Sunday, July 31, 2011

Showing Gratitude

Today I read Luke 17 which mainly has to do with gratitude. This chapter contains the story of the 10 lepers who are healed by the Savior and only 1 of them returns to thank Him, and it is a Samaritan at that. The other 9 went on their way, never returning to thank Jesus for what He had done for them. Jesus also asks the people a hypothetical question. He asks which of them having a servant who waits on them, after the servant has fulfilled all the command that they are given actually thanks him for the job he has performed? I would wager not many.

It can be a surprisingly hard phrase to say, "Thank you", but it shouldn't be. It's just 2 words, no different than "hello there" or "good bye" or any other phrase, yet it is a phrase that is not heard nearly enough these days and from the sound of it, wasn't heard enough in Jesus' time either. What stops us from expressing our genuine gratitude? Usually it is pride or selfishness. Pride does not allow for us to admit that we needed someone else's assistance. Pride does not want to rely on anyone but itself. Some people take great pride in being a "self-made man" or woman. They like to think that they got to where they are all on their own. It's an interesting phenomenon and usually it comes with what I like to call the one up syndrome.

Have you ever met someone that no matter what story you tell, they have a similar story to tell about themselves but it's just a little bit more fantastic than yours was? They never seem to be happy for you or what has happened to you, they are unhappy unless the focus is on them. Such people rarely if ever have gratitude to anyone around them. It's also interesting that our culture takes pride in how much we suffered as children or whatever part of life we have and in overcoming that adversity to be who we are today. I like to just shrug in those situations and mention that I had a very normal life and upbringing and was in no way extraordinary. It is strange that as a culture we are so focused on the negative when instead we should be focusing on the positive in our lives. Perhaps that is why we have such a hard time as a culture with gratitude. When you only focus on the negative, you don't really notice the good in your life and so you may not even recognize that saying "thank you" is called for.

And yet those two little words can make all the difference in the entire world. My wife can be having the worst day for any number of reasons. It typically only takes a hug from me and a genuine thank you for something she has done to turn her whole day around. And there is SO much to be thankful for in this day and age. I don't know what it's like where you live, but this summer in Alabama has been HOT! It is been in the 100's almost daily since May. And boy am I grateful for air conditioning, and swimming pools and refrigeration! But I almost never think to thank Heavenly Father for those things in my prayers because I get too busy. Maybe I should ask Heavenly Father for patience to slow down so I can express my appreciation more for the things that I have.

The scriptures state that against none is God's wrath kindled save those who confess not His hand in all things. That's really strong language! God is only upset with those who are ungrateful is another way of saying that. If that is the case He must be furious with the world right now who half of them seem to not even want to acknowledge His even existence. We as a people need to really work on being more grateful to all of those around us. We can start by saying thank you when it is warranted. Even if it is just to those who are doing what has been asked of them. For example, do you say thank you to your waiter for bringing you your food? Do you thank the tellers at the bank for helping you with your transaction? Do you thank your wife/husband for making dinner? Do you thank your children for doing as they are asked? Start small and start practicing saying thank you. Fortunately it is one of those things that gets easier the more you do it. We need to have an attitude of gratitude in all things and make sure that we teach those around us the proper way to behave so that we can make a difference. Remember, it only takes one snowflake to start an avalanche. It only takes one person to start a change. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lazarus and the Rich Man

Today I read Luke 16 which starts out with the story of the unjust steward. I have to admit I do not understand it in the least. The way I read it, the unjust steward is called into account by his lord and is about to be put out so the steward goes to the debtors who owe his lord money and starts forgiving parts of the debt. The lord then commends him for his wise decisions. I'll freely admit I don't understand it at all. The moral that Jesus is trying to get across is found in verse 10 which says that "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust int he least is unjust also in much."

That part makes sense to me. Typically, someone who makes a mess over a little thing is going to botch a big thing as well. Whereas someone who is put in charge over something small and they handle it well is most likely going to do a good job over a large thing also. The point the Savior is trying to make is similar to the parable of the talents. When we are faithful over a few things and have proved our trustworthiness, the Lord will trust us over many things. But when we fail at the little things, where is the incentive to give us more responsibility? We have to prove our trustworthiness to those around us, including the Lord, before we will be given responsibilities. It's no different than proving ourselves to our parents here on earth. Our parents are not going to just buy us a brand new car because we turned 16 years old, or they shouldn't. They need to first see how we will treat their cars and how will we behave without them around to remind us of what we should be doing. Only after we have proved ourselves should the reward come. Sadly, some parents don't understand this point and so their children never learn responsibility and become a sore spot in society. What's even worse is that some parents never realize their mistake at all.

The end of this chapter contains the story of Lazarus and the rich man, which is a stroke of genius to me and I must admit I laughed out loud today when I read the last verse as Jesus rubs their collective noses in it. The story is that there is a rich man who outside of his home is a beggar named Lazarus. It is not implicitly states although it is heavily implied that the rich man is well aware of Lazarus and ignores him the whole of his life. As the story goes, both Lazarus and the rich man die and receive their reward according to their performance in life. Lazarus is received into heaven into Abraham's bosom where he is comforted. The rich man also receives a reward according to his deeds in life, he is sent to a fiery torment in hell. The rich man is able to see Lazarus in heaven and begs Abraham to allow Lazarus to just dip his fingers in water and allow it to drip onto the rich man's tongue so that he can have even a brief respite from his torment. Abraham replies that there is a gulf that cannot be crossed and so his request cannot be granted. Finally, the rich man begins to think of others. He asks Abraham for permission for Lazarus to go to his household and warn his 5 brothers so that they may escape his fate. Abraham replies that they have the scriptures before them and it is enough. The rich man replies that they will not believe the scriptures but if Lazarus appears to them they will believe. Abraham replies that if they do not believe the scriptures, then they will not believe even if one were to rise from the dead.

This story is being told to the Pharisees and as I said I laughed out loud at that last prophetic part. Jesus has been trying, literally for years, at this point to convince the Pharisees and other Jews that He is the prophesied Messiah and most of them do not believe Him. And they continue to not believe in Him after He rises from the dead. But looking past the obvious explanation of this story, there is more to it that we can internalize for ourselves. I once heard a talk where the General Authority mentioned that when the Holy Ghost communes directly with our spirit it has a more lasting and permanent affect than anything else. It was probably Elder Neal A. Maxwell but I am not positive. I bring this up because I believe that if we do not accept the word of God and repent of our sins of our own volition because of the testimonies of the prophets and those that have gone before us, then we would not stay true and faithful despite seeing an angel or some other miraculous visitation. Like Scrooge in Charles Dickens "Christmas Carol" who after seeing Jacob Marley, his dead former partner, tries to convince himself he didn't actually see the ghost of Marley but something else entirely, the novelty of seeing an angel would eventually wear off and we would return to our old ways.

Now you are probably thinking to yourself, what about Saul of Tarsus or Alma the Younger? Well, you have to remember that Saul was already a devout member of the church and he was doing what he believed God wanted him to do. So when he learned that he was on the wrong side, it was a simple thing for him to transfer all that zeal and energy to the right cause. As for Alma the Younger, remember that the angel did not appear to call him to repentance, he came to answer the prayers of his father, Alma the Elder, that Alma might know of the power of God. That is all. Alma made the choice to recognize the truth and gain a testimony on his own. I'm sure there are other examples in the scriptures and otherwise, but these will suffice. If we do not make the choice on our own to be converted when we feel the Spirit testifying to us, then we will not hold steady to the course and will eventually fall away, no matter how miraculous our conversion was. The early history of the church is full of such examples. As Paul tells the saints in Phillipe, we must work out our own conversion, with fear and trembling before the Lord. We can't rely on miracles to convert us. Miracles confirm faith, they do not create it. If we remember that, then we will be just fine and will not fall away. Until tomorrow.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Prodigal Son

Today I read Luke 15, where Jesus gives three different parables all centered around those who have sinned and then repented. The 3 parables are the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. In each of these parables, something is lost and then found again and there is much rejoicing.

In the first two parables, the lost sheep and the lost coin, the finding is done by the person who did the losing. This to me is indicative of efforts on the part of others to find the person who has strayed from the path. This is done in a myriad of ways and is accomplished by home teachers, bishops, friends and families. My mother actually was inactive for awhile in her life and it was her bishop who reached out to her and got her to come back to church and helped her gain a testimony. If he had not done that, I would not be sitting here today writing this blog. I can vouch that in such situations when someone who has been lost returns there is much rejoicing. It is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world to help someone who has lost their way and forgotten things come back into the fold and gain a testimony and be a strong member.

Another interpretation could be helping those who have lost their way in the sense of those who do not know of Jesus at all and we help them learn of the truth and the right way we should go. It is a truly wonderful feeling to help those who are not members of the church repent of their sins and be baptized. In my family two of my sisters in law were converted by their husbands, my brothers and it is a wonder to behold them and how strong in the Gospel they are. Every missionary knows that same feeling of wonder and pure joy when they teach someone who desires to hear the Gospel and then soaks it up like a sponge.

The last story is a very well known one, the story of the prodigal son. As is usual, when I was younger I used to look at this story differently. Since serving my mission though, I have come to look at it another way. Before my mission I really identified with the older son, the one who had lived the good life and how indignant he was over the fact that his brother's return was being made into such a good deal and he was kind of being tossed by the wayside. I agreed with him that it was not fair that such a fuss was being made over his brother because of how bad a life the brother had been living. I did not understand anymore than the brother in the story did why the father in the story was making such a big fuss over the brother who repented and came back.

