation? Does it sound familiar to you? Smacks a little bit of avoid even the appearance of evil, doesn't it?

Now, despite that this verse is a direct commandment to His disciples, it is also good counsel to each of us too. My earlier examples of parents and children will apply to just about each of us some day if it doesn't already. If you live a Christlike life you will not have to worry or contend with the argument from a child that you did it once, etc. And how awesome will it be to stand before the Lord or whoever is judging us at the last day and know in your heart and mind that your judgment is just and fair and that your works have been works of righteousness all your days! I long for that as I know each of you do too. So make it so much easier on yourself and avoid even the appearance of evil. Be even as Christ was and cast all doubt from your mind. I promise you will be glad you did.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Out of the Mouth of Babies

Today I read 3 Nephi 26 which is the end of Jesus' second visit to the Nephites. I had a thought keep running through my head as I was reading this chapter this morning. Have you ever noticed how so often in the scriptures it says something like a hundreth part of the happenings of this people cannot be contained in this work? I've often wondered why, since that is true, did these certain scriptures get recorded.

I also couldn't help but wonder why the things the babies said were unlawful to write or record. It brought to mind something my dad said to me a few months ago. As you are all aware Elder Bednar came and visited our Stake for Stake Conference. Well I typed up my notes from all the meetings and my wifes notes so that we could have them and I shared them with our parents.

A few days later I asked my dad if he had received the notes and he had and thanked me for them but then he said that he was always a little leary of reading notes from someone's Stake Conference and here is why. He said that unlike General Conference, a Stake Conference is a the local level and the Stake President, and in this case, the General Authority, receive revelation that is specific to that area and its membership. So knowing this to be true, I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps the things the babies and young children were saying were specific to that time and place. Perhaps the babies were telling their parents things the parents needed to know but would have no meaning to us at all.

I do know that these scriptures were inscribed on plates of metal, a very painstaking and deliberate process. So I can tell you that with so many scriptures to choose from, what we ended up with as the Book of Mormon is exactly what we need. It is specific to us and to our needs. I am very confident that if we needed to know what those children had spoken, we would know. It does make one wonder at the choice of the words that it was unlawful for them to be recorded. That is a very unique way to record that it was not to be written down.

Now we do know for a fact that in this case the reason certain things were not recorded was so that we can exercise faith. As we have already determined if a man knows a thing to be true, then it is not needed to have faith, because the person knows it to be true. I imagine that if Mormon had been allowed to record just what the Savior had taught those people that it would be so powerful as to the convincing of all those who read it and thus there would be no need for faith. It is not always fun to know that we were so close to getting such marvelous revelation such as we can only dream about only to have it snatched away from us. It is a comfort that we will receive it at some point.

I love how this chapter ends, how the people did minister unto each other and each man did deal justly with one another. I've often fantasized about what it would be like to live in a utopian society and to not have to be concerned with other people and crime. I can only imagine the wonderful state of happiness those people must have had for the remainder of their lives, living in such a way. I can only hope that one day we will obtain such a society and that we too can all deal justly one with another. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Temple Work

Today I read 3 Nephi 25 which is where Jesus quotes Malachi chapter 4 to the Nephites. I have often wondered why temple work is so important. It is one of the three fold missions of the church and as Malachi states if we don't do it the earth will be smitten with a curse.

Now there is the obvious reason that everyone needs an opportunity to hear and either accept or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ. All Latter-day Saints know and believe that in the next life before the resurrection there is missionary work going on. All those who lived a good and faithful life and have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ are spending their time teaching those people who have not yet accepted the gospel, very many of which never had an opportunity to hear it.

It is a very fulfilling work as the scriptures call it a rest from all their troubles and cares. Now some may wonder why such work is necessary? I mean they are dead shouldn't they accept the gospel of Jesus Christ without question? Not necessarily because to my understanding the veil has not yet been lifted from them and all they know more than what they knew before they died is that they are still alive and there is some type of afterlife. They still don't know what is coming next, they do not suddenly have a knowledge of Jesus Christ or our Heavenly Father or the pre-earth life. They need the opportunity to accept of reject the gospel.

So one could say that the reason temple work is so necessary is because it is a fulfillment of God's word, which as we have previously discussed is essential for our continued existence. However we have only discussed the gospel being preached to those who did not have a chance to accept or hear it in this life but we have said nothing of temple work. Now for those who may read this who are not Latter-day Saints, let me explain that in the temples we perform sacred ordinances necessary for the salvation of mankind. That is all I may say due to the incredibly sacred nature of temples and the work that is performed there. But we believe that a man or a woman, may not be saved without these ordinances.

Now there have been many, many, many millions of people who never had access to a temple while they were alive. Hence temple work and why it is so important. Now the scripture talks about the hearts of the fathers turning to the children and the hearts of the children turning to their fathers, or a desire to do genealogy. Genealogy is a very hot topic nowadays and has been for some years now. That is because the verse in Malachi was fulfilled in 1836 when Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery at the Kirtland Temple and gave unto them the sealing power.

Genealogy is so important because temple work cannot be done for people unless we know who they are. Sure the vast majority of us know who are parents are, and I would say about half if not more even know our grandparents, but what about further back? How would we know who to do the work for if we didn't do genealogy and search them out? For those of you who may be skeptical about this think about it long and hard. Have you ever had the urge to find out who your ancestors were? What they were like and what they did? I'll wager money that at least 90% of you have. Now let me ask you this, why do you care? Honestly what difference does it make in the slightest? Why do you care what your ancestors were like, what they looked like and what they did?

It's because of the spirit of Elijah and him turning our hearts to the fathers as was promised. We are filled with the spirit of curiosity to seek out those who came before us, and even if you don't know it, to help them in their eternal progression. We have a very great responsibility to perform the work for all those who have gone before us and to give them the opportunity to accept this great work. We cannot decide it for them, it is their choice. But we cannot give them that choice until the work is done for them so that they can choose. That is the purpose of temple work.

And that is what I think is meant by the earth being smitten with a curse. Not so much a literal curse, but once again we are faced with a situation of if it doesn't happen God will cease to be God and none of us wants to explore that option I promise. For those of you who have not been inside a temple I urge you to go. If you are not a member of our faith find one that is holding an open house and walk through and feel the spirit that resides there. For those of you who are a member of our faith, always live your life in such a way that you are worthy to enter His house and partake of the wonderful Spirit and help with the work. It is one of the most rewarding thing you can do in this life and one of the best ways to spend your free time. It's also fun and enjoyable! Until tomorrow.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Purpose of Tithing

Today I read 3 Nephi 24 where Jesus quotes Malachi chapter 3. I found it interesting that Jesus would quote this and chapter 4 of Malachi to the Nephites. We are told that Jesus expounded upon these scriptures to the Nephites, but we do not have that recorded here for us.

