Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"I will give away all of my sins to know thee"

Today I read Alma 22, another favorite chapter of mine. Doing this blog sure has made it clear I have a lot of favorite chapters. I really like this one because it displays the humility and faith of king Lamoni's father.

After Aaron was released from prison, he and his brethren who had been locked up with him were led to the house of King Lamoni's father to teach him. He proved to be every bit as receptive and humble as Lamoni was. He was actually a bit more perceptive than Lamoni was too, at least that is the way it is written.

The most famous verse in this chapter is of course verse 18, where he prays for the first time. I think the reason this resonates so well with me is because I had a few investigators like the king who would pray a very simple, very heartfelt prayer like this one. So pure and full of faith, like a child's faith in their parent.

The part that the rest of us should be learning from this though is when he says he will give away all of his sins to know God. How many of us already know God and hold onto our sins anyway? Which begs the question, if we hold onto our sins like that, do we really know God at all? I would say in that instance we know of God, but we don't know God personally. We have not let the Atonement into our lives to work it's healing powers on us.

What does it mean to give away all of one's sins anyway? Certainly it cannot mean that we will sin no more. Such a feat is impossible for us in this life. I do however think that it means forsaking our evil ways and giving up our favorite sins, the ones we hold onto and bring out every so often. It might be something as simple as watching rated R movies, or something as truly damning as viewing pornography. We all have them. King Lamoni's father here is actually displaying a courage that I wonder how many of us can equal? I know I have struggled for years to give up my sins to better know God.

The one thing to be made aware of here, is that giving up one's sins is not a one time thing. Much like our salvation, it requires daily effort and sacrifice. It's not like giving up a credit card that we can't control our spending with. It's a daily struggle, a daily pleading with our Father in Heaven. But as we do this on a daily basis, wonderful things can and will happen. May we all strive to give away all of our sins and hold nothing back that we may enjoy the love and grace of our Father in Heaven. Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Spirit of Contention

Today I read Alma 21 which goes back in time a little ways and tells the story of Aaron and Muloki and how they came to be in prison as well as finishes off the story of Ammon and King Lamoni for the time being. Aaron it seems had spent quite a bit of time among the Amulonites and Amalakites who had hardened their hearts to the point that they would not hear the word.

They would ask Aaron questions but not with the intent to learn. They asked questions to antagonize and to quarrel. They had the Spirit of Contention about them which we know is not from the Lord. The Spirit of Contention is always from the devil, which leads mankind to do that which is wrong.

Just about anyone who has ever served a mission has had at least one moment when they felt the spirit of contention. Anytime someone wishes to prove you wrong with the scriptures, they are doing so out of a contentious attitude. They do not have the desire for your well-being, even though they might say they do.

It always amazes me how, violent people get when they are trying to save someone. I do not mean physically abusive, rather I mean how angry people get. They yell, they scream, they threaten, it's a horrible sight to behold. I remember one day as a missionary we went to pick up our investigator for church and she met us at the door and asked us to leave and never come back because we had gotten her in a lot of trouble. As we asked what was wrong, the door was ripped back and she was physically shoved away as a minister of another faith filled the door frame and proceeded to yell and scream at us.

I remember I felt awful as we left that door. Sadly I did not feel awful for the welfare of that poor woman who had to put up with that minister, I felt awful because I had never in my life felt such a concentrated amount of the spirit of contention in one dose. As I later recorded in my journal, it was then that I realized that the devil was very,very real and that he hated us. It was a horrible feeling and one I did not shake for quite some time.

In the past 10 years from that day to this, I have had many, many more instances where I felt the spirit of contention beating down on me and I have not always reacted as I should have. I am mortal and prone to pride. Aaron in this chapter demonstrated the right way to handle such animosity, by removing yourself from the situation and not allowing yourself to be bated into responding, because it will not get you anywhere. The only way to win when the spirit of contention is present is to keep calm and remove yourself from the situation and you will do far, far more good that way than you ever would if you responded in kind. I have seen miracles happen from just walking away instead of responding. Because it's when we walk away that people pause, start thinking and the contention is replaced by another kind of Spirit which can work miracles. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Greater Love Hath no Man than this

Today I read Alma 20, which comprises mostly of Ammon, and Lamoni going to the land of Middoni to free his brother Aaron and their friends from prison and meeting Lamoni's father. I have always found a couple of things in this chapter very interesting. For starters, it's really odd and a little intriguing to me that the Lamanites would hold on to such hatred for the Nephites for over 500 years over something that happened to Laman and Lemuel! That's a serious grudge if I ever heard one.

Lamoni's father wanted Lamoni to kill Ammon because he was a Nephite, and for no other reason than he was a child of a liar. To me that's crazy, I cannot even fathom growing up hating an entire people because of something that happened over 500 years ago. You would think that someone in all those years would find it a little odd that they are just doing what their fathers did and not really thinking for themselves, but I guess not.

The meat of this chapter of course is when Lamoni's father attacks Lamoni and Ammon stops him. It does not specifically state it, however I have to wonder if Lamoni refused to raise a sword against his father and that is why Ammon stepped in to protect him? Was this a foreshadow of events to come, of the people of Ammon refusing to ever again shed the blood of man? Truthfully we don't know. We do know however though that Ammon stops the king from shedding innocent blood and that Ammon is still not a blood thirsty man. All he does is stop the king from using his sword arm.

I can't help but wonder if Ammon was guided by the Spirit in what to say in this next part of if that was truly his own idea to ask for Lamoni to retain his kingdom without supervision from that time forward? Because of all the things he could have said to the king I think this is the one thing that would have pricked him in the heart and caused him to start repenting of his sins and desire to hear the gospel for himself.

Perhaps not even Ammon knew at the time, although I'm pretty sure that he can tell the difference between his own thoughts and those supplied him by the Spirit. I always could as a missionary. The one thing I seemed to have the most trouble with as a missionary was recognizing promptings during the moment. I would always do them, but I would never recognize them as a prompting of the Spirit until after the fact. I think I've gotten at least a little better about it over the years.

Whether Ammon truly wanted this on his own or it was the Spirit, this is the one thing he could have asked for that would touch the king, of that I am sure. His heart is touched by the obvious love Ammon has for his son, Lamoni. He sees that Ammon was willing to die for Lamoni if need be to protect him, even though Ammon was never in any real danger, but the king did not know that. The Savior taught that greater love hath no man than he giveth his life for his friend. Ammon exemplified this trait, as did all of his brethren who went to preach to the Lamanites. We have dwelt on this subject already in my blog, but it is interesting that it keeps coming up. Truly love is a great motivator to learn more about the gospel. For the gospel truly breeds love of mankind. When you feel the Spirit you can't help but love your fellow man.

May we all cultivate the Spirit in our lives and let the love that fills us as a result shine forth unto all the world. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

No Respecter of Persons

Today I read Alma 19, where Lamoni's wife and their entire household is converted to the Lord. The chapter starts out with yet another type and shadow of Christ, they are everywhere! King Lamoni when he falls into the trance the first time is in the trance for just over two days and two nights, a clear shadow of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection. Unlike Christ however, during these 3 days, Lamoni was being ministered to by angels and by the Savior himself.

The rest of the chapter is about the conversion of the rest of the people in Lamoni's household and a good portion of those in his kingdom. I have titled this blog, "No Respecter of Persons", because the Gospel is meant for all people and it is preached to all with equal fervor. Even though the Lamanites were bloodthirsty and not really worthy of the Spirit, we find in this chapter that one of them had had a vision many years earlier and that as a result of the vision he and his daughter, Abish, had been converted to the Lord.

I think we often fall into the trap of thinking that unless someone is perfectly worthy of the Spirit in every single way, they can't feel it. This is wholly untrue. If it were, no one would ever become converted to the Lord. Because it is the Spirit which converts and very, very few are worthy of the Spirit when they first hear of the Gospel on account of their riotous living. Very, very few people in this country at least, live a life conducive to the Spirit before they join the church.

But the Lord sees all things before Him and knows our hearts and sends the Spirit accordingly. Speaking of seeing all things before Him, every time I read this chapter I can't help but wonder if the Lamanite who wishes to kill Ammon and is slain was killed on the spot, or if once again the Lord knew the exact moment he would need to die and caused the man to have a defect at birth or later in life that came to fruition at that exact moment, much like He did with the storm in 1 Nephi when they were crossing the sea or the new star that appeared when the Savior was born. I suppose I'll never know but it sure leaves me in awe every time I think about it and read this chapter. With a being like that, is there really anyway we can hide anything from Him? Absolutely not, but most of us sure try don't we?

A final thought for today. None of this would have happened if Ammon had not been living a righteous life and prepared himself accordingly. He had searched the scriptures and knew them and could teach them. He had fasted and prayed for the Spirit to accompany him. He was prepared in all things for these events. He had prepared his mind and body. So too must we prepare spiritually if we are to be effective instruments in the Lords hands. We must prepare ourselves, another reason to attend our church meetings and read the scriptures for 30 minutes each day at least. If we do that, we will be able to witness some truly remarkable things in this life in His service, this I promise you. Until tomorrow.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wise but Harmless

Today's reading was Alma 18. This is the chapter where Ammon teaches King Lamoni the gospel and where the king becomes converted. My favorite line in this chapter is where Mormon calls Ammon "wise, but harmless". That always brings a smile to my face if not a chuckle to my lips.