Now that I am older and have served a mission and have some years under my belt, I identify more with the father in the story. I have had friends, and even a family member or two, that left the church and lost their way for many, many years who had a change of heart and returned to full activity in the church and have been good, upstanding members of the church for several years now. I remember the pure joy I felt when they made that decision and how it was the most important thing to me at that moment in time and I could have indeed thrown a party so that all could rejoice with me. Of course that is not how things are done in the church, but that's how happy I was. The funniest things is that I would have been the "good" son in that story and I was probably more thrilled and excited than anyone else. The thing the good son in the story of the prodigal son does not realize, is that rejoicing for a moment over the return of that brother/son/friend or whoever that was lost, does not in anyway shape or form take away from them and their accomplishments.

However, the fact that the "good" son in this story is upset that a party is being thrown in his younger brother's honor in the first place shows that he has not forgiven his brother for leaving them. He was holding onto resentment and feelings of anger towards his brother. If he had been at all concerned for his well being during the years he was gone, then he would have rejoiced just as much as his father did. But it is clear from his reaction that he was resentful of his brother leaving him to do all the work and for the younger brother living a life of sin. It is impossible to rejoice over the lost person if you do not have a Christlike attitude regarding them in the first place. It's very similar to helping those in need and imparting of our substance to them. In Mosiah 4, King Benjamin warns against just such behavior. He tells the Nephites that they might be tempted to think to themselves that the beggars situation is justified and their own fault, but we must not think that way. We must instead think only of how we can help and improve their situation.

So in order to first be any use in seeking out those who are lost, we must first make sure that we have the right attitude and are doing what we should be doing so that we can have the right frame of mind in assisting to find those who are lost. I personally cannot even understand holding a grudge like that against someone, but then again as I have mentioned before, easily forgiving others is one of my gifts. I can tell you this though, helping someone you love to come back and repent and return to full activity, is one of the best feelings in this entire world and it is unlike anything else you have ever experienced. If you have never done so, I highly encourage you to work with your bishop and missionaries in your ward/branch to see who you can help. You will not regret it. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jesus Teaches to be Humble and Set Goals

Today I read Luke 14 where Jesus again heals on the Sabbath day and takes the opportunity to teach the Pharisees. It really is incomprehensible that the Pharisees saw nothing wrong with saving their animals that fell into a pit on the Sabbath day but when it comes to healing a person, they were completely against it. Actually, I guess it is not all that difficult to understand, after all there are people in our day and age who place more value on animal life than they do human life, although I doubt the Pharisees in Christ's time would have viewed it in such a fashion. But that is what it boils down to when you get past the pretty words. The Pharisees were perfectly fine with helping an animal on the Sabbath day, but not a person. They certainly had their priorities mixed up.

This chapter also contains the parable of the man who puts on a feast and none of the guests he invites come so he has his servant bring in the people off the streets. There is also another parable, or rather piece of advice, that Jesus gives in this chapter to the Pharisees in particular, but also to all the people. In the advice, Jesus states that if they were to be invited to a wedding they should not go to the higher rooms, or in other words they should not take honor unto themselves. The reason for this is because if they are in the higher room and someone more important than themselves were to come in and they were forced to go to the lower room, it would be very embarrassing for them. Rather when they attend a wedding they should go into the lowest room and then when the host comes and sees them there he can move them a higher room. The moral of Jesus' story which He tells them Himself, is to not raise ourselves up, but rather to be humble.

I thought this was very interesting and good advice. Everyone of us are going to have times where we get egg on our face so to speak. What matters is how we handle those situations. In Alma 5, Alma asks the people of Zarahemla if they are stripped of pride, because if they are not then they are not ready to meet God. Pride is feeling like you are more important than others. I heard a talk once in General Conference that I believe was given by President Uchtdorf that said pride does not take pleasure in having something, it only take pleasure in having more of something than another. Such feelings and thoughts are totally incongruent with God. God does not take pleasure in the fact that He has something we don't. Quite the opposite, His greatest joy is in being able to share what He has with all of us. If we hope to one day be like Him, then we need to make sure we find pleasure in lifting people up as well.

The last part of this chapter that stood out to me is the idea to plan ahead. Jesus talks to the people stating that if you plan to build a tower, first sit down and make sure you have enough money and resources to complete the tower. This struck me as the idea of setting goals and planning ahead. It is hard to get things of importance accomplished in this life without setting goals to help you achieve them. If you don't know what you are working towards, you are just wandering aimlessly in life and that is not a good thing. In order to stay focused, and for most us, happy, we need to have direction and have a clear purpose in life. There are a number of reasons that people commit suicide in this life, but the most common reasons are depression and lack of self-worth. The lack of self-worth, and sometimes even depression, can come from feeling like nothing you do matters because you do not have a clear direction. You can make it through life without having goals, but it makes it a lot easier to know what you are shooting for. Personally, I am trying to be more like Jesus and to return to live with Heavenly Father some day. What are you striving for? Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jesus Never Passed Up an Opportunity to Teach

Today I read Luke 13, it starts off with the Savior teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath. There is a woman there while He is teaching and based on what it sounds like Luke is describing, she had an evil spirit in her for 18 years and she was so hunched over that she could not stand up straight. Jesus had her come over to Him and healed her. The thought occurred to me that Jesus never passes up an opportunity to teach. Actually the first thought I had was that Jesus likes to antagonize the Pharisees and the leaders of the Jews. But after reflecting on it awhile, I think it was more He did not like to pass up opportunities to teach.

The reason I say this is because the scriptures have several stories where the Savior healed someone without touching them. In fact, there are some stories where He is not even in the same part of the city as the people He heals, such as the centurion's servant. The centurion sent a messenger to ask Jesus to come heal his servant and then sent another servant almost immediately afterwards asking Jesus to just say the word and his servant would be healed. Jesus had compassion on the Roman and did as He was asked and the centurion's servant was indeed healed. I bring this up because Jesus heals this woman of her 18 year affliction by touching her, which is honestly probably the reason the leader of the synagogue got upset with Him for healing on the Sabbath day.

Now, Jesus could easily have just said, "Be healed" and it would have been so. But He heals her this way on purpose so that the leader of the synagogue will say something about it, hence my first thought that He likes to antagonize the Pharisees. However, I do not believe that His reasons for doing this to the Pharisees is solely to get a rise out of them, that is not how Jesus does things. Rather it was so that He could teach them that to heal on the Sabbath is doing the Lord's work. He wants them to know that by keeping the Sabbath day the way they have been so far is not in keeping with the commandment and they are missing the mark, something He has been trying to teach them His entire ministry. Happily enough, this time it seems to work. When He gives the example of feeding and watering their animals on the Sabbath, Luke states that the Pharisees are ashamed of themselves.

It really made me think, do I take advantage of all the opportunities I have to share the Gospel as Christ did? Unfortunately the answer is no. There are times where I could easily stand up for what is right a little quicker or help those in need a little faster. This story has helped me realize that while I don't need to antagonize people the way Jesus did to teach them, I do need to do a better job of standing up for what is right and making sure I don't pass up opportunities to teach those around me, even if only by example.

The other part of this chapter that stands out to is towards the end where some Pharisees actually warn Jesus to leave the city otherwise, Herod will have Him killed. I must admit I did not remember this before today and this re-reading. I do not recall any Pharisees being friendly to Jesus except Nicodemus, and his friendship only went so far. However, it would seem that not all the Pharisees were antagonistic against Jesus and perhaps more than we realize accepted His words and teachings and repented of their ways. We are not really told but this verse makes it seem as if such is the case. It's a neat little aside anyway.

The rest of the chapter is Jesus talking about the church on the earth. He uses a parable of how the church on the earth is like leaven used in baking, how it is put into the bread, or meal as Jesus states it here, and it rises to fill the entire loaf. Such is the kingdom of God here on the earth. It starts from humble beginnings, but eventually it rises and encompasses the entire earth, just as Daniel saw in his vision so many thousands of years ago. The work of God goes forward and cannot be stopped, not by Satan or the hands of man. It will go forward despite man's best efforts to frustrate the work. They succeeded for a time in frustrating it and delaying it, but it has been restored in it's fulness in our day and will never be taken from the earth again. It is here to stay and will be preached to all the world. Everyone will have a chance to accept or reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is because He loves and wants us to return to live with Him someday if such is our desire. It will take as long as it takes, but I promise it is in the Lords hands, and that is very comforting indeed. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Prepare Now to Meet the Lord

Today I read Luke 12, which the majority of the chapter is spent with Jesus telling His disciples, and everyone, to prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord. Obviously it is meant more for us in our day and age than it was meant for His Apostles then since they are not even close to being near the time of the Second Coming, however if everyone were to put into practice the things the Savior is teaching them about being prepared, then the world would be a wonderful place.

Now, we have discussed in detail, many times already in the past why it is needful for us to be prepared for the Second Coming, or for those of us who won't live to see it, to be prepared to meet the Lord after we die. It is of course because it is all about what type of person we are, not what a scale of how many good things or bad things we have done in this life. We have to be the right type of person. It's interesting to me that as kids, the child who is usually perceived as being perfect or too good is the child that gets picked on out of jealousy because the other children are not as good as they are.

