Thursday, March 31, 2011


Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 96 where the Lord directs a few of the brethren in making sure that the plot of land where the temple will be built is taken care of, as well as making sure that those who are to serve a mission are cared for. It ends with the Lord telling the brethren to have one of the brethren join the United Order.

This section, while not really pertaining to anything in our day and age since we do not use the United Order anymore, got me thinking about the temple in Kirtland and all temples. When I lived in Kentucky, I lived only about 2 minutes away from the temple. It was wonderful. I had a friend that I would carpool to work with several times a week. In order to get to my house he had to drive past the temple every day. We had several discussions about the temple and Latter-day Saints in general during those car rides.

We as Latter-day Saints, take a lot of flack from others about our temples generally. When a new temple is announced and people who are not fond of the church hear about it, they sometimes make a lot of fuss and can even cause quite a stir about the temple being built in that city. A fun story about the Louisville, Kentucky temple. When it was being built, there was a man who came to Louisville. He apparently goes to all the cities in America where temples are being built, goes to the local churches and gathers people to protest the temple being built with him. This man actually told the Stake President in Louisville, that he was unable to get any of the local churches to protest with him. They all said that they had liked the Latter-day Saints and did not desire to protest the temple being built. He had to bring in protesters from another city. He actually gained a bit of respect for the Saints in Louisville.

I've honestly never understood why people protest temples being built anyway. Would they protest if Muslims wanted to build a temple in their city, or a synagogue, or a Buddhist temple or any other religious structure for another religion? Now, I know there are the rumors about what goes on in the temples and so some people may protest them through misguidance, but I don't believe for a second that the man who protests all the temples actually believes those rumors. He strikes me as one who knows all too well what actually goes on in the temple.

Temple worship is some of the most wonderful, sacred worship we can do in this life. The last year I lived in Louisville before my wife and I moved, we actually were able to serve as temple workers. It was a wonderful opportunity and I'm really glad I had a chance to do it. It was a lot of fun to be able to serve all those who were coming in to worship and serve God. If you have never had the opportunity to serve as a temple worker, if your situation allows it, I would suggest you talk to your Bishop about it. It is a very worthwhile opportunity.

I've been lucky in my life that I have never met anyone who disliked Latter-day Saints, except on my mission, and most of the people I have met in my life get to know me as Fred first and then find out I am a Latter-day Saint later, which I think helps. Although there was a couple of instances as a teenager that my friends were fine with me because they met me that way, but their parents heard that their child had a Mormon friend and didn't like it so when I met them I took some heat. One friend of mine, when I met her mother, she came out on to the porch, looked me up and down and then said, "Well you certainly don't look evil". But I have been fortunate that it is a rarity. But I think most people that we come across in this life as members are going to be more curious about temples as opposed to hostile about it. I would urge you if you have non-member friends, which we all do, that if you ever have an opportunity to invite them to a temple open house, please do so. It is a wonderful spiritual experience and we have them for a reason.

It is a true blessing to have temples. The Lord has allowed us to serve with Him as Saviors on Mount Zion to those we perform those sacred ordinances for. Please take advantage of it as often as you can and share what you can of it with those of your acquaintance who may be curious. Remember, a lot of people are searching for the truth and don't know where to find it. Don't hoard the truth, it is meant to be shared with all. And it brings great joy to both the hearer and the speaker alike. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chasten those we Love and Fasting

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 95, wherein the Lord is displeased with some of His disciples. I am again struck by the statement the Lord makes that He chastens because He loves us. It is such an easy thing to forget. When one is being punished, it sure feels like the person doing the punishing has anything but the other party's best interests at heart.

And yet that is exactly what is happening. We care enough to give a punishment so that the other person or persons can learn that the behavior they are exhibiting is wrong and needs to change. Sometimes all that is required to help them learn that is to let them suffer the consequences of their own actions. All too many parents these days though are far more interested in trying to be their children's friend than they are their parent. I don't know where this ridiculous notion came from. Who in their right mind thinks that an 8 year old needs a 40 year old friend instead of a Mom?

Friendship between children and parents really only comes once the child reaches adulthood. If you can manage to be the child's friend when times are good and be the parent when times are bad, then it's fine. But what most people find is that when the child is being punished and the phrase, "I thought you were my friend" is flung back at the parent, the parent caves in. I just sadly shake my head when I see it. That phrase never worked on me even when I heard it from my friends as a teenager. I have never understood how people can be guilted into doing things. But my wife likes to tell me I am not the norm.

But I have already talked about this before back when we read Helaman so I want to switch veins. The Lord chastises His disciples saying that they walk in darkness at noon day and explains that this is the reason He has commanded them to meet together often to fast and to pray. I have always wondered why fasting is so efficacious. How does going without food and water for two meals accompanied by prayer manage to accomplish so much?

We read in the scriptures of people learning the things of the Spirit, of becoming scriptorians, of overcoming temptations, and so much more, all from fasting. I understand that fasting is to help us gain mastery over the physical body and to help us become more in tune with the spirit. And in that sense, I can understand how fasting can help us know the scriptures better. Only when we read with the Spirit as our guide can we truly understand the scriptures, especially the Bible, and understand how they can be of benefit to us. But the scriptures always attribute so much more to fasting than just gaining the Spirit.

Perhaps it is just the willingness to sacrifice that does it. I'm honestly not sure. I do find it interesting that fasting is something most other churches still do. I have a friend who is a member of another faith and she is doing a 40 day fast for lent that involves giving up meat, dairy, processed flour and refined sugars. I am proud of her for doing such a thing and think it's good that other religions still teach their members to fast and that fating is a good and proper way to show devotion to God. I have never heard a member of another faith teach fasting as a way to supplicate God though.

I must admit that all too often I fast each month just because that is what we do and it is what is expected of me. I do have a purpose to the fast as we are asked to do, but it is definitely not something I look forward to and quite often is something I dread as the beginning of the new month approaches. It is a weakness of mine I need to overcome I suppose. So one could argue that it is especially important for me to follow this commandment and do it until I love it as the old saying goes. Perhaps I should fast to better appreciate and gain a truer understanding of fasting. That is after all what it's purpose is. It is most certainly something I will need to work out with the Lord.

The one thing that cannot be denied, is that fasting works and is important. The Lord Himself tells us over and over in the scriptures and through his modern prophets that fasting is important. And if there is one thing I have learned it is that when the Lord continues to reiterate something in the scriptures and through His prophets, it is important to pay attention to it. Who knows? Maybe this weekend one of the Lord's representatives on the earth will talk about it and it will answer all my questions. We shall see. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

At the Feet of the Prophet

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 94. In this section, the Lord maps out the city of Kirtland, how He wants it laid out. It must have been an interesting life and time, to live around the prophet, Joseph Smith and have him receive revelations from the Lord on a sometimes daily basis. It does seem a little odd to me that he should receive revelations from the Lord on such mundane topics as where to build a house for Hyrum Smith.

I think it would have been neat to live near the prophet Joseph. Although for some people it was stumbling block apparently. There is more than one person that, because of their close proximity to him, saw him for what he was, a man that the Lord had called to lead his church and he apparently did not meet their expectations of what a prophet should be like. For example, one of the men who left the church, I forget his name, came over to ask Joseph something and saw him wrestling on the floor with his children and felt that was not a behavior a prophet should engage in. Personally I would have been thrilled to see such a sight. I would have thought to myself that it is wonderful that the prophet is a man just like me.

I'm not sure where people got the idea of what a prophet should be like anyway. In the Bible we only have a record of the prophets of old and their duties as a prophet. We only know about their prophecies, their missions and the things they did in the name of the Lord. We have no idea what they did in their personal lives. Although, Joseph Smith, and Brigham Young are both unique in that they were called to be prophet unusually young, even Joseph was called at half the age Brigham was. So Joseph Smith was unique among most of the prophets, I'm sure there are others we don't know about, in that he was a prophet as a teenager and a young adult.

We DO have a record of the modern day prophets and how they were most definitely men made more perfect through the things they experienced and suffered. And that is a comfort for me, it gives me hope. Because I look at our current prophet, President Monson, and I just feel defeated. How can I ever hope to be as good as he is, let alone the Savior. But then I read about the prophet's in their lives at my age and realize they made mistakes too and they took it one day at a time, just like I have to. I believe it was President Spencer W. Kimball's wife that was once asked what it was like to be married to the prophet and she replied that he was not a prophet when she married him. The only person I know of that did not have to become perfected over a lifetime was the Savior. Enoch and his city was not translated for over 300 years! And Enoch was not called to the ministry until he was 65 I believe.

A prophet is not born, a prophet is made. Even then, they have help. Joseph Smith did not overnight go from being a young adult, to a prophet. The Lord helped him and taught him line upon line, precept upon precept. Joseph is again unique in that we know very, very well his faults and the problems he had in the learning process. We know for a fact that he did things he shouldn't have, like tempt the Lord and thus lost part of the Book of Mormon. Now, this is not to give one a license to just go out and run amok sinning wherever and whenever possible. Rather this is to help give us hope that we too can become as they are and were.

