Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Companionship of the Holy Ghost, a True Gift

Today I read 1 Thessalonians 1 which is basically Paul's greeting to the Saints in Thessalonia. There's honestly not a lot of meat in this chapter to pick out. The only thing in there that really stands out to me is the part about the Holy Ghost. I have always been fascinated by the Holy Ghost, even as a little child and wondered how He did His job.

The Holy Ghost has a job just like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. His job is to testify of truth and everyone in the world has the ability to feel His influence. I remember people on my mission would have a hard time understanding this concept, they would wonder how everyone could feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. We would explain that it's like the sun. The sun is in one central place, but it's light and warmth can be felt all over the world. So it is with the Holy Ghost. Because He testifies of truth, His influence is able to be felt all over the world.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints get to have the Holy Ghost for a constant companion too. Someone once asked Joseph Smith what the main difference between the LDS church was and other Christian religions and he replied that it was the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We are the only church that believes we can have the companionship of the Holy Ghost at all times as long as we remain worthy of it. Now, the question then remains what does the companionship of the Holy Ghost do for us? Well, for one thing, He still testifies of truth but He also increases our understanding. My dad, a convert to the LDS church, once told me that he had tried to read the Bible several times before joining the LDS church and could not make heads or tails of it when he tried. However, after getting the Gift of the Holy Ghost, he was able to read and understand the Bible almost as clearly as he understood the Book of Mormon.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost is not like the Light of Christ, what people commonly call our conscience. The Gift of the Holy Ghost can warn us however if a situation is spiritually damaging. If we are about to make an incorrect choice He will warn us about it and so people sometimes get confused thinking He acts like our conscience. But that is not the Holy Ghost's main function as our companion. He is still there to testify of truth and help us in turn testify of truth. If we are worthy enough, we can also have Him testify of truth through us. When people say we are different or that we have a light inside of us, it is the Holy Ghost shining through. We are living so righteously that He is our companion and that He is able to show through you and give you missionary opportunities.

Truly the Gift of the Holy Ghost is a wonderful gift that God has granted to us. We should always take advantage of it and not offend Him in any way. We need to make sure that like any of our friends we are worthy of His friendship and do not drive Him away through our sinful ways. As we strive to live a righteous life and to be worthy of His companionship, we will notice when He is not around. If you have ever had the misfortune of doing something so bad that He doesn't just quietly leave, but that His leaving is so quick, so fierce, it's almost physically painful and leaves a gap in your heart. I have felt that pain unfortunately. It has not always been caused by me either. Sometimes it happens because others around me are not doing what is right and I did not leave the situation quickly enough. We never want to do anything to offend the Holy Ghost. He should be our best and truest friend. He does more for us than just about anyone save Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We need to make sure we treat Him and His presences as the treasured companion they should be. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pray Always

Today I read Colossians 4, Paul's closing to the Saints. Paul spends the majority of the chapter saying goodbye to the Saints. He does counsel the Saints to pray always. I remember hearing an analogy once about feeling too bad to pray, like we had done too many things wrong that we could not pray. The analogy said that this made no more sense than saying you were too sick to go see a doctor. It's silly to think such thoughts and they do no one any good. Such thoughts are from the devil, the enemy of all mankind. Nephi clarifies such in 2 Nephi 32:8-9 where Nephi tells us that the evil spirit teaches a man not to pray.

Prayer, just like repentance, is a gift from God. It really is amazing that the God of all creation loves us enough to pay attention to us and our desires and thoughts. Nothing is too miniscule for Him to listen to. And all we have to do is open our mouths. Truly God loves us. And it would be silly not to take advantage of the opportunity that prayer affords us. Pray always Nephi and Paul said. I can't really add any more than that. Until tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Honesty, the Best Policy

Today I read Colossians 3 and I was intrigued by all the counsel that Paul gave the Saints in this chapter. Telling them how they should act and how not to be. It is interesting that in this day and age it seems as if so many people who profess to be Christians see nothing wrong in being dishonest with their fellow man. I have often wondered where such two facedness comes from. Paul addresses a little bit of it here in this chapter.

He tells the manservant to obey in all things their masters, not with eyeservice but in singleness of heart. I like that word, eyeservice. To me, when I hear that word it immediately conjures up a picture of someone who does things when he is watched, but once the taskmaster or the overseer is gone, then they start to slack off and do not do the things they have been asked to do anymore. This is a good example of a slothful servant. And it is a good description of many, many people in this world. Have you ever seen such an employee? That when the boss is gone they just lounge about and don't get any real work done? To me that is a perfect example of serving, or working, with eyeservice and not with a singleness of heart.

Latter-day Saints have always been counseled to be honest in all their dealings with their fellow man. In fact it is one of the questions that we are asked before we can enter the temple. It is important to not just be honest, or what we typically refer to as telling the truth. We need to be truthful in all things. Are we putting in a full days work for our employer? Are we doing the chores our spouse has asked us to do? Are we paying an honest tithe? The answers to each of these questions will help shape what kind of a Christian you are. Can you imagine Jesus Christ cheating someone just to get a few extra dollars? Or any amount of money for that matter? So why do we do it? Paul also counsels the Saints in this chapter to set their hearts on the things of heaven, not of earth. When we focus too much on money and the accumulation of it, we have set our hearts on the wrong thing. I promise that we will not be able to take our earthly wealth with us to heaven, or hell for that matter. It stays here because it is part of this world and has no place in the next life.

It can be hard to be completely honest all the time. But if we hope one day to become like God is, then we need to make sure we are being honest, especially with ourselves. It is easiest to lie to our selves I think. We can tell ourselves half-truths and rationalize our cares and worries away and even assuage our own guilt. All it takes is a little practice. But somethings you shouldn't get too good at, and lying is one of them. We need to practice a life of complete honesty. You won't be sorry you did. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Repentance, a True Gift from God

Today I read Colossians 2. I have been thinking recently how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be summed up in a few thoughts. And lately one of those main thoughts has been on my mind a lot lately. It is essentially the main message every prophet of every age has talked about: repentance. If there ever was a word that has gotten a bad wrap, it's definitely repentance.

People hear the word repentance and they automatically start wiggling in their seats. This is possibly because we have all sinned and have all fallen short of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everyone one of us are imperfect and so we all have cause to repent. But truly repentance is a blessing, a gift from Heavenly Father. Without it we would all be doomed and would be completely unable to return to live with Him. Repentance is a tender mercy.

As seems to always be the case on Sunday's our Elder's Quorum lesson today was about repentance and was based loosely on the talk that Elder D. Todd Christopherson gave in the October 2011 General Conference. It got me thinking about repentance and how we know we have repented. It made me think about the effects of sin on us and the effect of repentance on us as people. It made me think about the story about the painting of Leonardo Di Vinci's Last Supper. He found someone to pose for the Savior because they had a truly beautiful face, unmarred by the cares of the world. Sometime later as he was about to finish the painting he needed someone to pose for Judas and he found someone in prison who had a truly terrible countenance. As the story goes, after he was done painting the face, the man broke down and told Leonardo that he was the same man that posed for Jesus. No one truly knows if this story is true or not, but the basis for it is true. Our lives are written upon our face. When we do something wrong or morally depraved, it shows on our countenance. The story of The Picture of Dorian Gray is about this very principle.

Likewise, if we choose the right, even after living a life that is questionable, it is possible for our countenance to improve. How do we know if someone has truly repented? How do you feel around them? How do they act? Do they act like someone who has had a change of heart? Do they act like they have no more desire to sin or do that which is wrong? Do they look like someone you can trust? There is a reason that most people trust their first impressions, you can tell a lot about someone from their face and their countenance. There is a line in the movie the Fellowship of the Ring that I have always liked. The hobbits have just met Aragorn and aren't sure whether to trust him or not. Frodo decides to trust him by saying "A servant of the enemy would look more fair, but feel more foul". And he's right. You can disguise your appearance, but if you are doing things that are not right, you cannot disguise the lack of the Spirit around you and how you make those who have the Spirit feel when they are around you.

We are meant for greater things. We are meant to be Gods and Goddesses one day. Can we fulfill this destiny if we are not living a good and righteous life? Repentance is possible, but it is difficult, both for the one doing the repenting and the ones who love them and watch them. If you've ever had to watch someone repent of a serious sin it breaks your heart and you long to help them but you can't. It's something they have to go through on their own. You can support and uplift, but ultimately, they have to work on it alone, just them and Jesus. But despite how hard it can be to repent, it is better than the alternative.