I wonder where such thoughts come from. Why is it human nature to taunt and harass those who are better or more spiritual than we are? I am sure Satan has something to do with it, but we can see it in children who are under the age of accountability and are thus not able to be tempted by Satan, so there must be more to it than just straight temptations. Something resonates within us when we see those who are doing what we know we should be doing and it makes us ashamed of ourselves. Most people do not like to feel ashamed so I assume that is why it then turns to jealousy and taunting.

It is not easy to live a good life, especially in this day and age. There is sin all around us, and as someone recently so aptly put it, you pretty much have to work to avoid sin, especially pornography these days. Whereas in the past you had to seek it out, pornography has become so prevalent in our society these days that you now have to work to avoid it because it WILL find you, one way or another. Case in point, when I was a missionary, for the first few months of the mission, there was a mission rule that you had to do 30 minutes of exercise of your choice. It only lasted about 4 months but for those 4 months we did everything from karate, sit ups and push ups to running. Well, one day we were running for our work out, and it was about 6:15 am. We ran past a bus stop bench just on the side of the road and there was something on the bench. I was about 5 feet behind my companions, we were in a threesome at the time, and just as I got to the bench and look down to see what it was, I hear one of them tell me to don't look down. Well, it was too late and it was a box that had contained a pornographic movie as was evidenced by the picture on the back of the box. Even as a missionary, not watching TV, going on the internet, and just trying to be good and follow the rules of the mission, pornography found us. And that was not the first time that we were faced with pornography as a missionary, although it was the first time in my mission.

The only way to stay clean and pure in this life is to work at it. It has to be your goal and you have to want it badly enough, because otherwise, you will fall. It's so disgusting and disturbing to me how all the most popular TV shows in America these days all focus on sex, violence or drugs, or worse, all three. I work for a cable company and so I get to see firsthand a lot of new shows that are coming out and get to preview them and it is safe to say that 90% of them are not worth a good Latter-day Saint's time. And yet those are usually the shows that get the best ratings and do the best on TV. It is a very, very sad commentary on our culture that such is the case.

I once had a history professor when I was in college, back in 2001 state that perhaps the best test of your character would be to print out a list of websites that you have been to, along with the length of time you stayed at that website, because anyone can land on a pornographic website by accident. But when it happens do you turn it off immediately, or do you linger? Do you spend a lot of time on Or do you find yourself wasting time on places like Facebook? Being ready for the Lord's second coming is more than just avoiding sin, it is about being anxiously engaged in a good cause. We do look at, listen, or watch pornography in any of its many, many formats? Or do we spend our time reading our scriptures or spending time with our families? It's no secret what it takes to be prepared to meet Jesus Christ, the scriptures state it over, and over again, we just need to choose to do it or not. And the more we choose to participate in those things that will draw us closer to Him, the easier it gets, and vice versa. But remember, you cannot serve God and Mammon. We most certainly have to make a choice, and we do it by our actions and where we spend out time. Choose wisely. Until tomorrow.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ask and you Shall Receive

Today I read Luke 11, the first part of the chapter includes the Lord teaching His disciples how to pray at their request. After teaching them what we now call the Lord's prayer, Jesus tells them that if they ask it shall be given them. You know, all growing up I had assumed that when this particular saying had to do with righteous desires. However, last night I was home teaching one of my families and this very scripture came up and I had a bit of an epiphany. No where does Jesus state that if we ask for righteous things they will be given to us. All He says is that if we ask, we will receive.

Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be happy. Now, He knows what will bring us ultimate happiness and that is what He wants for us, just as we want what is best for our children here on earth. However, sometimes, our children desire to do the things that are wrong, and that is their choice. And just like with our earthly children, sometimes parents will give their children the wrong things, I once had a friend tell me that his parents on high school graduation night threw him and his friends a drinking party because they would rather the kids be drinking where they could supervise. How sad is that. Why not go out, find a suitable girl and then bring her home for your son to have sex with so that you can supervise that too. I really don't think some people think at all. Nevertheless, I am off topic. No where does the scripture state that if we ask for righteous things God will give them to us. It just says ask and you shall receive. God loves us and wants us to be happy. That means not doing what He knows will be best for us, unless He knows that is our ultimate desire. God will give us what we want because He wants us to be happy. Now, there of course are things He will not give us no matter how much we ask for it. If we have truly evil desires, to rape and murder for example, no matter how much we pray for God to make it happen, what a mockery that would be, He is never going to assist with those desires.

But say if we desire something that is not necessarily in accordance with His plan for us, but still a righteous desire, He will make it happen. When I broke up with my college girlfriend, I was heartbroken and prayed to never again feel this way. God made that happen for me by making any relationship I tried to have with a girl beyond simple friendship just not happen. Even women that I knew for a fact felt the same way I did, they just never wanted to take it beyond friendship for some reason. It did not dawn on me until a year or so later that my prayer was being answered. I was not going to go through the hurt of a break up ever again because I was not going to be allowed to date anyone until I met my wife. The old adage be careful what you wish for, you just might get it, is very true.

The rest of the chapter contains stories we have already read in other Gospels and talked about. It contains the story of Jesus casting out a devil and the Pharisees accusing Him of using the power of the devil to do it. It also contains the story of Jesus going to eat with a Pharisee who complained because Jesus did not wash His hands before eating. You know, at first glance, you would think the Pharisee's concern is quite valid. I mean we have our children wash their hands before eating and it is a very hygienic thing to do. But the thing to remember is the Pharisee was not wanting Jesus to wash up for His health, but rather because it was in the traditions and He wanted Jesus to follow the rules of man. When we keep that in mind, Jesus' response makes a lot more sense. It's not that He doesn't want to be healthy, however, He knows the Pharisees are not concerned about His health so much as they His following their traditions.

We are now about to start the part of Luke where Jesus gives several parables, including quite a few that we have not read before in Matthew or Mark. This is what Luke is primarily known for, having parables and speaking to the thinkers and philosophers of the world. There are great insights to be had and learned from reading Jesus' parables. As we read with the Spirit as our companion, I know we will have new insights into the scriptures and will learn what God wants us to know. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mary and Martha host Jesus and the Good Samaritan

Today I read Luke 10, which is the chapter where the Savior calls and sets apart the 70 and sends them out to preach and to teach in His name. When they return, they are surpised that the devils are subject to them when they use the Saviors name and Jesus also gives His famous go without purse or script speech to His disciples.

This chapter also contains the story of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary and how Mary sat at the feet of the Savior listening while He spoke while Martha did the house work. Martha was so busy and doing so much, that she became resentful of the fact that Mary was entertaining their guest and the scriptures record that she spoke to Jesus asking Him to order Mary to help her. Jesus gently replied that while what Martha was doing is important, Mary is doing something even more important. Now, I have been on both sides of this scenario where I am the host and am running around like mad trying to make sure everything is good and works the way I had intended, and I have also been the person entertaining the guests while someone else plays the part of the host or hostess. It is true that both parts are equally important, but what Jesus was trying to teach Martha, is that He was not going to be around forever, and He is not just another guest, what He has to say is more important than anything else in the world, So while Martha was doing something good by being a good hostess, it would have been better for her if she had sat with Mary and Jesus and heard what He had to say. I think a more apt comparison would have been say doing your home or visiting teaching during General Conference. Both are important, but it is more important to hear the instructions from our Prophet and Apostles.

This chapter also contains the story of the Good Samaritan. I think everyone is familiar with the story, a man traveling is beaten and robbed and left for dead. A priest and a Levite both walk on by without stopping to help the man. Finally a Samaritan, who does not like the Jews mind you, stops and helps the poor man and even pays an innkeeper to take care of him until he recovers. The real world application for this story are plentiful and just about everywhere you look. A family stranded on the side of the road, someone pushing a car that has broken down, a person carrying in groceries while trying to wrangle small children, the list goes on and on. This story goes back to the very beginning of time when Cain is asked by God where Abel is and asks if he is his brothers keeper. The answer of course is a resounding, YES, you are. I firmly believe that we will be held accountable for all those people that are put in our way that we may have helped but did not for whatever reason. I do believe this includes those who come up to you and ask you for money despite smelling of alcohol and cigarettes. It is not for us to judge what put the person in that state, it is only for us to help and assist in whatever way we can.

I think that this lesson has been well learned in most of the United States. Despite whatever else might be happening in the country, you still often hear, or even see reports of people assisting others in a very selfless manner. Just the other day there was a headline story of an 8 year old boy at a baseball game who caught a foul ball because another young boy missed it and it bounced behind him and the 8 year old caught it. Naturally the first boy who missed it started to get upset and when the 8 year old saw it, he immediately walked over to the boy and handed over the foul ball. While I was pleased to see such a wonderful story of a young boy doing such a good thing, I was even more pleased to see all the attention it was given in the news. You generally don't hear good things in the news. And the stories are there, our news anchors and news stations just seem to prefer the bad news, I guess it gets better ratings, I don't know. But there are good stories out there if you look for them.

But more importantly than looking for examples of being a good Samaritan is to be one. We should be helping those around us in whatever way we can. You don't know what someone else is going through, sometimes, the simple act of holding open a door for someone else can be what changes their day from a bad one to a good one. But as I said before, I firmly believe God will ask us why we did not help the person He specifically put in our way. And most of the time it takes so little time and effort to help those in need. All we need to do is slow down our lives and take a good look around us and we will see the needs and be able to help with them. And it always feels SO good to help those in need. It's one of the best feelings out there, don't pass it up. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Sayings of Jesus

Today I read Luke 9 which contain several stories including Jesus being transfigured on the mountain, the feeding of the 5,000, the casting out of the devil that His Apostles could not cast out and the setting apart of the Apostles. There are also a couple of stories that are not found in other parts of the scriptures.