It would have indeed been neat to have lived in the days of Joseph Smith and seen first hand the revelations that we are now reading being received and watch Joseph direct the church. It would have been very hard too as you well know if you have studied any of the church's history. However, if you still want to see a prophet in action, all you have to do is watch general conference every six months, because we have President Monson who is in charge now and he receives inspiration for this church and he lets us know the will of the Lord concerning us. Actually we have conference this weekend, please be sure to take advantage of it and make sure you are spiritually prepared to hear the will of the Lord, and you will. Until tomorrow.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Children are a Fulness of Joy

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 93, a really fun section if you ask me. The Lord in this section tells us some things about himself, and about the universe. I always like learning new things, like I have mentioned before now, and that is I why I really like this section. The Lord teaches us some good things about the nature of the universe in this section, not the least of which is he lets us know that Isaac Newton was correct that matter cannot be created nor destroyed, but that the elements are eternal. I love the idea that God is bound by laws too.

One of the greatest thing about children, to me, is their love of learning. They want to know everything and they love to learn new things. I love to watch my daughter as she explorers the world around her and if you take her to someplace new like the mall, it is pure joy to see her little head whip back and forth and she tries to take it all in. I can't wait until she is a little older so that I can start to teach her things and she can really understand it. Right now I try and teach her certain things but she doesn't really comprehend it. I'm especially looking forward to teaching her the gospel and helping her learn to love the scriptures. I'm really looking forward to helping her find the Savior in this life.

I once heard it said that having children is considered a fullness of joy by our Heavenly Father. In the verse where the Lord tells us that the elements are eternal He tells us that only when our spirits and the elements are inseparably connected can we have a fulness of joy. Having received all the saving ordinances prior to having children, I can agree, that the most joy I have had in this life would be with my wife as we brought our daughter into this world and watched my wife hold our baby girl for the first time. Nothing else even comes close. I wonder if that is the way our Heavenly Father sees us? Given the way He refers to children, I would think He does. That is why I cannot understand why some people treat their children like a burden and go as far as to abuse them. It makes me shudder to even think on it.

But we have responsibilities to our children beyond providing for their physical and emotional needs. Just as the Lord will hold us responsible for who we might have helped save if we had been righteous and had opened our mouth and shared the gospel with them, He will hold us even more responsible if we do not teach our children the gospel. He tells Frederick G. Williams in this section that he is under condemnation because he has not taught his children the right way to go and has not taught them the gospel. It is up to us to make sure that our children are taught appropriately and that they receive the spiritual education that all children need to know in order to return to live with our Heavenly Father.

As we teach our children the everlasting gospel, we will have that everlasting joy in them that our Heavenly Father speaks of. That is the way we can gain the most happiness and satisfaction in this life. For those of you who have children, make sure you are teaching them properly so that they know where to look for their salvation. For those of you who do not have children yet, just wait, be patient on the Lord and they will come in His own due time, when He knows you are ready to teach them the right things. And it will be the most rewarding experience of your life, to just be around them. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The United Order - a Zion Society

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 92 which is only 2 verses long. It was s commandment to Frederick G. Williams to join the United Order. The United Order is what is commonly referred to in the church as the law of Consecration. It is my understanding that it was the united order that had all things in common, consecrated all their belongings to the church and then received back what was needful for their families.

I can understand why it was such a stumbling block for the early Saints. It would be a hard thing to have to turn over all your belongings to the church. Some people cannot even pay a full tithe and give just 10% of their earnings to the church. I think I might have had a bigger problem with tithing if I had not grown up in the church. To me it just seems natural because that is what I have always done and it's all I have ever known. But if I had joined the church as an adult I might have had a real problem with it, so I can understand how some might struggle with it.

But to give all one's possessions away? That would be even more hard I think. But the scriptures state that the people in a Zionistic society, the city of Enoch, the Nephites after the Savior visits them are the two that spring to mind, had all things in common. I do not quite understand what that means but I believe it means that they freely gave to all who had need. I don't think they gave away all possessions and were given them back as a stewardship, although it certainly could mean that, we don't have any records to confirm or refute that. What makes more sense to me though is that if they saw someone in need of something and they had it, they freely gave it to that person. It says there was no poor among them. That to me means that they took in any who were homeless, helped them find work, gave them food to eat, perhaps even let the person live with them, who knows. But it certainly seems to me that they were actively looking out for one another and not just themselves.

That would be really nice wouldn't it? To live in a society where your neighbors cared as much about you as they did about their own family? To not have to worry about thievery or being robbed. To let your children go over to a friends house and not have to worry about them in the slightest. It sounds like heaven on earth to me. That is what we are all working towards though I think, we are all working towards caring about others more than we do ourselves. That's what charity is.

As we do all the things the Lord asks of us, home teaching, providing service, performing vicarious temple ordinances for the dead, our hearts increase in charity for our fellow men and women and we become that much closer to a Zion society on earth. It is possible, it's been done at least twice that we know of. The scriptures state it will happen again and if we are not ready for it when it happens, we won't be part of it. I cannot wait to be part of it if it happens in my day. And if not, well, there's always the Celestial Kingdom. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Apocrypha and the Joseph Smith Translation

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 91 which is a very short section about whether Joseph Smith should re translate the Apocrypha. The Lord tells Joseph that he does not need to because for the more part it is true and translated correctly and one only needs to read with the Spirit to know which parts are false.

I have personally never read the Apocrypha as I have always felt if it were really important for us to know what was in it, it would have been included in the King James version of the Bible which the church uses. I also don't like the fact that as I was reading it I would not know which parts were true and which ones were not.

For some people all of the Bible is like that. My dad is a convert to the church and I remember he told me that he used to hate reading the Bible before he became a Latter-day Saint because he could never understand it and it made no sense to him. But once he was given the gift of the Holy Ghost reading the Bible became a lot easier for him. I can relate that reading the Bible is difficult. I really do not like reading the Old Testament. It's very dry and almost no doctrine that applies to us in this day and age. It's perfect for a scholar, but I do not personally enjoy it.

The New Testament is far more interesting as it contains the teachings of the Savior and is completely applicable still in our day and age. It is a joy to read about the life of the Savior Himself while He was on the earth. It gives us a great example to emulate and can help us better understand what type of men and women we should be.

Maybe I should give reading the Apocrypha a chance. The Lord says it is mostly true and as long as I read it with the Spirit I will know which parts are not true. I'm just not certain it is the best use of my time when I could instead be reading the Book of Mormon or other scriptures that I don't have to wonder if all of it is true. We shall see. I am personally extremely grateful to the Lord and Joseph Smith for re-translating the Bible so that it makes a lot more sense. I actually have all the Joseph Smith translations in my Bible highlighted so that I know right away it is a translation. I love how the Lord tries very hard to remove all stumbling blocks from our path so that we know exactly what to do, which paths to trod and how to return back to Him. It's really nice. Until tomorrow.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Love of Learning

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 90 which is a section that contains various commands for Joseph Smith including naming the counselors for the First Presidency. I'll be honest that on the heels of 2 such powerful revelations like section 88 and 89 were, not a lot stood out to me in this section.

The verse that stood out to me was verse 15 that says, "And set in order the churches, and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people." I have often wondered at people who do not seem to place a priority on getting an education. Now, I'm not talking about children, because most children do not appreciate formal education and thus seem to not take learning very seriously. Or maybe it's the children who love to learn and it's the teenagers that have a problem with it, I never went though an I hate school phase so I am not sure.

My grandmother used to call me her little scholar because when I was a little boy I was always asking questions and from the time I learned to read I was always reading new things. I loved to learn and I still do. I don't do as much reading to learn something anymore, except for the internet, but I am constantly wondering why certain things are the way they are, as you all well know if you have been reading this blog for any length of time. But I have always been shocked to learn that not everyone shares my love of learning. I was, and still am shocked that not everyone is driven to learn how the things around them function and work.

I surprises me because I often times make the mistake of thinking everyone else are similar to me and they are not apparently. I am the type of person that I want to be able to speak intelligibly about a subject and so I try and find out what I can about it through study or through observation. And it just boggles my mind that not everyone does that. They instead hear something on TV, someone tells them something and they don't even bother to validate it before touting their new found knowledge to friends and foes alike. Now, I frequently make a fool of myself in conversation because I am no means a genius, but I still try my best to keep it from happening.

I also do not understand why people do not like to read more. Especially in this day and age, there are book types for every hobby and fascination. I've never understood why people would not wish to escape into a good book more often than they do. Now some people have disorders that make reading not nearly as pleasurable and those I can understand. I have a friend that when we were kids, it was discovered that unlike most people who when they read say the word fish we picture an actual fish in our minds, he did not, his mind's eye would picture the word fish instead of the animal and he had to work really hard to overcome that. Things like that I can understand why people don't read more but they are rare.

