Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Enter into His Rest

Today I read Revelation 7 where the 144,000 are sealed to Jesus Christ. I have never really understood what this is referring to. For starters, I believe there will be way more than 144,000 people who make it to the Celestial Kingdom. I mean there are almost 7 billion people on the earth right now, and we believe the earth has been around for at least 4000 years, much longer if you believe the scientists, that is a LOT of people. Surely out of all those people more than the 144,000 are righteous enough to receive God's greatest gift. So I have never understood what this part is supposed to be saying.

The rest of the chapter seems to be another proclamation that Jesus will give us rest. Or in other words, that He will take our burdens away from us, help us to be better. I for one am very grateful that this sentiment is repeated so often throughout the scriptures, it is something that I, a mortal and prone to getting discouraged, need to be reminded of again and again. Living in the world it can be so hard to remain positive at times and to remember what we are striving for. Instead we are constantly bombarded by all the evil in the world and it is way too easy to get discouraged and forget what we are striving for.

But when we keep an eternal perspective and have little reminders up everywhere, it is a lot easier to remain positive and to do what is right throughout the day. And honestly who wants to be part of the world anyway? Look what kind of shape it's in. The world complains about the church and numerous things about the church, but honestly, which would you rather be a part of? It's like that old story about the Christian leader and Muslim leader, which I'm not sure is true, but the Muslim leader says that his God teaches him and his followers to kill all infidels, meaning all those that don't believe as they believe. And then the Christian leader says that his God teaches us to love everyone no matter what. I'm not sure I believe the story but it teaches an excellent point. Matthew wrote that by their fruits you may know them. Look around you at the fruit of the world. Do you like what you see? Now look at the fruit of Christians, especially Latter-day Saints. No it's not perfect, no one on this earth is, but it's a LOT better than the alternative! You decide. Until tomorrow.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Overcoming the World

Today I read Revelation 6 where the Savior opens the first 5 seals in the book with the seven seals. This is the chapter that the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse that sometimes appear in other literature come from. I've often wondered just why the natural man digresses to hitting to get his/her point across. I mean, what is the point of war and fighting anyway? He/she isn't doing what I want so I'm going to hit them until they do? Or even worse I'm going to kill them? And it's not a learned behavior. My daughter has never seen anyone hit another person in her life and yet she learned to hit when she's angry just the same.

It really hits home and makes you think about King Benjamin and what he told his people in Mosiah 3 that the natural man is an enemy to God and has been since the fall of Adam and will be forever and ever until they yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. It makes me wonder where the natural man came from. It truly is natural because, to my understanding, Satan does not tempt little children under the age of 8 years old, yet those same children can make all kinds of wrong choices. This is because of the natural man. But the good thing is with a little child is it is really easy to teach them the right way and they love to learn about God and Jesus Christ. It is really easy for them to feel the Spirit.

I love to watch my daughter as she imitates us by folding her little arms when it's time for prayer and the way she says "amen" at the end. It is truly heartwarming to see her doing those things. And it is all because we are taking the time and making the effort to teach her the right things to do and how to do them. She loves to read the scriptures and have them read to her. She will bring us her copy of the Book of Mormon from time to time, even if we have already read scriptures for the day, and look at us with her pleading eyes. That is how you combat the natural man from an early age. It is probably the best, most amazing thing in the world to see her love the things of God and to ask for them.

It is possible to overcome the natural man in all of us, but it takes work. Just like overcoming an addiction it takes time to overcome. And it is something that you have to work at to change, it will not just happen on its own for most of us. We have to make conscious choices to become better men and women and to shun the things of the world. Now the good news is that the more we do it, the easier it becomes. When we choose the right and shun the evil of the world that we don't want to be part of anymore the things of the world become increasingly abhorrent to us. I remember I had a conversation with a co-worker the other day about a popular show called "Spartacus". I mentioned that I had no interest in it because it was a show about violence interspersed with nudity and vulgar language. This co-worker is a devout Christian and shared my thoughts on the subject, but it is one of the most popular shows around these days. It makes me sick to my stomach even thinking about it. What is wrong with people, why do they seek out such things? When I think about it I can understand how people could watch the old Roman gladiator games where people killed each other for the people's amusement. Very disturbing and disgusting.

As time goes on and we approach the Savior's second coming things are only going to get worse and the gulf separating the Saints and those that desire to live the laws of God, and the rest of the world are only going to get wider. We have to take a stance and make sure that we are on the side of righteousness and that our feet are firmly planted in the Gospel. We must be the beacons of light that the world will look to in order to overcome what is to come. Because it has to get worse before it can get better. But if we will trust in God and Jesus Christ, no matter how bad it gets here on the earth, we will secure for ourselves blessings in heaven. And that is worth any price! Until tomorrow.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Service through Joy and Happiness

Today I read Revelation 5 where all the elders and the animals from the last chapter worship Jesus and give Him glory. I have often wondered if Jesus where to come down to earth, just for a visit for some reason, do you think He would do so with fanfare and trumpets or do you think that 99% of the people He came into contact with would not even know it was Him? I think the latter.

I just watched a video that someone posted on Facebook of a police officer who was killed, but about 5 minutes before he was killed, he bought a young man a hamburger at a McDonalds and it was caught on tape. I think that there are always random acts of kindness all around us that we either fail to notice or aren't meant to notice. We hear from time to time about the people that are doing good in the world, people like Mother Theresa, and Gandhi. People that Jesus spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount. People whose only reward is the ability to help people. People whose left hand don't know what their right hand is doing.

I have been told a quote that I don't remember who is supposed to have said it, but it states that you can get a lot accomplished as long as you don't care who gets the credit. If your goal is just to help people, you can accomplish a lot. We are told from time to time in church that we should be praying for spiritual experiences or for people to be put in our way that we can share the Gospel with. I say we should also be praying for someone to help. Each and everyday we can pray to recognize those that Heavenly Father has purposefully put in our path to help.

Helping people doesn't even have to be something big and grand. I once got a blessing that stated I was able to help people just by my happy attitude. The blessing stated that I once helped a total stranger that I never even said a word to in a grocery store just by smiling and laughing and having a pleasant time shopping in college. I will be honest that I don't remember the experience because I try and be happy all the time, it's much more pleasant and enjoyable to be happy. I bring this up not to brag, but rather to show that when we live the Gospel and exhibit the traits that Jesus or Heavenly Father would if they were here, we can be an instrument in their hands. It's as simple as choosing to be happy no matter what and then putting it into practice.

Jesus, when He was on the earth, spent His entire ministry helping others. He never stopped doing things for other people. Even when He hung in agony on the cross, He was thinking about His earthly mother and making sure she was going to be cared for. If we want to be like He was, we need to also care more for those around us than we do for ourselves. It is hard to do at first, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And it is oh so worth it. Try it if you haven't. You won't be disappointed. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Glorify God

Today I read Revelation 4 where John sees the throne of God and sees 24 elders surrounding the throne of God as well as 4 animals, all in the act of praising God. I have often wondered what other animals that God created on other worlds would look like. I think the animals we have on this planet can be odd looking enough, especially the ones that we don't see all that often.

Joseph Smith received a revelation, centuries later about these 4 animals and it was revealed to him that these animals are representative of animals that fulfilled the measure of their creation and were exalted. I have often thought it would be neat to be able to communicate with animals and be more a part of their world. I also thought it would be neat to better understand them, because there are some animals that just seem mean for no reason. I can understand needing to kill so you can eat like large cats do, or protecting their young such as bears. But what about animals like hippos that are just plain mean for seemingly no reason at all beyond you happened to be where they didn't want you to be? Are they really fulfilling the measure of their creation? Only Heavenly Father really knows that. I do firmly believe, as I have mentioned before, that animals have agency just like the rest of us and can choose to do that which is right or that which is wrong.

But knowing that these animals glorify God and have magnified their existence, it gives me pause and makes me wonder if I am doing everything I should be doing. We all have the same opportunity in this life to glorify God or to do that which is wrong in His sight. We may not always understand the choices as that black or white, but that is what we are doing. We are either choosing to follow God, or we are choosing something else. Just like Nephi saw that there are really only two churches, there are really only two choices in this life. We are either following Him, or we aren't. And if you need help to determine which you are doing, just listen to the still small voice, just as the primary song says, and He will guide you. I mean, if animals can do it, why can't we? Until tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Invite God Into Your LIfe

Today I read Revelation 3 and a phrase stuck out to me. John, speaking on behalf of Jesus, stated that he who overcame would be clothed in white raiment and would not have their name blotted out of the book of life. It got me thinking, what does it mean to overcome? Overcome what exactly?

I think it means that if we can overcome the natural man, then we will win the prize, the prize of getting to return to our Heavenly Father with our head held up high, with the joy of looking forward to entering into His rest. I know I long for the day when I don't have to put up with the world anymore and I can have rest from all of this evil that constantly surrounds us. But, it is impossible really to overcome the world on our own, because we are in it. There are some parts of he world that we can overcome on our own, but when it comes to our weakness, we need our Heavenly Father's plan.