No one forces us to repent. It is there for us to use or not at our discretion. If we choose to repent however, we allow the Spirit to work in us and change our very nature so that we can become one more step closer to Heavenly Father and becoming perfected. I am very grateful for a loving, forgiving God who allows us to repent. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Scriptures are a Gift from God

Today I read Colossians 1, Paul's opening to his letter to the Saints in Colosse. He is saying many of the same things that we have heard before, which makes sense to me because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the same message for everyone, no matter who they are. God is no respecter of persons and so we each of us much work out or own salvation, just like Paul told the Saints in his letter to them in Philippa.

Paul also talks about the many roles of the Savior in this chapter. How He created all things. It was God's plan, there is no question about that, but Jesus was the executor of the plan. He was the tool through which all that we see and physically are, was created. The temple teaches this truth also. I have been taught this since I was a little boy and so I am not surprised when I read such statements. However there are those who have either not read the scriptures or do not understand them and do not understand that God created the world through Jesus Christ. I am always leery when someone does not use the King James Version of the Bible, because if they do not and they use a more modern translation, they are reading someone's interpretation of the scriptures, not the scriptures themselves. I've never understood how people can claim the Bible language is too difficult to understand. Yes, it's not how we would normally speak, but so what? It's no different or difficult than reading Shakespeare. But that again could be because I have been reading the scriptures since I was a little, little boy and I also have the gift of the Holy Ghost to assist me.

Having the gift of the Holy Ghost makes it so much so much easier to understand the scriptures and to know the meaning behind the scriptures. Sometimes the mean is right there on the surface and we really don't have to do anything to understand it. But sometimes we have to ponder it awhile and see if what God is saying is what we think we are understanding. The one thing I think everyone who believes in God will agree though, is that scriptures are meant to guide and direct us. They are meant to help us out in discerning what is what and how we are to get back to Him who created us. Shouldn't we study them and hold on to them like they are a life raft, the only thing keeping us afloat in a sea of uncertainty that stretches out as far as the eye can see in all directions? One thing is for certain, with God as our helmsman we will always end up in the right place. Are you letting Him guide you to where you need and want to be? I sure hope so. Until tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Today I read Philippians 4 and one particular phrase, actually not even a phrase, just a word, stood out to me. Paul tells the Saints to rejoice. He actually says it twice and immediately I thought of 2 Nephi 2:25, "Men are that they might joy". This really stood out to me because in the daily drudge of this life, we can sometimes forget that the purpose of this life is to have joy and be happy, in the Lord's way. This life is not meant to be unpleasant or unhappy.

I remember the first time I heard about the medieval monks who would literally physically torture themselves because they did not think it was right that they should be so happy when Jesus Christ was crucified and died for us. I remember thinking they were fools and did not understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the slightest. Jesus died for us so that we might live again. He suffered for our sins so that we would not have to suffer. All we would need to do is to accept Jesus into our hearts and live the kind of life He would life if He were here. But I guarantee He enjoyed His earthly life. How could He not? It was a life of service and I have never been happier than when I am serving. I cannot imagine Jesus being any different.

But God did not mean for us to come down to this life and suffer and be unhappy. Far from it. He wants us to be happy. And why shouldn't we be happy? We have made sacred covenants with our Father in Heaven to serve Him all the days of our lives? We have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a true knowledge of God's character. We understand that we can choose what type of life we will live after this one by the sheer fact of how we live our life down here. They say knowledge is power and truly it is. Knowledge of the true nature of the Atonement empowers you to live a full and happy life. And as we have been saying, we should be happy.

As we live the commandments we will be a better person and we will be able to find true happiness in this life, which can sometimes be hard to find. We might look for happiness in all the wrong places. That is why some people feel so lost all the time. They are struggling to find those things which will make us truly happy, and it is not always easy to find. But if we stay true to the Gospel, we should have no reason to not be happy. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to make us happy and when we follow it's tenants to the letter, we will be able to achieve the most happiness possible in this life. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Beware of Dogs

Today I read Philippians 3 where Paul warns the Saints to beware of those who would lead them astray. He also says what might possibly be every missionaries favorite line in all of holy writ, beware of dogs. Now, obviously he is not referring to man’s best friend, our furry canine companions, but rather the dogs of scripture, or those who would trample the things of God under their feet. And truly we do need to beware of those who would lead us astray and make it harder for us to live the teachings of Jesus Christ.

We have talked in previous posts that a true friend is one who makes it easier to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A true friend, even if they are not a Christian themselves, will respect your belief and actually hold you to it! I can recall numerous times being told by my friends in high school that if they ever saw me smoking a cigarette or drinking an alcoholic beverage it would not go well for me. This was not a threat because they liked to hurt people, but merely that I was a constant in their lives. As a teenager it is hard sometimes because so much is changing in your own body, in your life and all around you. So my friends always appreciated that no matter what happened, when push came to shove, they could count of Fred being a certain way. They expected it and if I ever let them down, well it didn’t bear thinking about to them. Suffice to say, in its own round about way, I had my own support group in keeping the commandments of God. These were friends that expected me to keep the commandments of God at all times. They demanded it.

The Savior had a similar provision to His followers when He lived on the earth. He told them not to cast their pearls before swine. Now, both Paul and Jesus did not say this because we want to keep the word of God away from those who are seeking it, far from it. They said this because they understood how hard it can be to have your faith mocked and have your testimony called into question. Have you ever had someone try and prove you wrong, be you Latter-day Saint or another denomination of Christian? It’s not a pleasant feeling. And if you start to bear your testimony to try and bring the Spirit into the conversation, you can at times be met with derision, mocking or sometimes outright hostility. I personally don’t see the problem with “feeling” that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is right. No one has a problem with the term gut feeling. Why is this any different? But if you tell them you know the Gospel of Jesus Christ you will be met with scoffs and scorn. For some of us, that is no big deal. I could personally care less if someone mocks me for my testimony. For others it’s devastating and they never recover from it. Think about Lehi’s dream in 1 Nephi 8. There were those who pressed forward, and even partook of the fruit, but because of the mocking laughter of those in the great and spacious building, they fell away. It’s the same concept.

Our testimony of Jesus Christ should be a happy thing and should not cause us to feel ashamed or to want to hide who we are. That is why Paul counseled us to avoid dogs, or those who cannot appreciate the things of the Spirit. It is not because we have anything to hide, but because association with them will not bring anything productive but will most likely cause us instead to fall away. One bad apple spoils the barrel or so the saying goes. It is much easier to hold true and faithful to our testimony when we are surrounded by those like us. As we strive to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I promise it will be so much easier if we are around those who also want to live the Gospel. It is also more enjoyable to live around those who believe as you do too! Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Work Out Your Own Salvation

Today I read Philippians 2 which has one of my favorite verses in all of the New Testament in it. That would be verse 12 where Paul tells the Saints to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. I think the reason I like this verse so much is because it lets us know that our ultimate fate is in our own hands.

We have talked about the false doctrine of predestination where some believe that God has decreed everything from the beginning and no matter what you do you are either saved or you are not and you can't change it one way or the other. If predestination where true, why would Paul tell us to work out our own salvation? It doesn't make sense and I would have to say if I believed in predestination, I could only conclude that Paul did not understand the doctrine. A very egotistical point of view in my opinion considering Paul was an Apostle.

Paul understood the doctrine just fine and the false notion of predestination, as we have discussed, has been perpetrated by the devil to lead the children of mankind astray. What Paul means by his statement, is that we our responsible for our own salvation, nobody else. Jesus Christ prepared the way for us, but I more look at that as He unlocked the door and is keeping it held open and we have to choose to go through it or not. Our salvation is up to us an no one else. There are people that can help. There are people that can make it easier on us, but ultimately, no one can do anything about it us. That is why I like this verse so much, because it teaches the truth and it does not jive with several of the false doctrines out there. If they want to believe what they are preaching, then they have to completely ignore this verse. Which I think some of the Christian beliefs do just that and ignore several other verses besides. Of course they probably accuse the LDS church of doing the same thing not understanding that any verses that appear to contradict our beliefs were changed centuries ago and Joseph Smith has corrected them to their original form.

God is not the author of confusion. He wants us to return to live with Him again. He wants us to be happy, hence why He does not force us to do certain things or come back to live with Him if we truly don't want to. We can choose eternal happiness, eternal mediocrity or eternal unhappiness, the choice is ours and always has been. Heavenly Father loves us enough to let us go if that is what we desire. Be sure you are making the choice you really want to make. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

God's Way is the Best Way

Today I read Philippians 1 which is mostly about Paul and what I take to be his encouraging the Saints in Philippi to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul talks a lot about what he suffered and what he has endured in the name of the Savior. It almost sounds like Paul is tired as well, tired of this life I mean. He says that he is torn between it because he desires to return to live with Christ, but at the same time, he feels that to remain with the Saints is what he is called to do and he wants to fulfill that calling and that is where he belongs.