The Lord wants us to be intelligent. If we are one day going to be as He is, we are going to have to know everything, just as He does. In Doctrine and Covenants section 130 we read that what ever intelligence we obtain in this life carries over with us in the life to come. It is about the only thing we can take with us. I am also a firm believer, and this is just my opinion of course, that we will go to school to learn the things we need to learn in the next life too. I don't think Heavenly Father will bop us on the head and we will suddenly know everything. He doesn't do that now, I can't imagine He will suddenly change His pattern just because we are resurrected. It will be nice to learn things though with a non-fallible body and mind that cause me to forget things almost as soon as I learn them.

Just as it is not pleasing to the Lord for us to be physically idle, I do not think He is pleased when we are not stimulating our brain. I look at my almost 7 month old daughter. She is absolutely fascinated by everything and wants to know everything. She is always looking around at things, soaking up what her mother and I are saying and how we interact with things to learn what they are. But somewhere along the lines as we grow up, we all lose that fascination with learning and cease to seek it out. Perhaps it is a learned trait. Perhaps it is the company we keep, because those thought of in the American culture are "geeks" or "nerds" certainly don't lose that love of learning. Whatever the cause, I do feel Heavenly Father wants us to continue learning throughout our life and not only do it, but learn to love learning. It is another of those things that if you need it, you can pray to Heavenly Father for help. He won't leave you in need. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Word of Wisdom

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 89, more commonly known among Latter-day Saints as the Word of Wisdom. Originally given to the prophet, Joseph Smith as advice and a way to lead a healthy life and not a commandment of the church until Heber J Grant's day. As all who have read it are aware, the Lord told Joseph that the the reason He was giving it to Joseph was to combat the designs of evil and conspiring men in this the last days. I've heard it said that no one wakes up in the morning thinking to themselves how can they kill as many people as possible today, well only very, very few people do I think. But the people who promote these products are more interested in money than they are in the lives they ruin. So that definitely fits into my definition of evil.

Most people think of the Word of Wisdom as a physical law and it most certainly does have physical benefits of health. However, as with every other commandment the Lord has ever given, the Word of Wisdom is a spiritual commandment with spiritual benefits. When we partake of those substances that the commandment prohibits against, the Spirit cannot be with us. Just as with bad types of music, media and certain activities, use of these products will drive away the spirit of the Lord.

Now, I don't wish to focus on the don'ts of the Word of Wisdom as almost everyone who knows about Latter-day Saints knows we don't drink alcohol, coffee, tea, use tobacco or illegal drugs. And it is widely accepted among even general population, with the exception of coffee and tea, that these substances are not good for us, and yet people use theme everyday. However, I do wish to focus on the positives of the Word of Wisdom, the Lord's advice to us on what we SHOULD be eating.

Every blessing for health I have ever given, I have felt inspired to remind the individual that the Word of Wisdom contains the law for a healthy life, and that for a Latter-day Saint we will get the most benefit to our bodies by following the do's on the list. Just like any dietitian will tell you, and long before such a profession was around, the Lord tells us that we need to eat a well balanced diet. We need to eat fruits and vegetables and that grains should be the main staple of our meals. I personally find it interesting that the Lord specifies among the grains that wheat should be the main staple of mankind's diet and that other grains are really more for animals than humans. With grains like corn which are not digested but really just pass right through us, that makes sense to me. It actually has me thinking if items that are made from whole wheat are really that much better for us than those not made with whole wheat.

I think the one part of this section that most Latter-day Saints have a problem with, including me, is the eating meats sparingly part. Just last Sunday we had a lesson on the Word of Wisdom and we talked about this. It was asked if it was really bad to eat meat all the time or not. I was actually the one to respond. I mentioned that to my understanding there was a proper portion size for meats and in 99% of the case with meals in restaurants these days, the portion of meat provided to us is WAY too much for our bodies. Now, I love my meat, my wife will tell you that when I stress out, all I want is a nice steak or a hamburger. But I have learned that I feel healthier if I keep the meat to more of a minimum than not.

This past year, also in an effort to save money, my wife and I have placed more emphasis than either of us ever have before, on eating healthier, more balanced meals and I can tell you that at least for my wife, it has made all the difference in the world. She is sick less, she has more energy, she does not get as tired, it's amazing really! I haven't noticed too much of a difference but I am also overweight so I have different challenges than she does. But despite my lack of results really, my body has accepted the change to eat less, I can't finish an 8 oz steak in one sitting anymore without feeling bloated and overfull, and I DO feel better. This past year since we started doing this, I have only been sick once, not even any colds!

As we eat the right foods and eat foods high in fat, sugar and meats less, we will grow healthier, we will have more energy and the obesity problem in our country will vanish. It is ridiculous to me that we have scientists looking for an obesity gene when the answer is right in front of you. Just watch any person who is overweight, including me, eat. You will see too many of the wrong types of foods and not enough of the good types I guarantee. The Lord wants us to be healthy and we can do that by eating the types of foods that the Lord has told us of. Fruits and vegetables, healthy grains and a little meat on the side. If you don't believe me, I urge you to try it for 1 month and you will be amazed at the changes in you and your family. It will also increase the spirit in your home, I promise. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Olive Leaf

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 88, a very, very long section. There is a lot talked about in this section but most of it has to do with the Second Coming of Christ and with the life after this one. I've often wondered why so many people are preoccupied with the Second Coming of Christ. If we live our lives the way He has told us to, meaning we live like He was going to come back today, then we have nothing to worry about. I wonder if the people who are concerned with it are those that somehow think that if they knew when He was coming then they could be good just long enough to have a reward. As we have discussed in the past, such thinking reflects a total lack of understanding on the part of the individual for the way the Gospel of Jesus Christ works.

The verse that stood out to me though is one that many of us have heard dozens of times before this. It is verse 124 and it says, "Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated." I have always liked this verse and it never fails to amaze me just how much is packed into one little verse.

Cease to be idle. That is a commandment that we have been given our whole lives by our earthly parents. Think about your childhood, if it was anything like mine my parents were constantly telling me to go play outside and quite watching TV, to help my dad with chores around the house, to make something of myself. Sadly now a days, I don't think quite as many parents urge their children to be active or teach them how to work or the value of a dollar. But we learn from scriptures that our God is not idle and He works, why shouldn't we?

Cease to be unclean. This should come as no surprise to any who have been baptized. All the scriptures teach that the purpose of baptism is for the remission of sins and that we should be walking with a newness of life, meaning that our old life of sin and debauchery needs to end. This is of course much harder to accomplish than we think. It takes daily, dedicated effort and never ends. Each and every day we need to continue to try and overcome our temptations and our sins. And the longer we live the commandments, the more we enjoy living them.

Cease to find fault one with another. Have you ever met someone that no matter what you said, they could find something wrong with it? Perhaps it was the way that you said it, perhaps it is what you said, perhaps they just thought it was a down right dumb thing to say. Sadly, I hear about this happening mostly from people's spouse. It is really sad to me that the person who would treat someone this way would be the one person in your life that you should be most close to and most forgiving of your faults. I personally don't think it is any surprise that the Lord does not want us to pick at each other and to magnify one another's faults. He wants us to become Zion, or one in heart, mind and spirit. Can we do that if we are continually finding fault with one another? No we cannot.

Cease to sleep longer than is needful. We are mortal and our bodies need rest and down time. Yet only a certain amount. Studies and science have shown that to operate at peak efficiency the human adult needs between 6-8 hours of sleep a night. Now, I should clarify that we need 6-8 hours of restful sleep. Some people suffer from sleep apnea or other debilitating sleep disorders that mean even if that person is getting the appropriate amount of sleep, their body is not rejuvenating during the sleep cycles. If that is the case, the answer is not to get more, or less sleep, but rather to fix the problem that is causing you to not have good quality of sleep in the first place. For most people it is either stress, weight or a combination of both. But this one goes hand in hand with the being idle portion, we need to make sure that we are anxiously engaged in a good work.

Going hand in hand with not sleeping too long is the final command from the Lord in this verse, that of retiring to bed early so that you can arise early. Now, this is one that very many people, including me have a problem with. I have never enjoyed getting up early, ever. Not as a child, not as a teenager, not as a missionary, a young adult and not now. I have always been more awake at night and always sleep better in the late, late portion of the night and early morning than I do during the normal evening hours. I don't know why that is and it could be entirely my fault and could be that I have trained my body to be that way. But I think it is important to try and comply with this commandment as much as you can. I say as much as you can because some people are just not able to go to sleep at a "normal" hour. For example I work until 12 am each night and don't get home until almost 12:30 am. However, I try and be in bed by 1:30 - 2 am nonetheless and no matter what time I go to sleep, I am always up by 9 am. And that's they key, I think as long as you are doing what you can do to comply with this commandment, the Lord will bless you for it.

