Saturday, April 30, 2011

Baptizim By Immersion

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 128, which is actually another letter from Joseph Smith to the Saints as opposed to a revelation from the Lord. The subject of his epistle is baptisms for the dead and he goes more in depth on the symbolism of baptisms for the dead.

Most people are probably already aware that baptismal fonts are built so that the water is underground. This is done to symbolize that when we are baptized we are laying to rest our old life. I remember when I was a missionary my companion and I tracted into a family. The father was the only one interested although the wife and daughter eventually did get baptized. But my companion and I were teaching the father and I was letting my companion lead the discussion to give him some experience. The father asked us at one point if there was any place in the Bible where it says we have to be baptized by immersion as opposed to sprinkling. Because he had been baptized before and he was not convinced that he needed to be baptized again by immersion. At this point I stepped in and shared with him Romans 6:4 which says, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”. After sharing that he got a thoughtful look on his face and then nodded and agreed to be baptized.

I have often wondered just where the idea of sprinkling for baptism came from. Even in the New Testament it talks about Christ being baptized by immersion in Matthew 3. Now I can kind of see where it is open to interpretation because all it says is Christ went up straightway out of the water, so that could mean when he left the water entirely, not just when he came up out of the water from being dunked. However, even if you did interpret it that way, where did the whole idea of sprinkling come from? It just makes no sense to me at all.

Baptism is a symbol as well as an ordinance. And as Paul explained thousands of years ago to the Romans, it is a symbol of our old life being over and done with. This is why all fonts are supposed to be built into the ground and why if a font is not available we are supposed to use a river, or below ground pool or something where we go underground.

The rest of the section is about the importance of keeping records and of having things done in the proper order. Joseph quotes John the Revelator’s Revelation where it says he saw the dead judged out of the book of life. How can the dead be judged out of the book of life if we do not keep it? Joseph also reminded the Saints that we cannot be saved without our dead. This is repeated multiple times throughout the scriptures but no one ever really says why. My opinion is because everyone has to have an opportunity to hear or accept the Gospel. God has said that it must be so, and if something were to somehow happen to contradict that, then God would cease to be God and we would all cease to exist, obviously none of us would be saved. That is just my opinion though.

I know we talked about baptisms for the dead yesterday so I don’t want to dwell too much on it today but I am once again just in awe of the grace of God that allows us to participate in saving ordinances and acting as saviors on mount Zion. The trust that our God puts in us is just awe inspiring. I think that is where we will leave it for today. Until tomorrow.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Temple Work For All

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 127, which is actually not a revelation from the Lord but rather a letter from Joseph Smith to the Saints in Nauvoo. I am always a little in awe of Joseph Smith and his pleasant attitude no matter what challenge came his way. The man was truly humble and willing to submit to all things the Lord saw fit to inflict upon him.

Now, the last half of the section is something the Lord directed him to tell the Saints in regard to baptisms for the dead. Apparently the Saints were doing the baptisms for the dead and not actually recording their work that they were doing. It’s really interesting to me that they would not think to record the work, but perhaps they assumed the work was being recorded in heaven. Also, we have the gift of hindsight and they were in the middle of the work. I think we have all had moments were we had an idea and thought it was the best thing anyone has ever done before. Then someone comes along and bursts our bubble by pointing out something so obvious that we wonder how we ever missed it.

Baptisms for the dead are some of the most sacred and special things we can do for those who are unable to help themselves. It really is quite awesome that the Lord allows us to help take part in this sacred work. I have mentioned in the past that I am originally from Louisville, KY and when I turned 12 years old and was able to perform baptisms for the dead, the closest temple was either in Chicago, IL or Atlanta, GA. Both were about an 8 hour drive. The first few times we went up to Chicago, but then afterwards we would always go down to Atlanta. Those were really fun trips. We would always caravan and looking back now I smile to see what we all sacrificed for just a 4-5 hour temple session. And it was worth all of it!

When I turned 15 they actually built a temple in St. Louis, Missouri. I remember how excited we were that we had a temple only a 5 hour drive away. We could now do temple trips in only 1 day, there and back. I actually got the chance to work at that temple’s open house helping visitors on with the protective footwear they had to wear over their shoes. Later I got to attend the temple’s dedication and I had a unique experience of meeting President Gordon B. Hinckley. It remains to this day one of the most spiritual experiences of my life.

While I was on my mission they built a temple in my hometown of Louisville, KY. Even more awesome was the fact that it was only 2 miles away from my parent’s house and only 4 miles away from my own house that I bought a few years later. Of all the blessings that the Lord has given us as a people, I don’t think any even come close to comparing with the temple. Through the temples we can have an eternal family and we can help those who are unable to help themselves. I stand in awe of those pioneers that sacrificed so much to build temples back in those days of persecution and hate. I often wonder how I would have fared in such a place and time. Thankfully I don’t have to find out. But I do feel the need to honor their sacrifice by making sure that I use those temples as often as I can, or what they went through will be in vain. At least that is how I see it. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Trust of Little Children

Today I read Section 126, a short section where the Lord tells Brigham Young it is no longer needed for him to spread the word as a missionary but that he should take care of his family.
It got me thinking of my own reponsibilities as a husband and a father.

I remember once when I was a teenager after spending a day with my nieces and nephews my mom made the statement that it was a wonderful thing to have the trust of a little children and animals. At the time I did not understand what she meant. But as I've gotten older and wanted little children, especially my own, and hoe they act around people they don't know I understand what she meant.

I don't think anyone who is not a parent can truly understand Heavenly Father's position and what He goes through. I can't even imagine leaving my little girl with someone she doesn't know for even a minute. She would be terrified and extremely upset. It always is heart rending to see her cry. I can only imagine Heavenly Father's anxiety at sending His children down here, especially if He knows they are going to less that wholesome parents.