I remember being a missionary and having this chapter read to me many, many times because it is a perfect example of teaching someone without the same level of knowledge as you do. Also I enjoy this chapter because it is a great model for teaching someone anything. Build upon what they know and work at their level, use the terms they understand. I use it everyday at work.

The thing that sticks out a lot to me in this chapter is the fact that the Lamanites believed in God. I find that surprising because while I know Laman and Lemuel believed in God, I find it surprising that they would teach their children about Him. And in truth maybe they didn't. Their children knew Lehi and Nephi and maybe it was their children that taught their children, and so on and so forth. But this is the first time in the Book of Mormon that we hear that the Lamanites had a belief in God before the sons of Mosiah came to them.

The surprising thing to me is the way King Lamoni and his father were converted. More so King Lamoni than his father, for his father was actually pricked in his heart by the "greatness of Ammon" which we will see in a few chapters. However, King Lamoni was intrigued because of a miracle. However, the difference between him and a sign seeker is he was not converted by the miracle, but rather wanted to know by what power it was accomplished and he opened his heart to the Spirit to gain a testimony.

As a missionary I actually saw many times people literally hungering for he truth we had and thirsting after knowledge of Jesus Christ. We actually taught a free English Class for our service and to try and find new people to teach and I remember one day a new student wandered in to the class and another missionary and I pulled her aside and talked to her. I remember clear as day that when we asked if she wanted to study English she said, "Yeah that would be good, but I'm more interested to learn about Jesus Christ, can you all teach me about Him?" We were dumbfounded for a moment before we heartily responded that yes we could indeed teach her about the Savior.

Growing up in America, I think we take for granted that we have heard about Jesus Christ our whole lives whether you believe in Him or not. It's hard to fathom of people who have never heard the name Jesus before let alone heard of the Bible. I remember sitting down and trying to teach someone a first discussion and we didn't get very far. When we mentioned the Bible for the 3rd time, she stopped us saying, "You keep mentioning the Bible, what is that?" We ended up just leaving her some pamphlets to study as she wasn't that interested and was far more intrigued by two white American boys who could speak Chinese.

That's why it is important to go slow when trying to talk to someone about the Gospel and to find common ground and to not give up. King Lamoni was instrumental in helping the rest of his people convert to the Lord. Ammon never would have been able to teach King Lamoni if he had not been prepared though, like we talked about yesterday. May we all cultivate the Spirit in our lives so that when we are called to help someone understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can be ready. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Love Thine Enemies

Today I read Alma 17, which any Latter-day Saint teenage boy can tell you is the story of Ammon chopping off the arms of the Lamanites who attempted to scatter King Lamoni's flocks of sheep. I'm struck by several elements in this chapter and will get to the meat of it in a moment but wanted to dwell on a few other topics first.

First, the power of fasting and prayer. I know we have touched on the power of fasting already a couple of times in my blog, but it bears repeating that Mormon points out that the sons of Mosiah came to their knowledge of the scripture through study, and much fasting and prayer. I think sometimes we short change the power that fasting can have, I know I do. And yet the scriptures are filled with examples of the Lord honoring a fast and a prayer. It really deserves it's own post I think and there may be a chapter where I can dedicate a blog entry just to fasting. For today's discussion, it is enough to point out that the sons of Mosiah gained their phenomenal testimonies in part from fasting and if you desire to increase your testimony, I suggest fasting as means to facilitate that.

Secondly, I have always found it a little odd that King Lamoni wanted Ammon to marry one of his daughters. Everytime I read this verse I can't help but wonder what King Lamoni's motives were in doing this. Was he trying to trap Ammon? Or maybe did he feel the Spirit pouring out of Ammon and acted as his spirit was touched, not really knowing himself why he was acting, only knowing he must act. I have had many people that just seemed drawn to me over the years, and I think it usually has to do with the Spirit. I have been approached by people before who wanted to know what made me so special, why was I so happy all the time? The answer of course is the Spirit and it's not something that can be taught. It can be cultivated surely, but it requires a lifestyle change in most cases. But feeling the Spirit when you are not used to it can cause people to act in goofy ways, and I think that is most likely the cause of Lamoni's proposal to Ammon.

Finally, the meat of this chapter, is about loving thine enemies. In a time when the Nephites were very much still living the Law of Moses, a law that fully endorsed revenge and an eye for an eye, some took a higher road. Ammon, as well as his brethren including Alma and Amulek, were such men. They had found that which any missionary who truly servers with all their heart, might, mind and strength finds, that you can't serve a people without coming to love them.

No one who reads Alma 17 can refute that Ammon loved his brethren, the Lamanites. It is also clear from this chapter that Ammon was not a man who delighted in bloodshed, a trait shared by many in the Book of Mormon. It is a HARD thing to stand up to persecution without retaliation. As a missionary myself many years ago, I came face to face with people that hated me. I had things thrown at me, dogs set upon me, profanity hurled at me and open threats made to me. And through it all, I loved them. It was a heart wrenching thing to be treated so poorly and at times it was depressing to be treated so poorly, but it did not change how the Spirit worked on my heart.

In today's world, the "enemy" of the American people are the extremist Muslims. The only thing that even compares to what Ammon and his brethren did, would be to serve a mission to the extremist Muslim groups. The groups that would love nothing better than to wipe out all the "infidels" for all time. Imagine not hating, not fearing these people, but being afraid for these people. Being so worried about their well being and eternal salvation that you gave up your comforts and your materialist life to go and serve those people and teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Imagine your love for them overcoming your fear and almost certainty of being killed by them just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And imagine placing your life on the line to protect a few of them.

Jesus Christ taught that greater love hath no man than he who gives his life for his friends. Ammon was willing to die rather than let the Lamanites die in their sins and be confined to an eternity of damnation. How many of us could say the same today? I'm not sure I can. We are commanded to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us and to pray for those who despitefully use us. It is hard, but with the help of the Spirit we can do just that. We can through prayer and fasting overcome those feelings of hate and anger. May we all turn to the Lord for assistance in overcoming those hurtful feelings for those who we do not like. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fulfillement of Prophecy

Today I read Alma 16 where the prophecy of Alma and Amulek is fulfilled concerning the city and people of Ammonihah. It's interesting to me to note that as far as we can tell the fulfillment of the prophecy was only about 4 months after it was given. Because Alma and Amulek were liberated from the prison that held them in the 10th month of the year and according to Mormon the city was decimated in the 2nd moth of the next year.

The thing we need to remember is that if the Lord has spoken it, it HAS to happen. And by the Lord speaking it that of course includes His authorized servants because as the Lord has said in the Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 His servants speak with His authority.

I say this with some trepidation because I know there are some prophecies I would rather not see fulfilled if the truth be known, but really the alternative is unthinkable. If a prophecy that has not been rescinded goes unfulfilled then God will cease to be God and the universe will be no more we are taught. This concept was actually explored in the cult classic movie "Dogma".

The thing that I find interesting actually is that God knows the end from the beginning, He already knows who is going to repent and who is not. He already knew the people of Nineveh would repent when He sent Jonah to them to preach repentance to them. He already knew that most of the citizens of Ammonihah would not repent when He sent Alma and Amulek to them. So one has to wonder why does He send people to cry repentance to people who He already knows will not repent?

The answer is two-fold. First, I think it is so that the people cannot argue against His judgments at the last day. Although I have already explored the concept of the judgment here and I do not thing any of us will argue with God about where we end up, if we are truly honest with ourselves. But I don't really think it's so much of an argument as it is spending eternity blaming someone other than ourselves.

Secondly, I think it has more to do with the messenger growing and learning from doing the will of the Lord. I think Jonah grew more from learning to accept the Lord's will and forgo his own will than the people of Nineveh did from him. I think I learned more and grew more as a missionary than anyone I may have come into contact with on my mission with the exception of maybe 1 person. But just like with Abraham sacrificing Isaac, God already knew Abraham would obey him, it was Abraham who didn't know that he would obey God even in this until put to the test. We grow so much from things that are hard for us and put us out of our comfort zone. That is why effective leaders are almost always pushing us to reach, to strive, to get out of our comfort zone, because they know that will be the most effective for those they lead.

However, even though the entire city was destroyed, Alma and Amulek still had success in Ammonihah, Zeezrom and many other people believed in their words and repented of their sins and were baptized and started a church in the land of Sidom where they had been driven to. I know I have said it before, but I will say it again, a mission is not about how many people you teach, how many people you baptize, it's about how faithful you are to the commandments of God, to the promptings you receive. It's about what YOU learn and how YOU grow that really counts as a missionary. You should NOT come home the same person you left when you return from a mission. Sadly that was one of the things that made it so hard for me to go on my mission, is I understood that and realized that I would not want to see some of my friends anymore when I returned home. Part of me is still sad by that fact because I really do miss those guys and gals some days, but the rest of me is ok with it because I am in a really good place and I have grown so much since then.