So there you have it, the breakdown of the commandments the Lord in this verse. I chose this verse in particular because it has application here and now and is something we can all relate to. It's also a verse that as parents here on earth, we need to make sure we are teaching our children. As we strive to live these commands ourselves the Lord will bless us and give us strength just as He will by living the Word of Wisdom. Try it and see, you will not be surprised. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Manner of Leader Ought you to be?

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 87, a prophecy concerning the Civil War here in America and future wars. The first verse uses the word wars, plural. I had always missed that before someone pointed it out to me in college, probably a professor I had, I'm not really sure. But if you think about it, ever since the civil war, the wars in this world have been increasing.

I have never understood war anyway. It never made sense to me that two people have an argument, or a disagreement and because those 2 people have political power, suddenly hundreds of thousands of people die. If those 2 people have a problem, let them sort it out. But for some reason people are drawn to power and do not want to give it up.

I've always wondered why power corrupts those who wield it. It obviously doesn't corrupt everyone, but there are so many that as soon as they get power, as the scriptures state, that they immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. They don't realize that leaders are supposed to be servants to those they lead. I don't know how they can miss it, the Savior himself says to His Apostles said that he who would be the greatest among you must be the servant to all. I don't remember the exact terminology but that is the gist of the idea. The true purpose of a leader is to lead people unto Christ. That is what all the true leaders have done since Adam.

And yet, somewhere along the way, Satan was able to teach someone that because everyone obeyed him/her the way they did, they can do anything they want. And instead of doing what is best for the people, leaders started doing what is best for themselves. Nowadays, it is rare to see a leader, outside of religion, who does not have a personal agenda somewhere. I am sure that it happens, but it is not a common thing I think. In my own life I have seen good men become virtual tyrants and completely change their personalities as soon as they got a little power. Rarely have I seen it happen the other way though. Have you ever noticed that it almost never happens that a person who is already a jerk and a tyrant almost never becomes a better person because they are a leader? Kind of strange.

Once again, as in all things, if you suffer from this, the Lord can and will help you. If you find yourself being a tyrant when given any kind of power at all or perhaps even worse, lusting after power, the Savior can help you change your personality to overcome that challenge. We are all going to have go be leaders eventually if we are going to become like God is one day. After all, He holds power like nothing we have ever seen here on the earth. But He is also the most benevolent being and is beyond our comprehension. He serves us each and every day and allows us to make our own mistakes and do what we think is best. How many other leaders would do that? Not many.

If you are ever called upon to be a leader, either religious or secular, I urge you to reach out to Heavenly Father for guidance and you will not be disappointed. As in all things, the Savior wants us to be successful as long as it does not interfere with His plan. With His help we can become the type of leader everyone should have and strive to be. Until tomorrow.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Wheat and the Tares

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 86, which is a section where the Lord explains the parable of the wheat and the tares from Matthew 13. Oddly enough, yesterday's Sunday school lesson was on parables found in Matthew 13 and we talked about this very thing. We even read from this section.

The parable is of course about a sower who plants a field of wheat and when the sowing is done lies down to rest and an enemy comes and plants tares among the wheat. When the sowers see this they wish to pluck up the tares but the master of the field prevents them from doing so because it will destroy the wheat also. I don't know if you have ever looked at a picture of what tares look like, or wheat if you have not seen a wheat stalk before, but they do look very similar and before the wheat grains appear I can see how one would have a hard time telling them apart.

Now, the wheat and the tares are the people of the world. The wheat are those that accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, the tares are those that don't and are usually referred to as the bad people of the world. I think of them as those living the telestial law. Yesterday in the Sunday School class the teacher asked why the Lord does not want to gather up the tares before it's time and what thoughts we had on the subject. I raised my hand and answered that this parable has always reminded me of something Joseph Smith once said. He said that the Lord had told him that he could have anything that he wanted and the Lord would give it to him. But he was afraid to ask for the life of his enemies because he, meaning Joseph, did not know which of his enemies would repent of their sins and forsake their evil ways.

Now, the Lord knows us, He knows which of us are going to repent and which of us are not. But do we know that? No. Would we be satisfied with His explanation to us that it was pointless for us to continue any further that we are not going to change? Well let me ask you this, is a 3 year old satisfied with his/her parents explanation to not touch the stove because it is hot? A few are, but 90% of them have to touch the stove for themselves. We are like that 3 year old. I think there are very, very few of us that would be satisfied to have Heavenly Father tell us the end result if it were not to our liking.

Now there is another reason too. Even if at the end of the day we were not going to repent and change our ways, we still need the experiences down here because they are going to change who we are. Everyone is a product of their environment plus their natural personality. I say that because you can put two people in the exact same environment and they will turn out completely different. For example, have you ever met a person who was adopted and it really messed with their head and even as an adult they couldn't get over the fact that they were adopted? Have you ever met one that wasn't that way that you would never have known they were adopted except it came up somewhere once? I'm sure you have because they are all out there and both groups are very common.

Despite our natural personalities, our experiences shape who we are and define us. That is another reason why, even though there are some Heavenly Father could have said it is pointless for you to go down to earth because they would squander their time here and would learn nothing, we all need this experience that way we can all declare Heavenly Father's ways are just. Just like with Abraham, we don't need to learn anything about sacrifice and all the things God is asking us to do is to teach us things about US. God knows if we will do as He asks, we're the ones that are still debating it. Hopefully we choose soon so we can be a more profitable servant and enjoy serving in the kingdom. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Our Divine Inheritance

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 85, which is a short section on the law of consecration and how those who have apostatized are to be dealt with in regards to their inheritance with the Saints. The part that actually stood out to me was a section that has to do with the next life and our eternal reward.

Verse 9 states that those who are not found written in the book of remembrance shall find none inheritance in that day. It got me thinking a little bit about what is really important and opportunity cost again. We are only here on this earth for a short period of time and yet we manage to cram so much into so little time. The thing that is baffling is that we are given a map to get home and most choose to throw it away or at the very least, ignore it.

It's strange how travelers go to great lengths to find maps from those who have gone before so that they will know what to expect. Mariners in days of old would not travel in unfamiliar waters without a guide or a map of the region. And yet in this day and age, we sell ourselves for sex, money, drugs, TV, video games or any other number of pursuits that as soon as we are out of this world will be no more. Why do we do it to ourselves? Why do we sell our inheritance for a mess of pottage?

It is because we do not take control of the natural man in us. We instead allow it to control us and thereby do not take the time to get to know the spirit inside of us. How many people sell themselves for sex? It is the most commonly used currency for any number of things. And the worst part is, it is glamorized in the media and our social circles. It feels physically pleasurable and so we confuse a brief moment of "fun" for happiness. And yet how many of those people deep down desire a family lifestyle if they really examined themselves? How many, emulate a marriage by living together and doing everything a true family does while living the sickly parody that Satan has convinced us is ok?

That is because our spirit talks to us and tells us that we are meant for better things. We just won't listen. Yes, we will all be tempted for certain things, but the key is to rely on our Heavenly Father for help and to slowly change our nature and who we are so that we can overcome those carnal temptations. Just about everyone in this life would say don't mess up your entire life, for one month of pleasure. No one would advise you to do that, not even the most addle brained drug addict on the planet would advise you to such a course of action. And yet that is what billions of people are doing in this life. In the course of our existence, we are only on this planet for such a short period time. And yet how we conduct ourselves here and what we choose will determine the whole rest of our existence. Why waste it?

The true problem I think is we lose perspective and so we don't think of it in those terms, even though that is exactly what we are doing. The primary answers help here with keeping us focused. Daily scripture study, personal and family prayers, attending church meetings, home/visiting teaching, service and temple worship will all help us keep the proper frame of mind so that we don't lose ourselves in the meaningless pastimes that are so abundant here on the earth. Remember to reach out to Heavenly Father in faith and ask for the help we all need and it will come. He wants us to succeed and that is where His joy comes from. He will not leave you helpless. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 84, often times referred to the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. All Melchizedek are, or should be, familiar with this section. This section is the source material for the prospective elders course taught in the church and it maps out what every man promises by taking on them the responsibility of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The first thing that is promised is that you first obtain the Priesthood and that you magnify your calling as a Priesthood holder. The good thing about magnifying your priesthood is that it is really easy to do. All you have to do is to use it appropriately and use it to bless the lives of others. The priesthood is no good to the holder of it unless it is used to bless the lives of others. Otherwise it is just a gift that will never get used because it cannot bless the life of the holder save through using it to bless others. The promise for doing this is that the Spirit will sanctify the holder of the Priesthood.

