Sunday, February 28, 2010
"The outlook for the world is not encouraging, but we know what the answer is. There is only one answer, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peace must come from the heart. Men's hearts must change, and righteousness must rule in the lives of the people of the world before peace can come. May God hasten the day. May the message of the restored gospel go forward in great force, by increasing numbers, that God's children may escape the calamities which are impending" (in Conference Report, Apr. 1947, 157).
Thursday, February 25, 2010
“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 5; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 6 ).
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
“From my own experience with life’s hardships I have learned that faith in God develops a personal love for Him which is reciprocated through his blessings to us in times of need. ... Do not fear the challenges of life, but approach them patiently, with faith in God. He will reward your faith with power not only to endure, but also to overcome hardships, disappointments, trials, and struggles of daily living. Through diligently striving to live the law of God and with faith in Him, we will not be diverted from our eternal course either by the ways or the praise of the world” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 36; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 26 )
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
“Two characteristics identify Christians: (1) they profess belief in the Savior, and (2) they act in harmony with the Savior’s teachings. Faithful members of the Church, called Saints or Latter-day Saints, qualify clearly in both characteristics. In our belief and our action, we demonstrate that ‘Jesus Christ himself [is] the chief corner stone’ of our faith [ Ephesians 2:20 ]....
“... By definition a Christian not only professes belief in the Savior, but a Christian lives and acts according to the teachings and commandments of Jesus Christ. He taught, ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father’ [ Matthew 7:21 ; italics added]. Jesus also said, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ [ John 14:15 ; D&C 124:87 ]. He commanded us to pattern our lives after His [see 3Nephi 12:48 ; Matthew 5:48 ; 3Nephi 27:27]. True disciples of the Lord must be ‘doers of the word, and not hearers only’ [ James 1:22 ]....“As we take His name upon us, we most certainly are Christians, for we bear the name of Christ. Each week as we partake of the emblems of bread and water, we do it in remembrance of Him. We renew our covenant that we ‘are willing to take upon [us] the name of [the] Son [of God], and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given [us]’ [ D&C 20:77 ]” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 96, 98–99; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 70, 72
Sunday, February 21, 2010
The Sacrament is an important ordinance in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He instituted this ordinance at the "Last supper" before his crucifixion. In Luke 22:19,20 we read, "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." The Book of Mormon records that He also instituted this ordinance among the people of ancient America. The sacrament, according to LDS belief is, "..an ordinance in which Church members partake of bread and water in remembrance of Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice. This ordinance is an essential part of worship and spiritual development. Through this ordinance, Church members renew the covenants they made with God when they were baptized."
In additional LDS scripture, we have recorded the sacrament prayers that we today use in this ordinance. This is the prayer for the bread:
"O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen." (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77
I have personally found that when taking the bread, it is a good time to focus on how the Savior gave His body for us, and then resurrected it so that we can all be resurrected after death. When preparing the sacrament, Priesthood holders cover it with a white cloth until time to administer it to the congregation. I can't help but be reminded of the burial clothes that covered the Savior's body in the tomb.
When the Savior taught his disciples about the sacrament, He used new wine. Today we use water. In modern revelation we read, "That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him. And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make." (Doctrine and Covenants 89:5,6) We also get this further direction, "For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins." (Doctrine and Covenants 27:2)
This is the prayer for the water:
"O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen." (Doctrine and Covenants 22:78)
When I take the water, I find it helpful to focus on the blood that the Savior shed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He took upon Himself the sins of the world, and so great was His anguish that He bled from every pore. I think about my own sins that caused Him anguish, and I think about what I can do to overcome them. I always like to pray and ask forgiveness and also ask for help in overcoming my weaknesses. John H. Groberg taught, "What does it mean to partake of the sacrament worthily? Or how do we know if we are unworthy? "If we desire to improve (which is to repent) and are not under priesthood restriction, then, in my opinion, we are worthy. If, however, we have no desire to improve, if we have no intention of following the guidance of the Spirit, we must ask: Are we worthy to partake, or are we making a mockery of the very purpose of the sacrament, which is to act as a catalyst for personal repentance and improvement? If we remember the Savior and all he has done and will do for us, we will improve our actions and thus come closer to him, which keeps us on the road to eternal life....I testify from the depths of my soul that these principles are true. Jesus did suffer and die for us. Through him, and only through him, can we have life and the joy thereof, both in time and in eternity.