There is a story in this chapter that the Savior and His Apostles were walking towards Jerusalem and they entered and passed through Samaria. The scriptures state that Jesus sent a messenger ahead of Him so that the village would be ready to receive Him. However, they did not receive Him because, as the scriptures put it, He was just passing through on His way to Jerusalem. This made James and John very, very upset and actually asked Jesus for permission to call down fire from heaven to consume the village, like Elijah of old did. This is hardly comprehensible to me. I mean, they were a group of Jews traveling through Samaria, which we all know that the Jews and the Samaritans did not like each other, so it is hardly strange to think that when Jesus arrived the village was of the attitude of "So what?".

But it is just crazy to me that two of the Savior's Apostles would want to destroy an entire village for nothing more than a slight insult. Perhaps refusing a traveler aid in those days was worse than it seems to be today, but I still think it hardly warrants the destruction of the entire village. I mean for one thing there were innocent children in the village surely. James and John were nothing if not zealous. Jesus rebukes them for their desires though and reminds them that He is there to save lives, not take them. It must be a cultural difference because I cannot even imagine destroying a village just because they refused to show you the courtesy you expected. That is something that the bad guys in movies always do, not the good guys.

This chapter also makes me wonder about the things the Savior sometimes says in the scriptures. Again I wonder if it is a cultural difference that I am missing or perhaps a translation issue, but the scriptures have Jesus saying some really strange, and even harsh statements. I mean for one thing, it always seems to make Jesus seem like He is muttering to Himself. For example, in this chapter, there is the story of the devil that the Apostles could not cast out. And when the man told the Savior that His Apostles were not able to cast the devil out, Jesus' response was "Oh faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?" And then He casts out the devil.

This just seems strange to me and it almost seems like something that someone with a bad or sour disposition would say. It strikes me as being an awful lot like muttering and the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it is a cultural difference of the time or perhaps a mistranslation or if there is more to the story than we have recorded, because that just does not seem like the kind of thing the Savior would say to me. It seems very lacking in compassion and as I compare it to my life it would seem to be the equivalent of say if one of my employees asked me a question and I give them the answer or perhaps even teach them the answer and then the next day they ask me the same question and instead of being patient and remind them that we went over this the day before and what did we say the answer was then, snapping at them and asking, "Are you just incapable of retaining information or what?" Now, there are definitely times when I feel like saying that with some of my employees, but it would be incredibly rude and quite petulant and so of course that is not what I say during such situations. That is why it seems kind of strange to me that some of the things it has Jesus recorded as saying seem so harsh and almost like complaining. Again perhaps it is nothing more than a cultural difference.

The same thing strikes me as being a bit strange when the Savior replies to what seem to be genuine statements. Now, the Savior obviously knows what is in our hearts and so He sees better than we do and understands better than we do what the people are truly saying, but His answers just seem strange at times. For example a man tells the Lord that He wants to follow Him and I presume be one of His disciples but needs to first return and bury his dead father. The Savior replies that the man needs to let the dead bury the dead and he needs to go preach the Kingdom of God. Now, that just seems like a really strange thing to say to me. As I was saying though, the Lord sees into the hearts of men and so perhaps there was more than just a desire to go bury his father in the man's request. And again, it could also be a cultural difference in how they talked back then.

Now the one statement that I can agree with and makes perfect sense to me is the last one. The man wants to go say goodbye to his family at his house and then will follow Jesus. Jesus replies that no man who has put his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God. This one I can understand. We need to give it our all if we are going to serve the Lord. We can't have doubts and we need to make sure that we are fully committed to the Gospel. I am re-listening to this past April's General Conference as I drive to and from work and recently listened to Elder Dallin H. Oak's talk on desires. It is a great talk and I highly recommend it to everyone to re-read it, but in it Elder Oak talks about having the right kind of desires and to make sure that we are working towards those desires. Now that of course is a summary and does not begin to do the talk justice, but it is the same idea. If we are to desire something, we must do so with our whole hearts, including desiring the Kingdom of God. As we do so, we will find God helps us in ways we never dreamed of. We just need to make sure it is our real desire and that we are asking for God's help. Until tomorrow.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Woman with an Issue of Blood

Today I read Luke 8 which contains the stories of Jesus casting out the legion of devils into the pigs, the raising of Jarius' daughter, the healing of the woman with an issue of blood as well as the parable of the sower and the calming of the sea. We have already talked about most of these stories and Luke does not really add any new perspective on them so we will not revisit them, but we have put off talking about the woman with an issue of blood until this version of the story.

The story goes that a woman had an issue of blood for twelve years. She had spent all that she had on doctors trying to cure whatever was causing her to have this problem. Until about 4 years ago, I did not realize that the word issue here is being used as a verb as in the phrase "issuing forth". I had always thought by the term issue of blood, it had meant a blood disease or perhaps even cancer. It was not until I bought a talk on CD in Nauvoo 4 years ago that I realized that her issue of blood was actually her monthly period, but that it had gone on non-stop for 12 years! I could not even imagine that. I have a hard enough time imagining what it must be like for a woman each month, but to have it go on every single day for 12 years, that is completely unimaginable to me.

Now, under the Mosaic law, when a woman was having her period, she had to be isolated from everyone and was considered unclean. I firmly believe this is because in those days there was not good medical options and so if some of the blood were to get on someone else and infect them if the woman was sick, there was little to no way to treat the person. Most of the prohibitions in the Mosaic law were to help the people be as healthy as possible during a time when there was little to no medical attention to be had or ways to properly cook certain meats, like pork. But we are getting away from the main story.

When a woman's body was going through her monthly cycle, she was considered unclean and had to remain apart from everyone. Can you imagine this woman's loneliness and how she must have felt being isolated from EVERYONE for 12 years? She could not leave her house, her family could not visit her, her husband if she had one could not come see her, she saw next to no one for over a decade. Heaven alone knows how she got food so she could eat and she saw practically no one except the doctors who would come to check on her. The stories make it sound like she had been quite wealthy at the beginning of this ordeal because it states that she had spent all she had on physicians and was not any better than when she started.

As I think about it, I can't help but wonder, what did this poor woman need to learn that she had to suffer this horrible malady? We never suffer anything needlessly in this life, except as a result of our own sins such as perhaps a broken bone from acting silly and falling off of something. But a trial like this, there is a definite purpose behind it and the person needs to learn something. I truly wonder, what was this woman like before this that she needed to go through this? What ever she was like before this, we know that after 12 years of this, she was humble, had faith in Christ and was very, very brave.

I say she was very brave because think about it. She has been isolated for 12 years. Do you think there is even a remote chance that someone in that city did not know of her? I'm sure even 6 year old children knew about the woman who always stayed locked up in her house. I'm quite confident that the throng of people that were surrounding Jesus would probably have recognized her too. Now, I do not know the penalty under the Mosaic law for breaking such isolation for a woman, but I guarantee it would not have been pleasant and may have been as harsh as a stoning, I do not know. Can you imagine how terrified she must have been to leave her house, even disguised as she surely must have been, knowing that anyone of the hundreds of people surrounding your goal could recognize you and you would face the penalty for it? What bravery she had, what faith she had that Jesus could heal her!

And as we know, her faith was well rewarded. She manages to touch his clothing and is instantly healed. Jesus notices as well, no big surprise, that someone touched Him and healing power left Him. He asks who had touched Him, but He knew full well who it was. He was just giving the woman another opportunity to display her faith. She rises to the challenge and introduces herself to the Lord and is blessed for her faith. Whatever she was like before her trial began, we know that it turned her into a humble, righteous woman of faith.

Just as Jesus was able to help this woman with her physical malady, Jesus can help heal our spiritual ailments if we will turn to Him with faith and full purpose of heart. We all have our trials in this life that are meant to strip us of pride and help us become more like Christ. It is up to us how we choose to handle them and if we will rise to our challenge or not. Hopefully we will learn what we need to like this woman did and when our opportunity to be healed of our spiritual malady comes, we will take it as this woman did. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Increasing Faith and Befriending Sinners

Today I read Luke 7 which contains the stories of Jesus healing the centurions servant, the raising of the widow's son who had died, Jesus proclaiming that no prophet was greater than John the Baptist, and the story of the woman who anoints Christ's feet in the Pharisee's home. I sometimes wonder as I read the scriptures if I am too harsh in my judgments and thoughts that I have when I read them. I say this because I read the story of the healing of the centurion's servant and he tells Jesus that he does not need Him to come in person, merely say the word and the centurion knows his servant will be healed. Jesus tells His disciples who are with Him that He has never encountered such faith in all of Israel.