The rest of what is promised is pretty straight forward. We promise to receive the Lord, which is done by receiving His servants. I interpret this as supporting and uplifting our local leaders. Although you could also say that those who serve the Lord appropriately are referred to as the servants of the Lord. Anyone who uses the Priesthood to appropriately to bless the lives of others, to help others perform sacred ordinances and make covenants, are His servants. Again it comes back to using the Priesthood to appropriately serve others and bless the lives of those around you.

That is what is promised by the person who is ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Lord tell us in this section that if we do not live up to this covenant then there will be no forgiveness in this life or the life to come. The kicker really is in the next verse where the Lord says that also if we choose not to take upon us the Priesthood out of fear that we will not be able to live up to this covenant that it will be not much better.

I have often wondered why only men are given the Priesthood and why women are not. I have come up with a few reasons which are all my own. The main one I have come up with and that I like the most, is that women don't need it. As I mentioned above, the Lord has given mankind the Priesthood so that the holder of the Priesthood will use it to bless the lives of others. Women don't need a reason, or the Priesthood, to serve those around them, they do it naturally. Women are also the primary care giver for children and the family, which helps them to serve more naturally. But men on the other hand, need the Priesthood so that they will feel the urge and at times, be compelled to serve. Again that is just my own thoughts and I do not know the real reason other than that is the way God has decreed it.

It is really neat thought to be able to bless the lives of others through the use of the Priesthood. I love being able to stand in as a proxy for the Savior and perform the ordinances that He would were He here. It is a unique blessing indeed. Especially when you get to use it to bless the lives of your own family. There's no feeling quite like it. If you hold the Priesthood, I invite you to really think and ponder about just what it is that the Priesthood means to you and what its purpose in your life is. When you received it, you promised to use it to bless the lives of others. Even if you do not realize it, that is what you did. As you strive to magnify that calling, remember that everytime you use the Priesthood you state that it is in the name of Jesus Christ, that you are doing what He would do and that you are standing in His place. It's a sobering thought. Until tomorrow.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Provide for your Wives and Children

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 83, a short but important section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Section 83 talks about the fact that wives and children have claim on their husbands and parents respectively for their maintenance. This is speaking of physical maintenance and to me it is really sad that the Lord would even need to speak of this.

There are of course instances where the husband is incapacitated and the wife needs to work, but this should be the rare exception. A wife is to be able to depend on her husband to provide for her and the families needs. Heavenly Father expects wives to stay home and attend to the needs of the families except in rare cases where it is needed for both parents to work in order to meet their needs. I stress the word NEEDS, and not wants. All too often in this day and age I see too many women going to work when they don't need to in order to support the families wants.

Now, I grant you, it is nice to be able to have a certain life sytle, but it is not pleasing to the Lord to sacrifice quality family life in order to get it. I see all around me in this day and age where a family could, and perhaps should, survive on a little less, than they currently do and let the mother return to the home to raise the children, as the Lord has said should be the case. But it is more important to the Lord that you have children raised in the gospel than if you have a 5 bedroom house compared to a 3 bedroom house.

A parent's job is to provide for the physical needs of their children's needs. This is predominantly the father's job by means of having a job and providing the money necessary to give the children adequate shelter, healthy food and clothing appropriate to the current season. Honestly, those are the needs of human beings. Everything else are just nice to have amenities and that is a fact. Computers are great, after all I would not be able to do this blog and you would not be able to read it without a computer, but the fact remains that they are not necessary for our survival in this world.

But the parent's job is also to provide for the spiritual and emotional needs of their children and this is where most parents here in America are woefully lacking. A child's emotional needs are best met when one of the parents, the mother except in extreme circumstances, stay at home with them rather than having them raise by a nanny or a day care or any other number of socially acceptable alternatives to a natural parent. A child needs stability in their life. Countless studies have been done on the decline of social behavior in people that are all traced back to World War II when mothers left the home and went to work, out of necessity due to so many men serving in the military. World War II did more damage than most historians give it credit for, the problem is, the most severe damage was done spiritually by taking the mother out of the home.

Now, there are those out there who would defame me and scream about female's liberation and that I am a backwoods country hick for even suggesting that a woman's place is in the home. That a woman deserves to have a satisfying career and all the garbage that people say when they talk on this subject. But let me ask you something, what does the honors of this life even matter? Really, what are they worth? Is it going to matter when you die that you were the CEO of a company? Well it might because you will have had the unequaled opportunity in this life to bless millions of lives and you will be held accountable to what you did with that power and authority. Aside from that though, what are the honors of men really worth? Anything? Are they worth the emotional well being of our children? Some people apparently think so. In my college economics class I learned that every thing we do has a price. If we don't pay money for it, it has what is called opportunity cost. Meaning that we pay the price of giving up something else, our time usually, to do that thing. So it is worth exactly what you gave up for it. So if a woman wants to work outside the home, it is worth exactly her children's well being to her in order to get it.

This is why it is so important that the husband/father provide enough for his families NEEDS that the mother/wife does not need to work outside the home when the children come along. And sometimes, as harsh as this is going to sound, that means accepting a lower standard of living that you are currently used to. When I met my wife I had a wonderful house that I had bought earlier that year. 3 bedroom, 2 and a half bath with an attached 2 car garage, fenced in back lot and 1700 square feet! And she only made it more beautiful with her ideas. Then we moved and had to sell it and she had to quit working so we now live in a townhouse that only has 1 and a half bathrooms, 2 bedrooms and is only 1100 square feet. It was a HUGE shift for me especially to have to do that, but it is all WORTH it to be able to have her stay home with our daughter and not have to work to maintain a house that we didn't really need but made me feel good about myself to have. It's hard to have 2 cars and drop down to 1 if that's all you can afford. It's hard to sell your nice big house where all your children have their own bedrooms and buy a smaller one that you can afford easier where your children have to share a bedroom. But if you don't live within your means, what are you teaching your children? You are teaching them it's ok for the mother to not stay at home, that it's ok to live on credit rather than save up for what you can afford.

Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. In college times were rough for me so I got some credit cards and racked up some debt. When I got out of college and made some good money, I am ashamed to say I did not use it to get out of debt as I should, I spent it on going out with friends and what I'm sure the Lord would call "riotous living". Why don't children listen to their parents? Parents really do have it all figured out. Well, no use regretting the past.

It is pleasing to God to live on 1 income while you have children living in your home. It is pleasing to Him to teach those children, by example, that THEY are the most important thing in your lives and that you'll even live in a small house, where it is cramped and have less "stuff" in order to make sure their mother can stay home with them and help them develop, mentally and spiritually. Please don't sell your children's righteous upbringing for a large house, or a new flat screen TV when your old one works just fine, or a new car when the old one still runs well and is not breaking down. Your children's future should be worth more than that to you, more than a few nice amenities. It should be worth everything to you, just as our well being is the most important thing to our Heavenly Father. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Lord is Bound to Bless us

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 82. Most scriptorians will recognize this section as containing 2 scripture masteries. When I was in college and I had a Doctrine and Covenants course, one of he benefits of going to school at BYU, I remember I had a professor that spoke about verse 10 of this section. I'm pretty sure I have spoken of it before now, but it is appropriate I think since it is in this verse to speak of it again.

Verse 10 says, "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." Growing up I had always interpreted that as saying that when we follow the commandments, the Lord is required to give us the appropriate blessings, but when we do not follow the commandments, He will not bless us. My professor at BYU pointed out that the scripture does not say that. It merely says we have no promise. So what the verse is actually saying is that if we do not follow the commandments of the Lord, it is up to His discretion if He wants to bless us or not.

I think all of us can agree that the Lord has blessed us when we didn't deserve it in regards to our feeling worthy. It honestly reminds me of humans at times. Have you ever had to do a job but could not find the proper tool? For example, have you ever taken off a flat headed screw with a butter knife? Or maybe a phillips head screw with a flat headed screw driver? I know I have a countless other things of a similar nature. Sometimes you just have to work with what you have. That's kind of what I picture Heavenly Father going through too. He only has us, imperfect tools, to work with so He makes it work. At times we might be a better fit than at others, but very few of us are the perfect tool I think.

But just like an earthly parent loves their child, even when the child is misbehaving or doing that which is wrong, Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be both happy and successful so He will bless us in our times of need, even if He isn't bound to. But if we want to be guaranteed a blessing, all we have to do is live the commandments, that's not a whole lot just to be guaranteed a blessing.

The other scripture mastery comes from verse 3, which states that unto whom much is given, much is required. There is a reason that the Lord tells us milk before meat, or do not run faster than you are able. It is not because He is trying to hide anything or because He is embarrassed about the gospel or anything in it. Quite the opposite in fact, He bears testimony of it constantly. Rather, once a person is exposed to the Gospel and is made a partaker of it through ordinances such as baptism and confirmation, covenants are also given and that person is then expected to live up to the covenants that they have made with the Lord. This is why despite the marvelous blessings of the temple and how wonderful it is, we do not want anyone to be rushed to going to the temple and taking those covenants upon them before they are ready.