I recently read an article about overcoming addiction and how we need God's help to overcome it. It was not written by and LDS author. But it was written by a Christian. I read it online and there were several comments at the bottom. One of them mocked the article and the author stating it was absurd. How could you expect to overcome an addiction by prayer? The writer of the comment went on to say that if he was addicted to alcohol, he would need to do more than just pray really hard for God's help. As one who has overcome an addiction to a sin, I can tell you, that I tried just about everything anyone suggested to me. However, it was not until I "prayed really hard" that I have made any kind of headway on my addiction and fully expect that one day it won't even be there anymore, I will be made whole. So, from that backdrop, I kind of laughed at this person who wrote the comment about it being absurd that you pray really hard and bam you are fixed, I maintain that it is the ONLY way to really and truly overcome an addiction, be it alcohol, tobacco, swearing, pornography, sex, or any other kind of addiction.

I don't understand why even good Christians find the idea of God being part of our lives to be absurd. I don't know if it's some kind of machoism that they feel they don't need God in their lives, but I suspect rather it is the result of incorrect doctrine. People think that God should not be part of their life because they have never been taught that He wants to be, that He is whether we want Him to be or not. They never have been told that they can ask for His help and they will receive it. That is really sad to me. I mean, what do they learn when they go to church? I remember my mom, who did not grow up LDS, was taught that God was really stern and did not have time for us people and our needs. It wasn't until she became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that she really understood that God wants to be part of our lives and wants us to turn to Him.

It really is just like our earthly parents. They want to be part of our lives and we need to invite them in, otherwise they will always be viewed by their children as butting in, or being intrusive. Heavenly Father wants to be part of our lives just the same and will step in from time to time whether we want Him to or not. However, if we ask Him to be part of our life, we will find amazing things happening in our lives. Things we never though possible. We will overcome the world and will be able to return to Him with our heads help up high. That is what I am working towards. What I long for. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

God Knows Us Individually

Today I read Revelation 2 which is a chapter that is directed towards specific individuals. I am intrigued by this chapter and it is a little heartwarming. This may sound strange to some, but this chapter proves, as if we needed it, that God is very much aware of who we are, and what our unique challenges are. He personalizes each message to these men and talks about things that the rest of us are not sure what to make of it, but that I'm positive the men he is referring to understand just fine.

I remember when I was a teenager I had a thing for this girl. Big shock I know, a guy likes a girl, where have we heard that before? But anyway, I was overweight, not grotesquely so, but enough for a self conscious teenager to be worried about it, but I wouldn't say I was ugly either. But despite this, she was the type of girl that would not give me the time of day. I don't know why, although I suspect Satan had no small part in it, but I was completely infatuated with this girl, even though she and her friends did not treat me all that well to be honest. But I remember I prayed for months and months why she and I could not be together, I was quite the determined young man I can tell you. And it was only when I got fed up and actually accused Heavenly Father of just not answering me that I got an answer to my prayer. Now, I will not share that answer here because it was very personal, but there is no doubt in my mind it came from God and it was tailored to me. He was most definitely answering me and not just placating me. At the time I didn't understand His answer, I accepted it because, well, He's God! But I didn't understand it. Having the benefit of about 16-17 years of life to look back on now though, I understand what Heavenly Father meant and how He protected me, even from myself. He loved me enough to tell me "no".

Tough love. No one likes to be the recipient of it. Very few of us have the stomach to dish it out. But we all need it. We all desire things that are bad for us at some point. If God did not love us, He would spoil us and just give us whatever we ask for, knowing that doing so was actually detrimental to our growth. But He does love us and He does understand that if He were to do that, it would not turn out well for us in the long run. Let me just say that if He had allowed that girl and I to "date" back then, it would not have turned out well for either one of us. I understand that and God told me so, who am I to doubt Him? He loved me enough to deny me something, or even someone, I really wanted. And it wasn't the last time either. I dated only 2 girls in my life before meeting my wife. Both of them were very difficult to let go of, but Heavenly Father had something different, and dare I say better, planned for me. It almost broke me, and I made the sin of telling Heavenly Father I hated Him for doing that to me. Believe you me I have since repented and that caused some bitter anguish and tears on my part to be assured of His forgiveness from that! Words can destroy, anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong.

Anyway, I have strayed from my original point. God knows us individually. Just as parents know and understand their children, God knows each one of us and loves us. He understands who we are, and more importantly, who we can become with His help. He wants to get us there and is willing to deny us things we really want to do it. He knows our weaknesses and our trials. He is ready and waiting to help us when we fall. All we have to do is go to Him and surrender our will to Him, and we will be amazed at who we can become. Try it, if you have not already. You won't regret it and will wish you had done it years ago. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Book of Revelation

Today I read Revelation 1, John's opening to his revelation that he received while on the isle of Patmos. John sees the Savior in almost the exact same fashion as Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery do when they have their vision and He appears to them in the Kirtland temple. Now, we know from the Book of Mormon that this vision John sees is the same vision that Nephi sees. Nephi is not allowed to record his vision past a certain point because the Savior tells him, it has already been decreed that John the Beloved would write the rest of the revelation.

As I was reading this opening chapter, I got to wondering, why are these revelations so hard to understand? Isaiah wrote his revelations the same way. Although in the case of Isaiah I think it was more him trying to describe things he had never seen before. But why did John the Beloved write his vision this way? Even if it was the way he was shown the vision, why did he not just include the interpretation of the vision? I suspect it has to do with the fact that these things are understood by revelation and that God wants us to come to Him to receive the Spirit so that we can understand it. Because it is a spiritual thing and must be understood by the Spirit.

Most people find the book of Revelation to be almost as incomprehensible as Isaiah. I suspect this is because they try and understand it without asking for God's help, or the approach it as a scholarly work. Things of the Spirit must be understood by the Spirit. It is possible of course to reason out the symbology I suspect, but God has always wanted us to view things of the Spirit with our spiritual eyes and to come to Him. And if we ask Him, He will teach us, I can promise you. I remember when I was a missionary and I was reading Jacob 5 and my eyes were opened and I understood it for the first time. It took me over an hour to read that one chapter because I was learning so much from the Spirit, it seemed that every couple of verses I was being taught something new. We can all have that experience with the book of Revelation or with Isaiah, o rwith any other piece of scripture that is hard for us to understand. He is always there and willing ot help us. We just have to ask. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Satan Desireth to Have You

Today I read the book of Jude, which also only has 1 chapter. If I had to pick an over arching theme for this chapter it would be that there are diverse ways to fall and lose your way. As I read the chapter I could not help but notice all the warnings that were in there. He talks about Sodom and Gomorrah, he talks about mockers in the last day. He talks about speaking evil things. There are so many ways to fall and not live up to our potential.

He speaks about those who lost their first estate, or the angels of the devil. These as we know rebelled even from the beginning and denied the plan of God and His mercies. These are they who would rather have given up all hope rather than follow the plan of our Heavenly Father. I can't help but wonder about these men and women. I mean, it's it better to at least have some chance of success as opposed to certain defeat? Or perhaps they did not know that backing Satan's plan would result in their being cast out and never having a body? I almost think it was the latter because who would honestly choose certain damnation over the possibility of damnation?

I can't help but feel sorrow over these people. These are men and women that we probably knew and loved. These could have been our friends. And they so completely turned against God that their only delight is our destruction and our downfall. They delight in wickedness and in debauchery. Jude talks about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and their depravity, two of their greatest triumphs. If we are not careful, we can fall into the same trap that those cities fell into. Not the sexual trap, but rather the true sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, indifference and lack of caring for the poor. Hugh Nibley taught that the great sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was not sexual in nature, but rather financial. The inhabitants of the city, overall, were very wealthy. And with that wealth came free time which was followed by idleness which led to despising the poor. The sins of those infamous cities, was pride. And we see it happening again all around us. Jesus told Peter, his most ardent supporter that if he was not careful he would fall because Satan desired to have him. If Peter was in danger of falling, how close are the rest of us? It sometimes feels like walking on the edge of a knife to me. One false step and we fall.

But that is where the Atonement comes in. Few sins are irreversible and with His help, we can become clean again. Thanks to the love He has for us and the sacrifice He made, we can become clean once more. I will forever be grateful for the love He has for us and for the gift of eternal life He has made possible. Until tomorrow.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Joy in Your Children Living the Gospel

Today I read 3 John which also only has 1 chapter. I was impressed with verse 4 which says "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth". As a former missionary, I can understand how he feels. I helped several people get baptized and to my knowledge only one of them is still active in the church and in her testimony. But it is a wonderful feeling to know that I had a hand in her learning about the church and teaching her the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Likewise I am so excited to teach my daughter all about the Gospel. I get such a thrill when it's time to say prayer to see her fold her little arms and then to hear her say Amen at the end. To see her treat such serious matters with the respect they deserve, even if in her mind she is only copying what she sees us doing, is a joy beyond words. Being a father is by far the greatest thing I have ever done and the most rewarding endeavor I could ever have embarked on. No amount of worldly success or event could ever compare with the joy I feel when I play with my little girl or see her smile or hear her say Amen.