Typically when I read such statements, I mentally shake my head that the Jews did not have more faith. But today as I read it, I wondered if such sentiments on my part are fair. Faith is such a personal matter for all of us and how faith is built is generally the same, but can be done in so many ways that I wonder if it is fair of me to judge all the Jews for not having more faith than they did and for rejecting the Savior like that. Faith, as we know from Alma's great sermon to the Zoramites, actually starts out as hope, and as we put into practice the things we are taught or hear, hope blossoms into faith by degrees. We are not given full knowledge all at once, but rather are taught line upon line, precept upon precept, just like a child. As I watch my daughter progress and grow it is a marvel to me and I love to watch her explore her world and learn new things and it always warms my heart to see her remember things she has learned a few days or weeks ago. Her mother and I teach her things as well but we know that she will not understand it all even if we were willing to just teach her everything she would need to know in life right now. We teach her what she can understand and as she proves she has learned it, then we teach her new things. That is how faith works too.

Very, very few people are just born with great faith, it has to be cultivated, nurtured and built up. The common man during the time of Christ, was probably much like he/she is today. They are concerned with caring for their families, and trying to make it through life. A few are more religious than most, but that understanding of their religion comes largely from their leaders. So again, I'm not sure it is proper to blame them for not having more faith than they had. I mean even the Apostles doubted the Savior multiple times during His earthly ministry. So, it was just a thought I had today while reading.

The other thing that stood out to me today as I read was the story of the Pharisee whose home Jesus visited for dinner and the woman who anoints Jesus' feet. The story states that while Jesus ate, a woman comes in who cries on Jesus' feet and wipes them clean with her hair and finally rubs oil on them. The Pharisee watches all this in silence but thinks to himself that Jesus should know that the woman is a sinner if He were really a prophet. As I read this story my mind went back to my mission. I remember I was teaching the 4th discussion, which for those of you who are not familiar with the old discussion format, that was the discussion where we discuss the plan of salvation in detail, including the 3 Kingdoms of Glory.

As we were teaching this lesson, the person I was teaching had a real problem with it. She said that it was unfair to put the bad people in one place and all the good people in another one. Now, I had heard this many times before from people and had worked out my answer and I gave it to her. I responded with, would you feel comfortable if a person who was a murderer moved in next door? Would you feel safe and as carefree as you do now? Up until this point such a response would always give the person pause and they would think and then answer no they would not and my point would be made.

But this woman, she stated emphatically that she would fine with it and was still stating that God was cruel for doing this to those who chose a life of sin. So I tried to push forward and stated that I would feel uncomfortable if a known murderer moved in next door to me. But then she said something I had never thought of before. She said that if we don't welcome such people and befriend them, how can they get better and improve? How can they be expected to change? It stunned me into silence for a few moments before replying that she was correct, however at the point we were talking about it was too late to change. But her point got me thinking in a way I had not before. And as I was reading this account this morning, it came back to my memory because this Pharisee wanted nothing to do with this woman who was a sinner. And how many people avoid or withhold their friendship from sinners because they are sinners?

Now, I do not find it comfortable to be around drug addicts, or murderers or people like that, but I have several friends who smoke and almost all my non-member associates and friends drink alcohol, I just choose not to be around them when they indulge in such behaviors. But I am still their friend and still hope to influence them for good. And I think that is what God would have us do in such situations. Hopefully I have given you food for thought as that woman did for me so long ago. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Using the Sabbath Day for the Lord's Work

Today I read Luke 6 which is basically a mini-version of the Sermon on the Mount as well as Jesus talking to the Pharisees about what is lawful to do on the Sabbath. He also calls and sets apart His Apostles in this chapter. Reading this chapter has made me wonder, did the Pharisees ever work, or do anything at all productive? They seem to always be around the Savior and causing trouble. Now, I realize that there were probably thousands of Pharisees in Israel when Jesus was a live, but it just seems ridiculous he way they never left Him alone. Now, it could also just be the way the scriptures are written. We established yesterday that obviously not everything that the Savior did is recorded in the scriptures so perhaps they were not nearly as invasive and pervasive as the scriptures make them out to be.

The Pharisees had a problem with the Savior and His Apostles doing "work" on the Sabbath day, namely picking, shucking and eating corn, and then later healing a man with a withered hand. It honestly reminded me of my first Sunday in the mission field. I don't know how it is today, but when I was in the Missionary Training Center, Sunday's were very laid back and were almost a second preparation day with how much free time you are given. Well when I went out into the mission field and was with my trainer, we went to church that first Sunday and then got fed lunch by a member and I asked him what was next, if we were going back to the apartment. He replied that we had lots to do and we might even do some tracting. I was a little shocked as this was very different from the MTC and stated that it was the Sabbath. His reply has stayed with me all these years. He replied back saying, "Isn't this the Lord's work?"

Despite all the rules and commandments we follow as Latter-day Saints, perhaps nothing gives me more weird looks than when I explain what keeping the Sabbath day holy to me and other Latter-day Saints means. Even my good, go to church every Sunday Christian friends look at me askance when I tell them that we do not spend money, work, or cause anyone else to work on the Sabbath as part of keeping it holy. This is because the world views Sunday as a party day, and even if they go to church on Sunday, which is rare in most places, they feel they have done their dues and now they don't have to think about God or church again for another week.

I don't know when or where it happened, but somewhere along the way, Americans stopped treating their religion with the respect and honor it deserves. I was sitting here thinking about it, and I thought of those that adhere to the Muslim faith. Now, there are of course those zealots that go too far, but those aside, those men and women who adhere to the Muslim faith, take it very seriously and are extremely devoted. They are a good example to the rest of us and how we should give our faith more attention. It's sad that Christians, generally speaking of course, don't take their faith more seriously. They might go to church on Sunday, although the vast majority don't, but that's where keeping the Sabbath day holy ends for them.

We could learn a thing or two from those of other faiths who actually follow the adherents of their religion and live it like they should. The Muslim faith may have gotten a bad rap from those zealots who use their faith to commit atrocities, but the vast majority of those who follow the Muslim faith are good, upstanding people who follow the tenets of their religion with a zeal to be envied. Even Latter-day Saints could be better about following the commandments, especially about keeping the Sabbath day holy. It is one of those commandments God has intentionally not given us a long list of dos and don'ts so that we can use our judgment and grow.

As we do the Lord's work on the Sabbath day, we will grow in righteousness and the rest of the week will be easier. It truly is meant as a day of rest from the cares of the rest of the world. If we treat it as such, we will be amazed at what it does for us in our daily lives. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jesus Recruits Peter, James and John

Today I read Luke 5, where Jesus calls Peter, James and John as well as Matthew to be His disciples. This chapter also contains the story of the man with palsy that was let in through the roof of the building where Jesus was, and Jesus cleansing a leper. But the story that struck me the most is the calling of Peter and the other fishermen.

It's very, very obvious that the scriptures only contain the bare bones of what actually happened during the life and ministry of the Savior. I do not think that even the Savior Himself could just casually walk by some fishermen cleaning their nets, say the words, "Follow me" and they would do it. Most people would just look at such a person askew and then shake their heads at the weird person and go back to what they were doing in the first place. But Luke sheds some light on the subject.

Jesus had such a great multitude that there was no where for Him to go to teach them when He sees Peter, James and John and their ships. So He walks over to them and finds them cleaning their nets. He somehow gets Peter to take Him out a little ways in His ship and then teaches the multitude. Peter hears what Jesus is preaching and is obviously impressed. This adds more to the next part of the story too.

After Jesus finishes preaching to the multitude, and to Peter and his crew, Jesus tells Peter to lower the nets into the water. Peter replies that he and his crew have been fishing all night and have caught nothing. But then he tells Jesus at at His word, he will lower the nets as he has been asked to do. Without the knowledge that Peter had just heard the Savior preach to the multitude, this seems a very odd thing for someone to agree to do. Now, it is entirely possible that the Spirit that Jesus surely must have radiated could have touched Peter, and others, from the beginning. After all, most if not all of us have met people that just seem to radiate goodness, just like I'm sure most of you have met people who radiate wrongness, or an evil feeling from them. So it is very possible that Peter would have done all this just from feeling the Spirit the Lord has about Him. But for my logical brain, this makes sense to me that Peter was more willing to lower the nets after a night of no success because he heard the Savior speak His doctrine and it resonated within him.

Now, the story is recorded that as they lowered and raised the nets, they caught the largest haul of fish they had ever seen. It was so large, that it started to break the nets, so they had to stop, call over the ship where James and John were and have them also lower their nets to help. Between the two ships, they were able to bring up the haul of fish, but it was so massive that it started to sink both ships, surely the single greatest haul of fish those poor fishermen had ever seen in their lives or perhaps ever even heard of. Peter immediately recognizes it is all because of Jesus and declares his unworthiness. And from that time forward, Peter, James and John become the Lord's disciples.

But have you ever stopped to wonder why Jesus had them catch those fish? Surely He could have convinced them another way. So why have them haul in the greatest catch of their lives and then just give up their trade? There is no clear cut answer because the scriptures do not say, but here is my thought. Peter, was a married man and had a family. It is possible that James and/or John did as well. It's all well and good for them to just leave their trade and follow Jesus, but how would their families be cared for if they do this? The Lord, in His mercy, gave them a method to provide for their families and to follow Him at the same time. He gave them a haul of fish that when sold, was great enough to live off of for 3 years, if not longer. That is what I believe happened. I believe the Savior was caring for the families of those fishermen so that He could take their men, their financial providers away for His purposes, but not leave the families destitute. It was a tender mercy of the Lord.