The most famous verses in this chapter have to do with tithing and other offerings. I remember as a missionary, tithing was a hard principle for people to come to terms with. They just couldn't get past the fact that they are giving up 10% of their income to the church, or so they thought. Most of them told me and my companion that they could not afford to pay tithing. My response to them was always the same: you can't afford not to pay tithing.

Growing up in the church I've heard all the miraculous tithing stories, people receiving anonymous checks, suddenly there's more money in their bank account, etc. I believe them, but I have never witnessed them. Now, let me tell you what I have seen. I've seen the windows of heaven open up and blessings rain down from heaven. My wife and I recently had our first child, a beautiful baby girl. We have not had to buy her a single piece of clothing so far and she is over 2 months old. We have been given so many articles of clothing and even toys that we have actually had to give some of it away because we did not have room to store them all. I firmly believe this is the Lord taking care of us because we are faithful tithing payers.

I remember another instance over a year ago now. My employees at work wanted to have a party so I offered my home and we did a potluck. Money was a little bit tight for us that month and sadly food was our skimping place that month, we were going to rely on our food stores. As my employees started leaving, not a single one of them wanted to take their left overs home with them. At the beginning of the party our fridge was quite barren, but after the party our fridge was full to overflowing and we had food for the next 2 months!

I could go on but I think these 2 examples will suffice. I am sure that does in fact bless some people monetarily when they pay their tithing, and it's possible He may even have blessed me that way and I am just not aware of it. I DO know that in my recent life, He has twice blessed me in ways that I desperately needed it and it was overkill both times! I know that I have never wanted for the basic necessities and that while I am not rich, my wife have enough for our needs and then a little more. We have enough for my wife to be a stay at home mother which is saying something in this day and age.

As I mentioned above people used to tell me all the time that they could not afford to pay tithing. Here is food for thought though, why do we pay tithing? Does the Lord need it? As Bono from the band U2 once said, "The God I believe in isn't short of cash". Heavenly Father does not need our money. So why do we pay it? It is a faith principle, something to help us grow. God could find other ways to help His people if push came to shove. We don't pay it to help God take care of the poor and the needy, what an interesting thought that God NEEDS our help. He is God and could do it way better than we could.

Every time God asks us to do something that seems a little like us helping Him there is a good reason. Missionary work is one of those items. God uses us to assist with missionary work so that He does not destroy the agency of man. At least that is my theory. God could easily convert every single person on the planet in less than a day. But that would destroy the agency of man because they would have to believe. So He uses us to further His work and to help US GROW! Again, we are the largest beneficiaries in missionary work.

So it is with tithing. For most of us it's never going to be an easy choice to pay tithing. It's always going to come down to something we want or paying tithing. For some of us at times it will come down to something we NEED and paying tithing. That is when we will really grow. We pay our tithing to show our faith in Him and to prove to ourselves that He will never forsake us. That is what we truly learn by paying tithing. God doesn't need to learn anything about us, He already knows what we will do. However, we have everything to learn about ourselves and what we will do and we have to know that God will never forsake us and will fulfill His promises.

I can promise you this, that God WILL honor His word. Unfortunately though, that is something that can be told a thousand times, it has to be learned through the fires of affliction and the forges of perseverance. However, if you just make the choice now to pay tithing no matter what and not even think of it as your money, it becomes a lot easier, I promise you that. Pay it and you will see that God does not forsake you. He can't, it's not even possible. If you don't believe me go read D&C 82:10 and you will see that I am right. Until tomorrow.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Importance of Scriptures

Today I read 3 Nephi 23 which is a very short chapter but it highlights how important the scriptures are. The bulk of this chapter is taken up by the Savior reviewing the scriptures that the Nephites have kept I assume for accuracy. The Savior comes across the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite and finds that some of his prophecies had not been written.

I have often wondered why the Savior made such a big deal out of making sure the prophecies were recorded as He instructed them to. A few thoughts come to mind on it. First, it was a commandment of the Lord so it must be obeyed. Now the Lord of course already knew that Samuel had made the prophecy in question and that it had been fulfilled, this is one of those questions that is asked to get the listener to think for themselves instead of the speaker just telling them.

The second thought that comes to mind as to why the Savior would have cared if that particular prophecy was recorded is because this is the first time in the history of the human race that resurrection has occurred. This is still a very new thing for them and it proves the veracity of not only Samuel's words but ALL the prophets words from the beginning. The people had never seen Jesus before and even though they knew from the prophecies that He was a resurrected being, I think it might have made just as powerful, if not a more powerful, impact on the saints to see someone they read about from their own culture or perhaps even someone they previously knew rise from the dead. Think about it, which would be more impactful to you, having Winston Churchill appear to you, or George Washington? Moses or Joseph Smith? The one you can relate to more is going to have the most impact on you.

The final, and probably correct, thought is to show the fulfillment of prophecy. Have you ever realized that our entire existence is actually contingent upon one very, important yet very small fact? All of creation hinges upon one simple fact, God keeping His word. If God goes back on His word, even once, He will cease to be God, and guess what happens to the rest of us? Yup, that's right, that's all she wrote! So I think that anytime God can reaffirm to us that He always keeps His word is a very, very good thing. And this particular scripture reaffirms not only Samuel's prophecy, but all the prophets who ever taught about resurrection. So it is actually quite significant.

The one thing we can most definitely take away from this chapter is that the Lord cares about the scriptures. He cares that we read them, He cares what is in them because they are written for us, not for Him. If we don't take them and study them, it's like taking an open book exam without your book! Why do it? It's silly. Use your cheat sheet and make this life as easy, and enjoyable, as possible. For sure I can promise you that if you don't use them, you will have some tough questions to answer for once this life is over and you stand before the Savior. No one wants to be asked why we did not take advantage of the scriptures. And I can also promise you that the more you immerse yourself in them, the more you will enjoy them! Until tomorrow.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jesus Quotes Isaiah

Today I read 3 Nephi 22 which is a direct quote of the Savior of Isaiah 54. I must admit that while I have never found Isaiah to be too enigmatic, he is also sometimes quite hard to understand what he is referring to. I remember talking to my dad once about it and he stated that the reason most people had a tough time with Isaiah is because Isaiah is talking about 3 different time periods, his own time, the 1st coming of the Savior and the 2nd coming of the Savior. I will admit that makes for some challenging reading at times.