I love the Savior. I feel that as he hung upon the cross and looked out over the dark scene, he saw more than mocking soldiers and cruel taunters. He saw more than crying women and fearful friends. He remembered and saw even more than women at wells or crowds on hills or throngs by seashores. He saw more, much more. He, who knows all and has all power, saw through the stream of time. His huge, magnanimous, loving soul encompassed all eternity and took in all people and all times and all sins and all forgiveness and all everything. Yes, he saw down to you and to me and provided us an all-encompassing opportunity to escape the terrible consequences of death and sin."
(“The Beauty and Importance of the Sacrament,” Ensign, May 1989, 38)
Taking the sacrament is one of the most important reasons for our Sabbath worship. Recently I was talking to a friend who doesn't attend church. She said, "I don't think I need to go to church to learn how to be a good person." I said, "I don't just go to church to learn how to be a good person, I go to participate in the ordinances such as baptism and the sacrament." She replied, "That's true." Maybe some day I can convince her to attend church. There is great power that comes from taking the sacrament each week. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, "
We live in the perilous times prophesied by the Apostle Paul (see 2 Timothy 3:1). Those who try to walk the straight and narrow path see inviting detours on every hand. We can be distracted, degraded, downhearted, or depressed. How can we have the Spirit of the Lord to guide our choices and keep us on the path?
In modern revelation the Lord gave the answer in this commandment:
“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
“For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High” (D&C 59:9–10).
This is a commandment with a promise. By participating weekly and appropriately in the ordinance of the sacrament we qualify for the promise that we will “always have his Spirit to be with [us]” (D&C 20:77). That Spirit is the foundation of our testimony. It testifies of the Father and the Son, brings all things to our remembrance, and leads us into truth. It is the compass to guide us on our path. This gift of the Holy Ghost, President Wilford Woodruff taught, “is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon man” (Deseret Weekly, Apr. 6, 1889, 451)."(“Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 17–20)
The ordinance of the sacrament is very pure but simple. It isn't administered in a loud or gregarious way, but in a reverent and simple manner. It is intensely personal for the one partaking. If you attend one of our meetings, you will notice that there is quiet during the sacrament. This is as it should be, to allow all to worship individually. I am thankful for the opportunity I have each week to partake of the sacrament and renew my baptismal covenants. It helps me to take inventory of where I stand with God, and to think deeply about the sacrifice of our Savior.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Pres. Wilford Woodruff taught:
“If we had before us every revelation which God ever gave to man ... and they were piled up here a hundred feet high, the Church and kingdom of God could not grow, in this or any other age of the world, without the living oracles of God” (“The Keys of the Kingdom,” Millennial Star, 2Sept. 1889, 548).
Elder John Taylor taught,
“Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah’s revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves” (“On Priesthood,” Millennial Star, 1Nov. 1847, 323).
Sister Virginia U. Jensen said:
“There aren’t many guarantees in this life. ... Nothing man-made or man-controlled can ever be truly guaranteed! But here’s the miracle. The Lord has given some marvelous guarantees without any disclaimers. And this is one of them: He will choose the prophet, and He will never let that man lead us astray. Imagine for a moment the impact of that promise. There is at least one place we can turn for pure, unpolluted guidance”
(in Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 14; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 13 .)
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
“Joy and happiness come from living the way the Lord wants you to live”
(The 1990 For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, published under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, 4, 19).
10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
11 Now there is not any man that can sacrifice his own blood which will atone for the sins of another. Now, if a man murdereth, behold will our law, which is just, take the life of his brother? I say unto you, Nay.
12 But the law requireth the life of him who hath murdered; therefore there can be nothing which is short of an infinite atonement which will suffice for the sins of the world.
13 Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.
14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.
15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
16 And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.
17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
Sunday, February 14, 2010
President George Q. Cannon said once: "No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is [against] His character [to do so]. He is an unchangeable being. . . . He will stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and the purer for them, if we only trust in our God and keep His commandments."22
Those who will receive the Lord Jesus Christ as the source of their salvation will always lie down in green pastures, no matter how barren and bleak the winter has been. And the waters of their refreshment will always be still waters, no matter how turbulent the storms of life. In walking His path of righteousness, our souls will be forever restored; and though that path may for us, as it did for Him, lead through the very valley of the shadow of death, yet we will fear no evil. The rod of His priesthood and the staff of His Spirit will always comfort us. And when we hunger and thirst in the effort, He will prepare a veritable feast before us, a table spread even in the presence of our enemies--contemporary enemies--which might include fear or family worries, sickness or personal sorrow of a hundred different kinds. In a crowning act of compassion at such a supper He anoints our head with oil and administers a blessing of strength to our soul. Our cup runneth over with His kindness, and our tears runneth over with joy. We weep to know that such goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life, and that we will, if we desire it, dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (October conference 1997, "He Hath Filled the Hungry with Good Things")
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
"Inquiries arise from time to time respecting the attitude of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints upon questions which, though not vital from a doctrinal standpoint, are closely connected with the fundamental principles of salvation. The latest inquiry of this kind that has reached us is in relation to the origin of man. It is believed that a statement of the position held by the Church upon this subject will be timely and productive of good.