All faithful Latter-day Saints will have to go through such a test at some point. Most of us have to make similar choices daily. We have to choose between what we want to do and what Heavenly Father has asked us to do. And what we want to do may not even be bad at all. In fact in another circumstance it might even be something worthwhile or even righteous. But I promise that if there ever comes a time where you are torn between what you desire to do and what God desires you to do, if you will pick what God desires, it will turn out alright in the end. God knows what will be best for us and what we desire. And He wants us to be happy and sometimes what He desires for us is our desires.

God is not a harsh taskmaster meant to enslave us. Far from it. He is a benevolent God who knows what is best for us and what will make us truly happy. It's like the primary song says, "Choose the right way, and be happy". That is he way to ultimate happiness, I promise you. God's way is the best way, always. Until tomorrow.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Children, a Responsibility and a Treasure

Today I read Ephesians 6, the final chapter in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. This chapter is perhaps best known for the part about putting on the whole armor of God. But I actually have been having something different on my mind the last couple of days. Yesterday we talked about loving our spouses and today Paul is telling children to obey their parents so that they may have a long life upon the earth.

The other day, I was driving to work and happened to have the radio on which doesn't happen all that often. It was the song, "Cat's in the Cradle". For those of you who may not be familiar with it, it is sung from the viewpoint of a father who is too busy to spend time with his son. But as his son grows up, he finds that he wants to spend more time with his son, but his son has lost interest with spending time with his dad and finally at the end of the song, the son has moved away and the father and son never see each other because the son won't make time for the father and the father realizes that his son has grown up just like him, much to his chagrin. It got me thinking about people who spend too much time on things other than their families, and this can even include church functions and callings.

Our families are important. Extremely important actually and I believe that Heavenly Father will hold us accountable for how we interacted with them. Ever since I returned from my mission and graduated from college, I have tried really hard to separate work and home life. I have tried not to let either part of my life overlap if at all possible. It has not always worked out that way, but I do what I can to make it work. It is extremely important to me that stress from my work does not bleed over into my family's life and that I do not bring my work home with me. Children are a good example of how we should be. They just want to spend time with us. They want to do what we are doing and they emulate us no matter what we are doing, good or bad habits. But as adults we think we need to be busy, that no matter what else we have on our plate, that we need to be doing more. We treat it almost as if it were a sin to just pause and rest. But I tell you truthfully that it is no sin to spend time just playing with your children, especially when they are really young and I daresay that Heavenly Father would rather us spend time with our children teaching them the Gospel and the right things we should be doing than even giving service to someone in the ward or someone we don't know.

Heavenly Father loves little children very much. He loves them so much that if any of them pass away before they reach the age of accountability, they return straight back to Him and are saved. He loves them perhaps more than any of His other creations. And He trusts them into our care. He expects us to provide the basic necessities for them and to teach them the right way to live and return to Him some day. That is the reason behind the promise to listen to your father and mother and your days will be long upon the earth. Our parents teach us the right way to live and by listening to them, we will know what we need to do to be safe in the world, both physically and spiritually. Think about it, if you did not learn from your parents that a knife is sharp, how long would you live before you accidentally cut yourself and bled to death? In that case listening to your parents can lengthen your life by as much as 80 years! In a spiritual sense if we listen to our parents and wait until we are married to have sexual relations, we will save ourselves heartache and potentially a physical disease as well.

Families are the basic unit of God's plan and part of the requirement He holds of those who would be parents is to make sure that they are prepared to teach the children that He entrusts into their care the things they will need to know in this life and we will be held accountable by Him on how we cared for His precious little ones. And if we did not do a good job of caring for His children, we will wish the very rocks of the earth to hide us from His face. But we all must stand before Him and be held accountable for our actions and what we could have done if we had done things His way. For me personally, it is enough to see the joy on my daughter's face when she learns something new, but others need that added incentive to teach their children. Whatever your reasons, teach your children the right way to live and you will be glad you did. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Love Your Spouse

Today I read Ephesians 5 where Paul teaches the saints to love their husbands and wives. Paul even draws a comparison between spouses loving each other and loving ourselves. We know that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Paul tells us to love our spouse as we would our own body. I think this is the reason there is so much strife and unrest in most marriages, we are not loving our spouse like we should be.

We have talked int he past that the way to a happy marriage is to put the needs of the spouse ahead of our own. For some reason, that does not seem to happen in most marriages. I think it starts out being that way, but it quickly becomes back to all about the individual. Instead of becoming one flesh and working towards becoming one in purpose together and with God, they again start separating and becoming like an individual instead of a couple.

If every couple would follow the advice that Paul has laid out for us here in this chapter, there would be no divorce. There would be very few arguments and almost no fighting at all. There would be no infidelity. There would be no divorce or spouses leaving each other and their children. Today in church was our Ward Conference and so we had a member of the Stake Presidency teach our Elder's Quorum lesson. We talked about making sure we are meeting the needs of our wives as individuals. It was a great lesson and very in keeping with what I read today in the scriptures. However, I was a little disturbed by something that was brought up. The 1st Counselor of the Stake Presidency was the one teaching and he mentioned that recently, 4 of his wife's friends had come to her telling her that they no longer loved their husbands and that they wanted a divorce. It was a sad story and truly these women it sounded like and put up with 25 plus years of trials. However, what he said next made me lose about 90% of the the sympathy I had for these women. He said that in all 4 cases the husbands were totally blindsided and had no idea anything was wrong at all.

That tells me that it is just as much the women in the stories' fault as it is the men's fault. If the men are not told what the women need, how can they change and adapt to meet their needs? It is shameful and ridiculous of anyone to feel that the other person "ought to know" already what the needs are. That is just crazy because no one in this world is a mind reader. Now it would be a totally different story if these women had patiently told their husbands what they needed, and perhaps in their own minds they had. But the fact that the husbands were clueless that anything was wrong tells me those 4 women did not do it adequately enough if they did it at all. Being in a partnership means being partners. That means sharing the responsibilities. Sharing the work load. Sharing the good times and the bad times. It means putting the collective needs ahead of the personal ones.

I love my wife more than anything in this world and I made sacrifices daily to spend time with her, as I know she does for me too. It is important to us to be able to spend time together and to keep our personal relationship strong, especially now that we have children. I hope that you too are working towards an eternal partnership with your spouse and that you find joy in your life with them. I know I find more joy at my wife's side than at any other place on earth. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

God is not the Author of Confusion and We Must Master our Passions

Today I read Ephesians 4, which is one of my more favorite chapters in the New Testament. It covers a lot which is good in my opinion. All too often when you read a chapter it covers just one topic, which is fine, but when writing a blog like this when you have already covered that topic 3 other times and that's all the chapter talked about, it can be a challenge to find something new to say about it.

So Paul starts out stating that there is one Lord, one faith and one baptism, one God and Father of all. As we have read in the past, God is not the author of confusion. It is only man that has brought about so much confusion and at times it would seem I cannot really blame them. I can easily see how certain passages in the Bible can be interpreted a different way by people. But I believe that when the Bible was first put to paper, it was as clear to understand as is the Book of Mormon. But with certain plain and precious truths being removed it now is hard to understand and people are easily confused by it and blown about by every wind of doctrine. It is comforting to know that there is structure and unlike the common opinion of today states, there is a right and a wrong and that God's way is not a way of confusion.

This chapter also confirms what we learned in the last chapter, that Jesus' true church is going to have apostles, prophets and evangelists. This is a clear indicator to the faithful of what to look for and how to avoid confusion. God, through His Apostle, is telling us exactly what His established pattern is. God loves us very much and He wants us to understand what His plan is. He does not want us to be lost and any way uncertain about what He expects of us and and what His plan for us is. It is very comforting to know that He follows His same pattern in all ages.

This chapter is another great example of the Joseph Smith Translation clearing up certain parts of the Bible that might be ambiguous. In verse 26 Joseph Smith changes the verse to read, "Can ye be angry and not sin?" There are certain sins that are extremely prevalent in this day and age and have taken over some people's entire lives and absolutely destroyed them. Lasciviousness or whoremongering, is one of them. Sex is everywhere these days. You can't even walk outside your door without it being shoved in your face. It's in our books, our TV, our music, our movies, it's on the streets, there is literally no place to get away from the constant obsession our society has with sex and the female body. But a close second is probably anger. I have never seen so many crimes of passion in all my life. People do things because they were "made mad" and it's supposed to be a valid excuse for some reason. People scream and yell and throw a fit when they can't get their way. Adults behave worse than my 1 year old daughter.