This particular chapter I am pretty sure, and the chapter heading agrees with me, is talking about the second coming of Jesus and about the gathering of scattered Israel. As I was reading this chapter my mind went back to my days in college to my first year which was spent at BYU - Idaho, actually it was the first year it was BYU - Idaho being called Ricks college before that year. I was taking a Book of Mormon class there and we were discussing what were mercies of the Lord. It was there that the Spirit first spoke and revealed to me the truth that the fact that the Lord would consign some of His children to lesser glories is a mercy.

The reason I say this chapter reminds of that time is because of verses 7-8. The states through Isaiah that for a small moment I have forsaken thee, which if you think about it is kind of a misnomer because the Lord never forsakes us. However what he is trying to say I believe is he is referring to the period when the Jews are harassed on all sides by all peoples because they crucified the Savior.

This thought got me to think of the times God has "forsaken" each of us. Most of us have had a few moments when we feel we have been forsaken of the Lord and we grow angry with God because He left our side. But we should not feel this way, instead we should thank the Lord for His tender mercies to us that He allowed us to grow. I'm not the biggest fan of the poem Footprints in Sand because while the Lord never leaves us completely, He does allow us to grow on our own. But if we grow angry with God for leaving our side and allowing us to face certain things on our own, we are hypocrites. Because we each of us who have children have to take a step back and allow them to fail and make choices that you know are wrong so that they can grow.

What good does it do if your child comes home with math homework and you help them do it, but by help you just do it for them and don't teach them anything? How is that going to help your child when it's time to take the math test? Likewise how does it benefit us if God removes every obstacle from our path and never allows us to climb over them ourselves? So while I stated earlier that calling those times when the Lord takes a step back Him forsaking us is a misnomer, it is not far from the truth.

I once made a statement to a friend that we ought to pray and give thanks for our trials in this life. He was floored and asked me how can I say such a thing. I answered that the entire purpose of this life is to choose who we want to be and without trials we cannot make that choice. Without trials we cannot grow and progress. If we had no trials we would be like the child who was given everything they ever asked for and was never told no. How prepared for real life is such a person? How great a disservice did their parents do for them in preparing them for life outside the home and eventual marriage? Can you imagine Heavenly Father doing something like that to us? No, because He loves us too much to do something so horrible and cruel to us. Yes, I say spoiling a child is a horrible thing to do and is a lack of true compassion and love.

Heavenly Father understands that really loving a child is having the courage to break their hearts a few times, to say no to them when you really, really, really want to say yes and let them have whatever it is they are asking for. Real love is explaining life lessons to them instead of preventing them from having those tough moments in life. I believe that is what the Lord is trying to convey to all His people through Isaiah. I could honestly go on and on and share experience after experience about this but what I have shared will suffice. Just as we love our children enough to let them suffer in life and learn the life lessons they need to know, so to does our Father in Heaven love us enough to let us suffer through our life lessons so we can grow. Learn them well, because if you don't you'll just have to keep suffering until you do. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Satan's Counterfeit

Today I read 3 Nephi 21 which deals primarily with the gathering of scattered Israel. Jesus spends the majority of this time talking about what will happen with the Israelites in the last days. He talks about how the work of God will continue going forward in the last days and that the people will not be forgotten.

However, the part of this chapter that actually stood out to me and the thoughts that occurred to me the most were more about the conditions the Israelites must be in to be able to take advantage of the gathering and the Lord's mercy. The Savior stated that His people needed to be free of idol worship, the groves needed to be plucked up and they needed to be searching for the Lord their God.

And those verses really got me thinking about Satan's counterfeit and the fallacy of mankind. I have always wondered why it is that people will worship idols. Now, I'm not talking about in our day and age where we are putting things in front of our Heavenly Father. I understand that anything that comes between our Heavenly Father and us is an idol and that we should not have anything come between us and Him. But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about honest to goodness idols, statues, golden calves, the works and I cannot for the life of me understand why people would want to worship things like that.

Now the groves of trees from the Old Testament I completely understand. A lot of the pagan gods and rituals for worshiping them involved sex, and lots of it. So I get that part. I understand that is the drive for people to be a part of those "worship" ceremonies. But I can never understand why the Israelites in the Old Testament were so quick to bow down to a statue made of gold in the shape of a baby cow.

And that got me thinking about the other things Satan does that are counterfeit or taking advantage of wonderful things the Lord has caused to be created for our benefit. The Lord inspired someone to make a movie camera so that people could see representations of spiritual things and be entertained with wholesome stories to fascinate and relax us. Satan inspired others to use those same inventions to spread pornography. The Lord caused television to be created and suddenly those people from the farthest reaches of the world can now enjoy messages from our leaders without having to travel to them. Satan inspires those same people to put their pornography on the television and spread its horrible influence even further.

And perhaps the greatest invention yet for spreading the Gospel and doing good, the internet. No one needs me to expound just how THAT wonderful invention is being "utilized" by Satan. It does seem that every time some wonderful invention comes along that came be utilized for good, Satan takes it and uses it to further his own work too. Paper, the printing press, radio and we've already talked about movies, television and the internet. The list goes on and on.

We have already explored in depth the reason why the people need to be righteous to take advantage of the blessings of the Gospel and why the next life is so dependent upon our living a righteous life in this life. Another reason thought that we have not explored quite as much is a simple one that it will let us be happy. Now there are many, many out there who would argue that sinning is fun and makes them happy, mostly those doing it or teenagers who don't know any better. But does it really make one's life happy? Ask anyone who has lost a loved one to a drunk driver and see if they think drinking makes one happy. Ask anyone who has gotten throat or lung cancer and see if they think smoking is a great thing. Ask someone who has AIDS or another disease gotten from inappropriate sex and see if they think promiscuity is such a wonderful freedom now.

Teenagers usually don't realize it, but the Gospel is there to make us happy! The Lord knows how to live the happiest life possible and while all of those things may release endorphins and the individual acts may have been enjoyable, the ultimate consequences will not be. All these vices we are talking about are the counterfeits to the Gospel and a true happy life. Nothing beats the joy of service and the joy having the Spirit brings, nothing else compares. Most drunks, smokers, druggies or prostitutes don't actually like their lives. They are using those things as a means to escape their lives and the emptiness they feel. An emptiness caused because they feel there is something more, something they are missing and they are trying to fill it. Just about everyone, even if you were born in the church, goes through something like that. The only thing that can truly fill it is the gospel.