Just as our earthly parents, Heavenly Father wants us to be successful and He has given us the tools to do it. But just like our earthly parents, when we promise them something, He is going to hold us to our promises. It's really not a new concept, after all, don't you hold your friends and family members responsible for the things they say they are going to do? I don't understand why people get so surprised when they realize that God expects certain things out of them.

God does not leave us helpless and will be there to support us no matter what. All He asks of us in return is that we do as He asks and that we follow through on our commitments to Him. That's really not a lot and only requires some small sacrifices of things that we don't really need and in most cases don't even really want. And who else when we give so little gives back SO much in return? Why wouldn't you want to take Him up on that promise? Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bishoprics, Presidencies and Companionships

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 81, where Frederick G. Williams is called to be a high priest, preparatory to him being called as a counselor in the First Presidency. He is called to support Joseph Smith and to succor the weak and do that which is right and good in the sight of God.

This section got me thinking, why do we have a First Presidency? Why don't we just have the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Prophet? I think it is because the Prophet needs assistance and help. Just as a bishop does, a stake president, a missionary and even a husband or wife. All of these entities have counselors or companions to help make decisions and make sure things run smoothly. I once had the opportunity to serve as an executive secretary for the bishop in a ward I lived in for over a year and was able to see how this worked on the ward level, likewise I am a husband and have been a missionary.

As most are aware, Latter-day Saints believe the man is the head of the household, however, that does not give him the right to dominate and control his family. Rather it puts the burden solely on him to guide his family and provide for their spiritual well being as well as their physical well being. His is the duty to make sure the family has Family Home Evening, scripture study, family prayer and all those things. Decisions affecting the family should still be made as a companionship. At times husband and wife might disagree on the best course of action and discussion should be had and they should pray about it and come to a decision that both can agree to.

This model is one of the reasons that serving a mission is so essential for all young men. Missionary companionships teach this model. In all missionary companionships there is a senior and a junior companion. In cases where a decision needs to be made the companions should talk it through, the junior companion gives his/her input then the senior companion makes the ultimate decision. But in both cases the decision should be made as a companionship, not as a dictatorship.

When I served as an executive secretary for a bishop I had the chance to observe how a bishopric functions. Now, after talking to my dad he mentioned that the bishop I served under was pretty unique in his experience but I think it is a perfect example of how to do things. When decisions were to be made he would present the issue at hand and open up the floor for discussion on it and he would take input from anyone in the room, not just his counselors, including the clerks and me. Then after hearing the input he would make his choice. Now, occasionally he would bring up and issue with an idea already in mind of how he wanted to handle it and he would ask his counselors if they could support the plan he had in mind. 99% of the time they would, but once or twice a counselor would have a concern and they would talk about it and at times the bishop would change his mind based on what he heard from his counselors.

To me, that is the purpose for bishoprics, presidencies and companionships. They are meant to be a support to the person in authority. Because no man can or should do things all on his/her own, that is not the Lord's way. It's a comfort really in my mind and it is really nice that the Lord cares enough about us to help us in all our endeavors by guiding those who we can most benefit from their experience to us to help us learn and grow. I hope that in your life you too have people that help you and work with you so that you can grow as much as you can here in this life. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Purpose of Missionary Work

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 79 and 80. They were both only about 4 verses and both were revelations given to men to go forth and preach the word of God. They were so similar and short that I decided to combine them into one post as there is really only one thing to talk about with both sections, missionary work.

I got to thinking the other day, why is missionary work so important to Latter-day Saints? We catch a lot of heat for our missionary efforts and are accused of everything from shoving our religion down other people's throats to brainwashing our members. And yet we are not the only religion that proselytizes nor are we the only religion that encourages its members to spread the word of God.

So why do we, and other religions, place such a high emphasis on missionary work? It is because we know the worth of souls is great. We all know that this life is not all there is and we want everyone to have the best quality of life both in this life and in the life to come possible. We want people to be truly happy. A few weeks ago I was driving to work and saw a billboard that had most of the major religious symbols on it with the words, "You know they are all scams". Underneath was information for a local atheist group meeting time and place. It stayed up for about two weeks and then the time for the meeting was gone so it was removed but every time I drove past it I was reminded of Alma 30, where Alma confronts Korihor and who also accused Alma of scamming the people. Alma's response was that he received no compensation for his preaching so why would he do it if not for their eternal well being? He also invited Korihor to look around and see how happy the members were and then see if he still felt they were being scammed.

There are very, very few members of the LDS church that are unhappy in their religion and if they are, I will bet that in at least 90% of the cases it is because of some personal sin. There is a reason the root of the word Gospel means the good news. Missionaries who are living the commandments of the mission field are very happy people. Members who live a good and faithful life, no matter what their trials are have a happy life. I have found that much like Alma told his son the only thing that brings real unhappiness in this life is sin.

That is why missionary work is so important! Because we want people to be happy and live the best life possible. People, when they find out I am LDS, and sometimes after I explain what that means, always look at me with a mixture of horror and pity. It is usually followed up with some ridiculous statement of how they could not live without their coffee, tea, alcohol or sex. And yet after such a statement they will vehemently deny being addicted. Go figure. And yet if you were to get that person to do some deep soul searching, are they really happy? Are they fulfilled? They are not, they drink alcohol to forget their pain and troubles or the stress of their life. They drink coffee because they are overtired from not enough sleep. They sleep with whomever because they cannot find someone to spend the rest of their life with. Everyone of those people have a need that the living the Gospel of Jesus Christ could fill.

I have a friend at work. We attend different religions, but both of us love Jesus Christ and we frequently will talk about religion. Not comparing mine to hers, but rather we have a couple of employees that could benefit from having Jesus Christ and His teachings in their life and we frequently talk about what a difference living the Gospel of Jesus can make in people's lives. We understand that the only thing living the gospel does for people is make them happy, and in a lot of ways, safe.

So to answer our original question, we have missionary work because we love our neighbors. We have missionary work because we want people to be happy. We have missionary work because we are learning to be like our Father in Heaven. All are correct answers and there are probably a dozen more we could give but they are all along the same vein. The next time you find yourself thinking, "That person could use the Gospel in their life" pray to Heavenly Father how you can help that person and you will be amazed at the good you can do in their life. Until tomorrow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Be Equal in All Things

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 78 which is a revelation given to the brethren of the church to help them better manage the affairs of the kingdom here on the earth. I was struck by a couple of things that I have already talked about before, such as having a heart full of gratitude and caring for the poor.

The part of the section that stood out to me is when the Savior says that if we cannot be equal in earthly things, we cannot be equal in heavenly things. That's a really interesting phrase because I think we all take it for granted that we will have all things in common in the next life. However, what I think the Lord is saying is that if we cannot be happy here having the same as everyone else, how are we going to feel in the next life when we have the same as everyone else?

Amulek teaches us from the book of Alma that the same spirit which inhabits our bodies now, in this life, will inhabit our bodies then, in the world to come. Or as my bishop puts it, we take our problems with us when we die so we might as well fix them here. If we have a problem sharing and seeing people have the same rewards as us but they have not worked for them, in our opinion, we are going to have a problem with it in the next life too. This type of thinking always reminds me of the parable the Savior told where a man hires people to work in his vineyard. He hires some to work for the entire day and some to work only an hour but pays them the exact same wage. Now, the spiritual side of this parable I don't have a problem with. I, having been a member all of my life, have no qualms with someone who is taught the gospel on their 102 birthday receiving the same exaltation as me. But that parable has always bothered me in the temporal sense. Maybe I have too much of the natural man in me. But it has always bothered me that someone who did 12 hours of work receives the exact same wage as the person who only did 2 hours of work.

But that is exactly what Heavenly Father is telling us to get over. He's speaking to me directly or to those like me. The Lord is telling us, that despite my feelings that I would be ok with it, I won't be ok with someone who has not "put in the work" getting the same eternal reward as me. And in a sense, despite my feelings and emphatic sense that I will be ok with it, it makes perfect logical sense. I mean, if I have such a problem with people being treated by my sense of what is fair in this life for earthly things that don't matter in the slightest, how am I going to feel when it comes time to have heavenly things given out, which are eternal and truly matter? Well, Heavenly Father tells me in this section that I am going to have a real problem with it.

I suppose I have much to work on with His help to overcome this weakness of mine. And it's strange because dependent upon the situation, I truly don't mind helping those in need. If a person is truly unable to work, I have no problem helping and supporting them. It's the people who could work if they wanted to, but prefer to rely upon the charity of others that I have a real problem with. But that is my burden to bear and my mountain to move, if you will.