I agree wholeheartedly that the most important job anyone will ever hold in the list is that of father or mother. The Lord is take a huge chance every time He sends one of His children down to earth to be cared for by someone other then Himself. Let's not give Him any reason to doubt that we will fulfill that responsibility wisely.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Human Relationships

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 125. It is a very short section that asks the Saints in Iowa to gather in Nauvoo. I can't even imagine how hard it must have been during those days to just have to pick up and leave your home and move to a whole new state. And some of the Saints in those days did it multiple times in their lives.

I remember once as a youth when I was being taught about the early Saints and how they had to move around a lot and give up all their worldly goods. I remember my teacher asking us all what we would miss the most if we had to do the same thing as those Saints. I remember nothing seemed terribly important to me so I answered I would miss my bed the most. I would indeed miss my bed if I were forced to get rid of all my earthly possessions but it could be replaced. All earthly possessions could be replaced, a fact the Saints came to know very well.

I am glad that the command to gather together in a physical location other than our own ward or branch has been removed and we no longer need to "come to Zion" in a physical sense. However, as you all know very well, we still need to come to Zion in a spiritual sense and we need to grow together as a people. The reason the Saints were able to accomplish so much in those days and overcome such adversity as they did is largely due to the support they offered each other. At least that is my opinion. Most, if not all of you, are familiar with the phrase "no man is an island". For most of my teenage years I did my best to disprove that statement. I would go out with my friends and spend time with them and I had a very good time, but when something rough would come along, I did my best to cope with it on my own and not my friends or my family were much help to me, mostly due to my not allowing them to be.

We all stand in need of comfort and support at times. The reason we have families in this life is so that we can have that support and a steady source of comfort to turn to. My daughter is just about 8 months old and it just amazes me how if she is upset or overtired or scared or any other emotion other than happy, she immediately stops what she is doing and crawls over to her mother or to me and just wants to be held. There is something very comforting that all humans need in touch and contact with other humans. It is amazing that babies are instinctively born with it. But somewhere along the way, machoness, for lack of a better term, sets in and we think we can do it all on our own. We don't need or want anyone to help us. We want to be self made men and women. Such thinking is not only very silly it is fatally flawed. No one does anything on their own in this life. Heavenly Father is always helping us and doing what He deems best to help us accomplish our worthy goals.

All human relationships, even the unhealthy ones, are give and take. Even in an abusive relationship, the abuser needs the emotions of the other person. Now, luckily in most cases the emotions most of us are seeking are healthy and happy emotions. We are designed to be this way and one of the most important things we do in this life is learn to master those emotions so that we control them and not vice versa. Although the Lord can help us quite a bit in this area, as with all areas we need help in, I have found the most help I've gotten in this regard has actually come from my wife and to a lesser extent because she has been around less time, my daughter. As I interact with my family, I am forced into situations that I would easily avoid if it were my friends or even other members of my family. But I cannot avoid my wife and daughter and I have to respond in appropriate ways and it helps me to learn and grow.

I hope all your relationships with your fellow men and women are healthy ones and that they can help you progress just as much as you help them progress. Even people who treat you poorly are helping you to grow as they give you even more opportunity to act in a Christlike manner. It is hard to remember that in the heat of the moment though. But practice makes perfect. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Lord Directs the Work in Nauvoo

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 124, quite possibly the longest chapter among all our scriptures at 145 verses. This section is the Lord setting the affairs of the church in order. It contains commandments to the Saints, everything from directions to build a temple so that they may perform baptisms for the dead, to building a house for travelers called the Nauvoo house, to setting up the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.

The first major chunk of the section is on the ordinance of baptism for the dead. As all Saints know, in order to enter into the Kingdom of God, you have to be baptized by the proper authority. Now, this of course presents a problem as there are almost 2000 years where there was no proper authority among the inhabitants of the earth, not openly at least. So, there are millions and billions of people that never even had a chance to be baptized while in the flesh, effectively damning them and keeping them out of God's presence. This is why baptism for the dead is so essential. But all things are done unto the Lord in His way and we cannot just perform these ordinances anywhere we like. They must be done in the Lord's house, or the temple. The Lord during this time, in this section did authorize them to do baptisms for the dead outside of the temple for a certain period of time because the temple was not built yet, but it was only for a certain period of time.

The second chunk of the section was to some of the brethren directly and included commands to serve missions. The missionary efforts were still going on at this point and the brethren of the church were being called upon at a moments notice to go and preach the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. Their families were cared for by the church and they would go forth to do the will of the Lord with little to no preparation.

The third chunk was about about the building up of the city of Nauvoo. They were mainly focused on the Nauvoo house itself and the Lord authorized them to sell stocks in the house. The Nauvoo house was to be a place for both strangers and Saints alike. The Lord told them that Joseph and Emma would reside there and that it would be a place to entertain guests and those who came to see the marvels of Nauvoo.

The last part of the section was a reorganizing of the officers of the church. In some cases it was not a full reorganization but rather a naming of the officers and the positions that they held. Hyrum Smith was called to replace his father, who had passed away, as Patriarch of the church. William Law was called as a counselor in the First Presidency to replace Frederick G. Williams. The Twelve Apostles were also named as was the High Counsel of the church.