A final thought for today, yesterday I blogged that sacrifice brings forth blessings. It can be very hard to sacrifice sometimes, that's why the word is called sacrifice. But I do not regret any of the things I have been asked to give up, no matter how hard it was at the time. Just like with Job, when the Lord taketh away, He will restore and generally give back more than was taken in the first place. When you sacrifice in the Lord's name to help fulfill His word, amazing things happen in your own life. Never be afraid to follow the direction He gives you, because it truly is for your own good. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sacrifice brings Blessings

Today I read Alma 15. There are many good things about this chapter, it shows Alma using his priesthood to give a blessing, it shows the true conversion of Zeezrom, and the establishment of the church in that land of Sidom. However, not all of the chapter is happy. We learn that Amulek has been disowned by his family, especially his father, and by the way the scripture reads, perhaps even by his wife and children.

I feel a huge pang of sympathy for Amulek. It is a hard thing to sacrifice for the Lord. Three times now the Lord has asked me to give up the life I have built for myself to do what He asked of me. Once He even asked me to give up that which was most precious to me and I nearly lost my testimony over it. I struggled to do as I was asked by my Father in Heaven and it was a hard choice to make. However in the end, I thought that if I turn my back on Heavenly Father now, I was 24 at the time, what has the last 24 years been for? Why did I serve a mission if I am just going to quit now? And so I kept my testimony and continued to serve and gave up what was required of me. And as hard as it was then, and the ensuing years, I don't ever regret it.

The closest I have ever come to giving up my family would be my mission. Every missionary has to face the pang of loss of their family at some point. But they are not really lost. Most missionaries still hear from their families and still receive support from them. I could not imagine suffering as Amulek did and being rejected of even his family. No matter how hard the sacrifices I have been called to give have been, my family has always been there to support me. It warms my heart to read stories in the Ensign of those who give up even their families for the sake of the gospel. I cannot imagine the faith these people must have. I can imagine their resolve, I would never give up my testimony for anything I can conceive of. I have passed through the afflictions that tempt me and strive to draw me away from the truth and I do not think anything else can even attempt to tempt me like that again.

But during Amulek's darkest hour, he had good friends in the gospel to uplift him and comfort him. That is another beautiful aspect of the church, we look out for one another. Yesterday I had the chance with 5 of my fellow Elder's quorum members to help a new family that we had never met before yesterday morning move into their new home. It was a great experience. We had their 26 foot truck unloaded in just over an hour and a half. It is a wonderful thing to give service and to help uplift those that need it. I sure feel it in my shoulders and back today though. :) Each member of the church promises to mourn with those that mourn as one of the baptismal covenants that we took upon ourselves at baptism. Sometimes it's enough to just cry with those that suffer. Sometimes they need service, sometimes they just need a hug. But no matter what is needed, the members of the church, our church family is there for us.

I titled this post sacrifice brings blessings. So far I have really only talked about the sacrifice part and not really the blessings. That is because I hold the blessings that have resulted from each of the sacrifices that I talked about to be self-evident. Just like with Job, the Lord never takes anything away without giving you back something better. Choosing to follow the Lord instead of my own desires led to my career which I now enjoy and eventually to my beautiful wife and daughter. I would not have met my wife if I had followed the advice of everyone around me instead of following what the Spirit told me to do, no matter how hard and at times distasteful it was. I think when we die and ask Amulek was it worth it, he will smile, hold out his arms wide as if to encompass the whole of heaven and ask, "What do you think?" May we all have a pleasant attitude when called upon to sacrifice for the Lord. Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 23, 2010

And the Meek shall Inherit the Earth

Today I read Alma 14, a chapter of great sorrow and perseverance. In this chapter the people of Ammonihah cast out all those that believed on Alma and Amulek's words, including Zeezrom, and then brought all the copies of the scriptures and the wives and children of those men who believed in the word and burned them in front of Alma and Amulek. Honestly, as horrible as it would be to be burned alive, I think I would rather have been one of the martyrs as opposed to Alma and Amulek. I can only think with sorrow at the tears they must have shed and the pain in their hearts as they were forced to watch such an act in front of them and commanded by the Spirit to do nothing.

Perhaps that trial was even more severe than the one they were next called to bear. They were next thrown into a prison for many days and given no food, no water and beaten on an almost daily basis. It is interesting to note that another type of Christ can be found in this chapter. Verse 18 tells us that when they were cast into prison, for three straight days, no one came to see them. I do not think it is a coincidence that they were left alone for exactly 3 days. I think it was just another foreshadowing of the Savior's ultimate sacrifice for us and His death and resurrection.

Poor Alma and Amulek suffered greatly during those days. They were humiliated by having their clothes taken away, they were weak from lack of food and water. They were sore from continual beatings. And through it all, they said nothing. I am reminded again of the quiet dignity through which the Savior allowed Himself to be calmly beaten, spit upon, nailed to a cross and brought before Harrod without any words being spoken. It is amazing to me that these men, and Jesus, were humble enough that they could not be coerced into talking when they did not wish too.

Recently I had a good friend of mine that called because his wife was giving him the silent treatment for over a day. He said he had tried everything to get her to talk to him. So he called and asked me for help. My answer was to pick a fight with her. As childish as it is, very, very few people can resist responding to a remark they don't like or when their honor is insulted. Yet Alma and Amulek were humble enough to not allow their pride to force them to respond. That can be a challenging thing.

I imagine that the predominant feeling these men felt towards their captors was sorrow. They knew these men were lost and there was no hope for them, and Alma especially knew what was in store for them when they passed to the other side of the veil. So I imagine as angry as they might have been at their circumstances, as frustrated as they might have been, I think they were more sad that these men had so closed off their hearts that there was no hope for them. That when Alma and Amulek did finally show their power the only thing they could feel was fear, for they knew what this meant, that Alma and Amulek had been telling the truth.

That's the way it usually is, those with true power don't like to show it off. The Savior had no problem doing miracles to enrich people's lives, but it was rare if ever that He would do miracles to prove who He was. He had the power to do anything He wanted, but he almost never used it. He practiced true temperance, something we are all going to have to learn if we are to be exalted some day.

There is a reason the Lord has said the meek shall inherit the earth. We all need to learn true humility and temperance at some point in our lives. It is better to learn them on our own that to have Heavenly Father give us experiences to learn it. At least I think so. :) Until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Our Circumstances in this Life

Today I read Alma 13, another one of my favorite chapters. This chapter talks about foreordination and answers the question that many people ask themselves about their circumstances in this life, "why me?".

Many people have asked themselves why they were born with certain privileges while others suffer or why they must suffer and why others seem born to lives of luxury. Alma teaches the people of Ammonihah in this chapter exactly why.

There is a scripture in the Bible where the apostles ask the Savior who sinned to have the result of a man born blind, himself or his parents. The Savior answered that the particular man in question was actually born blind in order that the Savior may heal him and covert those who would see it. However, the question asked by the apostles shows their understanding of a principle that most people have a real problem with in today's world. For some reason a lot of people have a real problem with the idea that their circumstances in this life are based on their performance in the previous one.

The irony is that they have no problem whatsoever accepting the fact that their circumstances in the next life are going to be based on their performance in this one. Quite odd to me that people have a problem with this, but I understand that they do. However, Alma in chapter 13 teaches us this exact principle. Alma 13:3 - 5 teaches us that all men in the pre-earth life had the exact same opportunity, to be ordained to the higher priesthood in this life. But some rejected it through their lack of faith and through the hardening of their hearts.

Which lends itself to the next thought that in our past life we were not all obedient to God's commandments even then. One then is led to the question of how could we be disobedient to God's commandments and yet remain in his presence? The answer is I don't know. I will find out someday I hope, but it is honestly not important to me. The point I am trying to make is that this is doctrine and has been taught by the prophets.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not point out that some people's circumstances in this life are also dictated by the needs of the person in question. Everyone has trials in this life and they are all unique to that person. Heavenly Father knows what will help us grow the most in this life and He has prepared those trials for us. It would do 90% of you no good to have my particular trials in life, they are meant to help me grow and rely on Heavenly Father.

And so we are left with eternal truths, our circumstances in this life are determined by our obedience to God's commandments in the past life, as well as by our needs to progress and continue on our way to eternal life. We cannot do it without the trials of this life, and if you really think about it, I think we will find that our trials in this life when examined in hind sight were the exact things we struggled with in the past life. Or so it seems to me to make the most sense. Whatever it is, I find comfort in knowing that God knows and has chosen these trials for me and that they will be for my benefit. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Lake of Fire and Brimstone

Today I read Alma 12, where Alma teaches the people of Ammonihah after Amulek is done speaking. Alma teaches them the second half of the Atonement, about the redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ.

Some people have accused the Latter-day Saints of believing in a literal hell, a hell with demons who torment mankind and with a giant lake of fire and brimstone. Alma chapter 12 should clarify nicely once and for all that Latter-day Saints do NOT believe in such a hell. Alma 12:17 clearly states that it is their torment that is like a lake of fire and brimstone, meaning there is no end to their torment and that their sins have a literal physical pain to them.

I remember as a missionary trying to help a teenager that we were teaching to understand the true meaning of hell. He was a total tech kid and we described it as he is in a room where everyone has a brand new computer with all the latest gadgets and he cannot partake of it, he just has to sit there and watch everyone else have a great time without being able to play himself. It was a very primitive analogy but it worked.