I marvel that Heavenly Father entrusts His precious children to us for safe keeping. I'm not sure I could leave my little girl in the hands of someone else for the rest of her life to care for. But He put her in my care and has charged me with teaching her the things she needs to know in order to return to live with Him again some day. And I firmly believe that He will ask me how I did in that task when I see Him again. But teaching my daughter the Gospel, even to the little extent that I have taught her so far, has been a joy and is not a task at all. I don't have a hard time understanding John's feelings at all. They make perfect sense to me. I hope that if you are a parent you find the same joy in your children living the Gospel and in teaching them the truth. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Living the Commandments leads to Happiness

Today I read 2 John which has only one chapter. I actually read it 3 times because nothing really leaped out at me as I read it. The two verses that did stand out to me were 6 and 9. Verse 6 states that if we love God we will keep His commandments. This is the same thing John said in his record of Jesus' life. And we have talked about it before. When we follow the commandments of God, we are showing our Father in heaven that we truly honor Him and that His will is important to us.

Very few things are as frustrating as seeking advice from someone and not following it. After a few times the person giving advice might even stop giving the advice altogether. When I was in high school I had a very good friend. She was not a member of the church, but still a very good person. She still is. She was a typical teenager and made lots of choices that I considered ill advised at best. The problem was, before making most of them, she would come to me for advice and see what I thought. Having the benefit of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, I always had very strong opinions on the matter and since she asked for them, I was willing to share them unabashedly. The problem was, she would almost never take my advice. And every time she did not, it always, always turned out as I predicted, which was not a good thing. After awhile though, I got so tired of having my advice sought after but not being heeded that I stopped giving my advice altogether.

I imagine that Heavenly Father is the same way. When we seek His help or an answer to a prayer but then we don't act on that answer that we were given by Him, I think it is harder next time to get an answer or help to our prayer or question. No one, not even Heavenly Father, likes to have their advice ignored. This is going to sound wrong at first but I will expound on it, but that's what the commandments are. The commandments are God's outline for a happy life. He is telling us what it takes to be happy in this world and in the world to come. However, this advice or suggestions are in fact, commandments. Because we are recalcitrant and little children, we will not take His advice in the manner that we should, and so we are commanded to live those principles and those ideals until our very nature changes and we no longer need to be commanded. Then we will look upon Heavenly Father with gratitude for His commandments and what they have made us into. I know I have.

When we work to change our very nature it is a slow process. The first few times it is hard to do things differently and to overcome the natural man in us. But the more we do it, our nature starts to change until we eventually wonder how we could ever have lived another way. When that happens, that is when we need to fall on our knees and thank Heavenly Father for loving us enough to change us. His way is happiness, the only way to true eternal happiness. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Not an Easy Life

Today I read 1 John 5, have you ever noticed how the scriptures always seem to make it sound like all you need to do is believe in Christ and everything will work out ok? It kind of reminds me of the Beatles singing "All you need is love". But those of us who live our lives may have noticed that we still have our challenges, we still don't have it on easy street. As I have mentioned in the past, those of us that make a conscious effort to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ usually have it harder than most because we are being refined by the refiners fire through the furnace of afflictions.

This has been on my mind recently because over the past few weeks it certainly seems like Murphy's law is doing everything to prove itself in my life. For those of you that may not be familiar with it, Murphy's law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And boy does it sure seem like it. We have had problems in our home life with our personal belongings, our health, I've had problems at work, about the only place that is as of yet untouched is our church life. That is going pretty well so far. Hopefully that at least will continue to be a rock in our otherwise tumultuous life.

But through it all, I turn to Heavenly Father and feel like He helps us. He turns our trials into our saving grace. Although some of the things that go wrong are just plain bad, others have unexpected silver linings that help us. We struggle to make it in this world, but living the commandments is not a struggle for us. For us there is no other choice than to live a life of righteousness. And it makes things more palatable. Life is still a challenge and we still have our trials, but because of our trials, we are growing and becoming better men and women than we were before our trials.

Living the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a ticket to an easy life. Far from it, most of us will experience trials that will break us and cause us to turn to God and seek His help because we just can't do it on our own. This is by design because most of us will not humble ourselves and so we will be humbled the scriptures tell us. Perhaps that is the cause of all my trials recently. I really don't know. But one thing I do know. I know I will be a better man because of them and that as I strive to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it doesn't matter what happens to me in this life, my family and I will be on the right path and everything will work out for our benefit. That much I do know, the rest, I put in God's hands and trust in Him. And if we are honest with ourselves, isn't that all we really can do? Until tomorrow.

Friday, January 20, 2012

God is Love

Today I read 1 John 4 which is all about love and how we interact with each other and with God. It contains the phrase, if we say we love God but hate our brother, we are a liar, because if we cannot love our brother, whom we have seen, how can be love God, who we have not seen? And John is, of course, right. If we fail to love those around us that we see on a daily basis and that we interact with, how can we love God who we don't see? We can't. We need to be honest with ourselves and admit that we cannot love a God who we have never seen, if we can't even learn to love those around us.

Now some might say that it is easy to love God because He is good. To that I would answer as Jesus did 2000 years ago, that even the hypocrites love those that are good to them. But it takes real charity to do good to those that hate you and despitefully use you. It is a very hard thing to do, but if we one day want to be as God is, then we need to be able to do that. God loves everyone, and I think we can all agree that there are those that despitefully use Him and curse His very name and existence and blame Him for all the bad things that happen in the world. But we know that He does not necessarily cause bad things to happen to us, but He does not step in and always stop bad things from happening. He will let the natural consequences of our actions take effect if it suits His plans. We have to learn from our mistakes and our actions and God wants to help us do that.

The other part of this chapter that I wanted to talk about was in verse 12 where a mistranslation has cause a very big stumbling block for most of the world. In verse 12, John says that no man has seen God at any time. However, somewhere along the way from when John penned that verse to now, a key phrase has been removed. I don't know if it was removed maliciously, although I suspect it was, or if it was an accident, but it was removed nonetheless. Joseph Smith re-added the phrase to help the verse make sense and fit with what we know of Old Testament history. Joseph Smith amended the verse to say that no one has seen God at any time except those that believe. This is how the verse originally looked and how it makes sense. Because even if we ignore modern revelation, we know of several people in the Old Testament, not the least of which is Adam and Eve, that have seen God. No Christians deny this and yet they wholeheartedly embrace this verse in John without seeing the contradiction. I am very grateful for a modern day prophet who re-translated the Bible and was able to clarify certain truths that had been left out.

As I write this blog entry today, I am reminded of the hymn "God is Love". This chapter was mainly about the love we have for each other and for God. When we are filled with the Spirit of God, we are filled with the love that He feels for us. When we feel that love, it will spread and be obvious to those around us. The love of God is contagious and can easily spread to one another. And if we all focused on that, wouldn't this world be a better place? Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

He will Help Us Live the Commandments if We Ask

Today I read 1 John 3 which is about committing sin or choosing a life of righteousness. The Joseph Smith translation changes a few key words here and there in this chapter, the most significant of them being changing from committing sin, to continue in sin. Which is a key difference, because we are all going to commit sin, it's unavoidable, we are human. But we don't have to continue in sin. Probably the best example of this would be inappropriate thoughts. We all have them and we all get them. But when they come up, do we banish them right away and think about something else, or do we linger on them and allow them to fester and corrupt us and drive away the Spirit? We are human so we can't stop the bad or immoral thoughts completely, but we don't have to allow it to setup show like in the Mucinex commercials. Boot it out as soon as it rears it's immoral head.

Believe it or not, but sin is something we can make a choice about not doing just like we can smoking or drinking or sex before marriage. You can make the decision ahead of time so that when the time comes, you don't even have to think about it. We can set ourselves up early in life so that anytime we come face to face with a moral choice or a chance to sin, we can be ready and don't even have to think or consider, we just need to act. It reminds me of the scripture in Joshua, choose you this day whom you will serve. When we make the choice to serve God with all our hearts might mind and strength, the rest is easy.

I once had a conversation with my dad. We were talking about agency and accepting callings and serving the Lord. He and I both feel that when we chose to be baptized, and especially when one goes through the temple ceremony for themselves, we give up our agency to God, promising to do what He asks of us through His representatives here on the earth. Essentially we offer our will to Him. To our way of thinking, we no longer have the choice. We gave up that right when we took upon ourselves those covenants. It is now our duty to Him to do as He asks of us. We accept callings extended by His chosen leaders on the earth. We serve Him with all our hearts, might, mind and strength. Once you make the choice, it's easy to stick to it.

I once read a story about a man who had been inactive in the church for many, many years and had several bad habits. A General Authority of the church was present with him and someone needed a blessing. The General Authority asked the man if he could help him administer to the person. The story states that the man protested saying he had not been worthy in years. The General Authority asked if he could be worthy for just 5 minutes. The man replied he could. The General Authority said that if he could be worthy for the next 5 minutes, he could do it for the 5 minutes afterwards and so on for a whole hour, and then a whole day, a week, a month, a year. We sometimes are so hard on ourselves because we are not perfect. But if we are working towards perfection, as mortal men and women, that is all we can do. But if we can focus on being worthy and living the commandments for the next few minutes, and just take it a few minutes at a time if we have to, we can overcome anything with His help.