If we cannot master our passions, then they will master us. It is that simple. We will never be able to progress and become like Heavenly Father is if we cannot master our basic human emotions. We know that Heavenly Father gets angry, the scriptures are full of references to God's wrath being kindled. But it is extremely rare that He just lashes out and even if He does, it is well thought out and for the best, I can promise you that. As I have said before we are here to learn to master our passions. When we arrive they master us. Think about little babies, they get mad and throw a fit when they can't get their way. We have to teach them to overcome that. That is our duty as parents. America is full of parents who did not teach their children how to do that and look where we are as a country now. As always, if you struggle with this, Heavenly Father is waiting to help, just like our earthly father is. We only have to ask. Until tomorrow.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Unconditional Love or Godly Love

Today I read Ephesians 3 where Paul is talking about the love that Jesus has for us. It has been stated in the past that Heavenly Father and Jesus also, have unconditional love for all of us. It is hard to understand what that means until you are a parent. This is because other kinds of love can be squelched. Just about everyone has been in love romantically with someone in the past that they are not in love with any more for any number of reasons. We may love our siblings or perhaps did love them at one point, but because of circumstances or choices that are made, we no longer do.

But the love a parent has for a child, I'm not sure that can be squelched or fade away. Unconditional love is a love that endures no matter what happens. That is how it gets its name. I really don't think it is something that anyone other than a parent can understand. And perhaps only a parent who has a child who tests those limits can truly understand it at that. But now that I have a daughter, I understand what people say when they say they would do just about anything for their kids. I can understand just how easy it is for a parent to spoil their child and give in and give them everything that they ask for. But we have discussed in the past how that is not love when such things happen.

Love is about doing what is best for the person regardless of their wishes or desires. When we give in to children's demands and take no thought to what it is that they need for their future, we are not thinking of them and what they need. We are instead giving into their desires and giving them what they, in their limited understanding, think they want and need. It is very similar to a child wanting to touch the bright red stove because they like the color red. You know that is a very bad idea, but the child doesn't know that. But if we give in and let the child get what they want, then we are actually doing more damage than good. This is the same for emotional things as well as other physical things. There is a reason that we are the adults and they are the children.

It is the same with Heavenly Father and with us. He knows what in the long term will be beneficial for us and what won't. He has enough love for us that He will deny us if it actually will harm us,or interfere with His plan for us. And we should truly thank Him for that and not get upset when it happens as we are sometimes prone to do. We have a very limited perspective, like a mouse in a maze, and cannot see everything that He sees. So we have to trust that all the things that are happening to us are for our benefit. We need to have a correct understanding of His nature so that we know that He will not do anything unless it is ultimately going to help us somehow. He knows us. He created us and He knows what we need to be able to come back to Him. He has a plan and He will share some of it with you if you only ask. But whether He shares it with you or not, we definitely need to trust Him. Otherwise, what sense does all this make, really? Until tomorrow.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Foundation of Christ's Church

Today I read Ephesians 2. I sometimes forget that the Epistles of Paul were written to different groups of people and so I find myself wondering at how so often I am reading the same concepts over and over again. Then of course I remember that this was written to people who had little to no contact with the other group of people and so it makes sense that Paul tells them similar things. I am referring here to the statement that we are saved by the Grace of God.

This is not a new concept for those of us centuries later who are reading the Bible in a way that was not even thought of when it was penned. We see all the things that the Apostles were trying to accomplish and help their people understand and it is quite easy for us to draw conclusions and patterns, but when Paul wrote this, he was trying to focus on what his audience needed most. He was only worried about what the Saints needed to hear.

The other part of this chapter that is pretty well known and that I am familiar with is the part about the Church of Christ being built upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets. This is yet another instance of where I don't understand how other churches manage to convince themselves that they don't need a living Prophet or Apostles when Paul, quite clearly, tells us that the Church of Jesus Christ is going to be built upon these things. Or in other words, the Church of Christ is going to have a Prophet and Apostles.

People who correctly understand the nature of God, that He is unchanging and is the same yesterday, today and forever, understand that what was in the church that Jesus established when He was on the earth, it going to still be in His church today. Jesus had Apostles and He had a prophet once He left the earth and could no longer personally govern the Church's affairs on the earth. So if God is unchanging, wouldn't His church today, if it were on the earth, still include those things? Of course it would. People change, but God is the same always. So if we are to have the same church that Jesus established, we need to know what that church was like when He was here on the earth. And Paul is telling us just that.

I'm honestly not sure why people would not want a prophet on the earth anyway. I mean, someone who talks to God on behalf of the whole world? That seems like it would be pretty beneficial and important to me. Fortunately though, those of us who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know that there is a prophet on the earth today. His name is Thomas S. Monson, and he does receive revelation for the entire earth. We have a Quorum of Twelve Apostles on the earth, just like Jesus did. We have a Quorum of Seventy, just like Jesus did. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the same in every way to what Jesus had in His church that He established on the earth. And I am grateful for every bit of it! I love this church with all of my heart and I love God. I am grateful for His tender mercies and how His love for us in manifest in so many ways. He has not abandoned us. He stands ready to receive us, even still. And that is a wonderful thought. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Foreordination vs. Predestination

Today I read Ephesians 1 where Paul is talking to them about the doctrine of foreordination, or as he refers to it, predestination. I really wish that he did not use that term as it has caused nothing but trouble among Christians in years since that time, but what can you do, it's out there. We have talked about the correct and true doctrine of foreordination, perhaps which the best example of which can be found in Abraham 3. Foreordination of course is that doctrine that before we were born into this world, we were fore-ordained to do certain things for God and the church. Alma teaches us in Alma 13 that all men who receive the Melchizedek Priesthood were foreordained to do so before they were born into this world.

In actuality this is not a hard concept for most people to understand. It is just that the false doctrine of predestination has made it more difficult for some to understand the difference. Predestination is the idea that God has already saved and damned certain people, that no matter what we do, our fates are already sealed. Such doctrine is nonsense and is nothing more than an excuse for those who do not wish to live by the commandments of God. Of course it has appeal, it is basically a free license to do whatever it is you want. You can even commit murder and it won't matter because God has already decided your fate. You are either damned or saved and there is nothing you can do to sway that fate one way or the other. So for those who living the commandments of God is just too hard, it has tremendous appeal.

But such doctrine just proves how certain people do not understand the nature of God at all. If they did, they would reject such notions outright. They would understand that in order to be comfortable in God's presence we will need to be like He is. I know I have said this before, but I really don't understand how people can not understand that concept considering they are only comfortable around people like themselves in this life. I guess they really think the next life is going to be different in every conceivable way.

But we know that who we are will not change just because we no longer have a physical body. If our spirits could not conquer our body and its appetites in this life, we will not be able to in the next life is my understanding. The Book of Mormon, specifically Amulek and Alma, teach us that our spirit will still be the same in the next life, which is only logical to me. I once heard that after we die, before we meet Jesus, we still have the veil over our minds and the only thing that we know after death that we did not know before it, is that there definitely is life after death. The scoffers and the disbelievers will still scoff and will still disbelieve.

Nothing is set in stone, we know this. Everyone has the same opportunities that everyone else does. We can choose what it is we want and work towards it. God loves us enough to allow us to choose our own fate. And really, isn't that just about the greatest gift of all? It definitely is right up there with the Atonement, but it goes back to agency and the ability to choose in the first place. God loves us enough to let us go if that is our choice. He really is merciful and loving in every way. It's a shame that more people do not understand that. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You Reap What You Sow

Today I read Galatians 6, Paul's closing to the Galatians. In this chapter Paul is trying to impress upon them that their fate is ultimately in their hands. He tells them that whatsoever they sow, that is what they will reap. It never fails to amaze me that in the Christian world they can miss such clear statements from the Apostles of old. I have met dozens of Christians in my day that think that it doesn't matter what they do because God is good and will redeem him/her anyway.

This is not the only place in the scriptures where we are told that our ultimate reward is dependent upon our actions. But so many people seem content to just believe the falsehood that it does not matter what they do, they are able to be whatever type of person they want to be and God will save them no matter what. Such people do not understand the scriptures at all. They do not understand that even if such a thing were true, they would not want it to be true. Such people should really read Alma's account to his son Helaman where he tells him that when he thought of standing in front of God he wished to cease to exist, that the mountains could fall upon him and bury him for His sight. For some reason people don't make the logical jump from earthly father to Heavenly Father. We do not like to face our earthly father when we have done something wrong, and that's only something temporal. How will we feel when we have to stand in front of our Heavenly Father, the source of all goodness in the universe, and account for our actions? I promise you that you won't want to if you have even the slightest bit of sin upon your conscience.

This truly is the time to prepare to meet God. And how do we make those preparations? By making a conscious choice to overcome evil and to do what is right. When we purposefully choose to not participate in that which is evil and to instead choose the right, we will slowly become a little more righteous. No one is able to just wake up one day and say they will never sin again. It's not possible because we are fallible and because God has given us weaknesses so that we will have to rely upon Him for help. But as we make conscious choices to overcome these trials and to not sin, then we are able to move just a little bit closer to where we want to be and Heavenly Father will change our nature to help make it a little easier the next time.