No one thing stood out to me in this section other than the marvel that the Lord was truly concerned with the welfare of His people and is very concerned with the way things are done in Zion. There is an order to all things and He desires it to be done that way. It is a comfort to know that He is still the head of our church and He still guides and directs us in all things though His current prophet, Thomas S. Monson. There is no doubt in my mind that the Lord is still in charge. Each General Conference when the prophet announces new temples, it is clear to me that the Lord has whispered to him where they are to be built and ways are opened for the building of those temples. The Lord guides and directs this work. Of that I am certain. Until tomorrow.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Others kept from the Truth because they Cannot Find it

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 123, a section that is basically the Lord telling the brethren how to go about redressing the wrongs that have been perpetrated on the Saints. It's very interesting to me that the Lord wants the Saints to follow the proper channels and try and achieve justice largely without His help. I mean, He could soften the hearts of the government leaders or do any number of things that would ensure the Saints were left alone, but that is not the Lord's plan.

The phrase that has always stood out to me in this section is that there are many people who are kept from the truth only because they know not where to find it. I have met people in my life that have been members of the church for years, decades even. And when they tell me their stories, I am sometimes shocked at the type of person they were before they found the Gospel.

It is almost always a mistake to judge on outward appearances. I have seen men and women dressed like business professionals that behave like children and I have seen men with tattoos everywhere in biker leathers compassionately assisting others in need. Likewise it is a mistake to judge others based on their outward appearance in proportion to their likelihood in accepting the Gospel.

The Lord sees the heart and He knows who has been prepared to accept the Gospel and who has not. We must rely on the Lord to help us know who is prepared and what we can be doing to spread the gospel most effectively. This is why the missionaries ask us to pray over who we know that is ready to accept the gospel and how we can best approach them. We may think to ourselves that so and so may make a great member of the church, and that is true that they might. But they may not want anything to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are people in this world that enjoy sin and do not want to give it up. I still can't for the life of me understand the draw to drink alcohol, but the people at least in this country, enjoy it with a passion that astounds me.

Perhaps the best way to know who you know that is prepared for the Gospel is by living a good Latter-day Saint lifestyle. People notice the difference between a Latter-day Saint who is living the Gospel and the rest of the people in this world. As a Latter-day Saint we are pretty much always on stage. Once a person knows who you are, they will typically judge the entire church off of what you do. It is not fair, but it is a fact. As we live our lives, they will think that all other Latter-day Saints are the same way. And I would daresay that a good chunk of people who join the church as adults knew other Latter-day Saints and it was a big draw for them that we acted differently. It is a breath of fresh air to meet people who actually live according to the dictates of their professed religion. I know when I come across someone of a different church I love it when they actually follow the commandments and the rules of their church. It is sadly too rare a thing.

When we become serious about spreading the Gospel, the Lord will help us know what we can do to further His work. He will work with us to help us spread His truth and it is so rewarding. At the very least though, we can live our religion and let it be known that we are LDS. We don't need to shove it down other people's throats, but we do need to make sure that we wear it on our sleeves and not hide who we are. It is very rewarding to be an instrument in God's hands. It's pretty fun too! Until tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Trials Help Us Grow

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 122. This is another section that was given to Joseph Smith while he was in Liberty Jail. I have always liked this section, I'm not exactly sure why. We have talked a lot in the past about trials and how they are for our benefit and we should be grateful for trials, even if they are a challenge. They are what stretch us.

I am personally of the opinion trials refine who we are no matter what. Paul teaches us in his epistle to the Corinthians that God will not give us anything that we cannot handle. I often wonder about the character of Joseph Smith, that we was able to handle all the trials that were given him. I'm not sure I could have handled all that he went through in his life.

The phrase that I have always loved in this section was about Christ though. It says, "The Son of Man hath descended below them all, art though greater than He?" It is sometimes easy to forget in the middle of trials that we do not have it worse than anyone has ever had it before. That no matter what someone suffers in this life, the Savior has felt it also. He is perfectly able understand what we are feeling and what we need to feel better. I think maybe that is why I love this section so much, it is a very powerful reminder that the Savior is there for us and He will not leave us alone in our time of trials.

Today in Priesthood meeting we were talking about the lures and counterfeits Satan uses to tempt us and trick us. We talked about the various things Satan does to try and trick us. I made a comment about Satan confusing us about trials and convincing us that trials were a negative thing and something to be avoided. Now, of course trials are not fun to go through, hence their name, but if we are being given trials, we should be grateful. That lets us know that the Lord thinks we are able to handle more than we currently are and that we are ready to grow.

It can be a challenge to rely on the Lord in times of trial. It's much easier to turn to those we can see and touch. But if you ever find yourself alone, the Lord is always there and is always able to comfort us. Perhaps even more importantly than that, He WANTS to comfort you. He always has time to listen and always wants to help in any way He can. And just as we all want to comfort our earthly children and protect them, we also recognize that they need to grow on their own and if we step in every time it will not help them grow and understand. It's strange that so many people understand that to grow physically we have to have resistance, but when it comes to growing emotionally we think resistance leads to scarring and a lifetime of woes.

As we face our trials, we should thank the Lord that He thinks we are ready to grow more and that we are ready to be a better person. And remember, if you ever think it's not fair or why do you have to suffer like this, the Savior has suffered a lot worse that you. Are you better than He is? Until tomorrow.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 121. This section was given to Joseph Smith while he was in prison at Liberty Jail and had been for some months. He was unjustly imprisoned and the first few verses were actually a prayer the prophet uttered and the rest of the section was the Lord's answer. This is one of the most famous sections in the Doctrine and Covenants due to the last 13 verses.

It is so interesting to see how the Lord comforts us and how well He knows us. For example, one of the first things the Lord tells Joseph in answer to his supplication is that things could always be worse, you still have your friends and you are not as bad off as Job. I think that if the Lord told me that, I would just burst into tears. It really seems kinda harsh, but it must have been what Joseph needed to hear. And I know there are lots of people that if you were to tell them things could always be worse, it would bolster them up and they would be good to go again, but I am not one of them.