God is on our side. He wants us to succeed and will offer us whatever help He can offer. Sometimes we have to ask for it. But He will never leave us high and dry when our desire is to follow His commandments. He will ALWAYS prepare a way for us. Nephi taught us that in 1 Nephi 3:7. We just have to make the decision to serve and be serious about it. And He will help us. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Love God, Keep His Commandments

Today I read 1 John 2 which is all about our relationship with Christ and each other. John states in this chapter that if we love God, we will keep His commandments. And this is true, when we love someone here on earth, we strive to do the things that will make them happy. Keeping the commandments of God makes God happy. When we don't we cause Him pain because we are causing the Atonement of Jesus Christ to be harder than it needed to be because Jesus is having to atone for our sins that we committed that could have been avoided if we had lived the commandments.

It's no different here on the earth. Children obey their parents because they love their parents and want to emulate them. My daughter is constantly doing things she sees her mother and me doing so she can be like us. When we ask her to do things she, most of the time, will do them because she loves us. I recall as a child, a teenager and finally an adult doing things my parents asked me to do because of my love and respect for them. Now, sadly, there are some children who do things out of fear of their parents or fear of the consequences, but we need to strive to do things out of love instead. It is a far better way to motivate. I recently had just such a conversation with a friend of mine about whether or not it was better to rule by love or by fear. The problem with ruling by fear, is that the person or persons, are always trying to find a way out of it and to undermine you. But when you rule by love, people will go above and beyond what you expect of them and try their best to please you. It is far, far better to rule by love than any other method out there.

John also talks about loving or hating our brother. John states that if we love our brother we are in the light but if we hate our brother we are in darkness. This really got me thinking because there are some genuinely evil people in this world, people that are so despicable and horrible in the things they do it honestly makes me want to cry. How can such people be loved? How can they even be worthy of love? But then I wondered how Heavenly Father feels about them. They are His children, no matter what they are doing. I wonder how I would feel if my child one day did such despicable things. Would it change my basic love for her? I honestly don't know but they call it unconditional love for a reason.

We have, in the past, been commanded to love everyone. My father always told me that it doesn't mean I have to like them, but I have to love them. But I think ultimately John's statement is more simple than that. You cannot actively hate someone without driving away the Spirit. It's not possible. Once those feelings of anger and resentment start and they get your blood boiling, the Spirit leaves. This is because when we have feelings of hate, we have the spirit of contention, which we learn in 3 Nephi is always of the devil. It is impossible to have enmity and still have the Spirit of God. It's not possible. That is what John means I think. No matter what people do around us, we need to work on forgiving them and doing what is right towards them.

Really it all boils down to the two great commandments, love God and love our neighbor, or love everyone else in other words. When we follow these commandments, we will naturally follow all the other commandments that we have been given because they are subsets of the two great commandments. We need to make sure that we show that love for God in all we do, so that we can keep the Spirit about us. If we can do that, then this life will be a paradise no matter what the world is doing around us. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

He Will Cleanse Us from Unrighteousness

Today I read 1 John 1, John's introduction to his readers. It is pretty standard stuff and very similar to what we have read many times over from Paul, James and Peter, but I was struck by one of the verses, verse 9 to be exact. John says that if we confess our sins He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. To me that is more than just forgiving us, that is the power to change our very nature.

It brings to mind something I was taught on my mission by my mission president. He said that a lot of people misunderstand the Atonement. He said that most people think of the Atonement as a tooth this is chipped and missing part of itself from something we have done. When we truly repent, Jesus comes in and gives us a filling, essentially bringing us back to where we were before. My mission president said that this is incorrect. What actually happens is more akin to Jesus giving us a whole new tooth altogether. What comes to my mind when I read John saying that Jesus will cleanse us from all unrighteousness, I take from that phrase that Jesus actually changes us and removes US from the unrighteousness, not that He removes the unrighteousness from us.

I think the way to explain it is an example from my own life. My whole outlook on life changed the day my daughter was born. I used to think a certain way, I used to like certain movies and media that I now find abhorrent. When I watch a movie now I can't help but think about what my daughter would think of it and how she would react to it. When I read stories or see the news about things happening to little children I instantly and almost without thought wonder what if that was my daughter? I am a completely different individual than I was before she was born.

But I am also completely different from when I was in college as far as what I am willing to watch and listen to. I have allowed the Atonement into my life and it has made me a completely new person. I no longer desire to watch inappropriate movies and language in film and music that I used to overlook now causes a noticeable lack of the Spirit in my life. By choosing to live a righteous life, the Atonement and the Spirit have changed my very nature. He can do the same for everyone if they will but turn to Him and if it is their desire. He gives us what we ask for, within reason, so it is up to us to desire the right thing. But He will help us and will not lead us astray, all we have to do is trust in Him. Until tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Focus on the Here and Now

Today I read 2 Peter 3 which I was surprised by the fact that it focused quite a bit on the Second Coming of Christ. I can certainly understand how the people of the day were anxiously awaiting the return of the Savior as they had been told by angels that He was coming back. The people however did not realize that Jesus was not going to be coming back until the end of the world. Peter tries to explain this to them by helping them understand that one day to the Lord is 1000 years to us. Peter also explains to the people that the Lord is not delaying His coming just for the sake of delaying it, but rather He delays it out of justice so that all might have a chance to repent and return to Him.

I sometimes wonder if the people were so anxious for Jesus to return so quickly because they did not understand the scriptures and prophecies, or because those who had not seen Him during His mortal ministry wanted to have the same type of experiences that the Apostles had when He was alive. Or perhaps they, like we do now, are sickened by the sin and iniquity around them and knew that Jesus' Second Coming would put an end to it. There is no easy answer because it is not written down and those people have been dead for thousands of years. But I imagine it was a combination of the two. Ever since people first heard that Jesus was coming again some day, they have been looking for Him to come back. It's human nature. It's like Christmas, it's all most children look forward to all year long from the minute they finish opening their packages until they wake up 365 days later. Humans have a very hard time living in the here and now, we are always looking forward to the next big event.

I fall into this same trap. I keep envisioning how wonderful it will be when the Savior comes again and at times do not stop to take advantage of all the wonderful things going on around me right now. There is a lot that is wrong in the world right now, but there is a lot that is good too. I love to spend time with my family and watch my daughter explore the world. I like to help those in need and have a job that enables me to do so. My life is really good, so why am I focused on the future when I really only need to worry about where I am right now. We need to focus on just taking life one day at a time. If we can do that, then we will be in a good place and it won't matter when the Savior comes again, we'll be ready for it. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Turn to God to Fight Temptation

Today I read 2 Peter 2 and I was struck by a phrase as I was reading. It said that the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation. That struck me as really profound. We know that temptations come from the destroyer, but that not all temptations are bad. In fact without them we would find it difficult to grow. During the administration of the sacrament, I will typically either read my scriptures or I might read the newest Ensign on my phone. Today I was reading an article in the January 2012 Ensign about a man who had become addicted to alcohol and about his struggle to overcome this addiction. He mentioned that it was impossible to overcome the problem on his own. He had to turn to Heavenly Father.

It doesn't always seem like it, but Heavenly Father wants us to succeed and to become better. But He knows that is impossible and will not happen unless we are helped and given the proper guidance and help along the way. I am reminded of a story that President Gordon B. Hinckley once told of a tree that he planted. He neglected to tie it to a guy wire and a result it grew in a very peculiar manner and one day many years later he noticed that it would die unless it was corrected and he was forced to prune it back so severely to start over that he worried for awhile that he might have killed the poor tree. We are like that tree. If we start off correct and are given the proper expectations and the right guidance with our parents and loved ones to hold us back and help us learn temperance, we will grow properly. However, if we are allowed to grow and be crazy and have no discipline and just do as we see fit, then when we grow up we are going to hit a wall one day and essentially have to start over. And when that happens, just like with President Hinckley, it is not pretty!

But if we will turn to Heavenly Father in our hour of need, He can help us. We all have our own trial and weaknesses that we have come to earth to overcome. For some of us it's alcohol, for others stealing, for others pornography and the list goes on and on. We are all different and it does not good at all to compare sins with each other. What good does it do to look at someone and think that you don't have that problem so why do they? The person you are looking at comparing yourself to probably doesn't have the same challenges that you do either. They probably think that your trials are easy and would trade you in a heartbeat. But that is exactly why they are your trials and not the other persons. Moroni tells us in the book of Ether that we are given trials to turn us to God. The idea is that we cannot overcome them on our own and so we are meant to turn to God in all humility so hat we can get His help. I know in my life my personal trials required nothing less than the intervention of God to correct. If He hadn't and I had not wanted Him to, I'd still have them, there is not a doubt in my mind.

When we turn to Him who created us, He can deliver us from our temptations just as Peter said. We will be able to become better men and women and will have the Spirit in our lives in more abundance. When we have the Spirit in our lives in greater abundance, it makes it easier to resist temptation. The choice really is ours, but it seems to me that there really only is one choice, turn to Him who knows us best and can help us the most. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Receiving Revelation

Today I read 2 Peter 1 and nothing really jumped out at me as the main theme of this chapter. There were several points that bear talking about though. Peter mentions in this chapter having our calling and election made sure. This is a phrase that I have never really heard any Christian church besides the Latter-day Saints talk about. I'm actually really curious how they interpret it and what it means. To Latter-day Saints it means that we receive the Second Comforter, or Jesus Christ appears to us.