Don't fall for Satan's counterfeits. Remember Alma's words to his son, Corianton, "Wickedness never was happiness". As we live the Gospel we will find true peace and lasting happiness. I promise you that. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jesus Prophesies concerning the Jew and Gentiles

Today I read 3 Nephi 20 were Jesus prophesies concerning the Jews and the Gentiles. He quotes Isaiah quite a lot in the next few chapters and even directly quotes Malachi for two chapters. As I read these chapters I wonder if they aren't meant more for us than they are for the Nephites of the time.

Have you ever wondered why the Lord destroys peoples, cities and cultures? As I was reading verse 20 which states that unless the Gentiles repent they will be destroyed. And as I was reading it I got to wondering, why does God destroy people anyway? I mean He allows things to happen of their own accord because we have our agency and because people need to make their own choices.

So if that is the case, why do cities like Sodom and Gomorrah get destroyed? Why do peoples like the people of Ammon from the Old Testament get wiped out? Why do the Nephites eventually get destroyed? The only answer I can see is that it is because the people have made their choices and there is no more hope for them. We read in the Book of Mormon that the Nephites were told that if they were ever ripe for destruction then they would be wiped off the face of the earth.

So what does it mean to be "ripe for destruction"? Well if it means that God is going to step in and destroy them, I guess it means that there is no more hope for them. God has spared some pretty savage cultures over the years. The prophet Jonah was called in the Old Testament to go preach to the people of Nineveh, which from what I am told were a very unruly people and killed the prophets and were wicked. The reason Jonah didn't want to go is because he did not believe such a people would ever repent and it was a waste of his time. However, the people of Nineveh DID repent.

So if the Lord will spare people who are blood thirsty and do horrible things, when exactly is a people beyond hope? I do not have the answer to that question. But my thoughts are it comes down to how they treat their own. How do the people treat members of their own society? Well in our examples above, the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah were totally ambivalent to the needs of the poor in their cities and had a total lack of concern for their fellow man. The people of Ammon weren't much better. And we all know how the Nephites were at the end before they were destroyed. In every instance of these cultures the people displayed a contempt for human life that would appall and horrify us if we knew the full extent of it. The Nephites even engaged in cannibalism at the end.

As we have stated in the past, all things are before God. He knows the end from the beginning. Therefore He knows which cultures are going to repent if pressed hard enough and which ones are not. That I think is the true sign of when a culture is going to be destroyed. There are signs we can look for and study if you are so inclined but it is a very depressing and sad area of study. The best way to ensure that the culture you live in is not in danger of destruction is to be the best Latter-day Saint you can be and to lift up those around you. Live the Gospel to it's fullest and you will not be taken before your time. However, I personally choose to not worry about it and to just live my life as the Savior would have me live it. THAT is the way to true happiness. That is the way to really be comfortable in God's presence when we see him again. Until tomorrow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jesus Returns to the Nephites

Today I read 3 Nephi 19, where the Savior returns to the Nephites and where the people who had seen Him the previous day return with all those they could find. This chapter confirms what we talked about yesterday about whether or not the gift of the Holy Ghost was given to the Nephites before the Savior came to visit them.

I can understand the Nephites being re-baptized for entrance into the Lord's church, but not having the Holy Ghost given unto them again. I do find it really neat and intriguing that the Nephites prayed before they were baptized that the Holy Ghost would fall upon them. To me that shows great faith. They knew the proper order of things and knew that the Holy Ghost would not fall upon them until they had been baptized. So they prayed for that which they desired most, exercising their faith that it would be as they desired, and then the most important part, they acted on that faith and went and fulfilled the prerequisite of being baptized.

Just like James says in the Bible, faith without works is dead being alone. In order to have true faith we must act. What good would it have done the Nephites to pray for the Holy Ghost to fall upon them if they did not complete the prerequisite of being baptized, which they already knew was a requirement? It would have done no good at all because as we have stated, God has to follow the laws that He is bound to just like we do. Even in our day, the Holy Ghost is a gift and we have to accept it, just like Elder Bednar spoke about in the past October conference. We must act and not be acted upon. We must make the choice to welcome the Holy Ghost into our lives and have Him with us always.

Also, it should tell you something important that the thing the Nephites desired the most, more than any other, was to have the Holy Ghost dwell with them. Why is that do you think? I think it was because they recognized the importance of the Holy Ghost being with them. Something which I think we take too much for granted. I don't think we recognize what a wonderful blessing and opportunity we have as a member of the church to have the companionship of one of the members of the GODHEAD! Think on that for a second. What if you could have Jesus Christ for your best friend, always at your side, ready to help you out when you needed it. Would you squander that opportunity and leave His side for any reason? No, you wouldn't. You would cherish every second you have with Him and would talk with Him and become best friends. So why is it we so often take for granted the Holy Ghost, a man whose mission is to bear witness of the truth and can help us grow and progress?

If the Holy Ghost is our companion and guide, to me it is no different than if the Savior were with us always. We should be taking advantage of having a member of the Godhead with us and using His spirit to influence us for good. Think how good it feels to give service and to do what's right. Isn't it one of the best feelings ever? The Nephites recognized it and have learned what most of us have forgotten. The gift of the Holy Ghost is not an idle gift. If you need to be reminded of it, go read Elder Bednar's talk from October 2010 conference and you will see.

One last fun fact, have you ever noticed how the people and the disciples prayed to Heavenly Father until the Savior arrived in their presence but then once the Savior showed up they started praying to Jesus? Go back and read the chapter and you will see that I am right. I do not know the reason for this but I have read in Answers to Gospel Questions written by Joseph Fielding Smith that the reason they did that is because Jesus was in their presence. It is my understanding that if a member of the Godhead is present in person you pray to that member of the Godhead. As I said before, I do not really understand the doctrine behind it, but it comes from a prophet of God so I believe it, and as you can all see, it is in the scriptures too. I invite each of you to ponder this principle and find your own answer. I know I will. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Savior Institutes the Sacrament among the Nephites

Today I read 3 Nephi 18, where the Savior institutes the sacrament among the Nephites. It is interesting to me the wording that is used here. It says that when the Savior gave them the bread they ate until they were filled. The same with the wine used for the sacrament. Unless Mormon is speaking metaphorically about being filled with the Holy Ghost, which I do not think is the case, those men ate a lot of sacrament bread and drank a lot of sacrament wine.