I do think it is awesome how the Lord bolsters Joseph by letting him know that mankind cannot frustrate the purposes of God and that they have about as much chance stopping the Missouri River with their arm as they do of stopping the Lord. That is powerful imagery. I remember on my mission one day my companion and I were discussing if we thought it was possible to frustrate the plan of God or if God knew us so well that we could not do anything to surprise Him and so He would count on us failing and had a back up plan. My thought, even to this day, is that we cannot surprise Him. I mean, if He can see the end from the beginning, doesn't He have a perfect knowledge of how we are going to react in every single situation? That's my thought anyway.

The last part of this section is very familiar to most priesthood holders. In my mission I actually had them memorized. The entire section of verses are a guide to how to use the priesthood in righteousness. In this past General Conference, President Uchtdorf listed section 121 as one of several that he wanted all priesthood holders to review. A proper analysis of all 13 of these verses would take a very, very long time but a few of them have always stood out to me as being especially important and I will focus on those.

First, the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven. It has been said by many Apostles that we are given the authority to use the priesthood when we are ordained, but the power of the priesthood is obtained through righteous living. The Lord goes on to expound on things that will take away our authority in the priesthood. It has always amazed me that men will think they are allowed to be abusive and pushy and domineering just because they have the priesthood. How any man can think that is beyond me and such men obviously do not have a true understanding of God's nature.

Second, most men will exercise unrighteous dominion if they are given authority. It is very true and it is extremely sad to watch it happen to people you know. I have often wondered why some people think authority gives them the right to do whatever they want to those around them. I think the people who behave in such a way do not understand the true nature of power and do not understand that power only comes because of the grace of those under you. Power can only be maintained if the people who you have power over you continue to follow and do your commands. It's a lesson most people seem to have to learn the hard way.

Third, it is important and necessary to reprove at times with sharpness, or clarity. We have discussed this in the past when we talked about the Lord chastens those He loves. It is an act of love to correct someone's bad behavior and when we don't we are doing that person an extreme disservice. I have talked on this extensively in other places so I will not do so again here.

Finally, let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly. The most important line in that phrase to me is the word unceasingly. It is easy to let virtue garnish our thoughts from time to time, but to do so unceasingly is a challenge and requires help from on high. The phrase immediately following it states that if we do that, among other things, our confidence will wax strong in the presence of God. I think that is interesting that if we do not have virtuous thoughts, then we will not desire to stand in God's presence. This is not such a hard concept to understand though if you have ever done anything wrong in your life. The easiest analogy to draw is that of our earthly parents. Think about a time you did something wrong and got caught, did you want to stand in your father's presence? Of course not. It is the same with the Lord, and He can see our thoughts and understand our hearts. There is no fooling Him. Is it any wonder we need to make sure our thoughts are His thoughts before we will be comfortable in His presence?

It takes a lifetime to learn to use the priesthood in the appropriate way I think but it is something each of us men who hold the priesthood should be working towards and something each wife should encourage their husbands to strive for as well. As we grow in the priesthood it is amazing the service we can perform for Him and for our brothers and sisters here on the earth. Until tomorrow.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tithies and Offerings

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants sections 119 and 120, both about tithing. In Section 119 the law of tithing as we know it today was given, and in section 120, which is only 1 verse long, the properties which had previously been consecrated to the church are to be doled out at the discretion of the First Presidency with the help of the bishop.

We have talked about tithing in the past. Back on November 20, 2010 we talked about the purpose of tithing. We talked about how God could take care of all of His children but He uses us to help Him fulfill His purposes instead. He wants us to use our means that He has blessed us with to bless the lives of others and to overcome the natural man in each of us.

Tithing is one of those commandments that is extremely personal. The only people who know for a fact if you are paying a full, honest tithe are you, the Lord and at the end of the year, your bishop and who ever he reports it to. I remember being a missionary and hearing members of the church where I served talk about not wanting to pay tithing because they did not want the bishop to know who much money they earned. I've always wondered why people care about such things. What does it matter if someone knows how much you earn in a year? Are you afraid they are going to look down on you, or be jealous of you? I really don't understand why it matters how much you earn in a year. As long as it is enough for your families' needs, does it really matter if others know? I think most of it is just embarrassment is my personal thought.

But regardless, tithing and fast offerings is our way of both obeying a commandment of the Lord and helping those around us. The church is organized the way it is for a reason. We do not know all the needs of those around us, largely because most people do not publicize their hard times and their needs, sometimes not even to their closest friends. But the bishop is aware of the needs of the ward and those that come to him. Now, some wards are better about it than others. In our current ward, I was floored when last Christmas, we were given several gift cards from the ward that had been collected for us. We were not suffering at all,, and we were actually doing quite well in my opinion, but the ward wanted to help us since they knew we had just had a new baby and knew that even though we were making it and doing well, they could help and so they did. I was really touched by the generosity of the ward and their love for us.

But back to my original point, in most cases members of the ward are not always aware of the needs and so fast offerings are a way to help those in need. The bishop can take those fast offering and use them to help bless the lives of those in the ward. If the ward is particularly generous in their fast offerings, the excess can go to the stake and help those in other wards. It is a wonderful opportunity we all have and my wife and I pay a fast offering each month, even if we could not fast that month for whatever reason. Contributing to the missionary fund is another great way to serve specific families in your ward. And there are multiple other offerings you can give to the church if you feel so inclined.

Tithing is there for us, to help us grow, as we discussed last November. It is to help us learn charity and to overcome our love of money. I have only once in my life since I started paying tithing not paid a full tithing and it was one of the worst feelings of my life. I vowed then and there to never let it happen again. I try and be that resolute with all the commandments of God, but I fail from time to time. But tithing is one that for me, has always been easy. I think I was lucky to be raised in the church by good parents who taught me the importance of tithing. I have never wavered in my faith of tithing and I've always made sure to pay a full tithe.