I need to have more charity and work more closely with my Heavenly Father I suppose to overcome this weakness in me. In theory you would think it would not be that hard. I mean after all, the things of this life do not matter at all, because as we are fond of saying, you can't take it with you, when you die, nor would we want to I think. I think when we die and look back at our life when we have the proper perspective again, we will wonder just why we bothered so much down here with material possessions. Just one more to add to the list to ask for the Lord's help in overcoming. Good thing He is always willing to help! Until tomorrow.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Heavens are Still Open

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 77, a question and answer session between the Lord and Joseph Smith. I don't know about you, but I think it would be really cool to just be able to ask the Lord questions and have Him answer them like He does here. All these questions are about the book of Revelation in the Bible.

Nothing much really leapt out at me about this section except for the idea that the Lord still answers prayers and gives revelations in this day and age. I do find it interesting that the Lord talks about the seals on the book and mentions that each seal is representative of a thousand years and that there are only 7 seals. I have often wondered about that and how that works since I have always been taught that Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden in the year 4000 b.c. which would put us in either the very end of the 6th seal or the very beginning of the 7th seal. Just food for thought.

The other thing that stands out to me in this section was the beasts. I have always felt that beasts can choose to follow God or not as they see fit. It just makes sense to me. I mean if a human can choose to not follow God, why can't an animal? They are not inanimate. And there are so many strange stories about animals just going berserk, like the "Ghosts of Tsavo" where 2 male lions killed over 100 men working on a bridge. That just doesn't happen normally. But something had to make those lions act that way. Is it really out of line to suggest that Satan put it in their minds and they listened? Perhaps it is, perhaps not so much, but God tells us in this section that animals can fulfill the measure of their creation, or implies as much, is it too much of a stretch that animals can also choose to NOT fulfill the measure of their creation? More food for thought.

As I said other than the comfort and reminder that the Lord does in fact answer prayers and still talks to man in this day and age and a fun aside about animals, nothing else really stands out to me in this section. But I think that is important to be reminded of that fact in this day and age where so many people are convinced that revelation is over and that the heavens are sealed. Isn't it wonderful to get such a stark example of the truth that they are NOT closed and God does in fact care about us still? It is a comfort to me and even if I don't really learn anything else from this section, it still has merit and teaches us that God loves us, and cares about us. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Degrees of Glory

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants 76. If someone is reading this and you have not read it yet, I suggest you stop reading what I say and read it for yourself. It is one of the most inspiring, beautiful revelations in all the scriptures. I am not going to be able to do it justice in just one post of my blog so if you have never read it, please do so.

In this section Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon receive a revelation of "heaven and hell" and what awaits us after this life. For those who may not be familiar, Latter-day Saints do not believe in the typical heaven and hell concept. Rather we believe that there are many possibilities after this life and each is based upon what type of person you are, and how many ordinances and covenants you made and how well you adhered to them.

The revelation starts out talking about how Joseph and Sidney saw the Savior in all his glory standing at the right hand of the Father and they saw the pre-mortal life where Satan fell. As I read this section, I could not help but feel sorrow for both Satan and for Heavenly Father. I feel sorry for Satan because he destroyed his birthright and despite the pain and suffering he causes all of us who have bodies, he was once beautiful and is our brother. It is no different than if you were to have a falling out with your earthly brother and he strove from that point on to make your life miserable. No matter how angry you got at him, you would always remember he was your brother. I can only imagine the pain Heavenly Father is STILL going through when He thinks about Satan and the pain and suffering he is causing. I cannot even contemplate having your son not only hate you, but actively striving to destroy everything you are working to create and kill his brothers and sisters. It is really sad if you dwell on it.

The places we are told we can go after this life are divided into 4 categories. There is the celestial kingdom, where God lives, the terrestrial kingdom, the telestial kingdom and finally outer darkness. Perhaps nothing, besides maybe polygamy, inflames people about our church quite like the 3 degrees of glory does. It upsets people because it teaches the doctrine of ordinances, covenants and proper authority. I have always wondered why people get so bent out of shape about it, we are no the only church that teaches you have to have certain ordinances, such as baptism, in order to go to heaven, yet we seem to catch the most heat. Go figure.

The telestial kingdom, is the least in glory and as the revelation teaches us, is likened to the glory of the stars in the heavens. This kingdom is populated, it says, by liars, thieves, murderers, sorcerers, adulterers and whoremongers. These are the people that are not good people and do not accept Jesus Christ and His atonement. These are the people that you hear about in the news, gangs, murders, people who you would not wish to associate with no matter what. These are they who reject the gospel in this life and in the life to come. They will have a place of glory for the revelation states that the telestial kingdom's glory surpasses all understanding. These are they that want nothing to do with God and it is only God's tender mercies that keep them from Him. Despite their problems, He loves them and wants to be with them, but that is the worst kind of hell such people can imagine. Just as we do not want to associate with such people, such people hate and do not want to associate with good people either, normally. The reason is because they feel uncomfortable around the Spirit of the Lord and cannot abide it's presence. And so by NOT having those people in His presence, Heavenly Father is giving them the greatest gift He can give them.

The middle kingdom, or the terrestrial kingdom, are populated by the good people of the earth. These are they who love to do good and who love God. There will be a lot of Latter-day Saints in this kingdom I think. For the scriptures tell us that those who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ will inherit this kingdom. These are they who lived a good life and perhaps even partook of some of the ordinances needed for salvation, but not all of them. These are they who when confronted by God and Jesus Christ, might be ashamed and embarrassed that they came so close but ultimately did not make it. The modern day apostles teach us that these are those who had an opportunity to accept and live the gospel in this life but chose not to yet accept it after this life. Now, I have no idea what constitutes and opportunity to live the gospel in this life thankfully that is not up to me. As I said, these are they who want no part of those who go to the telestial kingdom but did not live up to their covenants with God or did not make the covenants necessary to obtain the highest kingdom.

The highest kingdom is called the celestial kingdom and it is likened to the glory of the sun. These are the people who accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ, made and kept sacred covenants and participated in sacred ordinances, including being married for time and eternity. These are those who love God more than themselves and do what He asks of them. These are those who are just men and women made perfect through Jesus Christ. These are those who will dwell with Heavenly Father forever and have a chance to become like He is. These are those who ENJOY living the commandments in this life. There's not much else to say about these people, they are everything those in the telestial are not and what those in the terrestrial could have been.

Finally, there is a place with no glory at all, commonly referred to as Outer Darkness. This is where Satan and his followers will be sent when it is all over. These people are those who deny the Holy Spirit after having received it. We are not told explicitly what that means but we have been told by those apostles and prophets that it is those who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ is real and that He died for our sins and for some reason they turn their back on it and from that time forth actively fight against Him. Again, I have no idea what it would take to qualify for this place, but it is best not to dwell on it I think since the Savior says it would have been better for them had they never been born. I remember once a teacher I had in college, a religion professor, made the statement that people sometimes criticize Latter-day Saints stating that we believe we are the only ones who can go to heaven, but he smiled and said Latter-day Saints are also the only ones who can go to hell. Food for thought.

So that is the revelation on the kingdoms of glory and outer darkness. I invite you all to study it yourself and do so with a prayer in your heart since it pertains to us all. As I have stated in the past, it should be no secret where you will be headed after this life. If you examine the type of person you are, really examine, unashamedly and completely look at your life, you know the kind of person you are and where you will be headed. I would suggest that no one reading this blog is destined for the telestial kingdom since generally those who will end up there are not those who care for the things of the spirit and God. However, only you know who you truly are and only you know which commandments, if any, you live grudgingly. Remember, God loves us all and wants us to return to live with Him, pray and He will help you. Until tomorrow.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Value of Work

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 75, a section mostly about the elders and their mission calls. However, there was a phrase that struck me at the very end of the section that almost seemed out of place with the rest of the section. The Lord says "And the idler shall have no place in the church, except he repent and mend his ways."

I have watched with an almost horrified fascination as this country has slowly but surely stopped rewarding hard work and instead started rewarding laziness and riotous living. It's sad really but the welfare system in this country once upon a time used to be more akin to the church's welfare system, you used to have to be actively looking for a job, and it only lasted so long. Not anymore, now some folks in this country are taxed so hard to pay for those that could work if they so chose but would rather not.

I don't know about the rest of you all but if I was unable to work I think I would go crazy. Have you ever taken a week or two off from work for vacation or just to have the time off? It feels great those first few days right? But by day 3 or 4 you start to get antsy. Then by day 5 you are going stir crazy and starting to bug your entire family. Work is healthy and good. Our Heavenly Father is a God of work. He tells us what His work is in Moses 1:39. If our Heavenly Father works, shouldn't we?

Now, in this day and age of technology, most of our jobs are not very physically intensive. But it is still good and proper to do the work you enjoy the most to keep your sense of self-worth up and to provide for your family. But there are also lots of physical things in our lives that we should be doing also to work and provide for our families even if our job is not physical labor. We should all have a garden to the extent that we can. We should all learn to do, and do as many home repairs as we can. We should play with our children and spend some time each day outside. These things are all healthy and necessary for a good balanced life.