I often wonder at the practice of the sacrament of the early saints what, if anything was different about it from what we do today. I don't know, but like I said I wonder about it. I do find it interesting that the Lord is implying that those who are unworthy to partake of the sacrament are those who have not been baptized yet. In verse 30 He states that any who are unworthy to partake of the sacrament are not to be cast out but rather if they repent and are baptized then they shall receive the sacrament.

This is unique because I have always heard the commandment of not partaking of the sacrament unworthily to apply to members of the church, much like Moroni states in Mormon 9, but I guess that could actually be interpreted a couple of ways too. That makes a lot more sense to me but I also understand the idea of members not partaking of the sacrament unworthily too such as those who are not in good standing and do not keep the commandments.

You'll also notice that the commandment to not let anyone partake unworthily was actually directed at the disciples and not the multitude at large. It is the Priesthood authority's responsibility to direct the sacrament appropriately and not the members responsibility. I have never personally seen anything like that where a member takes it upon themselves to police the sacrament and who takes it, but I have heard stories of it. Who knows if they are true, but every tall tale has at least a grain of truth in it. But the scriptures are very clear that it is a Priesthood responsibility, not a command to all members.

Finally a thought, we know that the Nephites have had the Melchizedek Priesthood this entire time, because they had the priesthood and Lehi was not of the lineage of Aaron so they did not have the aaronic priesthood. However, it does appear that giving the gift of the Holy Ghost was not done prior to the Lord's resurrection. I could be wrong but I have not seen it during my readings and when I do a search of it through the scriptures I do not find reference to it until after the Savior's resurrection. So it is unclear if this is truly the case but it is a neat thing to ponder on and study to see what one can find out. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Savior Prays

Today I read 3 Nephi 17, where the Savior has all the people come up to Him again and then He prays for them. I have often wondered at the language the Savior uses to pray. The reason I say that is because the scriptures are very specific that the ear hath not heard nor has the eye seen so great things as we both saw and heard Jesus pray unto the Father.

What type of language is so powerful that it actually conjures up images into the mind when spoken? It reminds me of in Ether when Moroni is talking with the Lord and me mentions that the Lord made the Nephites mighty in speaking but not mighty in writing. I was actually talking with my wife about this just yesterday as we discussed just what it means to be mighty in speaking.

It really doesn't have a record of it here in this chapter but later on we will see and find a written record of what the Savior prays for when He prays. I've often wondered about prayer and contemplated it, especially since reading Alma 32 earlier this year where Alma mentions prayer and worship in the same sense of the word to the Zoramite poor. For some reason I find it comforting that the Savior prays. I am not sure why, I guess I always just thought that the Savior, being who He was could just communicate with the Father without the formal need for prayer. And perhaps He can and He is merely showing a good example to us by praying to the Father.

Whatever the case, the record of what He prays for is very instructive. That is another chapter so we will not go into too much detail here but it is very intriguing to me that He prays for His disciples to be sanctified. It is neat to see that as much power as the Savior has, He still defers to the Father. In a way knowing that is almost comforting on a very basic level. Don't ask me why because I am honestly not really sure.

The other part of this chapter that always has intrigued me is the end where the children have angels come down and minister to them. I've often wondered just what the angels were doing with the children. I personally like to believe that the angels were talking and laughing and having a good time with the children. Some people have the mistaken belief that if you are having a good time, it is not a sacred experience. That is very much not the case. I think as long as it is done in the right way, you can have a good time no matter where you are.

I used to work in the temple as a temple worker before moving and before my wife got pregnant and my Dad used to work on the same days as I did and we used to have a lot of fun together working in the temple. As I grew close to the other workers we too would share the occasional joke or fun story. If it is possible to have good, clean fun in the temple, the most sacred place on earth, then it most definitely is possible to have a good time and be in the midst of a sacred moment. I believe that the Savior and Heavenly Father are inherently happy individuals and laugh often.

The scriptures teach us that our purpose for existing is to have joy. As long as we are having the right kind of joy, the kind that does not drive away the Spirit, then we are fine. But the moment we start to have fun in the world's way or even worse, in Satan's way, we lose the Spirit. And once we have taken those steps and lost the Spirit, it can be very difficult to get it back. Despite the old adage that it's easier to ask forgiveness than it is permission, please understand that is MUCH easier to stay on the strait and narrow path than it is to repent and get back on the path. I hope none of you has to discover that for yourselves. Until tomorrow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Imperfect Tool

Today I read 3 Nephi 16. It's a really weird feeling to be reading something that was written almost 2000 years ago and read a passage of scripture that perfectly describes your time period. At least it's a weird feeling to me. But these verses in this scripture talk about our day and they also focus primarily on missionary work.

Have you ever wondered why the Lord uses such imperfect tools to move His work forward? Why does He use us? He could convert everyone in the entire world in a matter of probably an hour if He so chose, even without appearing to them personally, the Spirit could fall upon everyone in the world and everyone would be converted, so why does He use us, an imperfect tool?

As in so many other things, it is for our benefit. Have you ever wondered why President Hinkley included needing a friend in his famous list of 3 things each new convert needs? I believe it is because humans are social creatures. I remember once my dad actually getting pretty upset with my sister, my younger brother and I. He was concerned that we did not seem to have any friends or interest in making friends, at church. He explained how all humans are social creatures and desire to be with other humans and it really concerned him that his children did not seem to want to have any friends. At the time I thought he was just being a worry wort. But now that I'm older, as with SO many other things my parents tried to tell me before, I see that he was right.

I was never a rebellious child. In fact I can probably count the number of times my parents and I really clashed on 2 hands, if not on 1 hand. But there were definitely times I felt my parents did not know what they were talking about or just did not understand, that the times were different and they could not possibly understand. They DID understand and it was me who didn't see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I'm sure every adult in the USA could say the same thing about their parents and their teenage years. But we are getting off track.

As I said before, why doesn't the Lord just use other means to convert His people and be done with it? Well for starters, He needs to worry about agency and make sure that the people are not coerced into doing anything they don't choose for themselves. Part of meeting with the missionaries is displaying that desire to believe that Alma taught the Zoramites about in Alma 32. The Lord cannot force anyone to believe who does not choose to believe on their own, that would destroy their agency. So I think that is a big reason. But the other reason is a missionary who serves an honorable mission and does what he/she is supposed to do will gain just as much, if not more than those he/she teaches during the mission.