One last thought on tithing, there is some debate on the subject of paying tithing on gross income over net income. I will leave you with a story that I heard once that is probably nothing but folklore, but it hits the point home just the same. Someone once asked President, it was either Kimball or Benson I'm not sure which, if we should pay tithing on gross or net income. He replied by asking if they wanted gross or net blessings. It is something that the church has never specified because it is one of those items that the Lord wants us to work out for ourselves through prayer. I personally am very grateful for the law of tithing and if I had to rank the commandments in order of favorites, tithing would most certainly be in the top three along with the Word of Wisdom. Those two are probably my top two favorite to keep and talk about. I hope you too enjoy being able to help those around you and in need and gain just a taste of what Heavenly Father must feel when he blesses the lives of others. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vacancies in the Twelve are Filled

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 118. It is a very short section of only 6 verses were vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve were filled. The men that were chosen to fill these vacancies were John Taylor, John E. Page, Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards. Two of which of course went on to be called as prophets.

There's not much in this section that strikes me as I read it and re-read it today. There is nothing unique about it really except for the calling of new Apostles, which I have always imagined to be kind of like calling someone to other positions. The only difference I would think would be that with calling a new apostle, you don't have a working knowledge of all the potential people. When a bishop or branch president needs to extend a calling to someone in their ward or branch, they pretty much know their members well enough to know who might be well suited for the service and have an idea in their mind and thus they are only taking it to the Lord for confirmation.

But I will freely admit my ignorance of calling a new general authority, be they Apostle, Quorum of the Seventy, or General Relief Society Presidency. I have no idea how they are called and it would seem to me that anyone could truly be called to serve in those capacities. I imagine that it is much like in this section that the Lord tells the Prophet who He wants to have serve in those capacities and then the Prophet extends the call to serve.

So, there is not much this section adds by way of doctrine, but from a historical point of view, this section is invaluable as this is where the Twelve are called to serve their missions in Europe and millions of members over in Europe can trace their membership in the church directly back to the mission of the early Apostles to England and other European countries. It is also really neat to see 2 of the future prophets being called to the Quorum of the Twelve, but nothing else about this section really jumps out at me. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Focus on the Weightier Matters

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 116 and 117. Section 116 is only 1 verse long and it names a place called Spring Hill as Adam-ondi-Ahman, a place where Adam will come to visit his people. There is not much I can say about that really so I decided that I would just briefly mention it and focus on section 117.

Section 117 is directed at a few individuals, but as usual, has lessons for everyone as well. Have you ever noticed a lot of things get blamed on the natural man? I've often wondered if maybe we sometimes blame too much on the natural man in each of us. It is true that we each have the natural man in us, and he is an enemy unto God, but surely some of our tendencies to disobey God are our own weakness and we would have had them even before the Fall. As we discussed almost a year ago now in Alma 13, even in the pre-mortal life, there were people who disobeyed God, even then.

The reason I bring this up is because the section admonishes the brethren to not neglect the weightier matters and to repent of their covetous desires, specifically property. Now the Lord is most likely referring to land in this sense, but I think it is appropriate to expand it to include all material things. Jacob counseled his people over 2500 years ago to first seek after the kingdom of God, then afterwards you can seek after riches if you so desire.

Now, in this life it is very easy to fall prey to the desire to accumulate "stuff" or wealth or property or whatever your desire is. But I wonder if the natural man were to be taken away, how many of us would still have that stumbling block? How many of us have a weakness and it is their trial to overcome in this life? Regardless of if it's just the natural man, or an actual weakness, it is something we all need to overcome. Love of money and stuff is probably the biggest hindrance to charity in this life. When we have charity, or the pure love of Christ, we will desire to help those around us, even at the detriment to ourselves. When our desire is wealth, or power, or property, we want to get ahead and all too frequently it does not matter who we trample under our feet to achieve it.

The rest of the section goes hand in hand with this. The Lord tells the brethren in this section to forsake their littleness of soul and to focus on the weightier matters. Littleness of soul reminds me of the Chinese term, "small man" or the term pettiness. It calls to mind someone who is not humble but instead is full of pride and does not wish to forgive and forget. Instead they desire to "get even" or get revenge. They lose the Spirit of the Lord because they focus on the hurt and won't forgive the offending person in their hearts. There are way too many people like this in this life and it is not a pleasant thing because of it. If more of us would swallow our pride and would forgive more readily, the world would be a lot of more pleasant.

And when we focus on the small things and do not focus on the weightier matters, our progression is slowed. It may not be downright halted like it would be with other sins, but we for sure are not growing in the way we should be. In order to be truly comfortable in Heavenly Father's presence some day, we need to become like He is, enjoy the things He enjoys. And what He enjoys the most is bettering people. Helping them reach their potential and helping them overcome their challenges and trials. We need to be working towards the same if we truly hope for exaltation.

It can be challenging to overcome the desire for more stuff. But really there is nothing in this life we can take with us except our knowledge so we may as well overcome that desire when we are young because it truly will not do us any good in the long run. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Words are Important

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 115, which is a revelation given to the leaders of the church and commanding them several things. The first one was to be a light unto the world. We have talked about that in the past and I don't want to focus on that today. The Lord also commands the brethren to build a temple at Far West. We talked recently that verbiage is very important to Him and in this section the Lord tells them the name of the church in these latter days.

To a guy like me, this is a little strange that the verbiage is so important. I have always been the type of person that it doesn't matter to me what others think or say about me. I've always taken the stance that no matter what they say, it doesn't change the truth. Just like Shakespeare said, "That which we call a rose would smell as sweet". Calling something or someone a hurtful name doesn't change who they are. We tell our children all the time to ignore people who call them hurtful names.