We have been given the gift of agency in this life. We fought a war over it in heaven. We are able to choose our own path in this life and by so doing, choose where we want to end up in eternity. We will reap what we sow, just as Paul told us. This is because what we sow determines who we become. Even an evil person can turn it around and choose the right and turn their world around. We determine who we will become. Our choices determine who we are. That is the ultimate gift our Heavenly Father has given us. And it was important enough that 1/3 of all of His children were cast out because they did not agree with Him that it was important and tried to take it away from all of us. Make sure that you are using your agency appropriately and that you are making the choices you want to make. It will affect you the rest of your existence! Until tomorrow.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fruits of the Flesh and the Spirit

Today I read Galatians 5, where Paul talks about the difference between the flesh and the spirit. He talks about how they are at odds against each other and that they cannot exist in harmony together. Just like Jesus taught in the book of Matthew, you cannot serve God and Mammon. He also talks about the fruits of each.

The fruits of the flesh, or the natural man are what you would expect. Selfishness, harmful, adultery, fornication, tending to make decision that are only beneficial towards oneself and not a service giving attitude at all. It is very much the prevalent attitude in today's society, the "what's in it for me" attitude. We see this all over the place these days. People doing things that 10-15 years ago they would never have dreamed of doing are now commonplace. People are only interested in what they can get out of things because they want to get ahead and don't care who they have to hurt to get it. Money, or drugs, or sex, or whatever vice they are interested in because the most important thing in their life and they will literally do anything to get more of whatever it is. And the saddest part is they truly do not care who they hurt in order to get what they want.

People with this type of attitude say things like, "it's my life", or "it's not hurting anyone". I could go on and on. But the fact of the matter is, while it may be your life, it does hurt someone besides yourself. If no one else, it hurts Heavenly Father. Whenever one of His children are acting in ways not in accordance with the Gospel, it causes Him pain. But we also cause pain to our loved ones. Anytime you see a divorce, regardless of the reason that one or both parties will give for it, ultimately it is because one or both parties is being selfish and harvesting the fruits of the flesh instead of the fruits of the Spirit. That's what it all boils down to. Adultery, abuse of any kind, ignoring duties, spending money without consulting with one's spouse first, all of these actions are due to selfishness on the part of one or both partners. If we truly had love for our spouse then we would put their needs and welfare first and foremost. We would be more concerned about what they want as opposed to what we want. And in time, their wants become our wants.

That is because true love is a fruit of the Spirit. When we allow our spirits to be in control of our bodies and to help us make correct choices, then we are able to let the Light of Christ that is in each of us to shine forth. The fruits of the Spirit are patience, forgiveness of others, humility, meekness, temperance, all of the qualities that we need in order to have a successful relationship with anyone, especially a spouse and children. When we choose to put others first and put our needs ahead of our own, then we will be capable of truly wonderful acts of service towards our loved ones. It is a much better, and happier way to live than being selfish all the time. I have seen dozens, perhaps hundreds of examples of marriages I don't want to have in my life. But there are not many examples of good marriages that I want to emulate. Hopefully through my wife and my examples, we are showing others how a good marriage can be. Because I would not trade being married to my wife for all the health, power or money in all the world. I hope you feel the same way about your spouse and you marriage. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Heirs of the Kingdom

Today I read Galatians 4 which I found pretty interesting. Paul starts out by talking about heirs and how until the heir is of age, they are no better than the servant. He states this because when an heir is young they have to be taught all the things that they need to learn in order to inherit. So even though they are heirs, they are not given preferential treatment, but expected to work and to earn their own way.

I agree with Paul's assessment. As far as we are heirs and so we are not going to be treated like heirs because we are not ready to inherit. This life is meant to teach us so that we can learn and grow and be ready to inherit all that the Father hath. That even though we are His heirs, we are not given special treatment but are expected to earn our inheritance. And this truly is the best way. In what other way are we going to be able to be prepared to inherit all that our Father hath if not through careful preparation?

Even Jesus, who was the greatest among us and was the literal Son of God in this life, had to gain His inheritance through the things that He suffered according to the scriptures. He came to this life to redeem us from death and to make sure that there was a way for us to return to live with Heavenly Father if we so choose. We are all heirs which Paul told us back in Romans but like he has told us in today's reading, being heirs does not mean that we are going to have it easy. Quite the opposite, if we are heirs, a good Father will make sure that we know exactly what those the heir will eventually be over go through. A good father will send his heir out to work the fields or to live with his future people. He does this so that the heir will be able to rule with compassion and understanding. While we will not be ruling over our fellow brethren, if we stay true and faithful to what God asks of us we will eventually become Gods ourselves and will create worlds. If we did not know what it was like to go through mortality, then how would we be able to comfort and guide our future children?

God has a plan and His way is the best way, always. There is always a reason for everything He does, even if it doesn't make sense. Just like a child may not understand why his father insists on his serving in the fields to understand what his people go through, but it makes sense in the end and his heir would not be who he is at the end without all the things he suffered and went through. So too we would not be who we are without the sum of our experiences. Heavenly Father knows what He is doing. We need to trust in Him and do as He asks. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Reason for Creation

Today I read Galatians 3 and it got me wondering. It made me wonder if the Israelites when Moses gave them the law if they knew that it was to bring them unto Christ and that salvation did not come by the law? This chapter is about Paul talking about the Abrahamic covenant and the law that was given to Moses. At one point he even calls the law a schoolmaster until Christ came.

In hindsight it is quite easy to see how the law was meant only as something to daily remind the Israelites about the coming of the Messiah in the meridian of time, but did they really understand what it was all about when it was given to them? I doubt that they did. I know that the Nephites had to be reminded of it several times. Perhaps the most famous example is Abinadi. He asked the priests of King Noah if salvation came by way of the Law of Moses and they answered that it did. Abinadi set them straight on that point and let them know that the Law of Moses was meant to only point them towards Jesus Christ who would come to save them. I'll wager that the Israelites missed the same point in the beginning and we know that they missed it in the days of Jesus.

I sometimes think about the hardheartedness of the Israelites and why was it so hard to believe, but then I look around at the people of the world today and it's not so hard to believe. There are little miracles that happen each and everyday if you know where to look and people seem quite content to ignore them or to pass them off as coincidence. They do not seem to understand that God is in control and that He is involved in our lives. Sometimes to a great extent, others to a lesser extent. A lot of it depends on us and how we handle it. Are we receptive to His help and grateful to Him for what He does for us? Or are we resentful that He doesn't do more for us. I am reminded of the woman in Elder Dallin H. Oaks' most recent General Conference talk where a woman asked him what has Jesus done for her? Like Elder Oaks I too am shocked when people seem to ignore all the evidence around them of God and His hand in their lives and seem content to just go through life with a spiritual sack over their head.

The scriptures tell us that God is mindful of us and that even a sparrow cannot fall without His knowledge. If He pays such attention to a sparrow, won't He pay attention to us, His work and His glory? The reason for the earth in the first place? I think He will. He knows us and He knows what we need, better than we do that's for sure. If we will allow Him into our lives and ask Him to help us see the miracles that are in our lives daily, I think we will be surprised at what the Lord has done, as the song goes. I've always enjoyed the poem footprints in the sand where we find that the Lord is always with us and at times even carries us. I believe that to be true in our lives, whether we believe in Him or not. Whether we are worthy of His help or not. I think He is always there watching out for us and just waiting for us to ask to be shown so that we can understand what a large place we hold in our Heavenly Father's eyes. I think if we could comprehend, we would be very surprised by how special we are to Him. We are the reason for the earth, and that should tell us something right there. I know I have no doubts how special I am to Him. I hope you understand it to. Until tomorrow.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Works of the Flesh Do Not Justify Us

Today I read Galatians 2 where it seems like Paul is trying to convince the Saints that the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not require them to be circumcised. Paul spends quite a bit of the chapter on that and explaining his missions that he has been on. He concludes by talking about how we are saved which is what I want to focus on.

Paul talks about how we are saved by our faith in Christ and not by works of the law. And he is exactly right. It is interesting to me however, that people cannot reconcile this with the other scriptures such as John 3:5 which tells us we have to be baptized. Some people seem to think that since we cannot be saved by the law of the Gospel, and we are only saved by our faith and by the grace of Jesus Christ, therefore we don't have to do anything but believe. This is completely not true and Jesus Christ Himself tells us that it is wrong. Jesus tells us that we have to baptized in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was even baptized.

We have talked about this in the past but it is so important that it bears repeating. We are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ and nothing else. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves because we are all imperfect creatures and we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of Heaven. It is through His Atonement that we are saved and nothing else. However, that being said, God has revealed to us that there are certain things we must do to take advantage of the grace of Jesus and be saved, such as baptism.