A mission is just as much about the missionary's eternal salvation as it is those he/she teaches, perhaps more so. For those of you reading this who have never served a mission you cannot know the wonderful joy and happiness a faithful missionary experiences on an almost daily basis. You cannot truly understand the satisfaction you feel returning home at 9:30 pm completely exhausted after another hard day's work of preaching the gospel. You just don't comprehend the love you come to feel for those you teach and the heart break you feel when some of them tell you that they want to stop taking the lessons and never want to see you again. Oh yes, a mission is just as much about the preacher as it is the hearer, perhaps more so.

The Lord uses imperfect tools for His work, because it is in that very use that the imperfect becomes just a little bit more perfect. Much like Joseph Smith said about a boulder rolling downhill striking objects and knocking chips off and becoming ever more round and smooth. We are allowed to participate in this great work because some of us will not learn any other way and some of us need these experiences to grow. We are allowed to do this work because it is what WE need. And the Lord knows that. He gives us every opportunity to grow imaginable, including the ones we don't even know are opportunities. Take them all and fulfill the commandment a little bit more to become perfect. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Old Things have become New

Today I read 3 Nephi 15, where the Savior talks to the Nephites about the Law of Moses. As I was reading this chapter I couldn't help but notice the symbolism between the Law of Moses and our own lives and baptism.

Jesus taught the Nephites that the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Him and that it was all fulfilled and that not one little bit of it had not been fulfilled and that is must pass away because it was now fulfilled. So it got me thinking about us and how when we are baptized our old life is done with, over and we need to be walking with a newness of life as the scriptures state.

Have you ever noticed when a person is baptized as an adult that they are full of the Spirit and really excited and can't get enough of the church and they just want to share the Gospel with everyone they know? That is because they have felt the Spirit and a change of heart. They are changing and can't help but feel the Spirit as it makes those changes in them. The problem is that most of the people allow that fire to go down from a bonfire to a blaze to embers and in some sad cases go out all together.

I almost have to wonder if the reason they are so high on life is they have been forgiven of their sins? I was baptized at 8 years old and I remember feeling peaceful and wonderful, but I don't remember being full of zeal like an adult who is baptized. But I did have an experience where a good friend of mine committed a grievous sin and went through a long period of repentance and when they were finally brought back into full fellowship, the two of us rejoiced and it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life! So if a person can rejoice over being forgiven for only one sin like that, how wonderful would the rejoicing be to be cleansed from a lifetime of sin? I imagine the feeling would be euphoric!

However, we can all feel that happiness the Holy Ghost brings if we keep our lives in line with the teachings of the church and live a righteous life and keep the Spirit about us. I really do believe that the happiness I feel that I talked about yesterday is because I live the commandments of the church. I try and live a good life and stay full of the Spirit. This is the path that leads to a change of heart, which we have already discussed several times on here.

We must be like the Savior says, old things pass away and all things are become new. We can do this everyday as we repent and strive to be better than we were the previous day. Perfection is not an impossible goal, it just takes persistence and a growing a little bit each and every day. Just like we can be poisoned by degrees and lose our salvation, so too can we become perfect by degrees, if we want to. It does have to be our choice. God gave us our agency for this exact purpose. It is the most important decision we have to make in this life, who do we want to be? Do we want to live a Christ centered life? Or do we want to spend our life in riotous living and settle for less than our potential. The choice has been left to each of us. Be sure to choose wisely. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

By their fruits you shall know them

Today I read 3 Nephi 14, the conclusion of the Savior giving the Sermon on the Mount to the Nephites. There are many things in this chapter that are worth talking about and pondering on. The one that always stands out to me and stood out today is the Savior's sentiment that you shall know them by their fruits.

Last night at work I was talking to an employee of mine and we were talking together about people and logic and psychology. I maintained that by watching how a person reacts to certain situations, you can know what you need to know about them. He argued that without proper context you cannot draw proper conclusions about said persons. However, I stand by my statement that if you watch people and how they are acting, you can draw certain conclusions about them.

For example, if you watch a mother with her children in a store, any store, and you watch them for more than the brief snippets of time you have when you pass each other in the aisle way, you can gauge what type of parent they are by how they interact with their children. Another example, I work as a Supervisor in a call center for a cable company. I have worked for a cable company in a call center for the past 5 and a half years. You can tell within a few minutes of a call what type of a person you are talking to and know what you need to know about that person. Now, many(far too many) people would argue that it's not fair to do that, those people are angry or they are having a bad day, etc. However, it is when we are angry that we usually let down our shields and just let it all hang out so to speak. What better time to get to know them.

I talk to some people who even when angry maintain their composure and while they may use unkind language they are still in control. I talk to other people some times that unless I knew for a fact they were upset, I would not be able to tell, they are in perfect control of themselves, no coarse language of any kind is being used and if they have children in the background, they are still kind to their children. But unfortunately, the vast majority, have little to no control at all. They totally let their emotions control them and I am called every name in the book you can possibly think of, and sometimes some you have never heard of, all over something as trivial as cable TV or internet. Now again some would argue that it's unfair because we don't know what kind of a day that person had, or any of the other hundred circumstances that led that person to that point that particular day. And again I say that you don't need to. If a person loses their cool that severely and sometimes completely over TELEVISION, I don't want to know how they would react if something truly important went awry in their life.

By seeing how a person reacts in extenuating circumstances, you can understand how they would react in a normal situation. Now, of course EVERYONE loses their cool sometimes. It happens and it's impossible not too. Even I have been known to raise my voice once or twice. But as we strive to become perfect it should happen less and less. We should be learning control over all of our emotions. I really do believe that this is very much a part of the sentiment that by their fruits you may know them. You should be able to identify who is a follower of Christ by how they act, at all times. Would someone be able to glean that from you?

I remember receiving a blessing once where the voice told me that Heavenly Father was pleased with me and that by merely having a pleasant attitude I daily influence people for good and once even influenced a total stranger at a grocery store for the better because I was so happy. Now, the circumstances of my life at that time were such I really needed to hear that. I was having one of those crisis' that come along every once and awhile and needed to be reminded of why I do the things I do. But it had a profound effect on me. I had never thought of my happy attitude as being able to affect anyone, let alone a total stranger. I remember even having a discussion about it with my little brother about how odd that really is because I don't know about you, but when I'm unhappy and see someone who is ridiculously happy, my first thought is usually something sarcastic like, "Well at least SOMEONE is happy!" and it makes me even grouchier. But ever since I heard that, and when people comment on how I am always in a good mood, it makes me strive even harder to be happy all the time and let the light inside of me shine out.