I have never understood how someone can be satisfied doing nothing all day long. My wife had a really tough transition when she started being a stay at home wife from having a job all the time. I am sure most women who were working before hand and suddenly stay at home all day long due to children or health or whatever the reason have a hard time with it. Just as the rest of us who work for a living would. That is why so many people find ways to work at home.

It is good to hear God speak out against laziness though, all too often people confuse charity with being taken advantage of. The true way we should be helping and providing for those on welfare would be to meet their immediate needs, then help them secure employment and so that they can provide for themselves going forward. Everyone falls on hard times at some point and needs the help, either from a friend, family, church or the government. The key is it should be temporary. And while out of work or what ever is causing you to need the assistance we need to be doing all we can to rectify the situation.

As we provide for ourselves and our families the Lord will bless us with His Spirit and will help us in our endeavors. Not everything we try will turn out right or the way we want it to, but there is no getting around trials and we all need to grow. But He will not leave us alone or without help. He loves us and wants us to succeed. It is just up to us to try. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Marriage in the Church

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 74. This section is about a verse in 1 Corinthians as Joseph Smith was translating the Bible. The verse in question was 1 Corinthians 7:14 which talks about the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse. The Lord states though in this section that Paul's counsel to not marry an unbeliever was his own and did not originate from the Lord.

However, it makes sense and is good counsel to follow because as the Lord states in this section, your desires are conflicted when you marry someone who does not share your religious convictions. You can have totally different opinions about how to raise the children spiritually speaking. That is why when I was growing up I made certain to marry a member of the church, so that it was one less hurdle to have when raising my future children. It's hard enough marrying someone of the same religion and melding the two family lifestyles let alone trying to meld different religions.

It's funny to me really. I am from the South and I married a woman who was raised in the Northeast. You would think both of us being American we would not have to overcome any cultural barriers or have too many things that were different and truth be told we meshed really well and it was not all that difficult. But you just don't think about 2 people from the same country as having a cultural barrier, at least I don't. But I also tend to get along with just about everyone. I dated a girl from Taiwan for several months in college and we got along really well also and the only fights we ever had, were over cultural misconceptions. The thing that makes it easier to overcome those cultural oddities though is having a common background in the church. If you have that, then the core values that you both have are going to be the same and you are both centered in Christ and everything else is really superfluous.

The rest of the section talks about raising children and how children are holy and sanctified through the Atonement of Christ. It is a comfort to know that little children are saved in Christ. I cannot even imagine losing a child and the pain that must be associated with it. But it would certainly be a comfort to me to know if it happened to me that the child was received unto the Lord and that thanks to the sealing power I would see him/her again some day. We have talked about most of this when we read Moroni 8 but it is a comfort to be reminded of it.

I am a firm believer in what President Kimball once said, that any two faithful Latter-day Saints can get married and make it work, they just have to be committed and work at it. Because as anyone who is married will tell you, marriage is work. But it is SO worth it and a wonderful thought to know that I will spend eternity with my wonderful wife. I can't imagine anything more wonderful than that. I hope you feel the same about your spouse and are actively working on fulfilling the commandment to become one flesh. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Missionary by Example

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 73. It is a very short section wherein Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon are asked to continue to preach the gospel, but also to resume the work of translation on the Bible. Oddly enough, the thing that struck me the most about this section was the section heading.

In the section heading it says that due to the preaching of the brethren they were able to diminish the unfavorable feelings in the local area. That got me to thinking about our duty, those of you reading who are members of the LDS church, as members and it really got me to thinking about the phrase, every member a missionary.

I grew up as a member of the church and my whole life I have been taught that one of the most important things I can do as a member of the church is to be a good member and to live my life so that I can be an example to those around me. Last Sunday in fast and testimony meeting a sister bore her testimony about a friend of hers that was serving a mission and he got on a bus and the bus driver forgot to ask him for the fare. It was only 25 cents. The elder had a moment of self doubt where he actually contemplated not paying the fare but as he was leaving he handed the bus driver a quarter and mentioned that the bus driver had forgotten to ask for it. The bus driver replied that he had not forgotten, rather he had noticed him as a missionary for the LDS church and he wanted to see what kind of a person the LDS missionaries were.

That is a small, though extreme example of the fact that we are always being watched and we never know the consequences of not living the gospel. One of my all time favorite scriptures is Alma 39:11 where Alma chastises his son, Corianton, saying that when the Zoramites saw him forsake the mission and go to the harlot, Isabel, they would not believe on his words. Even if you don't announce it, people will really quickly pick up on the fact that you are different and are LDS and they will watch you. It is not fare that a person can live the gospel their entire life, screw up once, and the people will remember the screw up, but that is the way it is.

We owe it to ourselves to be the best we can be so that we can be a good example to those around us. Sometimes the only reason a person will listen to a missionary when they knock on the person's door is because the person has known a good, faithful Latter-day Saint. I remember when I was a missionary, I served in Arcadia California, Mandarin Chinese speaking. As a service, and also a great way to meet new people, we taught a free English class to the local population. I remember on one occasion, three students that had been attending for several months came up to me after the class was over with a newspaper in their hands. They showed it to me and asked me why the local Chinese paper stated that Mormons practiced polygamy and if it were true. I had the opportunity to respond and teach those three people about the LDS church and clear up a misconception they had and I never would have had the opportunity if I had not been living the life of a faithful missionary because they never would have trusted me enough to ask.

We all have the opportunity as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all places. We owe it to those who are seeking for the truth to be the best members of the church that we can possibly be. I do believe that we will be held accountable by God for those we might have saved or helped gain a testimony had we been living the gospel as we should have been. None of us want to be in that position. I know I don't so do yourself a favor and always live the gospel, even when you THINK you are all alone. You never know who you might bump into that will recognize you at the most inconvenient of times. Be the best member of the LDS church, or whatever church you belong to, you can be. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bishops and their Duties

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 72, a section entirely on bishops and their duties in the kingdom. I always find it interesting to look at the church in its early days in this dispensation as compared to now because there are so many things that have changed as the church has grown. But to my understanding the role of the bishop has not changed all that much.

The first duty talked about in this section is that the bishop receives the funds, lands and commodities of those who are consecrating them to the Lord and then disperses them for the good of the poor and the needy as he sees fit. While the manner that members do this has changed, it is still the bishop that takes charge of the funds the members donate or pay to the Lord and he is still in charge of caring for the needy in the ward in which he presides. Of course in this day and age members do not donate all their lands and funds, but rather they donate fast offerings to care for the needy and of course members pay tithing as opposed to giving everything they own to the Lord.

Second, it says all elders must give an account of their stewardship to the bishop and that in return the bishop will give a certificate of their stewardship identifying them as a faithful steward and laborer. Now, this does not happen quite so much anymore, but the certificate sure sounds to me like a temple recommend. Later in this section and in others it talks about if an elder goes to travel to take a certificate signed by 3 elders to prove they are in good standing. Today we just take our temple recommend with us to prove that we are worthy to perform ordinances or attend a temple, but we must account to the bishop, or one of his counselors, that we are worthy of that right and privilege.

This part also reminded me of confessing our sins and receiving a remission for our sins. Now, we do not believe that in order to be forgiven of our sins all we must do is confess our sins. True forgiveness of our sins comes from following the repentance process, of which confessing our sins is only a part. We must bring a sacrifice worthy of our Heavenly Father to Him, a broken heart and a contrite spirit. However, I DO think that the modern day practice of some religions that all you need to be forgiven of your sins is to confess them to the proper religious authority because Latter-day Saints also believe that if certain sins are serious enough, they need to be confessed to the proper earthly authority. But it does not stop there. The bishop is NOT the one who forgives you of your sins, he is merely the one who says you are worthy to again participate in sacred ordinances. Only God can forgive sins.

Lastly, the bishop is in charge of providing assistance to those who were given charge to publish the revelations. Now, we have already talked about how the bishop is in charge of providing assistance to those who need it in his area of stewardship, and I want to talk about another aspect of the bishop's duties. Rather, the last area of the bishop's stewardship I wished to talk about that came to mind as I read this was a bishop is responsible for the spiritual welfare of his congregation also. A bishop has the right and privilege to receive revelation for those under his care. He can receive revelation regarding their spiritual, or temporal, welfare. He is also the one who relays revelation from the First Presidency and the Stake Presidency when they cannot be present themselves. He is the ward's spiritual leader.

As I stated at the beginning, it is interesting to note that while so much has changed from the way things were in Joseph Smith's time, the role of the bishop is essentially the same. And it is a comfort that the church is so orderly, at least it is to me. I still would have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, but I really appreciate that it is orderly and makes sense too. Until tomorrow.