This has always been a bit of a strange concept for most Latter-day Saints I think and it isn't talked about much. But essentially Latter-day Saints believe that it is possible to meet the Savior face to face in this life. It is a profoundly personal experience and never talked about so perhaps it is not the mystery of it all that keeps us from talking about it at all so much as it is the sacredness. But we believe that having your calling and election made sure in this life is a promise of exaltation in the life to come. Joseph Smith taught that it is something we should strive for in this life and that it should be our goal.

The other part of the chapter that stood out to me was the part about revelation. Peter says that prophecy comes not by the will of man, but rather from the Holy Ghost. Man can seek out the word of the Lord and can try to find out his standing before the Lord, much as Joseph Smith did when he met Moroni for the first time, but we do not control whether or not that revelation comes. Revelation is given by the will of God and we receive it by the Holy Ghost. Nephi stated that angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is the Holy Ghost that communicates with our spirits and testifies to us that what we are hearing/seeing is true.

Each of us can receive revelation every day if we qualify for it and if we are seeking it. We can receive revelation for ourselves and our immediate family members such as our spouse and children. If we hold a position of leadership in the church, we can receive revelation for those under our care, but that is all. I would never be given a piece of revelation that affected the entire church because I am not the prophet. But I frequently have been given revelation for my family and I strive to try and know God's will for me on a daily basis. We can and should seek out God's direction for us in our lives. But it is God that decides when and if that revelation comes, not us.

We can help that revelation come by righteous living. When we live our lives in accordance with correct principles and strive to do everything the Lord has asked of us, He is more prone to trust us with further revelation. But if we are not living up to the revelation He has give us thus far for ourselves, He is less likely to entrust us with more commandments. We have to prove to Him that we are serious in our desire to be better. Only then will we receive the revelation that we desire. But as we grow and become more spiritual and more in tune with Heavenly Father's will, He will share more of His plan for us and we will start to receive more revelation more often. This is my goal and it should be the goal of every faithful Latter-day Saint who hopes for exaltation one day. Until tomorrow.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Feed His Flock

Today I read 1 Peter 5 and I was struck by one of the early verses. In verse 2 Peter tells those who read that we should feed the flock, meaning those around us, but we should not do it by constraint, but rather we should do it willingly. Not as lords but rather as fellow Saints. This was interesting to me. I don't think many of us take the time out to make sure that we are all fed. It is not something we typically advertise and not something we typically look at. I can remember in college there was a period of about a month where my brother and I went hungry. Really hungry. I had a job working in the shipping department of the college bookstore and everyday on my lunch break all I could afford was a 25 cent pack of crackers. And that is all I would eat, sometimes all I would eat the entire day. But none of my friends or co-workers seemed to notice my lack of food. They just weren't paying attention, it's not something we typically pay attention to.

But we should. Food is one of the fundamentals that no one should be without. Especially not in America where everyday thousands of dollars of perfectly good food goes to waste. Another time in college when things were not quite so bad, I remember I had a meal plan but had not used it that day. I was riding the bus with my friend back from Wal-Mart and a man approached me asking if I had any spare change. I did not but I asked him if he was trying to get something to eat and he said he was. I told him that if he would come with me to the food court on campus I would use my meal plan to get him something to eat. He agreed but I think he thought I was putting him off because when our stop came up and I told him to come with me, he seemed surprised. But I was able to take him up and get him a hamburger with my meal plan that I had not used that day. My friend was Japanese and was quite shocked I would talk to the man at all let alone buy him some food.

We are so quick to judge why a person does not have food as opposed to focus on the fact that they don't have it. It doesn't matter if they don't have food because of wrong choices or because of hard times, God is not interested in why we don't help someone, only that we help them. King Benjamin said it best that we need to give if we have it and if we don't have it to give, we need to say in our hearts that we would give if we had it. There is more than enough resources in this world for everyone. They are just not spread evenly. This is done so that we can have a chance to serve our fellow man.

And this is with all kinds of help that we could offer. There is nothing I regret more in my life than one particular instance about 4 years ago. I was in Nauvoo for a wedding with my sister. My sister was the photographer for the wedding and we were running a little bit late. It was raining a little bit but not much and as we were driving to the Nauvoo temple, we saw a man pushing his pickup truck down the road, obviously the truck had problems. My sister asked if we should help him and I replied we did not have time and we passed him. I regret that decision every time I think of it. It was the wrong choice to make. I wish with all my heart that I could go back and help that man push his car. God puts people in our path so that we may help them. I fully expect when I die and stand before God that He will ask me why I did not help that man when I was put there to help him. I will not have an answer for God and I don't know what will happen. But I will never let it happen again.

My wife and I love to feed the missionaries. We love to help make their mission's more memorable for them. My mission was another time where, while I did not go hungry, I did not eat the best. One of the years for my Easter dinner, my companion and I had a package of ramen noodles that we took with us to church and ate after the 3 hour block of meetings. My wife had a brother who ran out of food on his mission. So both me and my wife love to make sure that no other missionary has to go hungry or repeat those situations. Our rule is, if you come to our house, you do not leave hungry or thirsty. We love to serve and love to share what we have, even if it is not much. You will be blessed if you share what you have and God will not let you or your family go hungry. He will bless you if you take care of His sheep. The scriptures say so and I believe them. Feed His sheep. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Be Grateful for your Trials

Today I read 1 Peter 4 which continues the talk about Jesus preaching the Gospel to those in Spirit Prison. The reason the Gospel was preached unto those in prison is so that they can be held accountable the same way that those who heard the Gospel in the flesh are held accountable. God is a just God and will hold us all accountable to the exact same standard. However, He is also merciful in that He will grade on a sliding scale so to speak about what we did according to how much we knew at the time.

Since we talked about that yesterday, that is all I'll say on the matter. The rest of the chapter has to deal with being tested and suffering for Christ's sake. I have talked in the past about how if we are doing what is right, we can expect lots of trials and temptations and if we are on the wrong path, we won't have that many trials inflicted by God but we may have trials because of the consequences of our actions. For example, if we choose to use illegal drugs, we may have health challenges. But that is not a trial given to us by Heavenly Father, but rather a natural consequence of our own actions. But when we live the teachings of the Gospel, we can expect trials and tribulations to come our way, much like Job of old.

In my family, we have had a rough couple of weeks. We have had personal illness to both of our cars breaking down multiple times, to our TV blowing up due to a storm, just to name a few. It has really been a challenge to remain happy and upbeat at times this past 2-3 weeks. I have always been one of those people that find the balance in life. For example, I firmly believe that when you have a big spiritual experience, you can expect to have a major trial or bad thing happen to you. When you have something bad happen to you, you can expect to have something good happen to you soon after. I do not think that God just dumps trial after trial on people. I believe that for every high there is a low. So I really believe something good will happen to us to even out all these negative trials we have been experiencing recently. I have no idea what it will be, but it has been a pattern that is pretty consistent in my life.

Peter talks about that when we suffer for Christ's sake, we should feel ourselves lucky that we are worthy to suffer with Him. That might sound kind of odd, but if you think about it that Satan pays more attention to those who are doing what is right, we should be grateful for our trials as they can almost be used as a measuring stick of how we are doing, again as long as they are not just natural consequences of our own actions. That is what I think of when I hear about people being happy that they were worthy to suffer for His sake. It means they are doing what is right and are on the right track.

Trials are also meant to help us grow. My brother made an interesting statement once. He met an older couple in their 70-80's on his mission. He said they were the most humble, pleasant to be around people he had ever met in his life. He said he almost shuddered to think about what they had gone through in their life to get them to the point they were at when he met them. I agree with him. Trials are our refiner's fire. We become better men and women when we endure our trials well. Think about Job. When he had everything taken from him, even his health, he still glorified God. And when it was all said and done, he was given back more than he had in the beginning. God does not just try and test us for some kind of perverse pleasure. Not at all. He does everything for our benefit.

The next time you have a severe trial come up, if you can, try and think about what has happened recently. Did you recently have a very nice blessing happen? If not, try and pay attention after the trial is over and see if you have a blessing come up later. Try and notice if you have large spiritual experiences just before or after major trials. I bet you will find that you do. And if you can, thank God for your trials. They are what is causing you to progress and become better men and women. Without them, we would be lost and not progress at all. Thank our Heavenly Father for our trials. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jesus Preached to the Dead

Today I read 1 Peter 3 which is fairly famous among the Latter-day Saints. But I want to first talk about a couple of verses from the beginning of the chapter. Peter talks about how husbands should be won over by their chaste conduct. I often wonder how a husband who has a wife who does not act chaste can feel comfortable at all. I know I would be extremely unhappy if my wife went around wearing immodest clothing and acting like a woman of the world. I purposely sought out a woman who DIDN'T act that way, so why would I want her to act like that? Every worthy Priesthood holder should desire his wife to act in a chase and virtuous manner. Jacob in the Book of Mormon tells us that God delights in the chastity of women, so why should we not also delight in the chastity of women?

But the more famous part of this scripture by far is Peter's lesson at the end of the chapter where he teaches us that Jesus Christ went to the Spirits in Prison and preached unto them. It is always interesting to me how the scriptures will just mention things in passing which makes me believe that it was common knowledge among the Saints of old back in the day. Things like baptisms for the dead, or Peter's statement of Jesus preaching to the dead. I just think it's pretty neat.

Peter's statements let us know a couple of things about the time between when Jesus was crucified and when He was resurrected. For starters, we know that He did not see God right away, which we could have known from His statement to Mary in the garden that He had not yet ascended to His Father. But before Peter's writings we were left to wonder, if He did not go back home to God, where was He for those 3 days and what was He doing? Peter lets us know that He was organizing those among the Spirit world to bring salvation to those who did not have it.

We also learn from Peter's statements that there had in fact, been no resurrection prior to Jesus Christ, at least as far back as Noah and that Ark. Peter tells us that some of those that heard Christ's voice were those among the time of Noah who did not believe that the flood was coming. We can infer that if there was no resurrection from Noah to Christ, there most likely was not any resurrection before Noah either. Can you imagine, having tasted mortality and then being denied a body for thousands of years? That would be very hard on those who were used to sins of the flesh or over indulgences of any kind. On a side note I often wonder what those who spent their whole life focusing on money or other pursuits that have no place in the world to come think or feel when they find out they wasted their entire lives? We probably will never know.

These verses to me though have always signified the mercy of God. He gives us so many chances to repent and come back to Him. Even after we are dead we have the opportunity to choose righteousness and accept Him. It makes me want to sing the song I Stand All Amazed because it so beautifully typifies this principle and how I feel about Jesus Christ and His mercy. I can't say enough good things about it. But it is wonderful that He did all of this just for me, and for you, and for everyone! Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Peter's Counsel - A Peculiar People

Today I read 1 Peter 2 which contains lots of counsel from Peter on how we need to behave and how we need to act. For example Peter starts off by telling us that we are as newborn babies in the church and need to start off with milk. His analogy is simply telling us that we need to start with the basics. And he is right. How many people do you know that were scared away from the church, be they a member of the church or not, because they wanted to learn and know too much, too quickly? I have personally known more than one person to leave the church because they went to the temple before they were ready. Not everyone progresses at the same pace and so we need to recognize that fact and need to try and accommodate them as best we can.

Peter goes on to remind us that we are a chosen generation, a peculiar people. I know several people that have taken that phrase to be a stumbling block. They don't want to be a peculiar people. Although the footnote at the bottom tells us that the original Greek word that was used denotes special possession, I still prefer peculiar. We talked just the other day about the world and how the world acts. Do we really want to be a part of the world, when we see how they are? I challenge you to find me a popular show on television that in a season of production does not feature alcohol in some fashion. It's EVERYWHERE! We are a nation of closet alcoholics. So many people don't know how to function without liquor. Do we really want to be associated with that? Or would we rather be apart from it and be seen as different?

Again, I challenge you to find me a popular show on television that does not prominently feature sex. You can't do it unless you go looking in places like the Food Network or the Home and Garden channels. Popular, prime time TV features sex as one of its cornerstones of television. And 99% of the time, the sex featured is not between a husband a wife. It is either a spouse having an affair, or unmarried people having sex. Again, why would we want to be a part of that? Why would we want to be seen as taking part in that? I personally am proud to be different and seen as not part of that. I would shudder if I were a part of that honestly. It horrifies me that my daughter is going to grow up in this world and be exposed to all of this junk and garbage that is on the television. And even if I were to get rid of the TV and never expose her to it, she would still hear about it as she goes out into the world because the music is just as bad! No, I much prefer to take pride in Peter's statement that we are a peculiar people because I don't want to be associated with the world, at all!

Peter next moves on to tell us to be subject to worldly governments. This is a topic we have covered before but it is good to remind ourselves of it. As Latter-day Saints, we believe in being subject to worldly governments and in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law. This means even if we don't like the government, or the president, or the vice president or who ever we happen to have a problem with, we still need to honor the law and obey it. We should not be the type of people who despise police officers just because they are cops. They are here to protect us and make sure we are obeying the law. And honestly, I shudder to think what most of the world would do without them. We see it every time there is a natural disaster, people loot and destroy with wanton abandon. Last year in Alabama, where I live, we had several severe tornadoes all on the same day that left us without power for 8 days. As a result, the city instituted a curfew for everyone safety and protection. When the power came back on, we were told that there was a group of people who had come up from Florida for the sole purpose of looting the stores! Luckily, because of the curfew, they were caught and arrested before they could do any damage, but I couldn't believe it! What kind of horrible people take advantage of a whole city like that? This is why we need government to help keep people like that in line. There are those who I think would obey God's laws and do what is right regardless, but there are most certainly those who only obey the law out of fear of going to jail.

Peter's last counsel is to bear all our afflictions with patience. This sounds exactly like what God told Joseph Smith when he was in Liberty Jail. Our suffering is but a small moment and if we endure it well, we will be exalted. This is easier said than done, but we have LOTS of opportunities to practice it. The one thing we are not short on in this life, is trials. We have them so that we can learn to bear them with patience and overcome whatever short comings we might have that trials can help us overcome, like a bad temper or impatience. As we endure them well, God will bless us.

There is a lot of great counsel from Peter in this chapter and I have tried to capture most of it, but I would really encourage everyone to read it themselves as I'm sure the Spirit will touch them and teach them what they need to know in their lives. I know He did for me! Until tomorrow.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Spirit of Christ that is Within Us

Today I read 1 Peter 1 and the first thought that came to me was actually about Abraham. In the Book of Abraham that Joseph Smith translated off the papyrus from the mummies he bought, Abraham mentions that all his troubles started when he desired to secure for himself the blessings of his fathers, namely the priesthood and saving ordinances. As I was reading Peter's words today, I couldn't help but wonder, what caused Abraham to desire those blessings? What made him reject the world that was around him and desire something better?

Peter gives the answer in verse 11, it was brought about by the Spirit of Christ that was in them. We sometimes call it our conscience. But that again begs the question, why are some willing to search out the things of God when others are not? Surely upbringing has something to do with it. After all, my daughter who is only 16 months old responds when we talk to her about God and tell her it's time for prayer. So upbringing is a significant part of it, but what about people like Abraham who are brought up in a world filled with idolatry and human sacrifices? Surely his father did not teach him the things of God. So what made him so unique compared to those who were around him in similar circumstances? What caused some people in the 50's who were taught that those who had black skin were inferior to those with white skin to reject that teaching and treat those men and women equally despite the times and circumstances?

Abraham gives us the answer later in his book in chapter 3. He has a vision where God shows him the pre-earth life and shows him that Abraham was one of the great ones, those who set themselves apart even before they had an earthly body, and was set apart by God Himself before he was born. We each of us come to this life with our own personality, anyone who has more than one child, or has ever watched children grow up, knows this for a fact. You can have two children grow up in the exact same circumstances, with the exact same family and be treated exactly the same, and they will act and react to the same circumstances and situations very differently. This is because we lived before we came here and we are all unique. We each of us come with certain dispositions and tendencies to this life. And some of us, are already predisposed to seeking out the things of God, as was Abraham. They can be taught something their whole earthly life, and they will never believe it because the Spirit of Christ that is in them will tell them that it is wrong.

Just as Peter, and before him, Abraham, said, there are those who diligently sought a better place, or to know the things of God. These people still exist. They yearn and pine for something more, something different. They don't know what it is, but they know it's out there. There are several stories of people when they hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say that it sounds familiar, almost like they have known it all along. This is the Spirit of Christ within them resonating and confirming something they knew before but have forgotten because of the veil.

Those of you who read this diligently should feel good about yourselves because you too fall into this category. You have set yourselves apart, even from the majority of the Latter-day Saints, as one who desires something more. You desire to receive the second comforter and have your calling and election made sure. You are disgusted with this world and know that there is something better waiting for you. I sometimes wish I could be taken out of this world and all its evils. I wish that I could just carve a nice little corner out of it all for those who desire heaven on earth, those who truly desire to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But that is not the way of things and not in God's plans. He wants those of us who feel this way to live among the world so we can help make it a better place. After all, if we were not here, what is to stop the Lord from destroying it? The Lord withholds His wrath because of the righteous. That is His pattern. Always has been. We owe it to those around us to try and live the best life we can so that they too can be drawn to the things of God and we can help seek out those who also desire a better place.

This life is meant to test and to try us. We are meant to choose who we want to serve and where we want to spend eternity. Our choices shape who we are but also who we are shapes our choices. We come to this earth with a predisposition as we have discussed before. God will help us accomplish what it is we want, it is up to us however to determine just what it is we want. He can't help us decide that. Make sure you choose something you will be satisfied with for the rest of eternity because we don't get a second chance. Choose this day whom you will serve, God or Mammon, those are the only two choices. Choose wisely. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Woe unto the Rich

Today I read James 5. I have often wondered, if money itself, just being a means to an end, is not inherently evil, why are the rich so often condemned? Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil, but why is that? Money itself is an inanimate object and is neither evil nor good. As I mentioned above, it is a tool to be used. The problem of course, as we have talked about before, comes when we will do anything to obtain more money and we lose sight of what is important.

James condemns the rich, as his brother, Jesus did before him. This is because most of the rich people in the world are only concerned with their money. It consumes them and I would imagine, takes over their very thoughts. Just like a favorite sin can come between us and the Lord, so too can money become our driving force in life. All around us we see shows and movies of people who will do just about anything for money. We see shows where loan sharks hurt people who owe them money instead of forgiving the debt. We see people going into debt for hundreds of thousands of dollars at casinos trying to earn money quickly.

I think the problem comes because these people are so consumed with money and earning more of it, that they do not see the world around them. They don't see all the opportunities to serve that are around them each and every day. I remember half a lifetime ago, for me anyway, when I was 16 years old. I went to visit a friend who lived near Washington D.C. I was friends with their whole family and I remember I was talking with his mother about the lottery and winning a lot of money. She mentioned that once she had taken a sheet of paper and written down everything she would purchase if she were to win the lottery. She said that as she wrote it all down, she started becoming angry that she didn't have the money to purchase all of these nice things now and she started losing the Spirit. The more items she wrote down, the worse it got until she decided to just stop. Once she stopped and threw away the paper, the Spirit gradually came back. When she had focused on the money and the material items, it had gotten in the way of what was truly important. I still remember that lesson 16 years later. It's part of the reason I have always tried to be content with what I have and earn enough for my needs and that's all.

Jesus said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. This is because a rich man is obsessed with his money. Just like a whoremonger is obsessed with sex and a warmonger is obsessed with death and killing. It consumes them and gets in the way of the things of the Spirit. Now, there are good people out there who are rich and handle their riches very well. But most of us cannot handle being wealthy. It is much like power. Joseph Smith wrote that it is the nature and disposition of all men to abuse power. It is also the nature and disposition of all men to desire money and to lose focus and desire more of it. We have to be ever mindful of this and guard against it. It can be done but most of us will not be rich because we could not handle the problems that will come with it. And God will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able to withstand. Try not to focus on being rich and instead focus on the things of the Spirit. That is the way to be safe. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Avoid Friendship with the World

To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is a sin. This is how James closes chapter 4. To me this is talking about the sin of omission, or the sin of not doing what we are supposed to be doing. Such as not going home teaching or visiting teaching. Sins of omission can be just as bad as sins of commission. We will all have to stand before God and give an accounting of our lives one day and we will feel extremely self conscious when Heavenly Father asks us why we did not do certain things that He had asked us to do. When we have to justify to Him our lives and our actions. It will not be pleasant indeed.

That is all I will say on that matter, but I wanted to touch on it because all too often I think we as Latter-day Saints, and even just Christians think we are doing very well but when we truly look at ourselves, there is more we could be doing. We are not perfect and we do not live all the commandments perfectly. But I wanted to focus the majority of today on the rest of chapter 4 and what James is talking about. He states that friendship with the world creates enmity with God. I can see what he is referring to in that the world and God are almost always at odds with each other.

The world is controlled by the devil, both directly and indirectly. I firmly believe that many people that are in positions of power do things that are wrong knowingly and it doesn't matter to them so long as they stay in power. They are ruthless and don't care who they hurt. They knowingly trample under their feet the commandments of God. Such people sicken me. There are also those evil people who will do anything and everything in their power to get money. These are people that are directly controlled by the devil. As surely as if he were perched on their shoulder, whispering in their ear, like the old cartoons show, he guides them and directs them from one piece of iniquity to another. It is sad to see and will cause the Spirit to flee.

There are also those who are indirectly controlled by the devil. These are those who are generally good people but perhaps they cheat on their taxes. Or they take advantage of those who are down on their luck. When they are given too much change back from a transaction, they keep it. Anytime we make a choice other than the one the Savior would make, we are letting the devil control us. And when we do little sins now and again, it makes us just that much farther away from where Heavenly Father is. It's kind of like walking up a staircase, we go up two steps but down one. We then go up three steps, but down four. We are always headed in the right direction eventually, but we allow ourselves to slip backwards.

This happens when we become to familiar with the world, or indulge in friendship with them as James puts it. If we truly want to become like God is, we need to not be friends with the world. I like to think of it as ancient Israel. They were always getting into trouble because they wanted to do things the way the world did them. For example they did just fine with judges but they badgered the prophets to let them have a king just like everyone else. It got them into trouble. They would start to worship idols because that's what everyone else was doing. Anytime they focused on what the world was doing, it got them into trouble. So it is with us. If we focus on doing what God wants us to do, we will be fine. But the minute we focus on doing things the world's way, we will find ourselves in trouble and out of the good graces of God. None of us want that. Choose friendship with the Lord instead. You won't be sorry. Until tomorrow.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Our Words Can Uplift or Defile

Today I read James 3 which to me the main message was, watch what you say. James talks about how what cometh out of the mouth defileth a man. The ability to communicate with our fellow man is wonderful and a treasure. I love to just sit and talk with my wife and while playing with my daughter hear her as she babbles on explaining the details of her life to me. And yet, nothing can remove the peace from our home quite as quickly as a few ill chosen words.

Words can be wonderful and can convey love and affection for those around us. They can soothe, they can calm, they can bring in the Spirit, and they can also drive away the Spirit and destroy relationships that have lasted for years. Words convey our intent and what we are thinking about. I have often times heard of what is called the Freudian slip, which is where a person means to say one thing but actually says another because it is what is on their mind and so it takes over their speech for a moment. In most cases, the person who made the slip doesn't even realize they made it. I bring this up because when it happens it shows what that person is thinking about, their mind is not really on what they are saying but rather the other thought that slipped through.

Words are our greatest tool for conversion. We can share our testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon and of our prophet. We can invite the Spirit into our home by reading the scriptures aloud as a family. There are all these wonderful things we can do with our words. But all too often we find ourselves using our words for bad things. We tell an off color joke. We lose our cool and speak harsh words to those we love the most. Words damage and the effect of words can last a lifetime. That is what both the Savior and James meant when they said that what comes out of a man defiles us.

If we hope to be like Jesus Christ is, we need to make a concentrated effort to speak as if He were right next to us. We would not swear in His presence, I hope not anyway, we would not tell an off color joke if Jesus were the the audience. We would not say harsh things to our families if Jesus were nearby. So why do we do these things, just because we cannot see Him? He can hear us where ever we are. He is always there and is always listening to us. Let's make sure our words reflect that knowledge and that we are not saying things that would cause Him pain or cause the Spirit to leave. Let's have perfect control over what we say. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Show me thy Faith by thy Works

Today I read James 2 the famous chapter on faith and works. This chapter has more than just that though, although it's all connected. I especially like the part where James is almost mocking when he commends people for believing in Christ and thinking that's enough. He points out that the devils also believe in Jesus Christ and if all we do is believe, we are no different from them. That verse always makes me chuckle.But he's exactly right. The devils and evil spirits know exactly who the Savior is and fear Him. In someways they are more pious than we are!

However, the majority of this chapter is taken up by James' wonderful sermon on faith and works. He points out accurately that without works, our faith is dead because we are not acting on our faith. He gives a particularly poignant example of a brother or a sister who is both naked and hungry and the example of a believer telling them to depart and be filled and warmed but not actually clothing them or giving them something to eat. Are we really living our religion and having true faith if all we do is talk the talk but we never walk the walk?

The funny thing about this chapter, is I don't know of a single Christian religion that doesn't believe this is true. They just don't think of it in the same way. They believe that we need to be a good neighbor and do that which is right too. They believe we need to give to the poor and take care of those around us. They believe in showing their faith by their works, they just don't call it that. They get so hung up on being saved by grace and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves that they get all turned around when it comes to faith and get confused. They don't understand that there is a very big difference between the two.

Grace of course is God extending His gift of mercy to all those who qualify for it. That is grace, but we are talking about living the Gospel and its principles. We are talking about showing our faith by our works. That is why James' example is such a good one. As Christians, we are taught to take care of the poor and afflicted, why is it so hard to understand that what that means is to have works to go along with your faith? James just wants us to understand that if we just sit around and say "I believe" all the time but don't prove it, it's not enough. We need to make sure that when those opportunities to show we believe present themselves, that we take advantage of them. It's about treating others the way Jesus Christ would if He were here on the earth. It's about putting your money where your mouth is. Jesus never turned away any that were sick or afflicted. He spent His whole earthly ministry caring for those who were in need. If we are striving to be like Him, should we be doing any differently? That is what James means by showing your faith by your works.

Think of it this way. If you saw two people, one of them is walking out of church on Sunday dressed nicely and caring a Bible for all the world to see, you would probably conclude, most likely correctly, that he is a Christian. Now think about if you saw someone working at a soup kitchen, he has a smile on his face as he cares for those who need the food he is passing out. In his pocket you can see the corner of a pocket sized travel Bible. You would KNOW that man is a Christian and believes in Jesus Christ. But the difference is, you know the second man for sure is converted because he is doing the things God has asked us to do. Do you see the difference? We are confident and sure of the second man's faith because of how he is living his life. His works define and exemplify his faith. If we are true believers of the word, it will show in our actions. It will show in our daily lives. And that's all I will say on that. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Be Doers of the Word

Today I read James 1, the chapter that started it all. As I knew this was on the menu for me today, I got to thinking, do you think that James knew Joseph Smith would some day read his words and it would usher in the last dispensation? Obviously when he passed away I'm sure he was told, but do you think he was like Moroni and Mormon who were shown in vision the importance of what they were doing? I like to think that he was and that perhaps those words were even given to him by inspiration.

I was surprised a few weeks ago in Sunday School to hear that a good chunk of the modern Christian world doesn't like James and some go as far as to think he is not divinely inspired. I was really shocked to hear this and can't really understand why they feel this way. The facetious part of me likes to think it is because James' doctrine kind of proves them and their theories wrong. But I that's just me being silly. I don't know for sure why they think James is not inspired writings. Personally I think anything written by the half-brother of Jesus Christ is worth reading! But that's just me.

As for the chapter itself, there is obviously verse 5 which all Latter-day Saints are familiar with this verse and it's significance. But this chapter has other verses that strike me as significant. I particularly liked verse 22 which says that we need to be doers of the word and not hearers only. This strikes me as being very significant in conjunction with what James says about faith in the next chapter. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a passive faith. Rather it is a faith that demands action. We cannot be saved if we just sit around waiting for things to happen to us. We have to go out and grab what we want. We have to actively repent of our sins and make sure that we are doing all we can to be the best men and women we can be. If we are sitting around only listening to the words and nodding our heads in agreement and telling ourselves that it is so true, we are not really living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Everyone who is truly honest with themselves will admit that when they feel the Holy Ghost resting upon them, they feel compelled to go shout about it from the rooftops. That is why Latter-day Saint fast and testimony meetings always have those Saints that talk about how they felt the Spirit so strongly and knew they had to get up and bear their testimony. That is because the Holy Ghost prompts us to action. We have to DO and not just sit around like the Greeks of old and think about things. Heavenly Father wants us to be anxiously engaged in a good cause He said in the Doctrine and Covenants. One of my favorite hymns is "Have I done any Good?". It exemplifies this philosophy quite nicely. The chorus says, "Then wake up, and do something more, than dream of your mansion above". The song goes on to say doing good is a pleasure, and it really is. The more good we do, the more the Holy Ghost will be a part of our lives. And I think we all want that! Make sure you do something today that is worth reporting to your Heavenly Father in your personal prayers tonight. You won't be sorry you did! Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Don't Take Your Marriage for Granted

Today I read Hebrews 13 which is a hodgepodge of advice that Paul offers at the close of his epistle. It kind of reminds me of when we were teenagers and we would be leaving the house for a night out and our parents would give us about six or seven pieces of advice. Likewise Paul spends some time giving some last minute advice in his letter to the Saints.

The first one that stood out to me is that marriage is honorable for all. That one kind of surprised me. I had never before considered that some might consider that not getting married is better than to get married. Of course I was raised as a Latter-day Saint and know that marriage is essential for exaltation, but still I can't help but wonder why some people would think that marriage is not a good idea. I personally did not feel complete until I got married. I always felt like something was missing, and truly it was.

I was reading in the January 2012 Ensign an article about 10 things that happily married couples do and I was really glad to see an article focused on improving the quality of marriage. That is so important and it can be so hard to have a good happy marriage if one or both of the partners are unhappy. Recently my wife went through a tough time and even though she didn't mean to, she took most of her aggression out on me over the course of several days. Each day there was something new that I got in trouble for, sometimes it was the same thing just on a different day. But I remember on one of the days when she was laying into me about something that did not warrant that level of response I can remember thinking, "Geeze, no wonder people get divorced! If their spouse always treats them like this I can understand why you wouldn't want to stay married." Now, I never thought about getting divorced, despite how miserable those few days were, but it gave me a whole new understanding to how unhappy someone can be in their marriage.

I have been very lucky in my marriage that my wife has shared my vision to always try and put the needs and wants of our spouse ahead of our own and so my marriage has been extremely pleasant and enjoyable. And that is how marriage should be. Ideally it should be a happy experience for the two partners as they grow together and work towards becoming one in purpose and spirit with Heavenly Father. I feel very fortunate that I have a wife that wants me to improve and is willing to do just about anything to help me get there. I hope that those of you who are married have that in your life as well. I hope you don't take your spouse for granted but that you are able to recognize them for the support and love they give you. There are those in this life that all they want is a happy marriage, or to be married at all. For 7 years after my mission that was all I wanted was to be married, but it was withheld from me for 7 years. But all good things do come to those who wait. If you are in that boat now know that Heavenly Father will take care of you and will grant your righteous desires in due time. If you are married, remember to treat your spouse the way you treated them on your wedding day. Love them and treat them as if they are your whole world, because they should be. Until tomorrow.

Monday, January 2, 2012


Today I read Hebrews 12 which Paul talks about God's love for us. It is very easy to become confused about how people feel about us in this life because Satan has done a very good job of confusing us into thinking that if we love someone we will allow them to do whatever they want or give them anything that they desire. How unrealistic that is and we are now seeing the results of such "love" in this day and age when we have thousands of adults completely unprepared to enter into the world and take part in it as an upstanding citizen. They have been given everything they ever asked for and as such are not ready for the real world and its disappointments that are sure to come when they hear the word "no" for the very first time.

I have often wondered what prompts people to not discipline their children. Is it fear that the child won't love you any more? Is it laziness? Is it lack of understanding on how to discipline? I think for some people it's a combination of several of these things. I think a lot of parents try and discipline their children to a point but then they get worn down and so after awhile, they let the child get away with it. My sister had such a dilemma not too long ago where her oldest was begging for something for literally two days to the point where she almost gave in just to get some peace and quiet from him. Fortunately for them all, she did not give in. That would not have been a good thing for any of them and would have taught her son that if he whined long enough he would get what he wanted.

Paul mentions that we have all been disciplined by our earthly fathers and yet we revere him, how much more should we revere the father of our spirits when He disciplines us? The love we have for our father here on earth pales in comparison to the love we have for our Heavenly Father, or should have for Him. He has done SO much more for us than our earthly father has. Our Heavenly Father created our spirits, gave us life and created this world for us to live in, to grow and realize our potential. Without Him we literally would be nothing. We would not have anything at all. Our earthly father is a mirror of our Heavenly Father. He gave us a physical body to live in. He created a home here on earth for us to live in. Without him we would not be here on the earth. Just as we love and revere him we should also love and revere our Heavenly Father. It is important that just as we cultivate a relationship with our earthly father, that we cultivate one with our Heavenly Father. I would daresay it's vastly MORE important actually.

As we strive to become better men and women and make our goals and our New Year's Resolutions with the start of the new year, we need to make sure that we are setting goals that will get us where we want to be spiritually. Lots of people set goals to get in shape physically, but we need to make sure we are getting in shape spiritually. We need to make sure we are saying our prayers. We need to make sure we read our scriptures daily and that the Gospel has a more prominent place in our hearts than does television. If we were to be really honest with ourselves and rate where our priorities are, where does reading the scriptures fall? What about family prayer? How about going to church? Following the commandments? Personal prayer? These are the things that should be first and foremost in our lives. Are they? Are you striving for what you want out of this life? Out of the eternities? Make sure you are living your life so that you can get what you want out of it. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Have Faith

Today I read Hebrews 11, probably my favorite chapter in the book of Hebrews. This is the chapter most non-Latter-day Saints think of as the chapter on faith. Truly this chapter is all about faith, but most Latter-day Saints usually refer to Alma 32 when thinking about faith. In this chapter, Paul lists several examples of great men and women that were able to accomplish great things through faith.

Faith, Paul tells us is the substance of things hoped for but not seen. Joseph Smith changes the word substance to assurance. I like that and think that is a significant change. After all if we have substance, we know it for a certainty. We can see it or we can touch it. However, if we only have the assurance of something, we don't necessarily see it or touch it, rather we are promised by those we love and trust that it is true. This is more akin to what faith is because if we have faith we do not have a perfect knowledge. This is one of the ways that the subject is sometimes thought of as being handled better by Alma because Alma takes us through all the stages of faith and how we get there.

This chapter is very fun to read however because it is neat to see Paul recount all the ancient prophets and great ones that we all know and have heard their stories dozens of times and to know that they were only able to become great because of their faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God we are told. Without faith it would be impossible to do what they did. Without faith it is impossible for us to be the kind of members that we need to be. It is impossible to enter into the Celestial Kingdom without faith. Without faith it is impossible to know what we want. We have to believe there are options before we can chart a proper course.

As we cultivate faith we will find it easier to cultivate. The more faith we have the easier it is to believe and gain more. It is always interesting to me to note that the ones we think of as great and stand in awe of, such as Noah, probably did not think of themselves as great and did not realize their faith was something special. Rather they were commanded of the Lord to do something and because they had faith, they were able to accomplish it. If you want to do what the Lord asks of you, the best way to ensure that you can, is to have faith. With faith all things are possible. Until tomorrow.