We all have the ability to be a force for good in this life. We can all influence those around us and we do, all the time. Are you influencing for good? If someone did not know a thing about you and saw you in a grocery store, what would they think about you? If someone you didn't know had to deal with you when things weren't going your way, what impression would they take away from that interaction? Are you in control of your emotions? Or do your emotions control you? You will indeed leave an impression on the people you meet, especially when they find out you are LDS, make sure it is a good impression and you too can say that by their fruits they shall come to know you! Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beware of Hypocricy

Today I read 3 Nephi 13, the continuation of the Savior giving the Sermon on the Mount to the Nephites. One of the things that I have often thought of when I read this chapter is how strongly the Lord feels about hypocrisy and how we are to live our lives.

It is interesting to me that in the previous chapter it is made very clear that we are to be examples among those around us as we are called the light and a city on the hill but in this chapter, it is almost a contradiction, or so it seems. Yet in fact it is a continuation of that command to be an example.

One of the things people notice about us is that we are different. As the Savior says, some people when they live the Gospel flaunt it. They make a huge deal of their living the gospel and of how righteous they are. That is not what the Lord wants for us. He wants us to live the gospel, and that's all. Now, if we are approached and asked about something related to the gospel, say tithing, then by all means we are to answer and share our testimony. But honestly what is the point of telling people at random, "I give 10% of my income to my church." For one thing, done in such a way, it detracts from the sacredness of tithing, and for another, think how YOU would react if someone told you such a statement unsolicited. How would you react?

Recently I have had a statement Elder Bednar made while he visited us on my mind a lot. He said in the Priesthood Leadership meeting that a proper gauge of how we are doing is to ask ourselves do we enjoy living the commandments, or do we find them a burden? Now, as far as I can recall, I have never felt any of the commandments were a burden, but sadly I cannot also recall a whole lot of "joy" in them either. They are just part of my life, like a routine that I have. So I have been really trying hard to work at finding more joy in the living of the gospel. I can tell you that one commandment I have almost always had pleasure in keeping is tithing. I still remember the joy of that first tithing check in college when I paid tithing for the first time in almost 3 years. Most of you should be aware that you don't pay tithing as a missionary and I did not have a job my first half of the year in college. So it was almost 3 years from the time I was able to pay tithing. When I handed my first tithing check to my bishop it felt so good, like I was coming home.

I want that feeling with all the commandments. This blog is definitely helping. I really enjoy doing this every day and it is a great reminder to me to read my scriptures each and everyday. Having my daughter has helped a lot too. I find true joy in singing hymns and primary songs to her and in reading her the scriptures at night. It's so funny. I seem to be the exception to the rule. I have heard all my life, cultivate good habits now because it is so much harder to do it once you have children. But I tell you, my wife and I struggled to have scripture study together and Family Home Evening. But now that we have our daughter it is SO much easier to be good and live the Gospel. So like I said, I seem to be the exception to that particular rule, because it is a lot easier now that we have a daughter to live the gospel.

I hope you all can also find joy in living the gospel and in teaching your loved ones by your example. Just by living a good, Christ centered life you can teach those around you what it means to be a Latter-day Saint, which is what God wants us to do. He doesn't want us to hide who we are, but flinging it in others faces is incorrect also. Quiet dignity comes to mind as a good adjective for our lives and how best to live them. Just like the Savior had. Until tomorrow.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Sermon at Bountiful

Today I read 3 Nephi 12, which with the exception of a few verses and phrases is the first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount always reminds me of King Benjamin's speech to the Nephites right before he died. He too was trying to get them to live a higher law.

I always find it a little sad that the Israelites were not prepared to live the higher law when they came out of Egypt. They had such a hard time with just the basics that the Lord took away the higher law and left them with just the bare bones, the 10 commandments, and with a law of daily statutes and ordinances to perform to keep them on the right path. It saddens me even further when I look around at our world and see the same problem, a country, a world full of people that cannot handle the higher law and won't even live the bare minimum.

I will admit though that in order to fully live the higher law you have to have a really good handle on yourself and your emotions. I have trouble with it sometimes but so does everyone just about. It's really hard to not let yourself be caught up in arguing at times, or to get into verbal fights. It's extremely difficult to not get bent out of shape about in justice in this life, but we have to let those things go and learn to forgive those that trespass against us. One of the reasons it is so hard is because we have to come to terms that we are meant to be an example here in this life.

Perhaps my favorite, and least favorite verses in this chapter is the same verse, verse 14, "a city set on a hill cannot be hid". I like it because it is very true, if you are living the gospel, it is impossible to hide yourself and not be noticed. Totally impossible! It's one of my least favorite verses for the same reason, it's totally true and you are always on display once people know you are different and are LDS. I remember on my last day at my last job as I was leaving for the last time and driving home I was sitting at a stop light just kind of thinking about my life and what lay ahead of me. I said a little prayer of thanks for all that has gone before and a prayer of pleading that I can do my best always. I had a very clear impression from Heavenly Father of this verse and that my time of preparation has passed and everything that had gone on before was for this and my time of training was over. I then had this exact verse come into my mind and it was made clear to me that whatever happened to me from now on, it was meant to make me grow so I could be an example to those around me.

Let me tell you at the time it was actually kind of scary, and a little frustrating. Those who know me well will understand that I hate being the center of attention. I HATE it! But I will never turn down callings that force me to do things I'd rather not do, because like most of you all, I gave up my agency to God when I chose to be baptized and go through the temple that first time. Saying no to God and one of His chosen servants isn't an option anymore. I used my agency to make a choice and to give it back to Him who gave it to me. Like most of you have. So I have learned to live with my uncomfortableness and do what the Lord needs of me. So far it has been very tame and that worries me. Because I know something is in store for me at some point that I will not enjoy but the Lord will ask of me. And like Nephi before me, I must obey.