Now, Paul mentions that by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But that is not why we perform these ordinances. We perform them for a few reasons. One, because God has commanded us to. That is the most important reason. However, why does God command us? Well for starters there are rules that God has to follow also. But also, when we obey the commandments of God and perform the sacred ordinances for ourselves and then by proxy for others, we change. We allow the Spirit into our lives and can become better people because of it. So even though the ordinances aren't what ultimately saves us, they most certainly are a necessary part of of salvation and it is impossible to take full advantage of the Atonement without them. We have talked before about how we need to change who we are and our nature if we are to become like God is and gain the ultimate prize of life with Him in the Celestial Kingdom. That is my goal and it is what I am working towards. All of us are working towards what we want based on the kind of life we are living. Are you heading in the right direction? Until tomorrow.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Religion is Meant to Give Us Hope

Today I read Galatians 1 where Paul condemns all those who preach things other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This reminds me a lot of in the Book of Mormon when those who are anti-Christ show up and start preaching against Jesus Christ. Now, there is nothing against not believing in Jesus Christ, but as Alma tells Nehor in Alma 1 there is a real problem with Priestcraft, which is the preaching of false religions for money.

Now, religion is there to give hope to man and give them a reason to do that which is right and to become better men and women. I have often wondered why people get so bent out of shape when people don't believe in the same religion they do. All religions teach people to be good people and to do what is right, what does it matter if they worship Ala, or Jesus Christ or another deity? We should all try and help each other be better men and women. That is the ultimate goal of this life, to be better than we currently are.

When we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have a hope in Jesus and what will happen after this life. It reminds me of both Nehor and Korihor who accused Alma of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the sole purpose of keeping the people in bondage. And yet as Alma pointed out they were not paid for their labors so why would they do it if not to bring happiness into the lives of others? Likewise why do our missionaries serve missions where they pay for all their expenses themselves if not for the joy that spreading the good word of God can bring? There is no other reason unless they believe that they are doing what is right. Few people are that altruistic unless they feel that they are doing what is right. And even then most people insist on being compensated.

We can do much good in this life if we do not care about getting compensated or care about who gets the credit for doing it. When we become truly converted and work towards the good of others ahead of our own good, we will see some wonderful things happen in this life. We just need to overcome our own sense of self and cultivate a desire to help others for the sake of their welfare. When we do that, we will see them as Jesus sees them and we will have a truly wonderful life. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Try, Try Again

Today I read 2 Corinthians 13 where Paul closes his epistle to the Saints in Corinth. He mentions that this is actually his 3rd time writing to them although we only have 2 epistles. However, despite it being his third letter, we can assume that the first one we do not have a record of was fairly similar to the two we do a record of. I don't really think that the Saints would have changed all that much in just a few years. Unless it's for the worse, but you never know.

There is one thing that we can take away from this though, that repetition is the key to getting it right. Think about it. We all know that no matter how hard we try we will never be able to get it right. We will all fail and fall short. Every day we sin. All it takes is one stray thought that you don't banish quite fast enough. One harsh thought towards someone else or a harsh word. And as soon as we do that, it's all over. We are no longer clean and no longer worthy to be in His presence. So how are expected to get it right?

The only way possible is to pick ourselves up off the ground, and try again. It's just like the old adage that when you fall off the horse, you've got to pick yourself up off the ground and try again. I have a little picture with a saying on my desk at work, one of those motivational posters, that talks about courage. It roughly says that sometimes true courage is at the end of the day when you fail saying that you will try again tomorrow. Just yesterday I actually looked at that and it reminded me that no matter how tough it gets in whatever aspect of your life, you always can try again and try and correct whatever mistakes you have make. That is what the Atonement is for. We can correct our mistakes and repent of our sins and try again. And perhaps this time we will get a little farther along before we slip and fall again. The only time we truly fail is when we give up. Otherwise it is just a matter of picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and starting back on that path.

We are lucky in that we don't have to do this alone. I am forever happy and grateful that my wife is right there by my side encouraging me to improve and be better than I am. I am a firm believer that we cannot change anyone. We can only encourage and give a reason for wanting to change. And my wife is the best reason I have ever found to change and be better than I am. I want to spend eternity with her by her side. Slowly growing together and becoming one flesh. If there ever was a reason to live the Gospel and keep trying until I get it right, she is it. The prospect of being with my daughter forever and my parents and siblings is a great motivator too.

Just like I have said probably dozens of times, God will give us our true hearts desire. If we don't want to return to live with Him, He will not force us to. But He wants us to. And if we want to be part of a forever family, then we need to live the kind of life He has outlined in the scriptures. That is the only way we will be able to spend eternity with our loved ones. If that is not a motivator for being righteous, what is? Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tough Love

Today I read 2 Corinthians 12 where I can only assume Paul is talking about a vision he has had, although I am not sure why he is bringing it up to the Saints in Corinth. He talks a little bit about his weaknesses and how God's grace is sufficient for all those who humble themselves before Him. But the line that stood out to me comes from verse 19 where Paul says that everything they have done was for the edifying of the Saints.

This is a line that you hear from time to time both in fiction and in reality. You hear it sometimes in shows and movies where the person rationalizes their odd, and oftentimes evil and illegal behaviors by saying it was for someone's benefit. In real life if you hear this phrase it is usually from the denial of something that the other person, oft times a child, really wanted. You usually hear the person doing the denying say something like this is for your own good. They then engage in something that is normally called "tough love" and do something that the other person does not want to happen but ultimately needs.

Heavenly Father does this to us too. He will deny us something that in our mortal thinking, we think we need. It reminds me a lot of the story of Elder Hugh B. Brown when he was denying his military promotion because he was a Latter-day Saint. Elder Brown was extremely unhappy and even blamed God for his not being promoted. It was not until years later when he was called as an Apostle that he realized that if he had been given that promotion his life would have been totally different and he never would have been able to be called as an Apostle. What Heavenly Father did for Elder Brown seemed cruel at the time, but it truly was for his benefit.

We do the same thing with our children all the time. Your child may cry and stamp their feet and get really upset with you if you don't let them touch the stove when they reach for it, but you know it is for their benefit. You know that a little anger, sadness and frustration from them is worth it to avoid hours and perhaps days of pain and discomfort if they actually touch that hot stove. It can be hard to inflict a little pain and frustration in those we love to save them a great pain later. It takes a true act of love in order to accomplish it. Because it is not fun to deny your child something that they really want. It is not so hard to deny them something they want when you know it will physically hurt them, but when they want something and the consequences are not so immediate, it can be a challenge to deny them that.

But if we truly love them, then we have to do what is best for them. This is not always what they want. But it's not about giving them what they want, it's about giving them what they need. Heavenly Father understands this and I'm sure it is very hard for Him to see us suffer like we do, but He loves us enough to do what is best for us always. He knows what is just around the bend and what our potential is. He will help us to reach that potential and will do whatever is necessary to get us there. Tough love. But it is necessary. If we really want to make it easy on ourselves, the best way is to ask for Heavenly Father to help us be adaptable for whatever comes our way and to help us understand His plan for us. That is the best way to make sure that we are ready for what He has in store for us. Because His plan is always better than our own plan, I guarantee it. Until tomorrow.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beware of False Prophets

Today I read 2 Corinthians 11 which I'm not exactly sure what Paul is trying to say in this chapter. The things I took away from it were to beware of false prophets and apostles, and that Paul suffered much in his days for the sake of righteousness. It says he was beaten with 39 stripes 3 times by the Jews, which is really impressive since some men don't even survive it happening once. It says he has been shipwrecked three times , he was beaten with rods three times, he was stoned and he spent a day and a night in the ocean, or sea. That is quite a lot for one man!

But going back to the topic of bewaring false prophets and apostles it has often amused me how people can be fooled by such people when the scriptures are before them. I guess they don't read the scriptures or understand them like they should. For example, most of you should be quite familiar with the man who predicted the end of the world, or the start of the Rapture back in April and then again in October. This man obviously does not understand the scriptures, because the scriptures tells us that no man knows the day or the hour of the Second Coming. If he had truly been a prophet and had understood the scriptures, then he would have known that his predictions were not right. People get so scared and so worried about it and got all worked up about it. And then nothing happened, at all.

It was the same thing in the 90's when Nostradamus had predicted the end of the world and it will be the same in 2012 when the Mayan calendar ends. No man knows when the Second Coming will happen. Not even President Monson knows when the Second Coming of Jesus will take place. The scriptures are purposefully vague on this matter. The scriptures even tell us to beware of those who say that Christ is in the desert or the secret places or saying lo there and lo here. When Jesus comes again, everyone will know about it.