Now, no where in the scriptures does it implicitly state this, but it is my belief and once you think about it, I suspect many of you will feel I am right. It is entirely possible that Jesus sat down with Peter, James and John and had a whole conversation with them about what "following Him" would mean and how they can sell these fish to make sure their families are well cared for, we just don't know. But there are many, many things Jesus said and did that we do not have a record of, John tells us that at the end of his book, so I do not think it is too hard to imagine that there is a LOT more to this story than we have recorded here. But we do know that the Lord loves and cares for His people and has mercy for them, so I will continue to believe that the way I have outlined it, is the way it happened. It makes me happy to think that Jesus cared for the families of His Apostles while they were with Him. He certainly cares for all of us now, and He does not change yesterday, today or forever the scriptures tell us. Until tomorrow.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rule Your Passions, Don't Let them Rule You

Today I read Luke 4, which covers Jesus' temptations and also His visit back to His home town where He reads the scriptures and tells them that the scripture is about Him. They then ask Him to perform the miracles that He did in Capernaum and He tells them that He won't and they get angry at Him and try to throw Him off a cliff. One thing I have noticed is a running theme this read through of the New Testament, the Jews do not have mastery over their emotions, at all. It seems like every time they get upset with Christ, they try and kill Him. They don't even hesitate either. Now, one could argue that they are following the lay that they have had for almost 2000 years and that is technically true, however, you will notice that the people in the synagogue don't try and cast Him off a cliff until He refuses to do any miracles for them. Then, and only then, do they try and kill Him. Not when He tells them that the scripture He just read about the Messiah was about Him, but only after He had, at least in their eyes, snubbed them. That to me shows a profound lack of control on their part.

Now, crimes of passion I can kind of understand. You are hurt so incredibly deeply, that you just act without thinking. It doesn't make them right and God will still hold such people accountable for them because we are here to learn to control such emotions, but I can at least understand how it can happen. But trying to kill someone that you have known their whole life, and perhaps all of yours too, just because He said "no" to you? That's extreme bordering on the ridiculous. It's no wonder that Jesus spent three years trying to teach the Jews of that time temperance and patience and teaching them to monitor their thoughts and that it wasn't enough to just not go through with the actions that they were thinking about doing. They had to control the thoughts that lead to such actions.

Now, in other instances the Jews were incensed because Jesus would claim to be the Messiah, and that makes sense that the Jews would become outraged at that. They had been conditioned over multiple generations, like I said almost 2000 years, to not tolerate any amount of blaspheme or departure from the truth. This was because they were very, very errant children and at the slightest provocation, would go searching after other gods and so any dissention in the ranks had to be quelled almost instantly, I get it. It's just such a different culture though than what I am used to that it is hard to wrap my mind around it. If someone went around today claiming to be God or the Son of God even, most people would just look at him/her askew and go on their way and would not think twice about it except to maybe relate it as a funny experience to friends later.

Case in point, I remember about 4 years ago, I was in downtown Louisville, KY assisting as an adult chaperone for a Youth Conference and we were in a park and at the edge of the park was a curbside "prophet". One of those people who stand up in crowded places and preach doom and gloom and how the world needs to repent. Not one single person paid him any mind. He was too far away for me to get more than the gist of what he was saying but literally hundreds of people just walked, rode or drove right on by him without more than a strange "what are you doing" kind of of look. Not one person was upset, not one person was outraged that he was, so called, forcing his religion down their throats, they just left him alone. It's a completely different culture than it was even 100 years ago.

But that is not to say people are less spiritual these days. People always have the things of the spirit in mind, even if only to mock them. But the scriptures are true that many people are out there searching for more meaning to their lives and for the truth. I am honestly, and truly happy for anyone who finds religion that makes them happy and helps them be a better person. We are all trying to make it to the same goal, not everyone takes the same path, and our Heavenly Father understands that. That is why He will reward us all a little differently based on our desires and what we were able to accomplish in this life, as we have talked about in the past.

But since the people in the days of Christ were so different, I can't help but wonder what it would have been like to live in those days. Would I have been one of the outraged Jews and tried to stone and kill Christ just because He claimed, rightly so, to be the Son of God? Or would I have felt the Spirit testify to me that what I was hearing is true? I guess I will never know, but in a way, I'm glad I don't have to find out. Because I know what would happen if I heard the truth in this day and age, because I have, and I accepted it whole heartedly and have never looked back. And it was the best decision I have ever made. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

John the Baptist Taught Us to Serve One Another

Today I read Luke 3, which deals mostly with John the Baptist. In this chapter, some people wonder about John and if he is the promised Messiah or not. I can certainly understand where the confusion comes from, after all, John the Baptist is the forerunner for the Savior. In that capacity, John is preparing the people who come to hear him to accept the Savior after him. He does this by teaching the higher law to the Jews.

We know that the natural man is an enemy to God. The natural man looks out for his own interests instead of those of his/her fellow man first. The commandments the Jews were given with the Law of Moses reflect this: an eye for an eye and such. What John, and later Jesus, were teaching was radical new doctrine for the Jews. Those that have two cloaks, give to those who have none. That was not a concept that most people had in those days. It's not a concept that most people understand these days either.

Just the other night, my wife and I were talking before going to sleep about giving to the poor and the homeless. She and her little brother had an opportunity earlier that day to assist someone they saw standing on a corner of the street asking for help. She mentioned how happy and good it made her feel to help that woman and how she was glad and fortunate to be able to assist her. We went on to talk about assisting those we come in contact with and she reminded me of a story that one of the General Authorities of the church had told during the last session of General Conference. He told a story of how he and his family were going out to eat and a homeless person came up to their car asking for money and he sent the person away. But the General Authorities father asked the man to come back and gave the man some money. The General Authority asked his father why he did that and that he had no idea what the man was going to use the money for. The father replied that it did not matter, it was not his place to decide what the person did with the money, it was only his place to give what he had.

All too many Latter-day Saints like to read the scriptures, especially scriptures like Mosiah 4, where we are commanded to assist the poor and somehow twist the scriptures so that, at least to them, it means help them in all ways other than monetarily. And yet, in Mosiah 4, King Benjamin blatantly states that we are to give of our substance to those that ask if we have it to give. And if we don't have it to give, we should say to ourselves that if we had it, we would give it. Every time in the scriptures we read about a Zion society, it states that there were no poor among them. But the reason there is no poor among them is because they made it that way. It's not like money rained down from heaven and bam everyone was equal and had enough for their needs. It is because those who had, gave and helped in every way they could. And those that had not, gave and assisted in other ways. When we die, I guarantee we will not be thinking to ourselves, I wish I had earned more money while alive. But it is extremely possible we might think to ourselves, I wish I had helped so and so when I had the chance. I will never forget a time I passed up an opportunity to serve someone in need and passed them up because I felt I did not have the time because I was running late. I'm not sure I'll ever forgive myself for not helping that man when I had the chance. I honestly don't know what I'll say if Jesus looks at me and asks me why I did not help that man who He had put in my way to assist. I doubt I'll be able to look Him in the eye.

In most instances we are not blessed with the gift of being selfless, we have to cultivate it through experiences and through our actions, just like all spiritual gifts. Some are born with it, but most of us have to earn it by doing it. For some, it does not even occur to them to think of others before themselves. It is really sad, but I recognize that it is true. John is trying to teach the Jews that very principle in this chapter. Jesus spent His entire ministry trying to teach others to serve one another. Our modern day Apostles and Prophets still spend all their time trying to get us to serve each other. We need to learn that lesson before it is too late to learn it and we spend an eternity regretting it. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Jesus Teaches at the Temple as a 12 year old

Today I read Luke 2, the classic story of Christ's birth. I think just about everyone in America knows the story that Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem to be counted in a census and that Mary was 9 months pregnant at the time and that all the inns were full. So they went and stayed in a stable which was little more than a cave and Jesus was laid for the first time in a manger, or a feeding trough.

I think it is very telling that Jesus frequently refers to Himself as the good Shepard and the only people to witness His first night of life besides His own parents and perhaps a midwife were shepards in the fields watching over their flocks. I know there is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to the Lord, but that particular part of the Savior's birth story has always made me smile.

I have already mentioned this before, but my favorite part of the story of Jesus' birth is the fact that He was born in the lowliest way possible. He could have had Himself born into royalty or any other circumstances that He wanted, but He chose to be born in this manner. It sets the tone for His entire life, a life of service without embellishment, as the servant of all.

Luke is the only one to record that when Mary and Joseph came to the temple to offer sacrifices to God for the birth of Jesus, they encountered Simeon and Anna, two very devout servants of God. Simeon had been promised by the Holy Ghost that he would behold the Savior in the flesh before he died. Anna was a woman who had been married for 7 years with her husband who then passed away and was a widower for 84 years after that, spending her time in the temple serving God in the best way she knew how. When she saw the Savior she knew instantly who He was and gave thanks to God that she had lived to see Him in the flesh. I wonder if when we see Him will we recognize Him as swiftly as Anna did?

Luke also records the story of Jesus and His earthly family going to Jerusalem for the passover when He was twelve years old. As the story goes, they came and had the feast and then Mary, Joseph and their children started back to Nazareth with a group of family and friends who had also come up to Jerusalem for the feast. I had always wondered as a child how they could have left Jesus behind, then as a teenager I got left somewhere by my parents. It was only for about an hour but it made me realize how things like that can happen, especially when the parents have other children to care for. Once they realized their mistake as they stopped on that first night, they turned back to search for Him. Now it says after 3 days they found Him, it does not specify if that includes the travel time or not, but think about that for a moment. Jesus, a 12 year old, was alone in Jerusalem, for between 3 - 5 days. And He was just fine. That is incredible to me, although it is not surprising since at this point in time He already knew who He was and what His mission was.