And yet we talked just a few days ago about the importance of saying the right things when performing ordinances in the Lord's name. So in that sense words are extremely important. We also teach our children and our leaders and the Lord Himself tell us not to use foul language. King Benjamin also taught his people in Mosiah 4 that our words can condemn us. So obviously words are important to the Lord.

Also in 3 Nephi when His disciples ask what name to call the church, He tells them that it is to be called in His name because it is His church. Similarly, in this day and age we call the church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Boyd K. Packer talked about this in this most recent conference address also. There is nothing with being called a Mormon, it is not derogatory, but when we refer to ourselves, we should use the appropriate name. It is important enough to the Lord that He told the brethren what He wanted the name to be.

Perhaps the reason the Lord takes words so seriously, is because our words are a precursor to our actions. In a trial our words can be used to condemn us. All these examples show us that we need to be very careful with our words and make sure our language is appropriate for the Spirit of the Lord so that we do not chase it away. As we use the type of language that the Lord would approve of we will grow closer to Him and become just a little more like He is. Which is our ultimate goal as we have mentioned. So take care the next time you say words in anger or without thought. Until tomorrow.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Deny Him Not

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 114, which is only 2 verses long where the Lord calls David W. Patten on a mission. It's always surprising to me how quickly the Lord would call these men in those days on missions. And later during Brigham Young's presidency it was even quicker sometimes. At least these days, at the very least even if they are a new convert they have at least a year to prepare. In the case of most young men how ever, they are well aware that they will serve their mission at age 19 and have their whole lives to prepare.

A single phrase in these 2 verses stood out to me. The Lord mentions that those who deny His name will lose their inheritance and be uprooted and others planted in their stead. It got me to thinking, what does it mean to deny God's name? There are some obvious answers that I think most Latter-day Saints have no need to worry about, but there are some not so obvious answers too that I think even the most stalwart of Saints need to be careful of.

Back when the church was young, the persecution the Saints had to endure was intense and fearsome and many good men, women and children lost their lives. There were men, evil men, that would shoot a Latter-day Saint on sight if they knew who they were. This would give the Latter-day Saints control over their own lives. They could own to being a Latter-day Saint, or deny the Christ and live. The most famous example of this is perhaps Joseph F. Smith. He was asked if he were a Mormon by a very vulgar man and he not only acknowledged it, he was cheerful about it. Then man was so impressed with how pleasant Joseph was, that he let him live. Not all Saints were so lucky and they sealed their testimony with their blood. In this day and age, there is not too much worry over this happening to us.

However, there are some non-direct ways we can deny the Christ. I don't think there are many of us that would deny being a Latter-day Saint, although there are a few out there that would. But for most of us we would happily acknowledge our faith when asked. The danger for us is much more subtle. When we were baptized we promised God we would stand as a witness for Him at all times and in all places. Are we doing that? Are we showing by our actions that we are a Latter-day Saint, or even a Christian? Or does it come as a shock when we tell people we are Mormon?

I probably should talk about being a Latter-day Saint more often than I do, but I believe it is a testimony of the way I live my life that without me having to tell people, after they have known me for awhile and have observed who I am and my behavior they can tell I am a Latter-day Saint. Now, I should probably be the one to bring it up more often, but the way I live my life shows the world that I am a Christian and a Latter-day Saint. I think that is the strongest way we can avoid denying Christ's name, is by being proud to be associated with it. We live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have nothing to be embarrassed about. I have never understood why some people seem to be embarrassed that they live the Gospel. What is there to be embarrassed or sorry about?

If we are ashamed of Christ, then we need to reexamine our lives and find out why we are fearing man more than God. That is the only reason we would be ashamed of the fact that we are a disciple of Christ. There is no reason to apologize, or be ashamed of our lifestyle. We should be proud and unapologetic of who we are and why we live our lives the way we do. We are living testimonies of Christ, or we should be. There is nothing to be ashamed of. As Paul said thousands of years ago, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ". We need to make sure that we are not ashamed either and that we are living up to our covenant and standing as a witness for Him at all times and in all places. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Done by the Authority of the Priesthood, not the Power

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 113, which is another question and answer session between Joseph Smith and the Lord. This time it is about Isaiah chapter 11 and 52. Most of the section, which is not very long at only 10 verses, has to do with a servant that the Lord is going to, or has, risen up in the last days as an ensign to the nations.

One could easily argue that the servant is Joseph Smith as it states that this servant is one whom the keys of the kingdom and the priesthood rightly belongs to. I do not know Joseph Smith's lineage but if he is partly from the house of Judah and partly from the house of Ephraim, I would say he fits the description quite nicely.

That's the answers to the questions about Isaiah 11. The last few verses are about Isaiah 52:1-2, 6-8. In these verses, I find something interesting that brought a couple of conference talks to mind. The Lord answers one of the brethren's questions about the people referred to in verse 1 chapter 52 and says that they are people that the Lord should call in the last days who should hold the power of the priesthood.

I am not sure that I have ever brought it up here, but it always irks me when I hear someone give a blessing and they use the wrong verbiage. When exercising the priesthood, such as giving a blessing, the priesthood holder is supposed to state that the ordinance is done by the authority of the priesthood. Yet all too often I hear people state that it is done by the power of the priesthood. This is wrong for 2 reasons.

First, we perform all ordinances by the authority of the priesthood, not the power of it. This is because when we state this phrase, we are declaring that we have the authority, or the right to perform this ordinance in God's absence. We are acknowledging that God should be the one performing this, but since He is not here, we are acting in His stead, and what's more, we have the right to do so. So, since we are merely stating our right to be performing this ordinance, we need to make sure that we use the proper phrasing.