It is the same thing when people come out with something new to try and disprove the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My Dad remembers when the salamander letters came out how it caused a lot of people to question their faith. He said that he got through it by just holding fast to his testimony because there was no doubt in his mind that God had told him that the Book of Mormon was true. And sure enough in time the salamander letters were proved false just like all attempts to disprove the Book of Mormon or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are. This is the work of Heavenly Father and it cannot be frustrated by the efforts of men or Satan. It will go forth as He has decreed it because Satan will lose. It has already been decided. We just need to decide which side we want to be on and stick to our guns. We cannot play for both teams, it will not work. The Spirit will not be our companion if we even attempt it. We have to decide now and stick with our decision.

Satan will never stop trying to lead men astray. It is his nature. He will continually try and frustrate the efforts of God. If we allow him to do so, he will succeed in claiming each one of us because it is extremely hard if not impossible to defeat him on our own. We need the help of the Savior in order to win this battle. We have to decide now what it is we want and make it happen otherwise we will fail. Choose the right, when a choice is placed before you. Choose happiness and eternal peace and progression. I know I have. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

First Impressions and Judgments

Today I read 2 Corinthians 10 and the main thing I took away was looking upon the outward appearance. Or rather that we should avoid looking upon the outward appearance of others. But that is very hard to do. As soon as we see someone we are making judgments about them. We see someone who is overweight and we immediately formulate thoughts about how they do not exercise or they eat too much. We someone dressed all in black with lots of piercings and we immediately decide we do not want to associate with someone like that. The reason we wear our best clothing to a job interview is because we want to show that we are taking it seriously and that we really want the job in question.

First impressions happen all the time and they are ok, as long as you keep an open mind and wait to see if your first impression is accurate or if it needs to be tailored based on what you find when you get to know the person. It is very hard to erase a first impression once it is made though that is why people try so hard the first go around to make sure that they give the type of impression they want. That is why women agonize over what they are going to wear. That is why men take the time to shave and groom themselves appropriately. All of this is so that they give off the type of impression they want to. Because whether or not you want to give off an impression, you will. There is no avoiding it.

So as Latter-day Saints, or Christians in general, what type of impression should we strive to give off? Well, since we are the disciples of Christ and people look at us to see what we will do in any given situation, I suggest that we need to give off the same type of impression that Christ would give if He were here. We would not expect Christ to show up anywhere looking like He just rolled out of bed. We would not expect Christ to wear clothing that is soiled with food or anything else. We would not expect Jesus to use language that is offensive or too casual. We would expect to hear Jesus speak with exactness and choose every word carefully. I would expect to hear Jesus laugh when it is appropriate to do so, but only at the right types of things. I would never expect Jesus to laugh at or tell an off color joke. And if He wouldn't why should we?

People are always watching Latter-day Saints. Some watch to see us slip up. Some watch us because they wish they could be as obedient as we are. Others watch to see if they can cause us to slip. Regardless of the reason, once it is known that you are a Latter-day Saint, you are always on stage and there is no getting around it. But knowing this should help you commit to doing what is right at all times so that you don't have to worry about the fact that you are being watched. It is not easy to live all the commandments all of the time, but it is possible to keep all the big ones all the time. As we live the life Jesus would live, the kind of life we should desire to live, eventually we will no longer have the desire to do that which is wrong. We will change and overcome the natural man. When this happens you will not even have to consciously think about what you are doing and if you are giving off a good impression, it will just happen automatically. That is what we should be striving for. Keep working towards letting the good in you shine forth and you will see the good in others and you will be able to make appropriate judgements and know that the first impression you have of that other person is accurate and true. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Reason We Obey

Today I read 2 Corinthians 9 which to me was all about having the right attitude. When you were a kid, did you ever have to apologize for something you did wrong and afterwards your parents told you to do it again but this time say it like you mean it? I sure did. That is because our reason for doing things is usually just as important as the act itself. Think about all those TV shows about courtrooms and juries and judges and things. Aren't they always trying to prove the reason why the crime was committed just as much as they are who committed it? That's because there is a HUGE difference between someone who commits a crime on a spur of the moment and someone who sits down and meticulously plans it out.

So it is with all things. Our reasons for why we do things matter. I have generally found that there are a few stages to why we obey God's commandments or obey anyone's rules, laws, etc. The first stage is, we are afraid of punishment. This is universal and it starts as we are babies and children first starting to realize that we want certain things and they are not always in line with what our parents want for us. Think about all those times you have heard a parent, perhaps even your own, say to a child not to do something, or else. Perhaps if you are a parent you have even uttered those same words before to your child. I know I have already and my daughter is only 1 years old! This is because at that age, when a child has it set in their mind to do something, sometimes a fear of punishment is all that will stop them. That is the same way with keeping the commandments of God.

When we are first starting out we keep the commandments because we do not want to go to hell. It's as simple as that. We are afraid that if we screw up too badly, that God will punish us and send us into a lake of fire and brimstone, or something else similarly bad. We are afraid of the consequences, as we should be. The true consequence for not living the Gospel is an eternity without Heavenly Father or our family. That is what real hell is. But it is not because God is punishing us, more because we could not stand to be in His presence as Alma the Younger taught us. But it is a punishment nonetheless.

The second stage of following some set of rules is a desire for reward. How many times have you heard a parent tell a child that if they finish their vegetables they can have dessert? Too many to count probably. That's because bribery or a promise of a reward is a fantastic motivator for doing what is right. It's an even better motivator than fear of punishment, hence why it is the second stage. Some people follow the commandments of God for this reason. They want the promised blessings of following the commandments of God. For example if we pay tithing, we are promised that the windows of Heaven will open and pour out blessings so great that we cannot receive them. Some people pay tithing because of these promised blessings.

Now, before I move on to the final stage, I should point out that there is another stage that not all will agree with. That is the desire to do what is right, for the sake of doing what is right. Let me give you an example. I served a mission, because it was a commandment of God. No other reason, pure and simple. Growing up I had heard the talk by President Ezra Taft Benson who said that ever able bodied young man should serve a mission. A call to arms I believe. It may have been President Kimball, I'm not entirely sure, but multiple prophets have said it, however President Benson was the prophet during my childhood that I can remember, President Kimball passed away when I was 5. So I knew that serving a mission was expected of me, and what's more, it was a commandment from the Lord. So when I turned 19, there was no question in my mind that I was to serve a mission. It was part of the plan.

Now, I will make no secret that when I turned 19 I did not look forward to it, I did not want to do it, and if it had not been a commandment of the Lord, I would not have gone. I make no apology for it, that is how I felt. I did not want to give up my life for His sake. Luckily for me, my will to serve God and do what was right was strong enough to push through all of my doubts and misgivings and I am happy to say that by about the second week in the mission field I was past all of that and had an absolutely wonderful mission.

But I bring this up because I don't think this really is part of the other three reasons for obeying commandments and rules. I think it might even be a fourth reason but I have no idea where it would fall on the spectrum. But there are those who do what is right because it is what is right. It has nothing to do with fear of punishment or desire for reward or the last reason, they do it because they know what is expected of them and so they do it. In their mind there is no other option. Nephi was that way. I try to be that way also.

Now, the final reason for obeying God's commandments or anyone's rules, and it is at the top of the list no matter how many other steps below it there are, it is always the greatest reason for obedience. It is love. We obey God's commandments because we love Him. We obey the rules of our household because we love our parents. I know that I have seen my daughter, even at 1 years old, obey what I have asked of her because she loves me. There are times she does the things she has seen me do simply because she wants to be like me. She loves me and wants to do the things I have done and ask of her. So it is with God. When we are truly converted we will not pay our tithing because we want a blessing, but rather because we love God and He asked us to. Perhaps obeying the commandments because they are a commandment is a sub-set of this one. We obey because God has asked it of us and that's all we need to know. I'm not sure. But the reason we obey is just as important as the obedience itself.

God wants us to obey his word with a cheerful heart. This is because if we are to be exalted, we need to find joy in living the Gospel. Elder David A. Bednar, when he was here last September, told asked our Stake if we found joy in living the Gospel. Did we find living he commandments a delight, or a burden? Depending on our answer really tells us how converted we are. And I agree. If we find living the commandments a burden, then we are not converted to the Lord. We should still live them because they are right and the formula for a very happy life, but we should pray to God to give us the desire to live them more completely and fully. You will not be sorry you did. Until tomorrow.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Service with a Smile

Today I read 2 Corinthians 8 and honestly the biggest impression I got from my reading today was, "Thank heavens for the Book of Mormon!". Pretty much the entire book of 2 Corinthians I have had a hard time getting the meaning of what Paul is trying to say to these Saints. I think it is because of difference in cultures and the times and a different way of speaking. It maybe because of translators or what ever the reason, I just don't know, but it is not very clear to me. I remember my Dad told me once that he tried to read the Bible when he was younger and it made no sense to him at all. He couldn't understand it! But after getting the Gift of the Holy Ghost after he was baptized, he went back and read the Bible and he could understand it now. I certainly believe him too because I read through the Old Testament for the first time 2 years ago and it was very difficult.