However, that's the last part. Before that, like Alma says, we have to pay the price for our sins. Because those that die in their sins like Alma says, it is like there was no redemption made. I actually feel kind of sorry for those people, kind of. I can be very cruel and mean spirited if I choose to be, I generally choose not to be, but the potential is still there, and I think about the evils those people did in this world and it makes me want to cry. I don't know how people can watch those police shows or detective shows where they solve the crimes. How do they not feel the awful pain and suffering in the world that such shows portray and remind us of? How do they not lose the Spirit watching such filth? I can't stand such shows, they spiritually hurt, a lot!

Doctrine and Covenants section 19 verse 18 tells us that paying the price for sin caused the Savior of the world so much pain that blood actually came out of every pore of his body. Can we even comprehend such pain as that? I don't think we can. And those people who are not repentant will also have to go through such pain until they have paid the price for everything wrong thing they have done. I shudder to think of such a fate and pray everyday that God will continue to change my nature and help me no longer even desire to do evil anymore.

Such is the wonderful gift we have been given is we choose to avail ourselves of it. However, only those who truly wish to live as God does will be able to receive the greatest gift of all, eternal life. And there are very, very few people who live as God does. It really blows my mind how people can not understand, I mean REALLY not understand what type of being God is. He's told us already for crying out loud! That's what the 10 commandments are, they are attributes of God, and yet people who are supposedly "saved" don't live them!!! How many people in this day and age in America at least, keep the Sabbath day holy? How many people in America don't covet? Please, don't make me laugh. How many people who are "saved" commit adultery? It's disgusting how horrible we are as a people and how dense people can be.

I digress. Another part of this chapter which is neat, is the first step in conversion that Zeezrom takes. This is where he turns from trying to destroy Alma and Amulek to actually trying to understand. It's actually heart warming to see, at least for me. It reminds me of being a missionary and seeing people take those steps that lead to Christ and watching them change. It truly is wonderful. Until tomorrow.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Resurrection

Today I read Alma 11, which any missionary who taught investigators from the old discussions will recognize as the scripture from the 2nd discussion to help people understand the resurrection. The plan of salvation is truly remarkable and when we understand it, it swallows all fear and doubt.

Truly Paul was inspired to ask "O death, where is they sting?" in 1 Corinthians 15:55. The hurt of death is swallowed up in the glory that is Christ. The pain of loss is banished by the knowledge that you can be with your loved ones forever.

It is very interesting to me that almost everyone believes that in the next life we can be with our loved ones. When I was a missionary, our president asked us to change our tactics when tracting. He asked us to ask people if they believed they could be with their loved ones. At the time I was dubious how well it would work and truthfully I'm not sure we had any more success than with other approaches, but what DID astonish me is everyone said yes, we can! I was floored because this is not what some other religions teach. The follow up question when they would answer yes is, how is it possible. The most common response I got to that question was, I don't know but God is too good not to let me be with my family.

And truly they are right. God is in fact too good to separate us from our loved ones for all eternity, however, God like us is bound by laws and we must do our part. However, as Amulek teaches us in this chapter, the first part of the Atonement, Christ's victory over the grave, is a free gift to all who have received a body. It will come to all of us, male and female, old and young, bond and free. Everyone who has received a body even for a little bit, will be blessed with a body again in the next life. What a wonderful thing that is! I cannot wait to get to the other side and give my grandmother and grandfather another hug!

I often wonder when I am at funerals, who do those left behind weep for? The deceased? Or themselves? I think the answer is a mix. I believe that when someone young dies, they weep for the loss of opportunity for that young person, as well as themselves. When someone older dies, I think we weep for ourselves, for our loss of opportunity for that person's company and companionship. I remember when my maternal grandmother passed away. I was one of the pall bearers and also dedicated her grave site. I remember how lovely the funeral was and how much I cried. I remember the hurt in my heart, like a knife wound. And yet, when it was my turn to go up to the casket and look in one last time, I found the tears dry and my heart full of warmth and happiness and I couldn't cry anymore and I felt a smile cross my face. I was truly comforted by the Spirit and I think even a little bit by my grandmother herself. As soon as I turned away the feeling faded and the hurt came back and the tears renewed themselves. But for that brief moment I was comforted and and I remembered that I would in fact see her again and that the tears were for my loss, not for her.

I still miss my grandmother and wish she could have met my wonderful wife in this life and held my daughter and seen me get married and that I could have given her one last hug and kiss. But that is my loss, things I have to deal with and things that I have to remind myself that are temporal and that because of the sealing power, she will meet my wife, she will hold my daughter and I will get to hug and kiss her again, all because of the love Christ has for each of us and His eternal sacrifice, which we can never, ever repay. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Calling of Amulek

Today I read Alma 10. This is the chapter where Amulek begins his speak to the people of Ammonihah. He tells the people about his history and about how he was called to preach to them repentance. He also reiterates what we talked about yesterday, how the Lord generally will only spare unrighteous cities because of the few righteous in them.

The final part of the chapter is the lawyers and unrighteous people of the city trying to trap Amulek in his words as some lawyers are wont to do. It leads into the next chapter where Zeezrom tries to trick Amulek into denying God for money. However that is tomorrow's post.

I wanted to do an appendage to yesterday's post of Satan's counterfeit to God's plan. I have met many, many people who felt they were called to the ministry to preach God's word. They usually say how they were going through their life when suddenly one day they had an epiphany and felt that they had a higher purpose to perform. This is good, they understand what is taught in Hebrews 5:4, that no one chooses this calling, rather people are called to preach the word of God. The difference between those people and Amulek though is Amulek has the priesthood.

In Alma 14:10 Alma and Amulek are forced to watch the murder of the women and children of the men who believe Alma and Amulek and Amulek is tempted to use the priesthood to save them and stop their suffering. Alma states that he also desires this but God stops him so that at the judgment day the people will have no excuse of their judgment because all these people would testify of their wickedness.

Even though the preachers of this world know that they do not take this honor unto themselves they do not understand the 2nd half of the scripture in Hebrews 5:4, the part that says even as Aaron was. Aaron was called to be a priest in the Old Testament by God through Moses. The first thing Moses did after this was to ordain Aaron to the priesthood and perform sacred ordinances for Aaron. THAT is the difference. To be called as was Aaron is to have the priesthood, ordinances performed and then to go forth and serve God. These men and women who feel compelled to serve God and preach His holy word, are probably actually feeling the Lord direct them towards the truth and to align their lives with His word and THEN they can serve and preach His holy word to others.

Unfortunately though we have allowed Satan to deceive us and now the right ways of God have been perverted. Like so many other things, sacred and holy things, Satan has once again convinced us that his counterfeit is right and God's way is either too hard or the wrong way. He whispers in our ear that authority to act in God's name is not necessary, belief alone is enough. When the scriptures scream otherwise. God is unchanging! He has never hidden from us what must be done. We balk at the challenge and wring our hands and shuffle our feet until Satan whispers an easier way and claim God is ok with it because our lives are going well. What a bunch of hoohaw!

I have never understood people who think that because your life is going well God must be ok with your decisions. Such people do not understand the scriptures. I'm pretty sure Alma's life was acceptable to the Lord, did he have an "easy" life? Don't make me laugh! Nephi sure was righteous, did he suffer? The scriptures CLEARLY state that the Lord will try his people (Mosiah 23:21). I would honestly say if you have no trials at all, that's the time to examine your life and ask yourself, what am I doing wrong?

The Lord loves us and truly all these things are indeed for our benefit. For it's only in our despair and lowest points that most people will turn to God. Unfortunately as soon as they climb out of that pit they immediately forget Him again, like a friend who only comes around when they need something. It is indeed a hard thing to appreciate trials, especially when you are in them, but truly we should be grateful for what we suffer, for it is our trials that bring us closer to God. May we all thank God for the lessons we have learned and who we are today with His help. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Promised Land

Today I read Alma 9, where Alma preaches again to the people of Ammonihah. I always find it so funny that the people who are so against the church and what it stands for, either unwittingly or knowingly use the scriptures to combat the servants of God. In this chapter the people of Ammonihah talk to Alma about the fact that God has only sent one witness to them to declare these things. They are obviously familiar with the methods of God and know that the proper order is to have 2 or more witnesses.

Alma spends the majority of this chapter talking to the people about their iniquities and about the promised land in which they live. He also spends a lot of time talking to them about the Lamanites and the difference between the two peoples. For while it is true that the Lamanites do not live the commandments at this time they are kept in order to stir up the Nephites to repentance and a reminder of their iniquities.

But Alma reminds the people that the conditions of them living in American are that they keep the commandments or else they will be destroyed. I find this chapter particularly applicable in our current day because the rules haven't changed. The Lord has declared that the people who inhabit this land must follow his commandments or face destruction. And I for one am worried because I remember Sodom and Gomorrah and how the only thing that kept them around for so long was the fact that there were some righteous people in them for awhile. And I shudder to think what will happen to the Americas when it's people stop being righteous.

The thing I never really understood is the evils of this world don't ever satisfy. They just leave you empty and do nothing for you. Alcohol and drugs might help you escape your problems for a few moments, but your problems are still waiting for you when you "wake up". Sex with random people never fulfills that yearning to be loved. Living with a significant other never replaces that desire to be married, even homosexual couples have the urge to get married, it's instinctive in all of us because it is right. Violence is the same way, it might make you feel better for a time, but it ultimately does nothing for you. Pornography is fake and no matter how hard one tries cannot be replicated in real life with a woman who respects herself.

All of Satan's evils are a parody of the right ways of the Lord. He is so uninventive that he can't even come up with his own things, he has to take what God has and twist them. Alcohol and drugs are sick parodies of the body's natural ability to get "high" with things like adrenaline or endorphins. Sex of course is meant to be only between spouses who are married and violence is a twisted parody of forgiveness, the only true way to make yourself feel better when someone has wronged you.

What's most sad in my opinion is the amount of people who have bought into these lies. We are a nation of alcoholics. It disgusts me how anytime my wife and I go out to eat together to a place that serves alcohol they immediately assume we will be drinking it. That's disgusting! I could go on and on but there is no need, as Alma tells Korihor who denies the existence of God, the evidence is all around us if we just look. May we be more diligent in keeping the commandments so that we may not be cut off and can set the good example for those around us. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Joy of an Angel

Today I read Alma 8, where Alma goes to preach to the people of Ammonihah the first time. He is cast out by the people and is commanded to return to preach where he meets Amulek. I have often wondered about this chapter because an angel appears to Alma to command him to return and we find that it was in fact the same angel who was sent to call Alma to repentance.

Ever since my mission I have wondered if that angel was excited to be sent to Alma a second time and see that his message was heeded. Was he happy that Alma had turned his life around? I do not believe it is anywhere in the scriptures but it has been said before that there is more joy in a sinner who has repented than in someone who stayed faithful their entire life. I do not know if this is true, but I do know that there is great joy in the truly repentant. I can remember when my older brother returned to activity in the church how happy I was for him and then to watch him grow and progress in the gospel and his testimony was a true joy to my soul!

I really do believe that angel was happy to get that assignment and maybe even requested that he personally be sent to give Alma this new message just so he could see Alma face to face. I may never know for certain if this is the case but I like to think that it is.

The rest of this chapter is very good also. In this chapter Alma meets what will become his partner on many missions, Amulek. I have often found certain scriptures to be oddly written and even down right funny, like Mosiah 12:1 where it says Abinadi came among the people in disguise so they knew him not and then announces who he is! I know, I know, it's very juvenile, but I find it really funny. Well Alma 8 contains another such verse to me, where Alma asks Amulek for something to eat and Amulek's first response is, "I am a Nephite". Yes, I understand that he then goes on to say he recognizes Alma as a prophet because he, Amulek, is a Nephite, however the way it is written always tickles my funny bone.

Until I was a missionary I had always read the 2nd half of this chapter in such a way that Alma went into Amulek's house and rested for a while until it was time. But on my mission I learned that Alma actually spent this time converting Amulek and teaching him the gospel, which only makes sense once you read Alma 10 where Amulek says he had purposely not sought out the things of God until this time even though he had been called many times. We do not know how long Alma spent teaching Amulek but we do know that he was an adept pupil. He learned the gospel so well that when it was time he was able to preach with power and authority.

People have often wondered at the wisdom in sending out 19 year old kids to do missionary work. Having been a missionary I recognize that if you get more than 2 of them together at any given time you realize really quickly that these are just a bunch of 19 - 21 year old kids in most cases. But the Lord can do marvelous things with someone who is properly prepared. I said things that I KNOW came from God and not from me many times on my mission. I have had experiences where I was talking to someone and I think, "What am I going to say to this person to help them understand?" and then knowledge literally flows into my mind. I have definitely had the Spirit help me say things that I would never have thought of on my own and made promises in His name that were fulfilled. When one is properly prepared and living the commandments it is amazing what can be accomplished with the Lord's help.

I used to work with a self professed atheist. One day he and I were talking and he asked me why I believe in God. My answer was immediate and strong that I had seen too much, heard too much and felt too much to doubt the fact that there was in fact a God and He very much cared about us. I could have said just about anything else and I think he would have argued with me, but he just looked me in the eye and smiled and the conversation went on to other things. I have often wondered why people can NOT believe in God. How can they deny the existence of someone more powerful than them with all the world and universe around them as their witness. I think some are blind because they do not wish to see, and that makes me sad.

I hope that we can all treasure the wonderful gift that is our testimony, for it truly is a gift from God. Share it with all the world for it is not something to be locked away and viewed with infrequency. Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Ultimate Comforter

Today I read Alma 7, Alma's talk to the people in the land of Gideon. I like this chapter, as I do most of the chapters in the Book of Mormon. This one stands out to me because it helps me understand the Atonement so much better.

We all know that somehow, someway the Savior suffered for all of our sins and overcame death so that we might also if we will just repent. But we learn in Alma 7:11 that he also suffered every other affliction that mankind can suffer.

It is truly amazing to me that not only did the Savior suffer for our sins, He also suffered every emotion, feeling, pain, sickness, anything a human can feel for us. That is mind boggling! I know people that absolutely hate to be told that someone knows "Exactly how you feel". They hate it because it's not true. No one can know exactly how another person feels. But according to this verse, Jesus does know exactly how we feel at any given moment, because he suffered for it.

I thought suffering for just our sins would be bad enough, but I can't even imagine suffering all human emotions too. Just thinking about all the misery in the world, all the emotional hurts that we suffer on a normal basis, let alone all the evils of the world. Is it any wonder that He bled from every pore? Is it any wonder that He almost balked at the last moment?

Knowing this gives Jacob's sermon in 2 Nephi 9 a whole new meaning! It makes one want to sing out in praises to God all the day long and to be as good as possible so that we don't contribute to His suffering. It really is a sobering thought. But more than that it is a comfort knowing that we can truly turn to Him and He DOES know what we are going through and He can give us that comfort and help us get through the tough times.

He understands and is able to help us if we let Him. Just like when we are mired down by sin we can turn to Him, we can also turn to Him for help when we are having difficulties in anything we do. He is there for us and always willing to listen to us. Prayer should be a comfort and not a burden. We should be able to speak to Him like we do our earthly father or friend. He is waiting to help us if we will just ask. Not turning to Him is as silly really as being given a gift from your best friend but never opening it. This world is hard enough, there is no need to make it harder on ourselves by refusing the best gift we have ever been given. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Purpose of Church pt. 2

Today I read Alma 6 which is a very short chapter but has some good doctrine in it. However the part that stood out to me is in verse 6. It states that the saints were commanded to meet together often to fast and to pray.

I know I recently spoke on the importance and purpose of church but I feel inclined to expound upon what I have already written. I am reminded of a story, most likely a Mormon legend, but one that is truly interesting in it's execution.

The story goes that a bishop went to visit a member of the church that he was responsible for that he had visited many, many times before, and while the member was very nice, he had never come back to church. The member invited the bishop inside and they sat in front of a fire in the fireplace since it was a cold night. The bishop was at a loss of what to say to this brother that he hadn't already said, so the two men sat in silence for a time. Finally the bishop, looking around the room for inspiration saw the fire and saw the coals at the bottom of the fire, how hey were red hot. He grabbed the tongs and without saying a word pulled one coal out of the fire and laid it on the hearth. Predictably, after a moment or two the coal cooled off to he point where it was no longer glowing but was black and smoking slightly. Still without saying anything the bishop grabbed the coal with the tongs and placed it back in the fire where within a moment the coal returned to a bright cherry red. The man then said, "Bishop I understand what you are saying and I will be at church next Sunday." And he did and remained active.

I have no idea if that story is true or not, but it has always stuck with me since the first time I heard it. There are many other stories that I think I could share that would be equally applicable but I really feel strongly that this is the one to record today. Hopefully someone out there will find a use for it! There is a strength that is gained from being a member of a ward or branch that we just don't have on our own. I think everyone at some point in their life goes through a phase where for some reason or another they do not enjoy going to church. It may be because of sin, maybe you are new in the area and don't know anyone so you feel out of place, illness, or any other number of reasons or excuses.

What ever the reason, it really is that important to attend our meetings. I remember being a missionary and one day my companion, who was from Utah, mentioned that he thought the reason our new members fell away from the church is because they had to drive 30 minutes to reach church. Being from Utah he had not experienced this before. However, being from Kentucky myself, I knew several people including my brother's family, who did this "trek" each week. I was actually mad at him for his shallow view of our members at the time, now I just laugh about it. But as I reminded him that day, a true convert of Jesus Christ does not let distance get in the way of attending church meetings. There are countless stories in the Ensign or from missionaries of members, especially in South America, who walk 2 hours one way to attend their meetings each week! Now there is someone converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and who understands the importance of attending our meetings.

There must be something to it, afterall it is a question we are asked to renew our temple recommend every 2 years. I think also part of the importance of going to church is holding a calling. I was taught growing up that you do not refuse a calling for any reason. That they are divinely inspired and we should always serve to the best of our ability. Now there is no harm in speaking with the Bishop or his counselor extending the calling to you to let them know your circumstances, but if after that they still extend the calling, you are to accept it. That is what I was taught and how I live my life.

Callings stretch us and get us out of our comfort zones. I remember one time they were going to replace the Gospel Doctrine teacher and my mother told me she really hopes they will call me because she said that I was a really good teacher. In a moment of inspiration I said, "They won't call me to that calling because it won't stretch me. I won't grow with that calling. It is meant for someone else." And sure enough the next week they sustained a new teacher in Sacrament meeting and it wasn't me. :)

When I first moved down to Huntsville, Alabama it took them over 6 months to give me a calling. I remember being annoyed it took them so long to give me one and that while it was nice to have a "vacation" at church after being the Executive Secretary for over a year, I wanted to get back to serving my brothers and sisters. I mentioned in a previous post how our trials help us to grow and cause us to grow in ways we may not have thought of before. Callings will do the same thing. They will force us to grow and stretch us to the point we think we might break.

But we must have faith in our Heavenly Father that He knows what He is doing. I believe it was Boyd K. Packer who once said that faith is walking a lit path, then coming to a part where there is no light, taking a few steps into the darkness and finding that the way is lit a few more steps ahead of us. Heavenly Father knows that giving us everything we need right off the bat is not a good plan at all. We have ALL seen spoiled children who are given everything they ever ask for and we all know how ill prepared that child is for their later life once they leave mom and dad's house. So are we in our Father's eyes. It would be sheer folly to think that Heavenly Father should only give us good things in this life. What a waste of time! What a pointless exercise this life would be.

However, the Lord also knows how hard this life is for us and so He doesn't want us to go through life alone. That is why we have been given families, and church. Our church family should be important to us and is a great blessing in our life if we allow it to be. How sad it is to see someone turn down a blessing when so much around us is bleak and demanding. Yet that is what we do when we choose not to attend church. We are denying ourselves the change to feel the Spirit as strongly and a chance to bless the lives of others with our testimony. May we all understand what a blessing church meetings are in our life and attend them with happiness and the Spirit. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Mighty Change of Heart

Have you ever have a Thanksgiving feast that was so massive you almost felt full just from looking at it? And then as you set to eating with gusto, to your disappointment you realize that you are getting full and you haven't even sampled everything yet? That is how I feel today trying to tackle Alma 5 in just one blog post.

Alma chapter 5 is a true feast of the word of Christ and there is absolutely no way that I can do the chapter justice in just one post. I would need at least 5 to talk about everything that impressed me about it today as I read it.

So I will not even attempt to do that but instead I will focus on verse 14 which talks about a mighty change of heart which is the underlying theme of the rest of the chapter I think. This is not the first time that the Book of Mormon has brought up the concept of a change of heart. Nephi talked about it, as did King Benjamin. A change of heart is a total change of desire, to no longer desire to do that which is wrong in the sight of God. And sadly it is impossible to achieve on our own, we need His help to change us.

Now we can most certainly work towards a change of heart and resist our temptations and do everything we can in our limited power to ignore it and not give in, but the fact of the matter is that there is no way to change our nature so that we no longer even desire to do those things on our own. We don't have that ability. Now I think we do have the ability to change ourselves. I think we can develop habits, patterns and change our mental attitude about things so that eventually one day we wake up and find that we want to be doing whatever it is.

However that changing of the mental attitude I still think is done by God. Just as we cannot change our height, the color of our eyes or hair, we cannot change our nature. My father once told me about an article he read once that said people recovering from pornography addiction generally say that they remain tempted by it for a long, LONG time and it is a daily struggle to resist it. But the longer they do the easier it is to resist and eventually they wake up one day and find that they are no longer tempted by it. If they continue to resist it even then eventually they find they are repulsed by it.

This is just one example of how God helps us in our needs. He will not change our hearts for us overnight except in the most rare of circumstances because we need to learn from it and grow from it. Ether 12:27 states that we are given weaknesses in order to humble us so that we will turn to God. Each one of us has at least one, some of us have many, true weaknesses that we CANNOT get through without God's help, and according to the scriptures that is be design. Now some may decry that such an action is reprehensible, however, man by his/her very nature is an enemy to God and God needs us to turn to Him otherwise we cannot grow. We would be damned, or halted in our progression. Sure we can be a good person and we can grow spiritually, but only to a point. We would reach a definite glass ceiling and not be able to grow any farther on our own.

I could talk about this all day because I have personal experience with it as do a lot of people. Like 90% of the world, I made mistakes as a teenager and a young adult that caused me sore repentance and damaged my spirituality that caused me much heartache and Godly sorrow. I had to work at getting the Spirit back in my life and doing what is right. The thing that made the most difference for me was reading the Book of Mormon on a daily basis. There is power and strength to be found in reading the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon.

I think that is where I will leave this discussion today. Never fall into the trap that repentance is a bad thing. Repentance is a gift from God that allows us to humble ourselves and start over. And as we repent little by little we change and find that one day we wake up a new person spiritually speaking and no more desire to do that thing that used to plague us. We find the Spirit is once again our companion and the world seems a little brighter and we feel God smiling down on us. I will end by saying that we should always follow the promptings of the Spirit no matter what it tells us to do, and we will never be sorry we did. Until tomorrow.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spending his life in Service

Today I read Alma 4. Alma 4 talks about Alma's decision of how to use his time. The first part of the chapter, the people are stirred up to a remembrance of their duty due to the suffering they had received due to the wars they've had.

However, not many years afterwords, the members of the church had become so wicked they were actually teaching those not of the church new ways to sin! They would withhold of their substance and not assist those that stood in need, would mock the humble because of their humility.

Alma seeing all of this was grieved in his heart and made a decision. He decided that it was time to withdraw his service from the judgment seat and instead devote himself totally to preaching the word of God unto his people.

This is yet another type and shadow in the Book of Mormon of the Savior himself. The Savior also in life had a profession that He worked at until He was 30 years old. Once He reached that age, He stopped His professional work and began to labor and call the people to repentance.

I remember as a missionary how much I enjoyed the work of spreading the gospel. I also remember how hard it was though. I remember catching the vision and feeling like John the Beloved before me that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I also remember how tired I was at the end of the two years. I remember being so drained, physically, emotionally and even spiritually. It was exhausting to feel the spirit that strongly all the time. I remember a story I heard about Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon after they received Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants Sidney was so tired he didn't move. Joseph Smith after his First Vision collapsed unconscious for a time, as did Moses. Spiritual experiences drain you physically.

Alma is making a great sacrifice for his people with his life in this chapter. He is giving up his old life to spend the remainder of his days in service to his people, and to God. We all need to find similar ways to serve our fellow man and devote our lives to God as much as we can. We can be instruments in His hands if we so desire. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Curse of God

Today I read Alma 3. Mormon spends most of this chapter actually talking about the curse of the Lamanites and all those who fight against God and against the Nephites. He mentions that the people were marked with a marking so that the Nephites would know who had the curse upon them so that they would not mix with that people.

The mark and the curse itself gets confused by people I think, I know I was confused as a child and did not understand the truth of the matter until I was a teenager. The curse that the Lord inflicts upon them is they are not allowed to have the Priesthood. The same curse Ham, the son of Noah and whose descendants founded Egypt, was cursed with. The mark of the curse to distinguish them from others, is dark skin.

From what we have read in the Book of Mormon and in the Bible, those without the curse are white skinned people and those who have the curse are dark skinned people so that there would be no mistake about who was afflicted with the curse and who was not.

Now the question begs being asked, why is denial of the Priesthood such a bad thing? To understand that, you must first know why having the Priesthood is such a blessing. I could just state that without the Priesthood it is impossible to return to live with our Heavenly Father and that would be sufficient. However, there is more that can be expounded upon.

Without the Priesthood, we do not have the proper authority to perform the ordinances of salvation. Temple blessings, baptism, even the ordinance of the sacrament cannot be performed without the Priesthood. So, in essence, denying a people the priesthood of God is in fact denying them salvation itself! That is why the curse of God is so potent.

In our day, all worthy males are eligible to hold the Priesthood and exercise it in accordance with revealed and correct principles. However, we can negate our Priesthood by our own actions as laid forth in the Doctrine and Covenants section 121. We must each of us be worthy to hold and use the Priesthood if we are male, and support those who do hold it if we are female. May we each be worthy of the Priesthood blessings in our lives and the saving ordinances that accompany it. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Destruction of Liberty

Today I read Alma 2. This is the story of where Amlici desires to be made a king over the people of Nephi. I have already spoken somewhat concerning those that desire power and the fact that such power is given only by those people who are subjected by it, either consciously or subconsciously.

I find it interesting however, that such people in the Book of Mormon only desire that kind of power in order to destroy the liberty of the people and to destroy the church of God. It begs the question what about the church do people find so threatening to their power base? Why is it that the first thing those people want to do is to destroy the church?

I honestly think it's because people in power find it easier to control those people who don't think for themselves. Think about all the tyrants of ages past, they burned all the books and lashed out at the intellectuals, because they are a threat to their base of power. Most Communist countries are also extremely quick to denounce God and religion. Because such things undermine their rule.

I believe it was the same for the Nephites. People who desired power desired to destroy the church as a means to stay in control. Also, as Gideon had evidenced in Alma 1, people in the church are more prone to stand up for what is right and speak out, a dangerous thing for people who have no love for truth. May we all stand up for what is right in our own sphere of influence. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Today I moved into the book of Alma by reading Alma 1. In this chapter Nehor starts spreading priestcraft, kills Gideon and is put to death. Alma mentions in this chapter that if priestcraft were to spread to his people it would bring about their entire destruction. And he's right!

Priestcraft does eventually bring about the destruction of the Nephites. But to understand that you have to understand what priestcraft is. Priestcraft is the teaching of doctrine for the sake of money, especially false doctrines. We see this a lot in today's world.

The problem with priestcraft is the desire, the reason for doing the preaching is not pure. You are doing it for money and not out of concern for the well being of the person in question. What's worse, if you get caught in the trap of taking money for preaching, you may find yourself only preaching what those paying you wish, and the doctrine can change to suit the needs of the people being preached to.

The doctrine should never change to meet the needs of the people, the people should change to meet the demands of the doctrine. The true doctrine of Christ is necessary for salvation and understanding the nature of God so we can grow to be like him. Just like all of us, God is bound by laws and He is unable to change those immutable laws anymore than a human can fly without assistance. That is the danger in changing doctrine and why if someone teaches false doctrine I believe that God will hold that person responsible for the salvation of those who might have been saved if not for them.

This one man, Nehor, actually set events in motion which would eventually lead to the downfall of the Nephite civilization. It really is amazing the power one single person can have. Just think how history would change if certain people had not been born or present for certain events. Where would the United States be today if George Washington had not been born? Where would the world be if Winston Churchhill had not bee born? What if Albert Einstein had died as an infant? We can of course never know the answer to these questions but all would agree that these 3 men I just named helped change the course of history for the entire world. So too can one man change the world for the worse, Adolf Hitler immediately comes to mind.

May we all choose to be agents for good in this life and choose to follow the path our Heavenly Father desires for us to follow. May we be that one person who changes our immediate world for the better, or maybe even affects the entire world for the better. Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Voice of the People

Today I read Mosiah 29, the final chapter of Mosiah. This chapter is a wonderful treatise of why it is a bad idea to have a king. Mosiah reminds them of how bad life had been under King Noah and suggests to them instead that they use judges to keep the law.

Verse 26 and 27 are particularly interesting given what is happening in our day and age. Verse 26 says that it is not common for the voice of the people to desire that which is wrong, but rather the minority of people will desire that which is unrighteous.

Interestingly enough, we are seeing that in our country. Our country is actually not plagued by a majority of people doing or wanting that which is wrong, we are plagued with the majority of the people being apathetic! Almost every poll I see shows me a majority of the people believe in God, are Christian, do not want to authorize homosexual marriage, etc, it's just a matter of getting those people to speak up!

We are not yet ripe in iniquity like it says in verse 27, but rather we are still in the stage where the majority of the people desire that which is right. Sadly, we have people who do not desire to vote and have their voice be heard but just want to complain about it instead. I don't like to listen to people complain if they don't vote. I feel they have given up their right to complain when they gave up their chance to vote.

That's when I usually get very misplaced self-righteous anger at how voting doesn't work, it doesn't change anything, etc. Spare me! If you are not willing to change yourself and try and do something that is helpful and make your voice heard by voting, I have no time for you. I cannot abide selfish people and people convinced of their own self importance. It drives me crazy.

I digress. I have always found it interesting that the system used by the ancient Israelites and Nephites are the same system, judges. Samuel in the Old Testament did the same thing King Mosiah did, he explained to the Israelites just why they did not need a king and why judges were better for them. But the Israelites would not listen. They wanted to be like everyone else. I don't understand that. What's so great about being "just like everyone else" that drives people to do the most idiotic things? Isn't it better to be your own person?

I think the system is one to gauge one's own righteousness by too. Everyone has in them the capacity for good or for evil. I think most people the good in them outweighs the bad. But in criminals the bad has started to win more often than the good has. Everyone knows people like this or has read the stories where a criminal was a nice neighbor, or was good to their mother, etc. Evil people are capable of good acts too, just like good people can commit atrocities. The question is which happens more often? I hope and pray that all of us can be good people and minimize the amount of evil acts we do. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

True Conversion

Today I read Mosiah 28. This chapter is where the sons of King Mosiah choose to go preach unto the Lamanites, a people who at this point were more prone to kill a Nephite on sight as much as talk to them. One can only imagine what King Mosiah must have been thinking when his sons asked his permission. I can only campare it to if your child came to get permission to go preach to the extremist Islamic peoples.

The sons of Mosiah though had become truly converted. In an earlier post I talked about what it means to be truly converted. When one is truly converted they become concerned with the welfare of those around them, even the people who are traditionally their enemies. As Mormon mentions the sons of Mosiah were the very vilest of sinners, committing diverse sins and generally not caring at all about their fellow man.

But that is what the repentance process does. When you have true godly sorrow, where you are more concerned with how God views you than you are with how man sees you, it allows you to change. And truly they were concerned with how God views them because in this chapter it says the thought of anyone suffering the type of pain they had left them horror struck. Even their enemies, they could not bear to see them leave this life unprepared.

And truly the Spirit can change you to make you view everyone as a child of God and not in terms of friends and enemies. I have never understood why people "hate" certain people. I have met very few people in my life that I just could not get along with given enough time. There were definitely people I have met that I didn't really like or enjoy being around them, but it was honestly because they drove away the Spirit.

People are natrually drawn to the type of person that they are. Oddly enough though, I have found that people of all walks of life are drawn to me. I think that is because I am so accepting and not judging of people. Most people I find are very standoffish and I have tried really hard in my life to not be that way, but rather to be like I think the Savior is. Or rather what I envision the Savior to be like. I want to leave people better than I found them, better because they have known me. Because I feel that is how the Savior would want me to live my life. I think if we had more people who were concerned with making other people better, then the world would be a better place. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The True Order of Repentance

Today I read Mosiah 27. This is one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon. In this chapter Alma and the sons of Mosiah see an angel and are converted to the true knowledge of their Redeemer. I find it incredibly fascinating that the angel appearing unto was not because the Lord knew they would repent and become powerful tools in His hands, but rather the angel was sent as an answer to prayer by Alma's father.

The reason I love this chapter, is that it gives me hope. In the very next chapter Mormon tells us that these 5 men were the very vilest of sinners. We are led to believe that Alma the Younger committed every sin in the book except for murder and denying the Holy Ghost. And at the end of his life he was translated! That gives me incredible hope for myself, because I am not the best person on this planet. I struggle daily against my own nature, the natural man, so that I can align my desires more in tune with what Heavenly Father wants so that I will desire it also.

In the next chapter Mormon also tells us that the Lord promised the sons of Mosiah eternal life. So not only was Alma spared so were the sons of Mosiah. Now, the I think the key to why they were promised the ultimate reward is how they spent the rest of their lives. It says that they spent it in service to God trying to repair the wrongs that they had caused.

I labeled this post the true order of repentance because I think people have a real askew attitude towards repentance. They tend to only do a part of what is necessary. For example, some religions only focus on the confession part and totally leave out the restitution and forsaking part. I believe they include the sorrow, at least some of them, else why would they confess at all? Many, many people in my religion confess, sorrow and do their best to forsake but do not make restitution.

The sons of Mosiah and Alma spent the rest of their lives making restitution for the mistakes that they made. They spent their lives in service to God. As should we. The saying goes that the punishment should fit the crime. I believe that is a misnomer based upon the true system of restitution. Some instances are easy enough to restore. If you stole something you must give it back. If you hit someone, you must say your sorry and I believe pay for their medical expenses.

However somethings are harder to restore. How does a spouse restore infidelity? I believe by living a life of absolute fidelity to their spouse from that moment on. By becoming a champion of chastity and turning their life over to God to help them change their very nature. The only way to give restitution for a murder is to give your life over to God. Only God can forgive someone for willful murder. There is some theories though that literally giving up your life helps with the repentance process, that is why the death penalty was instituted in the first place I think.

The final piece of repentance is of course forsaking. This is the part that is hardest of all. To truly change ones nature and to overcome the temptation to stay as you are and do what you find pleasure in. That is where one needs the healing power of the Atonement and help from God in changing ones very nature so that the thing becomes distasteful and repugnant. Just like the sons of Mosiah it filled their soul with horror to think that anyone might suffer as they did. They could not even abide the thought. That is the true reason why they spent the remainder of their lives in service to God preaching the word. They were truly converted. May we all truly repent of our sins and day by day grow closer to our Father in Heaven. Until tomorrow.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Troubled in Spirit

Today I read Mosiah 26. The main part of this chapter is Alma receiving revelation from the Lord on what to do with those members of the church that commit sin. The phrase that has always stood out to me in this chapter is when it says Alma's spirit was troubled.

For a long time I had always wondered what that phrase meant. In the summer of 2004, I found out. That year, I had graduated from college a few months prior and the summer was coming to a close and I was trying to find out what to do with my life. I had an opportunity to go live in China for a year teaching English, working at a local fast food restaurant as a manager, or waiting to hear back from the NSA to see if I was going to work for the government.

I remember very clearly how I felt that year. I was, troubled is indeed the best way to put it. I did not know what I should do. Always up to this point in my life I had a clear cut direction in which to proceed in my life. This was the first time I felt Heavenly Father was leaving it up to me to decide. I weighed my options and every time I prayed I felt nothing.

I began to panic. I had never just NOT gotten an answer from the Lord before. Never. I was worried. I started to lose sleep. I started not eating very much. I studied the scriptures often, but to no avail. My spirit was indeed troubled. I was worried that I was going to make the right choice and that I was going to offend God in the process. I actually made myself sick at one point. If you have never felt that way before it is almost impossible to understand. I have tried to explain it to people before and they never seem to fully get it.