I wonder if the Nephites realized that the reason the Savior told them not to look after a woman to lust after her, and not to get angry with their brethren is because thoughts lead to actions? I wonder if they really understood that yes it does matter what they think and yes they need to banish certain thoughts as soon as they enter into one's mind? I wonder if some people in our day and age realize that? That is indeed the reason. Remember, having the thought is not a sin, DWELLING on the inappropriate thoughts, no matter what they are, is the sin. Although honestly I personally feel that if you are married, be ye man or woman, and you look at someone to "check them out" that is inappropriate too. Once you are married all interactions with persons of the other gender should be kept strictly appropriate. Because the moment you take that first step into inappropriate land, that is when the trouble starts because it is now so much easier to take the next step and so on. It really is a downward slope.

But we also need to learn this control for another reason. If we hope to be exalted someday we need this self-control. Think about it, does Heavenly Father look after women to lust after them? No, and what's more all is before Him, so He see's women when they are changing and in the shower and at all other points. If He did not have perfect control that can be a real problem! This is why if we hope to be as He is some day, we must have this perfect control also. But remember, it's a step by step process and we will get there only with His help. But most of the time He won't just offer it to us, we have to ask for it. I hope you have the presence of mind to ask and mean it. It is a hard thing to ask for because you have to really want it, and be sure of what you are asking. But He will help you when you are ready, and He can even help you to BE ready. He did me, he sent me my wife! :) Until tomorrow.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Savior's Visit to America

Today I read 3 Nephi 11 which is where the Lord comes to visit the Americas for the first time. Just about every missionary should be familiar with this chapter as it is pretty standard fare to have your investigators read this chapter and discuss it with them. In my day we used to teach the 2nd discussion in conjunction with this chapter.

Surprisingly the thing that stands out the most to me in this chapter is how much symbolism the Lord uses. Have you noticed that? He doesn't tell the Nephites to get rid of their pride, rather he tells them to become like a little child. He doesn't tell them that the Holy Ghost will sanctify them, rather He calls it the baptism of fire. He doesn't tell them that only through Him can they have eternal life, rather He refers to Himself as the light and life of the world. I wonder if that is the same reason He spoke in parables or if that is just how this people understand things? If you think about it the Nephites have been speaking like this throughout the entire Book of Mormon so maybe it is their culture.

I also find it intriguing that the Savior re-ordains Nephi and the other disciples to the priesthood. At least that is what I think He is doing when He gives them authority to baptize. I understand that He makes it a public thing because as He says, there have been disputations concerning baptism and to me it is obvious that who can do this baptizing was foremost among the disputations. So I wonder if He really did re-ordain them or if He only spoke that phrase that He gives them power to baptize when He is gone? I suppose both ways would be effective but re-ordaining them would be unnecessary I think.

I have always found it interesting that the Savior feels it is necessary to teach the Nephites that the spirit of contention is not of Him but rather is of the devil. Doesn't that seem like it should be a no brainer? I mean who in their right mind who knows anything about the Savior would ever imagine that He is pleased or even ok with contention? Maybe this is another one of those moments where I am assuming everyone else thinks like me, but I don't think so. I think it's pretty ingrained in all of us that conflict is bad. Think about it, we always teach our children that they shouldn't fight, to play nicely, etc. It's our instinct. But somewhere along the way we forget that and become selfish and start to only care about what we want.

The thing I think most people don't understand is that you can have emotions and even disagreements without having the spirit of contention. Remember, even the Savior got mad and threw out the money changers from the temple, and it says even God gets angry. That is not the sin, the sin is when you do not control it and it controls you. And the worst part, the absolute worst part to me, is when people hide behind that lack of control like a shield. People who try to cleanse the slate because they were so angry etc. I can tolerate people with little to no control over their emotions most of the time, but what I cannot abide is people who will not take ownership over their own actions and emotions and acknowledge their faults.

There are some exceptions of course, those who are mentally ill and some others, but we are all responsible for what we do. When we stand before God and He asks us why we did what we did, I guarantee you that the answer of "He made me angry" will NOT be acceptable. Think what would happen if God lashed out uncontrollably every time some one made Him upset? There would be very, very few of us left on this earth, that is for sure. We as a people have got to learn better control and for sure we have to take ownership of our actions. If we cannot do this, we are not fit for the kingdom. It's sad but there are going to be a lot of VERY surprised people when they stand before the judgment bar after this life and some very disappointed people.

I hope that we can all learn the control we need to learn in this life, because for some reason having a body makes it that much easier. I confess I do not know why that is, but we are told time and time again that overcoming our short comings is so much easier in this life with a body. And I believe the scriptures and God so I am trying as hard as I can to learn to have the control I need to have. I hope you are too. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The State of the Nephites

Today I read 3 Nephi 10, where the Lord speaks again to the Nephites for a little while and the Lord is resurrected. I had never noticed it before today but the way verse 9 makes it sound it makes it sound like they were continually having earthquakes for the entire 3 days and that there were still storms and lots and lots of noise besides the people and the noise they were making. I had never thought that was the case before today.

Just like we talked about yesterday I find myself intrigued and saddened by the fact that the prominent emotion the Savior is displaying to His people is sadness. He is not frustrated, at least I don't think so, He is not angered, He is sad that He truly wanted to help them but they did not desire the help that was offered. Just like His famous lament about Jerusalem He uses the analogy of a mother hen with her chicks and her wings are outstretched so that they can come under her protective care and feel safe.

We as a people to seem to collectively come to this point a lot. As I am getting older now, I find myself looking at the younger generation and shaking my head in sadness and wonder at the choices that they are making. I can remember being a teenager and desiring things that as I look back at them now I shake my head and ask myself what I was thinking back then. It all seemed so important then. The really sad thing is I was never your normal teenager. I never went through a rebellious stage, I almost always valued my parents advice even then, and there are STILL stuff that I look back on and just have to shake my head about. But just like an infant, then a toddler and finally a child spends most of their time exploring their world and learning all there is to learn about it, so too does a teenager, though most teenagers will never admit that is what is going on, even if they do recognize it.

A final thought before we end today, most of my life, and I think most of the people think that the Savior visited the Nephites directly after His ascension into heaven in Jerusalem. I'm not sure that is the case. I will be honest that I have no idea at all, but Mormon in verse 18 of this chapter makes the statement that at the end of the 34th year the Nephites and Lamanites did have great favors shown unto them. And based on the Nephites calendar, the Savior was crucified in the first month of their year. So that is almost a whole year between His crucifixion and His showing Himself to the Nephites. Now, of course this is not one of those things we NEED to know for our salvation of course, but it is a fun aside like we always do. We will know some day. Until tomorrow.