Secondly, we need to say we do it by the authority, and not the power, because we don't have power in the priesthood. God does. When we are ordained to the priesthood, be it Aaronic or Melchizedek, we are given the authority to perform sacred ordinances in God's name. We are NOT given power in the priesthood. We are told by our church leaders that such power comes only through righteous living, much the way Father gets His power in the priesthood. Thus it is a huge misnomer to claim power in the priesthood when performing an ordinance in His name.

Now, one might ask if one little word is so important in such matters and I would direct to you look at all the saving ordinances, baptism, the sacrament and the temple ordinances. They are all done, word for word, the same every time. Yes, the wording is important. To the Lord it is very important that we use the proper verbiage in all things, and especially when we are performing ordinances. It is a personal pet peeve of mine, as you can probably tell, when I hear someone bless their new baby, or give a blessing and they state it is done by the power of the priesthood. I understand they don't know any better and are probably just doing it the way they were taught, but it is pleasing to the Lord for us to do things in the proper fashion.

On that same vein I will close with this thought: have you ever noticed that the General Authorities in the church always close their talks with a prayer or testimony? They do not just end their talk saying the oh too common, "these things I say in the name of Jesus Christ" that we hear in our sacrament meetings. Rather you will almost always hear a General Authority close their talk by one of two ways. It will be either, "is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ" or "of these things I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ". They are not closing their talks in His name, rather they are closing their prayer or testimony in His name. That was pointed out to me about 10 years ago and I have found it to be true in all this time and I have since changed the way I close my talks and lessons as well. Food for thought. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Pitfall of Pride

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 112, a section given to Thomas B. Marsh, who at the time was the President of the Quorum of the Twelve of the Apostles. This section is before Thomas B. Marsh had his episode with his wife and the leaders of the church which caused him to apostatize for several years before repenting and returning to full fellowship.

The sad thing is, in this section, the Lord is trying to warn Thomas B. Marsh by telling him to avoid pride and to be humble and the Lord will take care of the rest. It is hard to leave things completely in the hands of the Lord. I had a problem doing that earlier in my life. After finishing college, I felt like I was adrift in a sea with no way to reach the shore. Up to that point in my life, I had a plan and followed it. I graduated High School and then served a mission. I then graduated college but the rest of my life did not fall into place. I did not get married for another 4 years and I was not finding a career in my chosen field. It was the first time in my life that I did not feel in control of my own destiny. And it was really hard for me to just let go and let the Lord pilot the course for me.

But as is always the case, once I stopped trying to be in control, the Lord took over and steered me in the direction that I needed to be. I had a really good time during those years and made some wonderful friends that are still near and dear to me and was able to spend an unprecedented amount of time with my family which now that I live over 300 miles away from them I appreciate even more. And the woman I would go on to marry? The first time I wanted to be married, right after my mission, she was only 16 years old. And the second big push I had for marriage in my life, after college she was only 19 years old and not ready for marriage at all. That's the problem with trying to control things we have no control over, we don't know and probably can't understand all the elements involved. I would also wager that if the Lord showed us the end from the beginning for our own lives, we would not take it very well. We would either have a real problem with what we are going to suffer, because we do not understand that it is the things that we suffer that shape us and turn us into who we ultimately will become.

That's the problem with pride, we think we know it all. Now, my parents will tell you that I was about as easy a teenager as one could ever hope for. I never rebelled, I didn't sneak out, and I was pretty obedient and did not do a lot of talking back, and yet, despite how good I was, I still made a lot of dumb decisions and caused my parents grief. And looking back, I can't understand why I thought I knew it all. I look back and see SO many things I wish I could do differently if I were allowed to go back with my knowledge I have now and do it over again.

But, knowing that we are the sum of all our experiences, even our sins, would any of us really want to change things in our lives knowing they were part of what shaped and molded us into the people we are today? It's a tough question, fortunately not one that requires an answer since it is not possible. Our choices have been made and the die has been cast and all we can do is decide who we are going to be going forward. It is up to us to decide how we will act, or in some cases if we will act at all or if we will only be acted upon.

I can say with certainty that the absolute best thing any of us can do is to cast pride away from us. Because one way or another, we need to be free of pride if we are to be exalted. The Lord is able, and willing, to help us but trust me when I say it is so much easier and preferable to do it ourselves. Because remember, with a few exceptions, the Lord doesn't just zap us and we are suddenly changed, rather He gives us experiences where we can cultivate the desired trait ourselves. Wouldn't it be better to choose to be humble ourselves and work on it a little bit each day? I think so. And it is one of those things that gets easier the more you do it. Pride is also one of those traits that once we are free of it, we look back and wonder why we did not do it sooner. It truly is a worthless trait and we would all be best served to be rid of it. I hope each of us can rid ourselves of pride and continue on in the journey of our eternal progression. Until tomorrow.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Lord's plan for Wealth Distribution

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 111, which was given because Joseph Smith and several others had gone to Salem, Massachusetts for the purpose of finding money to pay off their debts. According to the introduction to the revelation along with the revelation itself, there was indeed wealth to be found in Salem but it was not the material wealth they were hoping for. This section got me thinking about tithing and the church's debt problems it had before all its members started paying a full tithe.

It's very true that the Lord's ways are not our ways but in every case I can think of, the Lord's way is better. Yes, from our mortal perspective the Lord's way can sometimes seem harsh, but the Lord always has our best interest at heart. The Lord has no need at all of our money. The Lord created the heavens and the earth and could create all the gold He wanted to if, if that was His method. However, it is not His method, His method is to bless the lives of His servants, us, and then allow us to grow by helping those around us who need it.