In presenting the statement that follows we are not conscious of putting forth anything essentially new; neither is it our desire so to do. Truth is what we wish to present, and truth—eternal truth—is fundamentally old. A restatement of the original attitude of the Church relative to this matter is all that will be attempted here. To tell the truth as God has revealed it, and commend it to the acceptance of those who need to conform their opinions thereto, is the sole purpose of this presentation.
“God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” In these plain and pointed words the inspired author of the book of Genesis made known to the world the truth concerning the origin of the human family. Moses, the prophet-historian—“learned,” as we are told, “in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”—when making this important announcement was not voicing a mere opinion, a theory derived from his researches into the occult lore of that ancient people. He was speaking as the mouthpiece of God, and his solemn declaration was for all time and for all people. No subsequent revelator of the truth has contradicted the great leader and lawgiver of Israel. All who have since spoken by divine authority upon this theme have confirmed his simple and sublime proclamation. Nor could it be otherwise. Truth has but one source, and all revelations from heaven are harmonious with each other. The omnipotent Creator, the maker of heaven and earth, had shown unto Moses everything pertaining to this planet, including the facts relating to man’s origin, and the authoritative pronouncement of that mighty prophet and seer to the house of Israel, and through Israel to the whole world, is couched in the simple clause: “God created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:27; see Moses 1:27–41).
The creation was two fold—first spiritual, secondly temporal. This truth, also, Moses plainly taught—much more plainly than it has come down to us in the imperfect translations of the Bible that are now in use. Therein the fact of a spiritual creation, antedating the temporal creation, is strongly implied, but the proof of it is not so clear and conclusive as in other records held by the Latter-day Saints to be of equal authority with the Jewish scriptures. The partial obscurity of the latter upon the point in question is owing, no doubt, to the loss of those “plain and precious” parts of sacred writ, which, as the Book of Mormon informs us, have been taken away from the Bible during its passage down the centuries (see 1 Ne. 13:24–29). Some of these missing parts the Prophet Joseph Smith undertook to restore when he revised those scriptures by the spirit of revelation, the result being that more complete account of the Creation which is found in the book of Moses, previously cited. Note the following passages:
“And now, behold, I say unto you, that these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth,
“And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them, and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air;
“But, I, the Lord God, spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
“And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word” (Moses 3:4–7; see also Moses 1 and Moses 2, and compare with Gen. 1 and Gen. 2).
These two points being established, namely, the creation of man in the image of God, and the twofold character of the Creation, let us now inquire: What was the form of man, in the spirit and in the body, as originally created? In a general way the answer is given in the words chosen as the text of this treatise. “God created man in his own image.” It is more explicitly rendered in the Book of Mormon thus: “All men were created in the beginning after mine own image” (Ether 3:15). … If, therefore, we can ascertain the form of the “Father of spirits,” “The God of the spirits of all flesh,” we shall be able to discover the form of the original man.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is “the express image” of His Father’s person (Heb. 1:3). He walked the earth as a human being, as a perfect man, and said, in answer to a question put to Him: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). This alone ought to solve the problem to the satisfaction of every thoughtful, reverent mind. The conclusion is irresistible, that if the Son of God be the express image (that is, likeness) of His Father’s person, then His Father is in the form of a man; for that was the form of the Son of God, not only during His mortal life, but before His mortal birth, and after His Resurrection. It was in this form that the Father and the Son, as two personages, appeared to Joseph Smith, when, as a boy of 14 years, he received his first vision. Then if God made man—the first man—in His own image and likeness, He must have made him like unto Christ, and consequently like unto men of Christ’s time and of the present day. That man was made in the image of Christ is positively stated in the book of Moses: “And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so. …
“And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them” (Moses 2:26–27).
The Father of Jesus is our Father also. Jesus Himself taught this truth when He instructed His disciples how to pray: “Our Father which art in heaven,” etc. Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God—the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like Him, are in the image of God. All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.
“God created man in His own image.” This is just as true of the spirit as it is of the body, which is only the clothing of the spirit, its complement—the two together constituting the soul. The spirit of man is in the form of man, and the spirits of all creatures are in the likeness of their bodies. This was plainly taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith (see D&C 77:2).