Luke states that when they found Him, Jesus was at the temple talking with the doctors and He was asking them questions. However, Joseph Smith corrects that to say they were asking Jesus questions and hearing His answers and were marveling at His answers and wisdom. Now, the modern day prophets have taught that Jesus was born with the veil over His memories, just like you and I were. He had to be taught line upon line, precept upon precept just like the rest of us do. The difference though between Jesus and us, is that He had angelic tutors. We do not know when Jesus' tutoring began or when He first learned that He was the Son of God, but we know it was before He was 12 years old! I would assume Jesus was taught most of what He needed to know before He turned 8 years old, the age of accountability and could sin. I suggest that because He was a perfect man and had no need of repentance of baptism for the remission of sins. In order for that to be true, He would have needed to know who He was so that He could have the strength to resist those sins by the time He reached the age of accountability at 8 years old. At least that is my thought.

Sadly, these few verses are all we have of Jesus' childhood. Matthew adds a few more but really it is a small amount to have to cover 30 years of life but I am grateful we have even that much. Tomorrow we begin the Savior's ministry again through a new perspective and with the Holy Ghost as our companion to teach us what we need to know and how best to apply what we take away from our reading in our own lives. Until tomorrow.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Angel Gabriel Visits Zacharias and Mary

Today I read Luke 1. Luke is written to the Gentiles, or non-Jews, it is commonly thought that specifically he was writing to the Greeks. Luke's information came mostly from the Apostle Paul, who he traveled with. Luke is also thought to have interviewed Mary, the mother of Jesus, hence why he has such a comprehensive recording of the birth of John and Jesus. Luke contains more parables than the other Gospels do and focuses a lot more on the teachings of Jesus and will provide some good, new insights into the stories we have already read in Matthew and Mark.

Luke actually starts out about 1 full year before Jesus is born by recounting the story of the birth of His cousin, John the Baptist. I have never been fully sure why Luke records the miraculous birth of John, perhaps just to show that his birth too was special. Or perhaps it was just to record it since it hadn't been done yet and Luke knew how important John was. I've often felt that there is more to the story of Zacharias and the angel Gabriel than we have written. Zacharias was a priest performing the duties of a priest when the angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that he and his wife would have a baby. Zacharias asks how this will be seeing that his wife is old, presumably post-menopausal. The story goes on to say that Gabriel states that he is an angel from God and that because Zacharias did not believe him, he will be unable to speak until his son is born.

Now that seems rather harsh to me personally. Granted, with God all things are possible, I know this, but Zacharias' question seems a perfectly natural one to me and that is why I think there is more to the story than we have recorded here or perhaps I'm reading it wrong. I just don't know but it seems like a harsh punishment for such a simple, and perfectly reasonable question to me. I also think that because also in Luke 1, we have the recording of Gabriel visiting Mary and she asks an almost identical question and is not punished at all.

When Mary gets her visit from Gabriel, she asks how it is possible since she has not had sex before. Gabriel then gives her the explanation and tells her that with God nothing is impossible. Mary then replies that she is willing to do whatever the Lord asks of her. The same reaction, very different outcome. That is why I think there was a bit more to the conversation with Zacharias and the angel than we have recorded. If it were me and my position was the exact same as his and an angel told me I would have a son after my wife had gone through menopause, I'm pretty sure I would at least think how is that possible if not say it just out of curiosity. I think probably Gabriel said something similar to what he told Mary and Zacharias still did not believe him, but I don't know for sure, it is just my thought.

One thing is for sure though, God was very involved in the conception and birth of those two men. Both had a job to perform on the earth and it was extremely important that they arrive close to the same time so that John could baptize Jesus. The naming of John is pretty significant too from what I have been taught. I have mentioned already I believe that I had the good fortune of having my own mother be my seminary teacher for the New Testament. One of the things she taught us was that when John was born and his family was trying to name him Zacharias and she insisted instead that his name be John, was that she was breaking Jewish custom if not the law. I'm not exactly sure how, but I remember quite clearly being taught that to speak out like that, even though it was her own son, was not a proper thing to do at all. The parents, earthly parents in the case of Jesus, were very remarkable men and women who had been handpicked by the Lord to raise these two men into adulthood and ensure that they were prepared to perform the tasks they had agreed to in the pre-mortal life.

I'm glad Luke recorded these stories personally. Some might think they are superfluous and unneeded, but any good scriptorian will tell you that without the proper background, it is often impossible to understand the scripture the way God intended them to be read. Knowing the background of the scriptures, or people in them, is often essential to understanding them. I am very glad Luke took the time to record the conception and birth's of two of the greatest, THE greatest in Jesus' case, men to ever walk this earth. And this is just the beginning! We have almost an entire month left of reading the other things Luke has recorded for us. I can't wait! Until tomorrow.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Signs Follow those who Follow Christ

Today I read Mark 16, Mark's very brief account of the Savior and His doings after He is resurrected. Part of this chapter states that the Savior appeared unto His Apostles as they sat together eating a meal and He upbraids, or scolds them for not believing those who had seen Him. As I was reading this part of the chapter this morning, I couldn't help but wonder how I would react to someone telling me they had seen the Savior. But then again, the circumstances would be completely different. These men and women knew the Savior in the flesh and had watched Him die and have never understood what He meant when He had told them that He must die and be resurrected. So I can understand why they might not believe them, although you would think with 4 of their close friends telling them all that they had seen them that they might believe. It's not exactly the kind of prank that one pulls on friends.

The other thought as I read this part and wondered at the Apostles disbelief was the prophecy of the Savior telling us to beware of false Christs and when some cry he is in the desert or the secret places, believe it not. Of course I had read this part dozens of time before today, but today got me thinking about it. Why would a false Christ need to hide? Well for one thing it is because he/she would be counterfeit. The Lord always has worked out in the open. Even when the Pharisees came to get Him after the Garden of Gethsemane, He bluntly tells them that they could have arrested Him at any time because He taught openly in the market but they chose instead to come and arrest Him at night when no one else was around. Satan is the one who operates under the cover of darkness where no one can watch him. Satan is the one who coaxes us when we are alone to make bad choices. It is Satan who needs to hide, not the Lord.

The other part of the chapter that stood out to me today was the last part where Jesus sends His Apostles and disciples out into the world to preach His Gospel. Mark tells us that signs shall follow them, that they shall speak in tongues and shall cast out devils and shall take up serpents without being hurt and a myriad of others. I have often wondered how some can accuse Latter-day Saints of not being Christians when these same signs follow them. Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints learn foreign languages at a remarkable rate and sometimes at a miraculous rate and any missionary who has learned a foreign language will tell you that they had help. Missionaries have cast out devils, healed the sick, taken up serpents without being hurt and all other manner of like signs, and yet there are those who would declare we are not Christians. I do not understand why they would say such things when the Savior Himself through His Apostles and disciples tell us that such are His servants.

I also wonder why some would say that baptism is not necessary for salvation when Jesus declares it Himself that we must believe AND be baptized to be saved. Sometimes I wonder if people bother to read the scriptures at all! Tomorrow we start the book of Luke which is the last of the Synoptic Gospels. We will read a lot of the same stories and parables we have already read and will gain new insights to them and will read lots of new ones that we have not had a chance to read yet. Through it all, if we read with the Spirit, the Lord will teach us that which He would have us learn. And that is what is most important. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

He Died for Us

Today I read Mark 15, a very straight forward account of the Savior being crucified. I like history and especially like to learn about ancient cultures and what they were like and the people, but the Romans have always sickened me. They always struck me as a people without any civilization despite their cities, and their taking over most of the known, to them, world. Any people that would built the Colosseum and watch people kill each other for sport is just disturbing to me. Although, I guess our culture is not too far off the mark, although we justify it to ourselves that it is fake and entertainment, but the sheer fact that we make such films is disturbing enough.

I bring this up because despite his knowing full well that Jesus was innocent, Pilate still offered Him up to be killed. Now, we talked already about the character of Pilate when we read the account of Jesus being crucified in Matthew, but it still boggles my mind that it would happen. I also wonder why it was necessary for Jesus to die by crucifixion. I know that was the Roman's preferred method of killing people, but He was God and could have influenced them another way. But that is not how God works, I guess He was merely prophesying because He knew that is what the Roman's would invent. You just have to wonder what kind of sick, evil mind would invent something like like a cross to be crucified on. It is one of the most painful methods to killed on since it restricts the airflow and forces you to stand up to take a breath and so once your strength gives out, you will suffocate. Not to mention nailing you to it so you are in pain the entire time.

And our beloved Savior refused to take anything that would dull the pain, or rather dull His wits, and He did it for us. It was this act that ensured that all mankind who ever lived would be resurrected. He did it for love of each one of us. We owe it to Him to be the best we can be each and every day of our lives. Don't let His suffering be in vain, live your life so that when you come to face to face with Him, you can be proud of the life you have led. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Last Supper

Today I read Mark 14 which is Mark's account of the Last Supper and the visit to the Garden of Gethsemane. Mark's record of what happens is almost the exact same as found in Matthew with a few differences. I had to wonder though about this chapter, when Jesus sends His two Apostles into the city to find the room where they eat the passover, He tells them that the person who they talk to will have the room prepared already for them. You have to wonder just why a person would have a room ready with 13 places upstairs to eat of the Passover. I know that there are plenty of stories where a person feels the urge to do something and doesn't know why until after the fact, but it is generally something kind of small. I can't imagine setting 13 places at a table and preparing food for people and not knowing what it was for. Although perhaps the person did in fact know that it was for the Savior. Maybe the Spirit told him. But it made me think and wonder about it.

Now, the common thought among the Christian world, although I don't know where it comes from, is that this house that Jesus and His Apostles eat at is actually the house of Mark's parents and his family. It is commonly thought that Mark and his family were disciples of Jesus before His death and so perhaps they somehow knew they were preparing spaces for Jesus and His Apostles, we just don't know. It is also a commonly held thought that the unnamed young man who followed after Jesus and was dressed only in a sheet was Mark. It makes sense seeing how Mark is the only one to mention it, but again I don't know where that thought comes from since the scriptures do not say.

The rest of the chapter is much the same as Matthew records. It covers the dinner the Apostles and Jesus had, although not as in depth as John does. It records the institution of the sacrament. I find it interesting that Joseph Smith adds a few thoughts to the sacrament that gives it a more personal touch for the Apostles. The JST adds that the sacrament is meant to remind them of that dinner that they had with the Savior and that every time they partake of the bread it is meant to remind them of that night that He brake bread with them. How sad the Savior must have been, knowing that He was leaving His friends here on the earth forever. While it is true that the sacrament is an ordinance meant to cleanse us from sin and to renew our covenants, I think that first night, He really was trying to give them something to remember Him by.

The JST also adds a different level of significance to the trip to the garden of Gethsemane for the Apostles. According to the JST, as they were going to the garden, the Apostles were heavy in their hearts and began to wonder if Jesus really was the Messiah. Remember that the Jews were looking for a military Messiah, not the Messiah to fulfill the Law of Moses and save them from their sins. Plus, I wonder what it must have looked like from the Apostles' point of view. They could feel the sadness radiating off the Savior I am sure but they had no idea why since they didn't know the scriptures prophesying this. They also had never understood what Jesus was talking about when He told them that He would be killed and resurrected. So this must have all been very confusing to them and very saddening since they did not know what was going on.

Just like with Matthew, we'll forgo talking about what Jesus did in the garden in depth until we get to Luke since I like his version the best and we'll talk more about the trial of Jesus when we get to John. I often wonder if someone should take the 4 Gospels and combine them into one big Gospel but that would never work since everyone has their favorite version of parables and stories. And that's really the reason we have 4 of them to begin with anyway. So that it can touch as many hearts as possible. Until tomorrow.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Gospel Must be Pulished in all Nations

Today I read Mark 13 where the Savior gives the signs of His Second Coming. The JST manuscript states that Mark 13 originally read the same as Matthew 24 and so the JST version is the same as the JST Matthew 24, which we previously covered as part of the Pearl of Great Price. The way the test currently reads does not really add anything new to the knowledge we already have about the Second Coming but there are a couple of items that stood out to me today in my reading.

The Savior mentions that before the end comes, the Gospel must first be published among all nations. This of course has not currently happened. Although there is speculation as to what constitutes the Gospel being published in other nations. I am not that old, but I am old enough to remember the last part of the Cold War. I remember the feeling that never, in a million years would the Gospel be allowed into Russia or East Germany. Then, what felt like overnight to a nine year old anyway, the Berlin wall came down completely unexpectedly and again what felt like overnight to me being so young, we became friends with the Russians and the Germans. No one could believe it. And yet, here we are, 20 years later. Two of my best friends in the whole world, one is married to a Russian girl and the other to a German girl. It would have been almost unthinkable in my parents day, or even my older brother's. But the Lord is able to overcome barriers when He is ready to do so. No one thought that the Iron Curtain would ever fall, let alone as quickly as it did. And yet it did.

Some, including myself, theorize that the reason we are not in the Middle Eastern countries or China itself yet, as far as missionary activities are concerned I should say, is because we are not ready to preach the Gospel there yet. When I was a missionary about 10 years ago, there were a little over 60,000 missionaries world wide. China at the time had a little over 1.5 billion people in it, about 1/6th the entire world's population. 60,000 missionaries is not nearly enough to effectively preach the Gospel in China. I sometimes wonder if 60,000 missionaries would be enough just to cover Beijing and Shanghai! But even though we do not have a missionary presence over there, we have members of the church who live in China. There are a couple of branches in China. There are people who get baptized here that move back home. I myself baptized several people from Mainland China who have since returned back home. The Gospel is being preached, just not in the traditional proselyting sense. And most of that I am convinced is because we as a church are not ready to handle the responsibility. When we are ready, the Lord will move just as quickly as He did with the Berlin wall and we will be reeling with how fast events moved.

I also think that we as members of the church need to do a better job of sharing the Gospel with those around us. We are often accused of "shoving our religion down other people's throats" by those not of our faith. And yet there are so many people who when they find out I am a Latter-day Saint just ask me question after question after question. And they are always positive questions and genuinely curious to know what we believe. It is very rare indeed that I get asked how I can sleep at night or another antagonistic question. It does happen, but I would say it is only 1 out of 100 questions I get asked. It really is very rare. The fact of the matter is, people are curious about what we believe and who we are. When I was in high school I once gave a presentation on Latter-day Saint theology that was supposed to last about 15 minutes and went on for an hour and 30 minutes because of questions my classmates asked.

As we get better about opening our mouths and not being shy about who we are, or as Paul puts it, being ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, then we will have more missionaries and more countries will open up. I firmly believe the Lord is waiting on us as a people to be ready before He opens those countries to us because He will not give us more than we can handle. It is up to us to be prepared and to prepare our children in whatever way we can. As we do that, we will see amazing things happen. Remember, the Lord can bring down the Berlin wall in a day, He can certainly overcome other political barriers. It's all up to us. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

They Neither Marry nor are Given in Marriage

Today I read Mark 12 which starts out with the Savior telling the parable of the wicked husbandmen to the Pharisees, which we have already covered. This chapter also has the question the Sadducees asked the Savior about marriage and the resurrection. I have never understood why they even bothered to ask the Savior that question since they don't believe in the resurrection in the first place. Why bother to ask Him such a question?

The Savior's answer however gives us perspective about the workings of heaven and the things that have to be done here on earth. I have been asked many things about Latter-day Saint theology in my years on this earth. Many of my friends have asked me just about every question you can think of. The question I get asked the most is actually about polygamy followed up by the nature of God. However, the one question I almost never get asked is why we do work for the dead. Which is interesting to me because I would think that would be the most confusing thing to other people, but I almost never get asked about it.

But the reason we do the work for the dead, is because it cannot be done once the person is out of their body and it has to be done before they can be resurrected. So for the people that fall into this category, that means the work has to be done vicariously for them by those who are still inside their bodies and alive to do the work. We believe God is bound by laws, just like we all are. And God cannot break those laws or He will cease to be God. Part of those laws include that no unclean thing can enter into His presence or He will cease to be God. That means that no one can go back to live with God, no one. Because everyone has committed a sin, except for little babies who die before having a chance to do anything. But the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to be cleansed from sin and to make it back to live with God. He vicariously paid the price for our sins so that we would not have to.

But we must still make certain covenants with God and participate in certain ordinances to be able to return to live with God. Included in those ordinances are baptism by immersion and marriage for eternity. Neither of these, along with others, can be done by someone without a body. They must be performed in this life and thus if someone died before they had a chance to do it themselves, we have a chance to perform those ordinances on their behalf, much as Jesus performed the Atonement and paid the price for sins on our behalf. That is what Jesus meant by His answer of those out of this world are neither given in marriage or marry.

The other part of this chapter that I was impressed with today was the story of the widows mite. Jesus and His Apostles were standing near the treasury where offerings are made. As they sat there several wealthy men came by and put lots of money into the treasury. I can only imagine what kind of pomp and ceremony accompanied such donations. But as they sat there, Jesus noticed a widow quietly walk up and cast in 2 mites into the treasury. Jesus took this opportunity to teach a lesson to His disciples. He told them that the widow had cast in more money than all the rest, because they had much and had cast in plenty, whereas she had almost nothing and proportionally had cast in more percentage of her worldly wealth than the others had.

I also have always looked at this story as not only did she cast in a greater percentage of what she had, but I am willing to wager that she did it with a more appropriate attitude too. I imagine that the rich men who came in and cast in their large piles of money did it with great care so that everyone would see how much they were putting into the treasury. I can almost see them being very extravagant, being loud so as to draw more attention and relishing the praise of men. Then I picture this poor, humble widow, quietly walking up in the midst of it all, putting in her her meager offering, and then walking away again without any fanfare. I imagine almost no one besides the Savior even noticed or paid her any mind at all. Jesus Himself told us in the Sermon on the Mount that this is the type of attitude we should have when making our offerings. We should care more about what God thinks of us than we should what others in he world think about us. This humble widow was a perfect example of caring more for the Lord and His opinion than others.

As we strive to increase our own spirituality and become more like the Savior, we will find that the praise of men holds less appeal for us than it once did. We will also find that we relish the Lord's work even more than we do the reward. As we grow and progress, we will find ourselves being happy just knowing that we have done what is right in the sight of God. I imagine some of you are already there. And the rest of us are striving the best way we can, one day at a time. Until tomorrow.