As we have discussed previously, the goal of all of us in coming here is to become more like our Father in Heaven. Our Heavenly Father is more concerned with others than He is Himself. While I am sure He could say the word and our very nature would change, it would not be nearly as effective as us making the conscious choice to change and help those around us. The Lord has said that there is more than enough wealth in the world to care for all His children. But it is of course not evenly distributed among those children. The reason behind that is because His children need to grow and overcome their trials.

There are two types of trials involving money that people need to overcome, not having any, or facing all the hardships from not having enough money to meet ones needs and all that can come of it. The second, and perhaps harder trial, is having a lot of money. We know the Lord will not do anything that is not for our benefit and every trial in this life is a chance for us to grow. Far too many people suffer from the love of money in this life and all that comes with it.

Think of all the people that would do just about anything for money. People sell their dignity, their integrity, even their very souls, just for money. It's completely ridiculous and are media is full of examples of people who do it everyday, both real and imagined. And sometimes it's not even a lot of money. There's a movie called the Family Man and a store clerk purposefully gives a girl back too much change in the movie to see what she will do. And the girl doesn't say anything, she just takes the money and leaves. The store clerk shakes his head and laments that the girl sold her integrity for only $9. How often do we sell our integrity, to save a few dollars? Do we notify the clerk if we are given too much change? Do we argue and haggle with companies that we have entered into agreements with just to save a few dollars that deep down we know we owe? Do we pay our debts to everyone?

Money is a HUGE stumbling block to most people. It is hard to overcome the desire to have a lot of money and live a comfortable life because we all want to be able to provide for ourselves and our loved ones. But as hard as not having any money can be, having lots and lots of money is even harder for most people. For some reason, when most people get a lot of money, they become cold hearted and are even less inclined to spend the money they have amassed. Which I have never understood. What is the point of having a lot of money if you don't use it? I can understand that not everyone wants to use their money to help others. I don't agree with it, but I can understand it. But the people who when they get a lot of money, don't use it appropriately, or at all just blow my mind. I don't understand the idea of hoarding the money. Now, setting some aside for a rainy day makes perfect sense to me, but not paying off your debts because you want to get more money? I can't understand that.

The purpose of having a lot of money is to get out of debt and then bless the lives of others. That is the Lord's plan. I hope we can all overcome the trial of money and if we happen to be blessed with wealth that we will use it appropriately and use it to bless the lives of others so that we can be an instrument in the Lord's hands. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Restoration of Keys

Today I read Doctrine and Covenants section 110. You know, if you were to ask me which section in the Doctrine and Covenants I have read more times than any other, I could make a strong case for section 110. I am not sure it is the most read section, but I have read it A LOT. Partially that is because it is used a lot in Priesthood lessons and genealogy lessons. Section 110 is a series of 4 visions wherein Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery see the Savior, Moses, Elias(one of them anyway), and Elijah.

The Savior comes and accepts the temple as His own. He comes and tells them that their work is acceptable to Him and that as long as it is not defiled, He will visit the Saints in His house. I've always been fascinated by the description of the Savior in this section, where it says His eyes are like the flame of a fire. I have often wondered just what His eyes must look like to warrant that type of a description. I'm sure I will find out someday.

The other 3 men appear to Joseph and Oliver and commit the keys to the kingdom that they each hold to the two men so that the work can go forward in this generation. Moses appeared and gave the keys of the Gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth. This is pretty self explanatory but it is so important. Our God is a God of mercy and justice, or fairness. He will not allow anyone to perish because of lack of opportunity to hear and accept the gospel. I do not know how this will work or what will happen to those that had a fair opportunity in this life but accept it in the next life, although Bruce R. McConkie stated that such go to the Terrestrial Kingdom, but I do not know if that was his opinion or doctrine. It's hard to tell sometimes with Elder McConkie. But in order to do missionary work properly we needed the keys and that was Moses' task to bring them to us in this dispensation.

Elias brought back the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham. Our leaders have interpreted this to be the promising of the covenant made to Abraham, that our seed will be as numerous as the sands of the sea. We all know that cannot happen in this life so this is the promise of a Celestial marriage. The greatest blessing that God can give us is to become like He is. The scriptures and modern day prophets teach us that we cannot become like He is alone, rather we must be married after the New and Everlasting Covenant. Only by marrying for time and eternity can we hope to return to live with our Father in Heaven and a fullness of joy, or children in the world to come.

Finally, Elijah came back to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. This is the sealing power that seals families together. As a result of Elijah's visit and the sealing keys being given to Joseph and Oliver the hearts of the children really have been turned to the fathers. Genealogy has become one o the favorite pass times of the day. There are now plenty of websites for genealogy besides the church's websites and there are even TV commercials these days that are encouraging genealogy. It has encouraged everyone to find out who their ancestors are which will be of great use when the millennium arrives and we need to do the temple work for all those people.

It is very appropriate that these keys were all restored in the temple. Both Celestial marriages and sealing parents to children take place in the temple. The purpose of the gathering of Israel is to lead men and women to the temple so that they can perform all the sacred ordinances necessary to return to live with our Heavenly Father. And of course, the temple is the house of the Lord so it is only fitting that the Savior would appear in His house to accept it. We should go to the temple as often as we can. We can feel the Spirit of the Lord most strongly when we are in the temple and we have the added benefit of serving those who cannot help themselves and can act as Saviors on Mount Zion. Serving in the temple is one of the most worthwhile things we can do in this life and it is especially important that we take part in these ordinances ourselves. Who would not want to be with their families forever, especially our wonderful children. We are truly blessed with a wonderful God who loves us and wants us to have a fullness of joy. Hopefully we all take advantage of these wonderful blessings available to us. Until tomorrow.