Here is further evidence of the fact. More than 700 years before Moses was shown the things pertaining to this earth, another great prophet, known to us as the brother of Jared, was similarly favored by the Lord. He was even permitted to behold the spirit-body of the foreordained Savior, prior to His incarnation; and so like the body of a man was gazing upon a being of flesh and blood. He first saw the finger and then the entire body of the Lord—all in the spirit. The Book of Mormon says of this wonderful manifestation:
“And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.
“And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said to him: Arise, why hast thou fallen?
“And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.
“And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?
“And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.
“And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?
“And he answered, Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.
“And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.
“Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.
“And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.
“Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh” (Ether 3:6–16).
What more is needed to convince us that man, both in spirit and in body, is the image and likeness of God and that God Himself is in the form of a man?
When the divine Being whose spirit-body the brother of Jared beheld took upon Him flesh and blood, He appeared as a man, having “body, parts and passions,” like other men, though vastly superior to all others, because He was God, even the Son of God, the Word made flesh: in Him “dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” And why should He not appear as a man? That was the form of His spirit, and it must needs have an appropriate covering, a suitable tabernacle. He came into the world as He had promised to come (see 3 Ne. 1:13), taking an infant tabernacle and developing it gradually to the fulness of His spirit stature. He came as man had been coming for ages and as man has continued to come ever since. Jesus, however, as shown, was the Only Begotten of God in the flesh.
Adam, our first progenitor, “the first man,” was, like Christ, a preexistent spirit, and like Christ he took upon him an appropriate body, the body of a man, and so became a “living soul.” The doctrine of the preexistence—revealed so plainly, particularly in latter days—pours a wonderful flood of light upon the otherwise mysterious problem of man’s origin. It shows that man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body to undergo an experience in mortality. It teaches that all men existed in the spirit before any man existed in the flesh and that all who have inhabited the earth since Adam have taken bodies and become souls in like manner.
It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declared that Adam was “the first man of all men” (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race. It was shown to the brother of Jared that all men were created in the beginning after the image of God; whether we take this to mean the spirit or the body, or both, it commits us to the same conclusion: Man began life as a human being, in the likeness of our Heavenly Father.
True it is that the body of man enters upon its career as a tiny germ embryo, which becomes an infant, quickened at a certain stage by the spirit whose tabernacle it is, and the child, after being born, develops into a man. There is nothing in this, however, to indicate that the original man, the first of our race, began life as anything less than a man, or less than the human germ or embryo that becomes a man.
Man, by searching, cannot find out God. Never, unaided, will he discover the truth about the beginning of human life. The Lord must reveal Himself or remain unrevealed; and the same is true of the facts relating to the origin of Adam’s race—God alone can reveal them. Some of these facts, however, are already known, and what has been made known it is our duty to receive and retain.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity. God Himself is an exalted man, perfected, enthroned, and supreme. By His almighty power He organized the earth and all that it contains, from spirit and element, which exist coeternally with Himself. He formed every plant that grows and every animal that breathes, each after its own kind, spiritually and temporally—“that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal, and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual.” He made the tadpole and the ape, the lion and the elephant, but He did not make them in His own image, nor endow them with godlike reason and intelligence. Nevertheless, the whole animal creation will be perfected and perpetuated in the Hereafter, each class in its “distinct order or sphere,” and will enjoy “eternal felicity.” That fact has been made plain in this dispensation (see D&C 77:3).
Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God."
Joseph F. Smith
John R. Winder
Anthon H. Lund
First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Saturday, February 6, 2010
"The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, ie: anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it's like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit." R. G. Scott
I woke up early this morning and had many thoughts swirling about in my brain, and finally decided I wanted to blog them so I can go back to sleep. :) I'm making this a double blog post, putting it on both my religion blog, and my regular blog because I couldn't choose between the two.
This week in seminary, we have been studying the teachings of Alma concerning faith. In chapter 32 he likens faith to a seed. He says, "if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me." (Alma 32:28) Being a terrible gardner, I totally understand how important it is to have a good seed to start with. Countless times I have planted seeds that either weren't good, or I didn't plant them correctly or didnt' nurture them correctly. In order for a seed to grow, it has to have the right conditions. The seed of faith is the same. It can't grow in a person whose soil is full of pride, or sin, or doubt. I like the way Alma describes the growth of the seed as being a swelling in the breast. When I study the gospel, I often have that sort of swelling feeling in my heart that what I'm studying about is true. It really does feel like a swelling in my mind and heart.
As I was thinking this morning about how you can be sure it is a good seed if it starts to grow, it occurred to me that while we are planting our good seeds, Satan is planting seeds of doubt. In the same way that the good seed can swell within us when we nurture it, so too, if we nurture those seeds of doubt, they will also swell and grow within us. