Monday, January 31, 2011

The Call to Serve

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 36, which is about missionary work. It honestly made me think of the January first presidency message and my Home Teaching visit that I had last night with one of my families. The first presidency message, or home teaching message as it is sometimes called, was on missionaries and how the Lord needs missionaries.

I learned something last night during my visit. The father taught his family something while I was there that I had not known before. He pointed out that the Savior when He was on the earth, when He taught the Lord's prayer, taught that the very first thing He taught them to say, "thy kingdom come" means to establish Zion. This part I already knew. But I had never thought of it as pertaining to missionary work until last night. My wife actually went with me last night since my companion was not able to go, and when I mentioned that to her that I had never thought of it that way before, she mentioned she had been taught it years ago so I guess I was the oddball there.

Missionary work was so important back then when the Savior was on the earth, and not so long ago when the church was first reorganized here, that missionaries were only sent out with the clothing on their backs. No food, no preparation, no money at all. Just sent out with the promise that the Lord would provide. In this day and age we of course have things a bit more organized and do not just call random people during General Conference, although that would be pretty neat, could you imagine that? I know I would faint if I were the one called, it would be kind of like the Lord's draft! :)

Even in this scripture it says that every elder who will embrace it will be ordained and sent forth. In this day and age we know that every young man who is a member of the church is called to serve a mission. Some do not accept the call either because of worthiness issues or because of "other" pursuits. But as President Monson and other prophets, and even the Lord has said, it is a Priesthood duty to serve a full time mission and there should be no debate among worthy young Latter-day Saint men. The time to serve a mission is when the Lord has declared it is time, not you. For all those that are wondering if a mission is right for them, the answer is a resounding YES. I don't remember his name, but one of the members of the Quorum of the Seventy in last October's general conference stated that it is contrary to the order of heaven for God to repeat what He has already spoken to the many to the one, or the few. God has already answered every young man's question of is a mission right for them by having his prophets declare that EVERY worthy young man is called to serve! It should not be a question or a debate.

I could say more, but it has already been said before so this will suffice. I do want to close with what everyone else has already said before me and will continue to say long after I am gone. It is the most worthwhile thing you will ever do and will be the best 2 years, or 18 months, of your life, guaranteed. No one I have ever talked to, who really dedicated them to the work mind you, has ever regretted even for a second serving a mission. You won't either if you put God's will ahead of your own, I can promise you that. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 35 which was given to Sidney Rigdon. Sidney Rigdon had been a preacher before hearing the gospel and becoming converted and the Lord makes reference to it when He says that Sidney had baptized those that came unto him, but he had never given the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Once, Joseph was asked what is the one thing that sets us apart from other religions. His answer was the gift of the Holy Ghost. All religions have the scriptures, while it is true we have the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, every other religion out there has the scriptures of some sort or another. All other religions believe they can commune with God and some of them even feel He answers back so revelation is not unique either. However, none other religion, at the time, claimed to have a member of the Godhead as a constant companion throughout this life. It is truly what sets us apart.

It's so important that when Paul, in ancient days came across those who had been baptized and heard that they had not received the gift of the Holy Ghost, he re-baptized them and gave them the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is the most special gift a person can receive, and once you become accustomed to His presence, if you do something to make Him leave, you will feel it. And if you really drive Him away too long it can take even longer to invite Him back into your life. But just as Heavenly Father will forgive us our trespasses, so too will the Holy Ghost trust us again and eventually come back into our lives if we will clean up our act and make ourselves a worthy receptacle of His presence.

The rest of the section deals with the condition of the world at that time, like a lot of sections in the Doctrine and Covenants. I really liked the part of the section where the Lord said that none do good except those who are ready to receive His gospel. That's kind of the same situation we have today. The only people who consistently do what is good and right are those who desire to serve God. It kind of goes back to our discussion a few days ago of why do people do that which is good and right? There really are those that desire the things of God.

Have you ever had a moment where you saw/heard something that just made you so uncomfortable and ill at ease that you just had to do something to change the situation? I sometimes get that way and makes me sad is almost every time it happens I look around and there are literally hundreds if not thousands around me having the time of their lives. It makes me feel like I don't belong here, in this society, on this world. I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences before. That is because you are one of those who are accepting of His gospel and are one of those who desire to do good because it is who you are. That is why the Holy Ghost is your constant companion, or can be your constant companion at any rate. As we strive to do what is right and good in this life we will stand out but that is not a bad thing. It is a great thing to be different when everyone around you is not doing what God would have you do.

Stand tall, remember the scriptures that a city on a hill cannot be hid, nor is it meant to. We are meant to stand out and be witnesses of God at all times and in all places. Remember your baptismal covenants. Be that witness at all times and you will enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost at all times, which is truly a wonderful thing. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Darkness Comprehendeth it Not

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 34, a section given to Orson Pratt, Parley P. Pratt's brother, after his conversion. It is pretty typical of most of the revelations that were given at that time to the various members and not very unique. However, verse 2 really stood out to me, "The light and the life of the world, a light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not;"

I was really struck by that phrase, the darkness comprehendeth it not. It is so telling, I am reminded of the fall of man. Satan came and tempted Adam with the fruit of the forbidden tree hoping to thwart the plans of Heavenly Father because he knew not the mind of God. Satan does not think like Heavenly Father does, that should be pretty self evident since he wanted to totally change the plan of our Heavenly Father right from the start and wanted the glory for himself, however I think we oftentimes forget just how different the Lord and Satan are.

Satan does not have a body, has never had a body and it is the belief of many church leaders and prominent members, such as Hugh Nibley, and myself, that most of Satan's knowledge about how to tempt us, came from Cain and his other early followers. I mean have you ever stopped to think about it? Satan has never had a body, so how in the world does he know to tempt you so perfectly when it comes to sex, or liquor or anger, or whatever your weakness is? One could state that it's been at least 6000 years and anyone can get good with enough practice, but I do not think that is all there is to it.

However, the good qualities of mankind, sacrifice for a child, service, love, and many others, are foreign concepts to him and his angels. They know only hate and misery. Have you ever met someone like that? Someone that just didn't seem to understand why people sacrifice or what true joy at little things is? I have met a couple of them. I've also met many more people that seemed lost in darkness and didn't even know it because the good things in the world were hid from them. People that when confronted with someone like me who is always happy and smiling and joking around, it confuses them. My first job was at a local Burger King in my hometown. I worked there almost 3 years before my mission and I remember there was one person, a kid like me, that I did not know very well that one day came up to me after he had worked there I think a month or so, and asked me how I could be so happy all the time. Now, I was young and naive enough not to recognize the wonderful gospel opportunity in front of me and I gave a very inexperienced answer which seemed to satisfy him, but as I look back on my memory, which of course was over 15 years ago so who knows how accurate it is, I remember him looking very sad and he kept to himself a lot. I really wish I could have been a better friend to him. Regrets of days gone by.

But it's people like that that make me realize there are people with a shroud of darkness over their minds that need help recognizing the truth when they find it, because they don't understand it. They know it is something unique and want it, but it is only on a primal level and they don't understand why they want it. It is sad really but those people can easily be brought into the light as the metaphor goes. It's the people that have squelched the light inside of them that REALLY don't understand why selfless people do what they do. People who follow the tenets of Satan even if they don't realize it. What we can do is prepare ourselves for the inevitable questions that such a life as ours will bring and answer appropriately unlike I did so long ago. As we prepare ourselves, God will place people in our path that we are uniquely suited to help. And few things in life can match the joy of truly helping someone change their life for the better. It's one of the best feelings you can have in this life! Until tomorrow.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Why are People Good?

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 33, which is a section given to a couple of brethren and it honestly feels a little hodgepodge to me. I am quite positive it is what those 2 men needed to hear, no doubt about it. However, reading it in this day and age it almost seems strange the commandments they are given in this section and the things the Lord tells them.

One thing that really stood out to me almost immediately, was verse 4 where the Lord tells them that the entire earth is corrupted and very few that doeth good and they are confused by priestcraft. If the Lord said that about people in 1830, what must He think of the world and it's people now? I can only imagine. But knowing what I do of American history from 1830, if He is saying that people are all corrupt in that day and age, I can only imagine what He must think about people in our time.

I have often wondered in the past about why people are good or don't break the law or commandments more, and why people do the things they do, especially atheists. I have often felt it is because they are afraid of getting in trouble with what ever authority figure is present, be they police or even the principal if still in school. Now perhaps some people have more faith in people than I do, but I really do wonder what causes people to be good. But people who do not believe in God and do not believe in the 10 commandments, most people are still doing good things, or at least not doing bad things, so what prompts it?

Now, working in the customer service industry perhaps has jaded me. I have seen people do and say the most ridiculous things all in the name of getting something for free. I've seen people eat an entire pizza except for one small bite then complain it was wrong and demand a free one. I've seen people straight up lie about treatments received, all to save a few dollars and it has really jaded me to people being good or not and people's motives for when they are good.

Now being a church member I really do try and think the best about people and despite what I say, I always give people the benefit of the doubt. But even church members, you have to wonder, what re the reasons people keep the commandments? I used to talk with Dad about this and I remember we came up with 3 different reasons for following the commandments and each stage reflected a different level of progression.

The first is following the commandments for fear of punishment. None of us wants to end up in the telestial kingdom so we follow the commandments. We do not wish to be caught being bad by others so we follow the commandments. A spin off to this is we follow the commandments because we are supposed to. That's just what you do.

The second reason people follow the commandments is they want blessings. We follow the law of tithing because we want the windows of heaven to open up and bless us. We follow the word of wisdom because we want physical health and spiritual health. I think lots of members fall into this category even if they don't know it. We all want blessings and like our earthy Father, Heavenly Father wants to bless us too. He wants us to have everything our heart desires, within reason. That is the reason there are blessings a fixed to the commandments in the first place.

The third and final reason people keep the commandment is love for our Father in Heaven. Jesus taught his apostles that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. When we love our Father in Heaven, the commandments no longer become a burden and we live them without thought. For most members born and raised in the church unless it is their weakness, following the word of wisdom is not hard at all and they don't even think about it. We are keeping the commandments because we enjoy it, because we enjoy living the kind of life that our Heavenly Father has. That is our ultimate goal isn't it? To live like He does?

So generally I think most people fall into the fear of punishment category, I really do. However, I also believe well over half of the people in this nation at least would NOT commit a major crime even if they were promised they could get away with it. So perhaps Heavenly Father would be more pleased with this generation than He was in 1830? Perhaps more people are doing good these days? Who really knows? I do know that priestcraft is more prevalent than ever unfortunately. So we need to make sure that we are being good and that we are setting a good example to those around of us of following the commandments because we WANT to. As we strive to be good a example, it will rub off on those around you. I have seen it dozens of times and hope to see it hundreds more. I hope you do also, because it will mean you are being an effective example. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Priesthood Duty of Missionary Work

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 32, which is a revelation given to Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson about whether or not they should go to the Lamanites on a mission. These brethren had caught the Spirit of missionary work and were most anxious to go on a mission to the Lamanites to let the know about their heritage.

Just like the Nephites of old who made the record, these worthy men were worried about the welfare of the Lamanites and wanted to make sure that they knew about the Book of Mormon and the promised made to their fathers on behalf of them. It is interesting to me that the spirit of missionary work was poured out so strongly on those men in the early days of the church. Now, not all of them had the desire to go out and preach like Parley P. Pratt did, most were called to go on missions but to my understanding they all went willingly.

It always baffles me when I hear people, young men I mean, talk about their struggle to determine if a mission is "right for them" or what they should be doing. I always want to shake them and remind them that President Kimball answered that question long ago by saying EVERY worthy young man should serve a mission. In our day, President Monson, just recently, re-commanded every worthy young man by reminding us that it is a priesthood duty. It may sound callous of me, but I honestly want to laugh at these men when they talk about their struggle with it. Now, don't get me wrong, I will freely admit that when it came time for me to serve MY mission, I did not really want to go. If you look at my pictures right before hand, I look like I am heading off to my execution! However, despite my own personal feelings about it, I never once questioned if I should go or not. It was a foregone conclusion that I should go. And luckily enough for me, once I made it to he mission field, I caught on to the spirit of the work and never had a problem with home sickness and had a wonderful mission that I would not trade for anything.

Of course, sisters are not commanded to serve a mission as young men are, but they of course have a place and are wonderful servants of our Heavenly Father. There are people investigating the church that no young man could ever hope to reach, but a sister missionary could melt their heart in a minute. Thank the Lord for sister missionaries!

There's really not much else to say about it, so I will end today's post here but with my testimony that every young man in this church is born with a call to serve waiting for him to grow into it. That is why it is SO important as parents, siblings and friends that we impress upon our young men the importance of staying clean and worthy of it. As our beloved prophet has said, it is a Priesthood duty, and it is up to us to stay true to that duty and make sure that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing so we can answer that call of duty. I leave you to ponder this message. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What might have been

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 31 which is a revelation give to Thomas B. Marsh. Most scriptorians will recall that Thomas B. Marsh actually falls away from the church over 1 pint of cream and his pride but eventually he repents and returns but he lost his reward. If you think about it, that it the ultimate reward of sin is the lost opportunity. All sin can be repented of except for denying the Holy Ghost but what might have happened, what could you have done during the time you repented? That is the true loss.

The Lord even warns Thomas Marsh to pray always lest he enter into temptation and lose his reward. He lost a big reward, or responsibility however you choose to look at it, by his sins. Thomas B. Marsh when he leaves the church was head of the quorum of the twelve Apostles, which we all know means he was next in line to become prophet. But he fell away and it fell to Brigham Young instead. What a lost opportunity!

I once read a quote from one of the general authorities that the Lord will hold us accountable for those we might have saved had we done our duty. I would think that the same is true of if we had not sinned and lost our privilege of going to the temple, or giving a priesthood blessing, etc. Unfortunately there is a point in my life where I was asked by someone I home teach for a blessing and I had to turn them down because I was not worthy. It is one of the few regrets in my life.

One would think that such thoughts and worries would keep people from making mistakes and serious sin. However, that last thing on your mind when you are faced with serious sin is what you have to do tomorrow, or that you won't be worthy to give a blessing the next day. However, one of the ways to resist a temptation that has not yet taken hold of you is to think of all those things and remember your priesthood duties or if you are a woman, your family duties, especially if you are a mother.

Speaking of family, another part of this section that stood out to me is the very beginning where the Lord tells Thomas B. Marsh how he has had afflictions because of his family but one day they will know the truth and join with him. I'll bet there was no sweeter words spoken to Thomas Marsh than those. It must be incredibly hard to not have your family accept your decision to join the church. I have not had to go through that particular trial because my parents are already members, but I can only imagine the heartache that some people have to go through when their parents do not accept their decisions.

It is hard to look at someone's situation and know exactly what they are going through because we do not know the situation and choices that have led up to that point in their life. It is easy to look at a person's situation and say things like you would not have done it that way or you would have stood up to your parents in that situation. Well would you really have if you had gone through exactly what that person had? It is impossible to say and only the Lord can say for certain if you in fact would have. The fact is though that each of us are given the trials that we need to progress and I daresay that if other people were given the same trials as us, it might be a breeze for them to endure them because they have already progressed to the point that they no longer need those trials to continue their progression.

I am personally grateful to have had a family that was accepting of my choices in this life and only butted heads with me on very unimportant things. I am also grateful that most of the missed opportunities because of choices I made in my life were not that many and despite my sins I have always tried to do my Priesthood Duty anyway. And I am especially glad for a wife that pushes me to be better than I currently am and tries to get me to improve and not just accept the status quo and call it good. Because we never stand still. We either improve or regress. And I will tell you this too, you won't improve without making a conscious choice about it. If you don't make the choice, Satan will make it for you and before you know it you will open your eyes and wonder just what in the world happened. It has happened to so many, don't let it happen to you. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Seek the Kingdom of God and Fear not Man

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 30 which was originally 3 sections but were combined by Joseph Smith in 1835 according to the heading on this section. This section was given to the Whitmer brothers and to Peter and John Whitmer Jr the Lord commanded them to proclaim His gospel and seemed generally pleased with their efforts. Not so with David.

The first two verses of this section are a rebuke to David Whitmer for not attending to the things of the Lord like he ought to have. In the first verse the Lord tells David that he has been too concerned with the way the world views him and not enough concerned with the Lord and His errands. This is a very easy trap to fall into for most people. I've even found myself doing it before. For me I think the most often I do it is when I'm called upon to go find less active or inactive members, especially home teaching.

But I should not be concerned with the people I am asked to serve but rather I should be more concerned with fulfilling my Priesthood duties and making sure that I am doing the things the Lord would have me do. I think most everyone can think of times where they were faced with a choice of what was comfortable and what was right and at least once I guarantee that the natural man in each of us won. Even in the prophets you can read of instances where they did not always do what was right. Remember, they were not born prophets and had to learn line upon line and precept upon precept just like the rest of us.

We may not look at it in that way but it is the examples above are most definitely fearing man over God in a BIG way. Anytime we have God telling us to do one thing, including the commandments, and the world telling us another thing and we choose the world's way, that is fearing man instead of God and God is grieved.

Now, I don't remember a lot of my early church history in regards to David Whitmer so verse 2 is a little vague to me. It sounds to me like David was called to preach, or something similar and forsook it in favor of other things. It reminds me of the discussion we had in priesthood meeting this past Sunday. We talked about what it meant to sacrifice and it somehow spiraled out from there to be more about will living the gospel cause you to prosper.

Obviously the answer is if you live a good and righteous life that is no guarantee of an easy life, quite the opposite in most cases it would seem if you were to do the research. You MIGHT be blessed with material wealth if the Lord feels you will you will use that wealth to further His work, but it most certainly does NOT mean that you will not have any trials. One of the brethren in my elders quorum put it perfectly that what we think we need is often times very different from what God knows we need. God will always make sure we have what He knows we need to progress, and sometimes that is very, very uncomfortable experiences so that we can grow.

I've often wondered why some people are given such extremely difficult challenges while I seem to have a really easy life. I do have my challenges just like everyone, but they seem laughable when I am not going through them and I look at the world around me and almost weep at the horrible state of so many children and people who have no way to correct their situation and have to wonder what they need to learn that they would have to go through such horrible experiences in this life.

Knowing God's nature and that nothing is done but for our benefit save in the case of the consequences of sin, but even then it can work for our good if we will let it, I am comforted that they will be better people for it. But if I, a sinner, feel such spiritual pain at seeing these people suffer I can only imagine how God must feel when He looks down at the world and sees such suffering. It makes me realize I have so much farther to go.

I am getting off topic though. I brought this whole subject up because we shared the scripture from Jacob 2:18-19 where it says to seek first the kingdom of God and then if you seek riches to do God's work with, you will obtain riches. But it is important to seek with our whole hearts the things of God's kingdom. We need to make sure that our primary focus is to build up the kingdom in whatever way we can, even if all we can do is raise up righteous children who will not depart from the truth. Not only that, but as we seek for the kingdom of God first, it will be that much easier to fear God instead of man. Kind of funny how those work hand in hand so well isn't it? Almost like God planned it that way. :) Until tomorrow.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Commandments: Temporal vs. Spiritual

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 29. This section mostly deals with the second coming and what to expect but it also mostly a repeat of what the Savior himself tells his apostles what to look for in the book of Matthew. However I had some interesting thoughts about this section as I read it.

As I was reading this section I came across the verse where the Lord talks about man being agents unto themselves. And it says that the Lord allowed the devil to tempt man otherwise mankind could not be agents unto themselves because they could not know the sweet if they did not know the bitter. And then the thought hit me, the Lord had planned on there being a devil all along, which means He knew that one of His children, at least one, would rebel against Him. I suppose that is really a no brainer since all things are present before the Lord, but I had still never thought of it like that.

What must that have been like for him? I can't even imagine what that must feel like. If the Lord, today, were to tell me that I would have a certain number of children, but one of them would rebel against me so completely that he would fight against everything I stand for and he would never repent and come back to me, I'm not sure how I would handle that kind of pain! Could you imagine having that kind of knowledge, wondering at each subsequent child, is this the one? Watching them through the innocence of childhood and looking at those sweet faces knowing one day one of them would turn on you and try and take down his siblings? What kind of pain our Heavenly Father must have felt. It gives me a whole new appreciation for our Heavenly Father that's for sure.

The other part of this section that stood out to me is the part about the Lord not giving us temporal commandments ever but all commandments are spiritual. If you think about it, God is not a temporal being but rather a spiritual being so it makes sense, but then again, it is hard to think in those terms because to us mortals, so many commandments seem temporal in nature such as do not commit adultery. To most people that would be a completely temporal commandment since it has to do with sex. However, the true purpose of that commandment is to be true and faithful to your spouse. And as we have discussed before, if we truly become exalted one day, we will have all things before US which means we better have progressed past the point of lusting after women because nothing will be hid from you anymore and I do mean nothing.

All commandments have a spiritual aspect to them and a temporal aspect. Because we live in a temporal existence it can be challenging to see what the spiritual aspect of the commandment is. Some are easier than others, not having any gods before our God is an easy one. Not stealing is a little harder. But if you really think about these commandments, if nothing else about them, you can know that not obeying them will drive away the Spirit. That is true of every commandment, but most of them go deeper than that I think. Of course, as we have mentioned before, when you realize that the commandments are actually guidelines for how God lives HIS life then it is easy to see how all the commandments are spiritual in nature.

As we strive to align ourselves to His will and ponder on the commandments it will become clear to us what the spiritual aspect of each commandment is and I think it will become just a little bit easier to live those commandments. One thing is clear, we will become closer to our Heavenly Father and that is ALWAYS a good thing and should be our ultimate goal in this life. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Proper Order of Revelation

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 28, which is where the Lord sets forth the proper order of things and who is in charge of receiving revelation for the entire church. It's kind of interesting that so many people, including people like Oliver Cowdery, could be deceived by conflicting revelations. It really makes me feel that those that were deceived were already a little disgruntled and looking, perhaps, for a reason to doubt Joseph Smith.

However perhaps I am being very unfair and it is hard to understand how people would react now that we know the proper order of things and who is able to receive revelations for whom. But it does seem strange to me that if the prophet came out and said something, and then someone else came along and said the Lord had told them something different, I would certainly side with the prophet.

However, as stated, this is a very different time and we know that the prophet is the ultimate authority on receiving revelation for the church and I do not think that hardly anyone would be deceived if someone came along contradicting the prophet in this day and age. But, what if your home teacher claimed to have received revelation, what then? How would you handle that? After all, your home teacher has stewardship over your family, does that entitle him to revelation for your family? It is my understanding that your home teacher can be inspired on your families needs, but as far as receiving revelation for your family, they do not have the authority to receive revelation for what your family should be doing. That is my understanding.

It is my understanding that the only person who can receive revelation for another person is someone who has Priesthood Keys of authority over that other person. Such as the prophet, the apostles, a stake president, a bishop/branch president, or a father. A father does not have keys, however a father is the priesthood authority over the family. Of course a father could not receive revelation for another family but for his own family he is most certainly entitled, and should be, receiving revelation for his family members.

I also like how the Lord had Oliver take Hiram Page aside and tell him that he was not receiving revelation of the Lord but rather from Satan. The Lord could easily have had Joseph Smith do it, but I think Oliver needed to learn something here and so the Lord had Oliver do it. I also think the Lord had Oliver do it because it would have a greater impact. If Joseph Smith had denounced Hiram Page and his revelations, when there was already such dispute of whether or not Joseph was a fallen prophet, I think that would have only fueled the fire. However, if one of Hiram's believers, and one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon's authenticity at that, speak to Hiram and help him understand the error of his ways, I think that would have the required effect.

It is also telling that the Lord wanted Oliver to tell Hiram in private, and not denounce him in front of the entire church and congregation. It reminds me a lot of Doctrine and Covenants section 121 where the Lord tells us to reprove with sharpness but show afterwards an increase of love. I'm not sure it is appropriate to reprove those who have done wrong in public settings. That is why church disciplinary actions are never publicized. We are not in the business of public admission of guilt but rather of true, proper repentance.

It is a pleasure to know that the Lord has a plan and that He wants us all to know the proper order of things and to know the right way we should look for inspiration and guidance from the Lord. As we follow the established pattern we will not be led astray by the craftiness of the devil but will be kept safe. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Sacrament and the Armor of God

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 27 which is the section where the Lord reveals to Joseph Smith that it doesn't matter what is used for the sacrament so long as it is prepared properly and the prayers are said properly. This section has always illustrated to me that the prayers are the most important part of the sacrament, which most Latter-day Saints would most likely agree with who has ever heard a priest stumbling through the prayers 4 maybe even 5 times before getting it right.

I've heard every argument in the book about why wine should be allowed to be used in the sacrament from it more closely resembles blood to it's what the Savior used. But the fact of the matter is, the Savior himself stated that it does not matter what we use, and truly we have members that will use crackers, or juice or any number of things that are available for them. I am personally glad that we don't use wine because I have even heard it used as an argument of why people should be allowed to drink alcohol, because it is what is used in the sacrament therefore it must be ok, etc, etc.

The middle part of this section is really neat to me. The Lord here talks to Joseph about the people He has already sent and those that He will send to Joseph to restore keys. He even mentions which keys are going to be restored by which people. I think it would have been really neat to be Joseph Smith and receive this revelation and know in advance some of the people you were going to get to meet and the keys you were going to receive at their hands.

The last part of the section should be familiar to most from seminary. It is commonly referred to as the armor of God. This phrase and idea is very popular with speakers and people giving talks. For truly like the days of old we need protection from the world and from Satan and his followers. The armor of God is various and each has a purpose and when we take all those pieces together, we become a very worthy disciple of Christ. The pieces the armor represent are: truth, righteousness, preparation of the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and the Lord's Spirit. The blessings each one of these gives us is not listed however we are promised that if we have them all, then we are worthy to stand in His presence and we caught up to where He is.

I must be honest that nothing really stood out to me in this section during my reading or my pondering afterwards hence why this post is more of a review of the section. I invite you all to read the section yourselves, it's only 18 verses, and see what the Lord would have you learn from this section. For me I feel a greater sense to put on the armor of God and stand tall and proud as one of His disciples for the world to see and know that the truth is restored on the earth. For that is what we have all promised Him when we were baptized and what we renew each week when we partake of the sacrament. It's kind of neat how this section flows this way, talking about the sacrament, then ending with a discussion of what we will need to stand as witnesses for Him.

As I said, I invite each of you to read this section with a prayer in your heart and see what the Lord would like for you to learn in this section. I am confident that He will teach you all that you should know and do from these verses. Until tomorrow.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Power of Scripture Study

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 26, a short two verse section with some very good counsel. In this section the doctrine of doing things by consent of the congregation is started. I often wonder just how much of how we do things in this day and age is the same as when the church was on the earth in ancient times. Certain things, like the ages of a deacon, seem quite different. But I like to think that certain others like consent of the congregation is the same as in ancient days.

The first verse, and commandment, has more meaning to us now. In this verse the Lord commands Joseph and Oliver to search the scriptures by way of preparation. This is of course relevant to us as we have in our day and age, been counseled by our prophets to spend at least 30 minutes each day reading the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon.

The reasons are a little different though I think. Joseph and Oliver were commanded to search the scriptures in order to study to prepare to go preaching. Young people attend seminary for the same purpose, to learn the scriptures preparatory to serving a mission. At least that has always been my understanding of it. Older folks, and young folks alike, are counseled to read the scriptures daily because of the protection it provides.

It's really hard to explain to someone who has not experienced it for themselves but reading the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, provides a very real protection from Satan and his temptations. I remember when I was not living the commandments like I should have been, I was also not reading the scriptures. When I decided to get back on the road to behaving like I should have been, yes it was because I met my wife :), the first thing I started doing was reading my scriptures. It was very sporadic though but it helped.

It wasn't until I had been married for over a year that I really made the transition to reading my scriptures every single day and wow what a difference it made in my life! I was able to feel the Spirit more often. I was calmer and got less riled up during the day. Things didn't bother me nearly as much, life was just generally a lot more pleasant. There is a strength in the scriptures and the Book of Mormon in particular, that any Latter-day Saint would be a fool to pass up. Daily, sincere scripture study may feel like a chore to some, but it is a gift from heaven that lets the Spirit flood into your life and should not be passed up by anyone, especially those that struggle. I'm sure there are dozens of stories like mine that some of you could even share. But you all already know all this since this is a blog about reading scriptures so I am sure you all are very good at scripture reading. Stay with it and the Lord will teach you amazing things. That I can promise you and you will never be left alone in your time of need by the Spirit or the Lord. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Let thy soul delight in thy Husband

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 25 which is a revelation given to Emma Smith, Joseph's wife. I am sure most scriptorians out there will be familiar with this chapter where Emma is commanded to create the first hymnal. This section also contains the famous verse that the song of the heart is a prayer unto the Lord.

But the verse and phrase that stood out to me this time was right at the very end of the section. Emma is commanded to let her soul delight in her husband. This really hit home to me today for some reason. As I look around at the world, I have noticed that with the exception of the newly weds of just a few weeks and months, very few people actually delight in their spouse.

We see it all the time on TV, couples who fight non-stop. Couples who nitpick at each other. Couples who nag each other. People like to laugh at it but those stereotypes are built upon a truth. Just like I have never actually met a true to life politician but they are almost always portrayed the exact same way in main stream media so it stands to reason there is a reason for that. So it is with the married couple. Invariably in almost all sitcoms where there is a married couple, at least one of them is going to be portrayed as unhappy.

So if our entertainment is a reflection of our society, and it truly is, why are so many married couples unhappy? Why do 49%, or whatever the number is now, of marriages end in divorce? The obvious answer is selfishness or pride. They are putting themselves ahead of the needs of their spouse. No marriage is ever going to work or be happy for very long if one or both of the partners are selfish. Like any partnership, both parties need to do what's best for all involved. That includes a LOT of sacrifice.

So what does it mean to have one's soul delight in their spouse? Well, to me that indicates that they should be your source of joy. That they should be your best friend, the person you CHOOSE to spend all your time with, not just that you are stuck together. Think of your best friend in the entire world. The person that if you could have your choice you would spend all of your time with. Think how happy you are to see them and how they know you better than anyone else on the planet. If the person you are thinking of is not your spouse, then there is a problem according to this scripture. That is how I see it.

Think about when you leave work to come home at the end of a long, tiring day. Are you excited to go home and see your spouse knowing the he or she will be there for you and listen to you and make you feel better just to see them? Or do you dread going home because you now have to put up with your spouse and noisy kids? If the answer is the latter, then you are not taking delight in your family as you should be. When I come home from work everyday, I am extremely excited to see my wife and daughter, even though my little girl is almost always asleep when I get home. But I know my wife will be so glad to see me and give me a hug and all my cares that I came home with just don't seem quite so important anymore.

Another test to see if you are taking delight in your spouse is how often do you all argue and down right fight? WHAT are you fighting about? My wife and I almost never fight and we only argue a very little and it is usually just a result in some little thing that the other did that annoyed us and the other person is tired or frustrated about something too so it escalates a little bit. I cannot ever remember us fighting about money and cannot imagine why people do. I guess people just go off and spend money without talking about it first with their spouse. My wife keeps the books in our family and even then, with the exception of groceries she always tells me when she is spending money that is outside of bills and groceries. If I spend even a dollar out of our account I check with her first to make sure it won't throw off our budget. I guess it's selfishness that leads to fights about money, because otherwise I don't see how anyone can fight about money. If you feel you don't have enough of it, then go do something about it. Don't yell at your spouse because you feel there is not enough money to do what you want to do after all your needs are met.

Your spouse should be your best friend and closest confidant. They should be the person you call first with good or bad news. Now, just like with other close friends sometimes you need a break from them and so I am not saying you can't have other interests or go out at times without your spouse, but when you do and you are away from them for a period of time, you should miss them and be excited to see them again. I will say this, unless your spouse is doing something really, really wrong, like cheating on you or being abusive or other things along that vein, if you don't delight in your spouse, there is something wrong with you, not them. It's time to take a long hard look at yourself and find out why they are not your best friend and do something about it. After all, wouldn't you rather the person you have to share your home and even bed with be someone you like to be around and enjoy their company? I mean it's just common sense.

Now go tell your spouse you love them and find 1 new thing that you love about them and tell him/her about it! Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I will give it to you in the very moment what you should say

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 24 which was given to Joseph and Oliver when they were in hiding from the persecution they were receiving. Lots of missionaries will remember this section as the section where they are promised to have the Spirit help them and tell them in the very moment the things that they should say.

I actually found something very interesting in this chapter though. It states that Joseph would not be blessed to temporal labors as that was not his calling. It is probably just hindsight since I have the advantage of reading all of this over 170 years later, but it seems to me that the Lord was trying to warn Joseph Smith here against going into enterprise which Joseph later tries a couple of times with disastrous results. Like I said it is most likely the fact that I have hindsight but it sure does spark of having a forewarning for Joseph Smith.

I have often wondered about Joseph's business blunders though. I have often wondered if he did not ask the Lord if it was a good idea or if the Lord wanted Joseph to make the mistakes and learn from them himself or why they happened, because I know many Latter-day Saints in this day and age when making such a huge decision would seek the Lord's approval before going into business or doing something of that nature. We probably won't know and truly in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter.

As I mentioned earlier, the part most people remember from this section is the verse where he Lord promises to give them even in the moment the things they should say. I think most people who have served a mission can tell you moments where they were at a loss of what to say when suddenly they knew exactly what they needed to say. I know I had one. I remember I was speaking to an investigator and he had a concern that the Book of Mormon said Christ was born in Jerusalem when of course he was actually born in Bethlehem. At first I was totally lost in what to say and then it just came to me. I remember telling the man that if he told his friends back in China that he lived in Hacienda Heights, CA would they know where that was? He of course said no. But if he told his friends he lived in Los Angles, CA they would know that right? They certainly would. Well telling his friends he lived in Los Angles would not be a lie because Hacienda Heights is a suburb of Los Angles. Similarly Bethlehem is a suburb of sorts to Jerusalem and the people in the Book of Mormon had no clue where Bethlehem was but they knew Jerusalem. I remember the investigator looked at me and said it all made sense to him now.

That was an answer that I know for a fact did not come from me and my experience was not unique. The Lord cares about His missionaries and the work they do. He does not abandon them. Just as He will not abandon us in our righteous efforts. What is important to us is important to Him as long as it is not against His commandments. He loves us just as our earthly parents love us except even more. He is always there for us and wants us to be successful. Just involve Him in your life and you will never go wrong. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Lord Knows us Individually

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 23, which was given to 5 different men. I found it interesting that while the counsel received was similar, it was all personalized. That is not too terribly surprising however since the Lord knows each of us individually and wants us all to succeed.

I find it really neat that the only one who was told to beware of pride is, to my knowledge, the only one of the 5 men in this section to have fallen away from the church at some point. Oliver Cowdery fell away from the church for a time and it was in fact due to his pride. Of course you could say that all people who fall away from the church is due to pride, in fact all sin is the result of pride if you really think about it.

The others are given similar commandments but yet at the same time slightly different too. The Smiths are all commanded to exhort and build up the church and Joseph Knight is commanded to pray, both vocally and in private. I find that very interesting. Of all the things the Lord could tell a person to do in a revelation, He commands Joseph Knight to pray, both vocally and in private. I wonder why that is what about praying he needed to learn?

Have you ever wondered what the Lord would say to you in a revelation? Well, if you have ever had a priesthood blessing then you know what the Lord would say to you. However, you will find that as you change so too does the Lord's counsel to you. He truly does know each of us individually and wants what is best for us all. He will tell you what you need to know in the moment you need to know it. The Lord can also talk to you through the scriptures. It's not just through blessings or huge manifestations of the Spirit. He can and will also talk to you through the scriptures or whatever medium He needs to in order to speak with you. And that is a comfort to me. I know the Lord will not leave me or abandon me. And that gives great peace of mind. Until tomorrow.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Seek not to counsel your God

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 22, a very short but pointed section. In this section there were those who desired to become members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without being baptized saying they had been baptized already. Anyone who has served a mission has heard this argument before. I remember when I was a missionary my junior companion and I were teaching a man the gospel and he agreed to be baptized if we could show him in the Bible where he needed to be baptized by immersion. We shared with him Romans 6:4 which says that we are buried with Christ through baptism and we talked to him about it asking him if it made sense that we were buried with Christ by sprinkling only. He thought about it for about 30 seconds and then agreed it did not and was baptized a short time later.

The thing most people do not realize when they say they have already been baptized is they are showing off a lack of understanding of the true order of God. When they say such things they do not realize that they are not arguing against me or another person when they say they do not wish to be re-baptized, they are arguing against God. It has always amazed me how many people have bought into the lie that Satan tells about authority to baptize not being important. How can it not be important? Did Jesus seek out one who had authority to baptize? John the Baptist never told Jesus he didn't have the authority to baptize him, he said he had need to be baptized of Him. He told his followers that he was unworthy to unlatch Christ's shoes, but he NEVER said he didn't have the authority.

So if Christ, who was perfect and needed no baptism unto the remission of sins but rather was baptized because it was a commandment of His Father, was baptized, why do people think they don't need to be baptized by the proper authority? I remember another person I taught on my mission just 3 weeks before I came home. He got hung up on authority and who had it and he was under the impression that either all had the authority or no one did. I remember clear as day that when I told him we had the authority to work in God's name and perform baptisms he scoffed and said all Church's claim that. It was a real shock to him when I told him that in fact no they don't. Only the LDS and the Catholic church claim to have authority from God. The others merely state that authority is not important or that their authority comes from the Bible. He too was baptized a little while later.

But the part that kind of makes me shudder a little bit as I read this section is the last verse where God almost rebukes us and tells us to not counsel Him. That is really a slap in the face almost. But if you think about it, what exactly ARE we doing when we say we are the exception? When we think the commandments don't apply to us? Are we not counseling God and telling Him that His word is not true and that His commands are meant for everyone else BUT us? That is exactly what we are doing! I learned a long time ago, as a teenager, that you cannot please everyone, so I stopped trying. Now, as a missionary, I really had no choice and had to correct people on this point and try and help them understand. But as a regular lay person, perhaps it is wrong of me, but I will state the doctrine and quote scriptures to make my point, but if you choose not to see it, I typically do not care, as Paul told the early saints of the church we each have to work out our own salvation. I often feel like quoting the angel who visited Alma the Younger and tell those people if they will be cast off of thyself, that is their business.

Again, I probably should not be that way and should really have more charity and be more concerned for their eternal salvation than I am, but I feel like it seems God does in this section. I don't like to see them question the will of God when it is so clear and the people are only missing it by purposefully ignoring it. I am sure there are many that have just been blinded by the craftiness of Satan but I often wonder how many are just stubborn? Again, luckily enough it is not for me to judge and I should have more charity than I do. It just makes me angry sometimes at the audacity of Satan and what he has done to these people and the people themselves that they are so carnal and give into the natural man so much that like Sherem they believe the message because it is pleasing to them.

Nevertheless the scriptures are before us all and we can all read them and fortunately the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are clear so that there can be no misunderstanding. Those that desire can read and gain an understanding. And those that don't have the desire, well, we all have our agency and they can choose for themselves. I am glad I choose the path of righteousness and to reach my full potential as have most of you! Until tomorrow.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Come Listen to a Prophets Voice

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 21, which was given during the organization meeting of the church in this dispensation. I was most struck by verse 5 where the Lord tells those in attendance to receive Joseph's word as if directly from the Lord's mouth.

It got me thinking as I read it this morning on how lucky we are to have a living prophet on the earth in these last days. It has always amazed me how often this simple truth resonates with people not of our faith. It just makes sense to them that there should be a prophet and apostles on the earth in our day just as there were in ancient times, for God does not change.

However, it also amazes me how many people find this idea not only wrong but offensive, as if we had just slapped their mother or some other similar affront. I do not understand why they get so upset when we exclaim in joy and gladness that there is a true and living prophet on the earth today. I think they must take it as a personal insult to their intelligence to read the scriptures and follow the teachings themselves. I have heard it said that many people associate the term "blind obedience" to Latter-day Saints. And it is true that I have come across this objection myself as a missionary. Many people think that having a prophet on the earth would add nothing but would in fact limit their abilities to think for themselves and other such nonsense.

However nothing could be further from the truth. In this day and age of many religions and just as in Joseph Smith's time when they all interpret the same passage of scripture so differently, how can people not desire a prophet like in days of old to show them the way? It is sad to me that so many people will not even put it to the test to pray about it. However, I am often hesitant to talk about receiving answers to prayers in mixed faith conversations because I am never sure how well it will go over, however, I am surprised that almost all persons of all faiths believe they can communicate with God and that He will answer them.

And yet despite this fact, they are also hesitant to believe in a living prophet today. But despite their doubts, we do in fact have a prophet on the earth today and have since 1820 when Joseph Smith received the first vision. It is also sad to me how few of us actually take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to listen to a prophets voice. How many faithful Latter-day Saints do you know that skip General Conference? That don't read the Ensign? It's like having a bar of gold in your possession but refusing to cash it in when the debt collectors come knocking at your doors! I do not understand why so many squander such a wonderful opportunity to listen directly to a prophet's instructions. I remember a book I used to love as a child about a goose who finds a book and carries it around and people assume she is smart because she has a book, but not once does she ever open the book and read it and she leads many other animals to disaster because of their misplaced faith. I always think about this book when I think about people who believe in the prophet but do not follow his counsels.

Just as President Henry B. Eyering said in the last October general conference, when a prophet speaks, we should listen and heed the counsel given. For the Lord has told us in his scriptures to heed the word of the prophet as if it were His own. I know all of us would be in attendance with pen and pad ready to take notes if it were made known that the Lord Jesus Christ himself were to be in attendance and speaking in the next General Conference. Well guess what? According to the scriptures, He will be! In the form of President Thomas S. Monson or the next prophet should something unforeseen happen to our beloved prophet. Take advantage of the wonderful opportunity this age of technology gives us to listen to the prophets voice speak the things our Savior would say to us if He were here. And more importantly, follow the counsel he gives. You will not be sorry you did! Until tomorrow.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Having a Determination to Serve Him

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 20, which as most will recall is the section that was given to Joseph Smith to help him organize the church in this dispensation and contains the duties of elders, priests, teachers and deacons, as well as proper instructions for baptizing, and administering the sacrament.

However, the phrase that stood out to me today during my reading is when the Lord was talking about how to baptize. He stated that those that have repented of their sins and had a determination to serve God to the end of their days are received into baptism. I really like that determination to serve Him to the end of our days.

It got me thinking about my mission. I met many people that were really excited when they felt the Spirit, they were practically bursting with excitement to share the gospel with their friends and family and were so happy that they wore their joy on their sleeves and faces. And yet, inevitably, the fire leaves them. Many fall by the wayside and are never seen at church again after a few weeks. What happens to them?

I was raised in the church and so was baptized at 8 years old like most of you probably were. So I cannot say why people lose the fire they had when they are first baptized. However, I have been a missionary and can talk about losing the fire I once had as a missionary. I think it all comes down to priorities. When a person is serving a mission, they are full of the Spirit of the Lord and filled with a desire to dedicate the next 1 and a half to 2 years of their life to the Lord, or they should be. I think most are, however I definitely have met some that I think could stand from a sharp reprimand.

When you are serving a mission, you meet with rejection all day long and just hope and pray for that one person who will say yes to listen to your message. Depending on where you serve, your whole mission could be that way with very, very few people listening to your message. However, most missionaries don't get down about this. Why is that? I think it is a couple of reasons, I think they are so full of the Spirit because of how they are living their lives that the Spirit bolsters them. I also think it is because they know that the people are rejecting their message and not them, with a few exceptions. I think everyone runs into someone that declares how much they hate the Mormons at some point in their mission.

So why is rejection so much harsher as a new convert trying to share the gospel? Well for one thing, you are not propositioning total strangers, these are your friends and family members. To have them so totally reject the gospel is hard, especially if they are openly antagonistic towards the gospel. Also, a new convert is not living the same kind of life that a missionary does. They are not reading their scriptures 30 minutes a day by themselves and having companionship study and praying anywhere from 10 - 20 times a day. They are also watching TV, movies and listening to music, all of which can dull sensitivity to the Spirit.

Now I mentioned that I felt it was all a matter of priorities earlier. I say that because as we have talked about, a missionary is dedicating 2 years or 1 year and a half, of their lives to the Lord. Their priority is to share the gospel. A new convert, has just promised to mourn with those that mourn, to stand as a witness of Christ at all times and in all places and to keep His commandments. Because the new convert is not living the same lifestyle as a missionary they will not be able to handle rejection in the same fashion.

So does that mean only a missionary can serve God? Of course not, in fact we started this discussion by asking why do new converts lose their zeal to serve God. So the real question is, what does it mean to serve Him? Well, to me it means to fulfill all promises made to Him, no matter how small, be they baptismal covenants, temple covenants or promises made during personal prayers. It means to learn to recognize the Spirit and to obey its promptings and to accept all callings that are extended by our priesthood leaders. It means to build up the kingdom using all our heart, might, mind and strength. To do what we can to increase the Spirit's influence in our lives, to read our scriptures each and everyday, to say our prayers morning, noon and night and every time in between. To attend all church meetings, to use our priesthood to bless the lives of others, to choose wholesome entertainment and many other things that we commonly refer to as "primary answers". As we do these things the Spirit is more prevalent in our lives and we can more appropriately serve Him.

As we strive to build up the kingdom, the Lord will bless us for our efforts. It is so amazing that just by doing what He has asked of us to do He will bless us. He could just say obey my commandments or else, but He says instead, obey my commandments and I will bless you for it. Like so many things we have but to put it to the test to find He is true to His word in all things. This is no exception. Until tomorrow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Meaning of Eternal

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 19. I have always enjoyed this section as it contains many truths. I also have fond memories of it from my mission. I served my mission in California and our mission asked us to memorize certain scriptural references and a brief snippet of what the scripture contained. When I first became a senior companion, my first junior companion was in the process of trying to memorize the scriptures. It eventually got to the point he could tell me each of the references, except the one in section 19. It became his nemesis and we had a running joke that if here were ever hanging from a cliff and someone offered to pull him up if he could just tell them what section 19 verses 16-19 said he might as well just let go of the cliff. So everytime I read this section it reminds me of my companion.

This section also reminds me of college. I attended BYU-Idaho and later, BYU-Provo. When I attended at BYU-Provo, my first semester there as a junior in college, I attended a Doctrine and Covenants course with a professor that I cannot remember his name but I thoroughly enjoyed his class and personality. He would always start off by telling jokes and we had a very good time in that class. The reason this section reminds me of that course is because one day he asked the class what the word "eternal" meant. It was at that moment the Spirit taught me something. I remember 2 definitions were given and neither one was the one the professor desired. Suddenly as it was whispered to me I blurted out, "It means God's kind". He stopped and looked at me with surprise and pleasure and said that it did indeed mean that.

When we read in the scriptures, especially Doctrine and Covenants section 19, about eternal life, it does not mean a life that goes on endlessly. Rather it means the kind of life that God leads. When we read about eternal punishment, we are talking about the punishment of God. And actually, if you have eyes to see when you read this section, it tells you this in this section. It tells you that eternal punishment is not endless, rather it is God's punishment.

Much like the meaning of the word damn or damned, it does not mean we are consigned to hell and a state of misery, rather it means our progression is halted and we can move no further. I mean if you think about it, it is rather obvious that the word eternal is not the same as immortality. Otherwise Moses 1:39 would be really redundant.

I also like the verses that my poor companion had such a hard time memorizing. Verses 16-19 where the Lord invites us all to repent and avoid suffering the same kind of pain that He did. I am always struck by the love our Savior has for us and that His greatest desire is for us to not suffer for our sins. That is the reason He suffered so much for us, because He loves us and does not want us to suffer as He did. I am always struck by the love He has for us when I read this section. It comes through so clearly and completely. It is much the same love a parent has for their child. For almost any parent would gladly suffer in place of their child if it were at all possible.

This is another reason I like the Doctrine and Covenants because it clarifys so much that is vague in the scriptures. The next time you read the scriptures and come across the word eternal, I invite you to substitue the phrase God's kind for that word and it will open up whole new possibilities and promises that you never knew were there! Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Worth of Souls

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 18, which was given to Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer through Joseph Smith. I think I have mentioned that I have not read the Doctrine and Covenants in a couple of years so I have forgotten many things about it. And so it is with this section that I had forgotten that a part of this section is actually written to the 12 apostles that had not even been chosen at this point when the revelation was given.

However, as neat as that is to think about, perhaps the most well known verse in this section is what stood out to me. In verse 10 of this section the Lord reminds the 3 men that the worth of souls is great in the sight of the Lord. It is good to be reminded of this from time to time.

This can be a hard thing to remember at times because of the way we are treated or the situation in the world or any number of other reasons. I know I have talked about this in the past, but it saddens me how the culture of this nation has gotten so bad. Things that even 10 years ago would have shocked us, is now commonplace and can be seen everyday. Crimes that just a few years ago would have stood out in our minds and horrified us, are now committed every few minutes and we never even hear about them they are so commonplace.

In a society such as this, it can be really hard to remember that every person on this earth is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven. And yet, all you need to do to remind yourself is look into the eyes of a baby and see the pure innocence that is there. I have found that the easiest time I have ever had in my life with thinking well of people all the time was on my mission. Being a missionary and so full of life, it was really easy to remember that each person is loved of our Heavenly Father and that each decision that they make that takes them further away from Him, causes Him pain.

It is especially easy to see in the eyes of a parent that is making unwise choices. I have several brothers and sisters, and with exception of 1 brother and myself, all have strayed away from the gospel at some point in their lives. I am happy to say that almost all of them have returned to the gospel, but it was really hard, even as a child, to see the pain their choices caused my parents. It's not so hard to imagine something similar happening to our Heavenly Father.

Another reason it is so easy for missionaries to see the worth of souls despite current choices is the fact that we love those we serve and missionary work is all about service. That is one of the reasons everyone loves babies so much, especially the mothers, because all you do for a baby is service. That is why everyone says the same thing about marriage, put your partners needs ahead of your own, because when you do that, you are serving them and you grow in love for them and eventually you forget that it is service.

I remember I had a friend once that came to me telling me she was going to get a divorce from her husband. I remember looking at her and saying that is the most selfish thing I have ever heard and then sat and talked with her for about an hour. I remember her saying things like she was tired of giving and giving and giving and wanted to be selfish for a change. She wanted to know when it all ended and when she could expect it to get better. I told her that it never ends that we always serve throughout our entire marriage and that is what a healthy marriage is.

I know now, having been married for 3 years and going on eternity :), that it can be really, really hard to feel like you are the only one serving and giving it your all and putting your spouse ahead of you. However, I think in most cases, both partners feel that way. But you should never, ever stop putting your spouses needs ahead of your own. That is when resentment will creep in and when trouble starts. My wife and I marvel all the time how people can fight about money and other things that don't even phase us even slightly, because we are each more concerned with the other's happiness than our own. Now obviously, since we are not perfect, we still have arguments and fights but they are very minor and very far between. It can get better, but I can't imagine it is by much we are so happy.

The worth of souls is truly grate in the eyes of God, and if you serve and forget yourself and keep the Spirit about you at all times, they will great in your sight too. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Three Witnesses are Revealed

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 17, which is the section where the Lord agrees to let Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris be the 3 witnesses to the truthfulness of the Gold Plates and the Book of Mormon.

This is the second half of the entry from Ether chapter 5 where Moroni mentions 3 witnesses to the Book of Mormon and how it was a self fulfilling prophecy. Because if Moroni had never put in the record that there would be 3 witnesses then Oliver and Joseph would never had translated it and put the idea in their heads.

It must have been really nice for Joseph Smith to not have to carry such a burden all on his own. I can only imagine the relieved he must have been that at least a few people would be able to validate his claims and have some tangible proof that he truly was communicating with the Lord and that he wasn't crazy.

Truly the Lord does not forget those who serve Him faithfully. I often wonder how many people are skeptical of the Book of Mormon until they read the testimony of the 3 witnesses and the 8 witnesses. I'm honestly not sure it's very many, but I am sure some people have had the Spirit whisper to them the truthfulness of their testimonies and has helped those people become convinced of the truthfulness of their words.

Even as the scriptures say the Lord does not abandon those that are faithful to Him. If we stay true and faithful to the Lord and the commandments He has given us, He will keep us safe and the gates of hell will not prevail against us. The Lord loves and wants what is best for us so that does not mean that we won't have trials for that is the only way we are going to grow and progress. But we won't be abandoned to the temptations and trials that will come our way. He will walk with us and help us so that we don't fail. As long as we stay true to Him, He will not abandon us. Put it to the test and you will see what I mean. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Whitmer Brothers receive a Revelation

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 14, 15 and 16 since they are basically repeats of each other. In these sections the Lord is talking to the Whitmer brothers about what is best for them and what they should be doing to further the work of the kingdom.

I have often wondered why such revelations were included for publication and I think the majority of the reason is just that it is because they are proof that the Lord continues to give revelation in this day and age. Although we can all declare repentance unto the inhabitants in this day and age and so maybe that is why they were included here. I'm not really sure.

Sections 15 and 16 are identical to one another save for the name of the person they were given to. Both were given the same commandment to call people unto repentance. Section 14 which was given to David Whitmer is a little more in depth and includes some extra direction in there. I find that even before the church had been officially established, this was given in 1829, the commandment to everyone was to preach repentance unto the people and declare His word. The same could be said for us since we are required to stand as witnesses of Christ at all times and in all places.

It is interesting that in this, the dispensation of the fullness of times, the command that in ancient days was only given to prophets, is now being given to all those who will accept it. In ancient days, the only person who was called to preach repentance unto the people, were the prophets. Of course, in those days, the Lord had several prophets on the earth at a time, because that is what He needed. In this day of technology and science, He only needs one prophet to reach all His people. However, He needs missionaries to go 1 by 1 to preach to the people the gospel of repentance.

And perhaps that is why these revelations were included. Because in this day and age, every worthy young man is called to serve a mission. And every worthy young woman who decides to go is also called. And if you think about it, what message do the missionaries of today preach? Repent and be baptized! Oh we teach more than that, but if you trim away the extra and the things that are taught to the people to help prepare them for those 2 steps, that is what it boils down to? We ask people to repent of their sins and invite them to be baptized in the name of our Lord and Savior.

So regardless if these revelations are proof of continuing revelation or just a realization that all are called to preach repentance who are members of the church, these revelations have merit and I for one am glad they are included in the Doctrine and Covenants. I hope you too have learned something new from reading them and God was able to teach you what it is you need to know about them. Until tomorrow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Aaronic Priesthood is Restored

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 13. It's hard to believe that one of the most significant events of all time only warrants 1 single verse in the scriptures. Without the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, the work would have ground to a halt until the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored some time later.

This revelation was received in response to an inquiry into baptism and the proper mode and order of baptism. Joseph and Oliver wanted to know should they be baptized and how should they do it and John the Baptist in his resurrected form appeared unto them and gave them the Aaronic Priesthood and commanded that they baptize one another.

One could argue that since the Melchizedek Priesthood has all the authority to perform the same ordinances that the Aaronic Priesthood does, why didn't Joseph and Oliver just receive the Melchizedek Priesthood from the start. Well, it is probably the same reason that young men are not given the Melchizedek Priesthood right from the get go in this day and age too.

The Aaronic Priesthood is the preparatory priesthood and is meant to prepare young men for the responsibility of holding the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Oath and Covenant that they take upon themselves when they receive it. For those of you who do not understand the Priesthood or what it entails, the Priesthood is the authority to act in God's name here upon the earth. You cannot use it to help yourself, it's sole purpose is to bless the lives of others. There is not a single thing you can use the Priesthood for yourself. All ordinances that the Priesthood can be used to perform are meant for others.

The Aaronic Priesthood is of course used for the predominantly mortal ordinances, such as the sacrament and baptism and home teaching. While the Melchizedek Priesthood is chiefly used for the ordinances performed in the temple. There are of course other things that can be done with both priesthoods, but we will not go into it here.

Although this section is only 1 verse long, it does outline how the Priesthood is conferred upon others, by the laying on of hands and the verbiage typically used. Although some things that are contained here are usually left out when giving the Priesthood to someone new. We will of course talk much, much more about the Priesthood in later sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. I am kind of envious of Joseph Smith, he got to meet so many neat people before he passed on to the next life. Ah well, to each is given special gifts I suppose. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 12, a very short section given to Joseph Smith on behalf of Joseph Knight. Joseph Knight had believed in Joseph Smith and the revelations that he had been given but desired to know what the Lord would have him do.

The line that stood out to me the most comes from verse 6, the Lord instructs Joseph Knight to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion. This phrase interests me greatly. This same instruction could of course be applied to each one of us even today, for that is our ultimate purpose, is Zion here on earth. Today in church we had Stake Conference. It was a joint stake conference between us here in Huntsville and the 4 gulf states, although I must admit that I do not know which 3 the other 3 were. It was a broadcast from Salt Lake City and we heard from the L. Tom Perry, President Thomas S. Monson and 2 others.

As you can imagine, President Monson spoke on "to the rescue", or in other words, about reaching out to those in need that are both under your stewardship and those others that are not but still need your help. Is this not establishing the cause of Zion? Of course it is, but to fully understand what we mean by establishing the cause of Zion, we have to first understand what we mean by Zion. Anytime the Lord speaks of Zion, it is safe to assume that He is referring to the definition given in Moses 7:18, namely a people of one heart and one mind with no poor among them.

So what does it mean to be of one heart and one mind? Well, to me it means to be like the Godhead. We only worship Heavenly Father, yet there are 3 Gods that comprise the Godhead. Yet despite there being 3 Gods we always say they are one. We say this because despite their being 3 separate personages, they are of one mind and one purpose. They all have the same goal, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. And so we say they are one God. That is what it means to be of one heart and one mind.

So how can an entire people become like this? Well, it has been done before. The people who lived in the city of Enoch managed to become of one heart and one mind. In fact, the description of Zion in Moses chapter 7 is about that same people and city. I would think that to be of one heart and one mind as a people, you would have to be full of charity. To me it would mean that you are so full of the Spirit and so concerned with the welfare of your fellow man that you forget all about yourself. To me it means to magnify your calling and to do what you are asked to do by your leaders. Things like home and visiting teaching, being actively engaged in your local ward or branch member's lives. To take care of your ward/branch family as if they truly were your own family.

However, let us not forget the other aspect of the Zion society. They had no poor among them. Now, as important as it is to ensure that to the best of your ability there are no physically poor among you, I do not think it is only speaking of physically poor. We must take care of those that are Spiritually poor as well. Those who have wandered away into strange paths, those who feel like they are not welcome among us. It is up to us to seek them out and do what we can to reclaim them. This is what President Monson means by the phrase "to the rescue". We cannot wait and let them come to us, we must be actively engaged in reaching out to them. For just like Joseph Smith's enemies of old, we do not know who may one day repent and we do not want to be the one to have written them off as a hopeless cause and gave up on them.

This to me is what it means to establish the cause of Zion. Perhaps you disagree, and perhaps I truly am wrong, but can you really go wrong if you are anxiously engaged in caring for your fellow man? I don't think so. At the very least we can all pay a generous fast offering each month whether we fast or not. In this way we can at least contribute to the cause of our Lord and Savior of saving souls. But I think each of us can do more than this if we but look around us. I know I certainly will look harder this year than I have in years past and see what more I could be doing. I hope you will too. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Seek for wisdom and obtain His word

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 11. This section is given to Joseph's brother Hyrum Smith. The majority of this section is about missionary work and the proper order of things. There are many sections in the Doctrine and Covenants that deal with missionary work, because missionary work was a hot topic during the life of Joseph Smith. At that time, the field truly was white and ready to harvest.

A couple of verses stood out to me. The first one was verse 21 where the Lord tells Hyrum to seek not to declare the word, but first seek to obtain the word. Now, you would think that this would be intuitive and yet, the Lord felt the need to spell it out for us. So it got me thinking, how do we try and declare the word without first obtaining it? The first thing that came to mind is anytime we have a discussion about the gospel. What is it about competition that drives some people to do really crazy and insane things? It doesn't matter what the competition is about either, including the scriptures.

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone about a particular scripture and you know for a fact that the verse reads a certain way because you just recently read it, but the other person is still insistent it reads a different way? Yeah, I have too. This could be an instance of obtaining the word before declaring it. Another way is when we are called upon to teach a class in church. Yes, the most important thing to do is to ask for the Spirit's guidance and help to teach the lesson in question. But it is folly to ask for the Spirit's help in teaching a lesson that we have not prepared for. Now, it can happen that the Spirit will help you anyway, remember it is up to the Lord to help us or not as He sees fit when we haven't done what He has asked of us.

This lesson doubly applies to missionaries. How can a missionary spread the good news of the gospel if they do not know what the good news is? Obviously they cannot. Many, many missionaries can tell you instances where they were at a loss of what to say to someone and then the Spirit whispered to them what to say, including me. I could tell you of a time when it happened to me. However, it is very unlikely to happen if you do not have the knowledge already there for the Spirit to bring to your mind. It can most certainly happen, but it is very unlikely I think.

The second verse that jumped out to me is verse 7 where God tells us to seek not for riches but for wisdom. How many of us unknowingly, or perhaps knowingly, set our heart upon riches? I remember at my last job, I was not making a lot of money, but it was enough for my family's needs. I can remember, without even searching my memory, 4 different instances where someone asked me why I was doing that job. How with a degree in Mandarin Chinese like I have, I could go work for a Fortune 500 company and be making 3 times what I was earning there without even trying very hard. Every time they would ask me that, my response would be the same. I would say that while that was true, I enjoyed doing what I was doing and that I enjoyed doing the job and that my family was there and that to earn that kind of money, you have to give up things, usually family time. And I am not willing to give up family time.

Usually after I would give my answer to those people, I would get a blank look or a sad smile and a shake of their head as they thought to themselves how foolish I am. And perhaps it is foolish, but there are more important things in this life than being wealthy. I remember when I first started college I had an idea to double major in Chinese and business and go into international business. Then one day we had a seminar where a person who had spent 20 years or so in international business came to speak to us and he talked about all the traveling he had gotten to do, but he also talked about how little he had gotten to see his family, which is why he eventually quit and got a teaching job. I made up my mind then and there that family was more important to me and so I stopped taking business courses and focused on finding a job that was more conducive to having a family. And I have never regretted it.

Yes, as I am sure is true of most of you, a little more money, or even a lot more, would be very nice, but it is not really necessary. We live day to day very comfortably on my 1 income so my wife can be a stay at home mother, and we wouldn't want it any other way. But family life aside, what else do people toss by the wayside to get wealthy? Church attendance, home teaching, personal scripture study, ethics and morals, and any number of other things. Is it any wonder God doesn't want us seeking after riches? The Savior himself said, "For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" I answer no profit at all. When we remember that this life is a very, very brief stop in the trip of existence. When we remember that this life is almost no time at all compared to how long we have already existed and how long we will exist after this life. Don't screw it up by wasting the all too brief time we are here. Until tomorrow.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Rest of the Story - Section 3 continued

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 10, which in many ways is a continuation of section 3 and deals with Joseph losing the 116 pages after giving them to Martin Harris. It is this revelation that the Lord commands Joseph not to re-translate the plates or rather the portion of the plates that they already had translated because wicked men had changed the original translation and wished to "prove" that Joseph was not a prophet and that he did not have the gift and that they were going to trap him in his own words. Or so they thought.

Of course the Lord knew about this back in the beginning. He tells Joseph that He had Nephi include the more particular parts in his own plates instead of with his father's record and that the Lord had purposefully planed to have the plates of Nephi come forth. When I read this I laughed and turned to my wife and we talked for a few minutes about the folly of man trying to frustrate the plans of men. You can't outsmart God. He had known this would happen and planned for it almost 3000 years ago! It just makes laugh when mankind tries to outsmart God.

There were several other places that stood out to me in this section. I had never noticed verse 28 before today. Although, as I told my wife, with the exception of the Old Testament, I have probably read the Doctrine and Covenants the least of all the scriptures. So it's not a surprise to me that I missed something. However, verse 28 says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, wo be unto him that lieth to deceive because he supposeth that another lieth to deceive, for such are not exempt from the justice of God." How often do you hear that as people's defense when confronted by their wrong doing? It is surprising to me how like little children adults can be. How many times have you heard the term, crime of passion. That is another way to say "He made me do it". And yet here you have the Lord spell it out for you, that is not an excuse. No one can MAKE you do anything. Even if you were kidnapped and had drugs forced into your veins so that you became an addict, after you were eventually released, you now have the choice to overcome that addiction or to feed it.

The devil made me do it. He made me mad. I couldn't help myself. These are not acceptable excuses to the Lord. And especially the old he did it first excuse is not acceptable. We are free agents. It is given to us to act for ourselves and not to be acted upon. You do know that those are the only two types of objects in existence right? There are objects to be acted upon, think rocks and other inanimate objects, and then there are objects to act, people, animals, etc. When we allow ourselves to be blinded by hate or anger or whatever emotion we THINK the other person is forcing us to feel, we are giving up our agency to him whose only goal is to make you miserable.

I do not wish to say anymore about this. The last part of today's musings will be about the Nephite prophets and supplicating the Lord. Here he mentions that most of the Nephite prophets asked the Lord for the same thing, that their writings would be preserved for future generations. What a selfless request! I personally don't dare to request of the Lord that my few humble writings may be preserved for future generations. I only have ever asked that they may be uplifting to those in need and the He will guide those who need them here to read them. But that is probably the difference between the prophets and me. I love to read about the prophets and learn about them. It is a goal in my life to obtain, and read a copy of at least one biography of each of the modern day prophets. So far I have Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Howard W. Hunter and Gordon B. Hinkley down. Only 12 more to go! I am always struck by how they always started out as normal men with their weaknesses and failings just like me. It gives me hope for me!

I am again awestruck by Joseph including revelations that showed off his own failings and weaknesses to publish to the entire world. I am awestruck to see his humility and have something to aim for myself. I hope you can read these sections too and realize that you too have it in you to be exalted one day. It is not as hard as you think it is. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Proper Way to Supplicate the Lord

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 9, where Oliver Cowdery is commanded to not try translating any more for the time being but rather to just assist as a scribe for Joseph. The first thing that came to mind on the very first verse was actually the parable of the talents. The Lord tells Oliver that his gift is being taken away because he did not use it appropriately. Doesn't that sound like the person who hid his talent rather than make it grow?

I have often been confused by the parable of the talents as I believe we are given our talents by God and they are meant to be used to further His work. But some talents are a bit more obscure I think to bless the lives of others. For example, my wife thinks I am a very good singer. I have never taken lessons and it is just something I was born with. Now, I am no Andrea Bochelli, but I do have a better voice than a lot of rock/pop stars. But how does one bless the lives of others with a good signing voice? The only thing that comes to mind is singing in the choir but I don't really see how that actually blesses peoples lives. Now, I do use my voice to sing primary and church songs to my daughter, but other than that, I don't really use my voice.

Now my other talents I try and use to help others, not necessarily in a Gospel sense, but in a service sense for sure. I am very good with electronics, especially computers, and I give my knowledge away freely when I can to help people. I am also very knowledgeable in the scriptures and the gospel and try and help out teachers in Sunday School and Priesthood meetings. Perhaps my single greatest talent is that I am a very happy person and have a happy demeanor about me at almost all times and I act happy and try and lighten the lives of those around me.

But that is actually not what I wanted to talk about today. This is the most famous section for explaining how revelation is received. The Lord tells Oliver that the reason he is not being allowed to continue to translate is because he did not do it in he correct way. When we take things to the Lord, we are expected to work the things out in our minds and come to a conclusion before asking the Lord, and then we go to Him for confirmation. Just like when we get married, for those of you reading this who are married anyway, you did not ask the Lord who you should marry. Rather you went out and found the girl/guy you desired to marry and then asked the Lord if it was acceptable to Him if you married that individual.

All too often we fall into the trap of not coming up with the answer ourselves and just asking the Lord to solve it for us. This is not acceptable to Him and we need to rather use the intelligence that God has given us to search out the answer on our own and then only come to Him for confirmation. Remember, the ultimate goal here is to one day become exalted and if that happens we won't have God around to ask for help, rather others will be asking us for help. I know that is a bit extreme to think about right now, but think of it instead as being a father or mother in this life. You will have children looking up to you and asking YOU for advice and what they should do. That is a bit more down to earth for most of us I think.

But it really is that important that we follow the correct pattern when supplicating the Lord for anything because as we will read later, when we follow the correct pattern, He is bound to help us. However, when we don't, it is up to Him if He will help us or not. I don't know about you but I would rather have His help when I can get it as opposed to not. I'm sure you would too. So follow the correct pattern and ensure His help rather than wonder if He is going to help you or not. It's must easier and you will have peace of mind that the Lord is on your side in all your endeavors. Until tomorrow.