Finally I sought a blessing and was told that I could choose my own path and that it would all be ok. I was told that I could go to China and it would be fun, but it was not the best use of my time. Have you ever been told that by God? Has anyone ever said after hearing that, "Well ok then I'm going to do it!"? Honestly? Really? LOL. I can laugh about it now, but at the time I could not help but think, why can't you just say No, don't go to China? LOL.

Needless to say, I did not go to China. I ended up getting an apartment and bunking up with 2 roommates that helped change my life as I did theirs. I met my best friend during that year I would have been in China. I do not know where I would be today if I had gone. But I do know where I am today because I didn't go. I have a beautiful wife who I love with all of my heart who is 36 weeks pregnant with our first child. I have a testimony of the Gospel and love my Heavenly Father and have a career that I enjoy. Life is truly good.

For those of you that have never been troubled in spirit, I sincerely hope you never have to go through that. But know that when you are trouble in spirit, turn to the Lord and LISTEN to what He tells you. I'm sure glad I listened to what He had to say to me. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Purpose of Church

Today I read Mosiah 25. This chapter talks about the conversion of the people of Limhi and the forming of churches throughout the land. I find it interesting that one of the first things people want when they feel the spirit is to go to church and be surrounded by other saints. And one of the first things they want when they lose that spirit is to stop going to church.

I have met far more people in my life that hated going to church or did not understand why people "have" to go to church in my life than I have people who like to attend church. They don't understand that when someone is truly converted they actually enjoy their church meetings. It is a change to feel the spirit and to hear the good word of God, among other things.

I'm reminded of a story that my brother told me when he was first getting active again in our church. A friend wanted him to go do something on a Sunday and my brother replied he couldn't because he had church that day. The friend then replied that surely he could miss one week and no one would miss him. My brother replied by telling his friend that he didn't understand, he WANTED to attend church and HE would miss church if he didn't go.

Going to church should not be a chore. It should not be distasteful. It should be a highlight of the week. It should be viewed as an opportunity to feel the spirit and grow our testimony of the gospel. This will happen when like Nephi, our heart delights in the scriptures and we desire to do good continually. May we all view our church meetings as a delight and not as a chore. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Culture of God

Today I read Mosiah 24. Many things strike me about this chapter but one thing that really stands out and I have thought about many times in the past is the culture of the Lamanites versus the culture of the Nephites.

My wife would describe me as someone who views the world as one big social experiment I think. I am constantly making observations about peoples behaviors. One thing that I started noticing years and years ago which will come as no surprise to most people if you think about it, is that certain aspects of certain cultures cultivate the Spirit, and others cause it to flee, and a other aspects cause it to disappear so quickly that it can cause physical pain.

For example there are pieces of music by many people, most especially classical music such as Handel's "Messiah" or Bach's "Air on a G String" or countless other pieces that bring in the Spirit. However, as music has "progressed" throughout the years it has been a reflection of the culture that produces it. As each generation of the 20th century has come, with it has come music that has moved further and further away from the type of music our Father in Heaven would approve of.

Take rap music for example. I can think of few other examples of music that can drive away the Spirit quicker than rap music does. To say it is uninspired is to say that water is wet. The source for lyrics of most rap music is about as far from in line with the teachings of the church as you can get. Talking about killing people, promiscuity, shooting people, etc. It literally sickens me and hurts my spirit every time I hear it. Heavy metal is not much better, Rock and Roll only a little better than that, etc.

Other forms of culture are the same. As time goes on our standards slip a little further. Movies are another example. Today a movie can be given a PG - 13 rating that would have been given an R rating 20 years ago. And the sad thing is that the ratings are given by a committee of parents! That is why the brethren of the church have said to choose wholesome entertainment because you cannot rely on a PG - 13 movie as being appropriate just because it is not rated R.

Language is something I think everyone would agree with. Everyone has had an experience of someone judging them based on how they conducted themselves in a verbal exchange. The way we speak will cause someone to treat us with respect, or like something they scraped off the bottom of their shoe. And I don't even mean swear words. People make an instant judgment of people the moment they hear the other person speak. It is impossible not to. And as the brethren of the church have taught us, it is fine to make judgments about people so that we can surround ourselves with those people who will uplift us.

In Mosiah 24, we learn that the Lamanites were not able to write until they met the people of Amulon an to say they had an actual culture would be a bit of an overstatement I think. I would also think they did not make much music and their interactions are very similar to those people in our day and age that you can feel in your spirit you don't want to be around. It's very difficult sometimes to be a righteous individual because I think people get drawn to your inner spirit, your innate goodness. But if you gain nothing from a relationship and it can be potentially damaging, you have to cut them out of your life, just like you would remove a spoiled apple from a barrel of other apples.

I feel like I have gone very far afield and could literally write for hours and cite countless examples of this, but nonetheless, it is necessary to understand so that we can understand God's nature and grow to be more like Him and choose appropriate forms of entertainment and social interactions so that we can have His Spirit around us. May we all follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost as we choose what to watch, listen to, write, draw and speak. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

Today I read Mosiah 23. I like this chapter because it answers the age old question of why bad things happen to good people. There really should not even be a question about it, but people do. It seems at least once or twice a year I hear someone bear their testimony about how things all went sour and they just couldn't understand it because they had tried so hard to do what is right. It makes me sick!

Verse 21 has the answer. It says that the Lord seeth fit to chasten His people and He trieth their patience and faith. I don't know how much clearer I can be when I say, the Lord doesn't need to learn anything about us. He already knows exactly how we are going to react to any given situation at any given time. Remember, all time is before Him. He doesn't view time the same way we do.

Whenever we are tempted with something or given a hard trial, it is always so that we can learn something about ourselves. Take Abraham for instance. The Lord already knew Abraham would sacrifice Isaac because the Lord asked him too. But Abraham didn't know that. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if we went through this life with no trials, this entire life would have been a waste. We would not grow, we would not progress, there would be no point!

Bad things happen to good people so the good people can become better people. Plain and simple. The key is to not focus on the fact that you went through a rough spot but rather to focus on what you learned out of it. My wife is always getting on me about not giving myself enough credit because I'm always talking about my lack of trials and how easy my life is. She doesn't like that I glaze over the trials I've had in my life and only focus on what I've learned from them. She likes to see credit given where credit is due. I love her for that. I also though don't see a need to change and to focus on my trials. It's enough to know that I have had some doosies, that were hard for me anyway, and that forced me to grow. But that's all behind me now.

Anyway, as I said, the Lord needs us to grow and change for the better, and sadly the only way most of us can do that is through trials and tests. We can't grow and change if WE don't want to. We have to want His help and He won't always give it right away. I finally got an answer to a prayer that I have been praying for, in earnest almost DAILY, for the past 9 and a half years! I've never wanted anything more than this in my life and it just now got answered. It takes patience, just like we will learn tomorrow when we read Mosiah 24 that when the people of Alma prayed for deliverance from their trial the Lord did not do it right away.

The Lord DOES work in mysterious ways, but always for our benefit. Until tomorrow.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Pride Cycle

Today I read Mosiah 22. In this chapter the people of Limhi are liberated from bondage to the Lamanites after several years of virtual enslavement. This chapter always reminds me of the pride cycle.

The pride cycle is one we see over and over again in the Book of Mormon and one we see in ourselves if we are honest with ourselves. Essentially it can start anywhere but it typically starts with the people being blessed with peace and prosperity for too long. They are blessed with too much wealth and nothing to remind them of the Lord their God.

This is followed by an increase in pride. They cease to take care of the poor among them and mock the humble because of their humility. They start to do all the things people do when full of pride including not following the commandments of God. The Lord sends prophets to remind them of their covenants and foretell what will happen if things are left unchecked.

This is then followed by some form of calamity where the Lord steps in and compels the people to be humble. This can be in any number of forms, usually for the Nephites though it is war of some kind followed by bondage. The people have something so terrible happen to them that they are forced to lower themselves to the dust of the earth and plead with the Lord for deliverance. Sadly, the Lord is slow to hear their cries, not out of a lack of love, but rather it is love that compels Him to not rescue His people right away. If He were to reach out His hand and smite their enemies, His people would learn nothing.

I find it interesting that more often than not, He will help His people right away, just not in ways they think of. For example, if a people are enslaved and forced to carry heavy burdens, more often than not instead of liberating them, He makes the people stronger so it's not so much of a task to carry the heavy thing. I've always tried to make sure that when things happen to me, especially bad things that I try and learn whatever I can from them to ensure that I don't have to repeat the experience.

Finally, after the people have humbled themselves sufficiently before Him, the Lord delivers His people from the bondage or the destruction that has been brought upon them and they begin again to have peace and prosperity. Sometimes I really do think that people have the memory of a goldfish. I do not understand why people fall into the pride cycle. And yet I find myself there just as often as I see others there. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, so the saying goes.

It is quite challenging to do that which is right at all times. I have a collection of several biographies of the modern day prophets. I am trying to get at least one per modern day prophet. It is a great comfort to read these books and realize that they were not born prophets. They had to learn line upon line just like we do. They made mistakes and had their challenges just like we all do. It gives me hope for myself. Until tomorrow.