The main theme I took away from this chapter, aside from gratitude for the Book of Mormon, was service. It could just be that service has been on my mind, like my post 8 days ago on avoiding idleness, but to me if felt like Paul was trying to talk to the Saints at Corinth about serving their fellow man. As I have been listening to the most recent General Conference talk President Henry B. Eyering has been talking about a day of service that the church was involved in. My ward's day of service is coming up a week from tomorrow. It is a wonderful opportunity for the Saints to perform service for someone, either in the ward or in the community. Throughout my reading today I have been pondering on Mosiah 2:17 where King Benjamin teaches that when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are really serving God.

I have long pondered on the point of service and why we are asked to serve our fellow man. God without even lifting so much as an eyebrow could provide for His people everything that they need. But He doesn't. He chooses instead to use us, imperfect beings, to provide for the needs of others. The reason He does this, is because performing service is as much for the person performing the service as it is for the person receiving the service. When we perform service, we are putting the needs of others ahead of our own. We are allowed to step into the role of the Savior and provide for the temporal needs of those around us. This of course allows the Spirit of the Lord to come into our lives which is why it feels so good to provide service.

There is a purpose to everything Heavenly Father does. As I stated above, Heavenly Father could provide for the needs of everyone Himself, and at times He does. However, the reason we are allowed to help Him in this all important work is because it will change us. When we provide service to others it changes who we are and our thought process. Putting aside our own desires for sleep, the money we donate, our time or whatever we are sacrificing to help someone else will cause us to change a little bit and grow. We will be putting off the natural man and taking a good step towards becoming more like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We should never pass up the opportunity to serve, no matter how small, if we can help it. We should always take the time to serve those around us. As we do we will find ourselves a lot happier than we were before. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Godly Sorrow Leads to Repentance

Today I read 2 Corinthians 7 where the main focus to me seems to be Paul's talking to the Saints at Corinth about sorrow and Godly sorrow verses the sorrow of the world. We have talked about this before but it is so important that I think it bears talking about again. Since the Bible and Book of Mormon are companion volumes of scripture, it makes sense that they would deal with the same topics and overlap on the things that Heavenly Father wants me to talk about. And besides, with a topic as important as Godly Sorrow can we really say enough about it?

Mormon in his time called godly sorrow the sorrowing to repentance as compared to the sorrowing of the damned. Have you ever seen someone, or perhaps even in just a movie or TV show, where someone apologizes and the other person says that they aren't sorry, they are only sorry they got caught? I have met several people like that. For example, most kids are not very sorry when they do something wrong, they are only saying sorry because their parents tell them they have to. This is not sorrow that is going to lead to a change of heart. When we have done something wrong, we should feel sorrow because of it and desire to change, not because we were caught, but because we have offended God.

As we have talked about before, godly sorrow means caring more what God thinks, than what the world thinks. Do you remember when you were younger and you and your sibling got in trouble, and you had to go into the closet until you could come out with your arms around each other and say you were sorry like you meant it? I visited that closet a LOT as a kid I must admit. Because I could say the words, I'm sorry, quite easily enough, but to mean them means to swallow your pride and gain humility. That is not easy to do no matter what age you are.

The purpose of feeling sorrowful when we have done something wrong is to help us have humility and help us make the changes we need to make in order to become more Christlike. The Light of Christ in each of us let's us know when we have done that which is wrong and causes us to burn with shame and guilt because we need to make changes in order to become a better person. God never does anything without a purpose and something like this He definitely designed. There are times where we suffer the natural consequences of what we have done, but feeling sorrow for sin and wrongful actions is only one of them because that is the way God designed it.

We are the children of God and we have the potential for divinity in each of us. You wouldn't always know it to look at the world around us, but each of us has the ability to become more than we are today. We can all become better sons and daughters of God. We have to want it though, it has to be our desire. God will always give us what we want, no matter how much it breaks His heart. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Avoiding Offense

Today I read 2 Corinthians 6 where Paul gives lots of counsel to the Saints. One of the things he said to them stuck in my mind. It comes from verse 3. He says "Giving no offense in anything". O found that to be interesting because lately we have been told by the leaders of our church in General Conference that when someone takes offense it is because they choose to and this is true. However, this does not give us a free pass to say whatever we like and if someone has a problem with it, that is their problem. Not at all!

We have an obligation to treat people as Jesus Christ did. The Golden Rule very much still applies in this day and age as it does in the first place when it was coined. There is no reason to treat others poorly. None at all. Think back to when you were a child and you had hit your sibling or started an argument with them. When your parents came around and started dishing out the punishments did it matter to them when you told them that "He/She started it"? No it did not. If they were like my parents then the common response heard to such a statement was, "I'm gonna finish it". And they did! Quite often. My parents were not interested in why I was fighting, only that I was.

I have no doubts that Heavenly Father will be the same way. He will not care that someone drove erratically and almost caused an accident, he will only care that I used foul language. He will not care that someone called me a nasty name, he will only care that I called them a bad name back. We need to do our best to go through this life without giving offense. Now, as the scriptures and modern prophets have told us, it is up to the person who has been offended to come to the person who did the offending to go and speak up about it. The person who did the offending might not even realize they said something inappropriate or offensive. However, once it has been made known that they have indeed offended the person they need to apologize for it because I am positive that they did not intend to offend the person.

Now, there is an exception to this rule. If we have offended with the truth, not in the manner that we proclaimed it, but just the truth itself, then I see no reason to apologize for it. For example, Nephi tells us that the wicked taketh the truth to be hard. This is because it cuts them to the very core and lays bare their sins. However, the truth of God is the truth and we should not and cannot apologize for the Gospel of Christ. We stand for righteousness and we need to make sure that we are not apologizing for it. Now we can say we are sorry that they are offended by it, but we must not apologize for preaching the word of God. In this we must be guided by the Spirit. And if we are open and willing to be guided by the Spirit, then we will not offend by accident and we can be an instrument in His hands. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We Must Help New Members of the Church

Today I read 2 Corinthians 5 which is about doing the things of Christ, or the things of the Spirit once we have been baptized. Paul is talking to the Saints at Corinth and telling them the same thing he told the Saints at Rome. That once we are baptized we should walk in a newness of life, that our old life is done and we should focus on the things of the Spirit. Also, we should not turn back to our old sins when we have been baptized or felt that we have been born again of the Spirit and had that mighty change of heart.

As a missionary, I saw a lot of people get baptized and saw them start out with that fire and zeal that most new members get. They are full of the Spirit and happiness and want to share it with everyone around them. That usually lasts until their first friend rejects what they have to say. But depending on the person, it may not dampen their zeal for sharing the Gospel. Sadly though, for 90% of them, it did. But there were a couple of them that were truly converted to the Lord and went forth doing the things they were supposed to be doing and not caring what the world thought of them. That can be hard I think if you have grown up a certain way and then suddenly change it. That is not an easy thing to overcome. That is why President Hinckley said that every new convert needs a friend, a responsibility and nurturing with the good word of God. Because without those things, most new converts don't stand a chance of staying active, they will fall away for any number of reasons.

The world is a harsh place for a new member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several religions hate us without really knowing anything about us. Parent disown children if they join the Church. That one I have never understood. In this day and age of so called acceptance, parents will accept their kids being homosexual, getting a sex change operation, doing drugs, drinking alcohol before the appropriate age, having per-marital sex, even committing murder, but if they join the Mormon church, nothing doing and they are cut off. Doesn't that tell you something? Of all the things on that list above they are getting upset over what religion their children are? It seems a little....out of the ordinary. That is because Satan is doing everything in his considerable power to destroy this work. The work of the Master.

New members of the LDS church really do have it rough, rougher than most of those who have been members for a long time. They have to overcome pressure from their peers, family and society. They have to change habits that in some cases have been developed over a lifetime of no one telling them it is wrong. Some of them make it, some have been searching for the truth and have felt that little voice inside of them telling them that they don't belong in the world. They had made those choices to live the Gospel already without understanding what they were really doing or why. But even they will need help from those of us who have gone before and been living the Gospel for years. They can lean on us for support and for help.

It is up to us to help these new members. I firmly believe Heavenly Father will not only ask us about those we might have helped, those we might have shared the Gospel with, but will also ask us about those new members He put in our path to assist and make sure they did not fall away. We ARE our brother's keeper and we ARE responsible for our neighbor. Heavenly Father will hold us responsible for the things we did not do that we should have, just as much as He will for the things we did do that we shouldn't have done. None of us want to be in that situation at the last day. I know I sure don't! Until tomorrow.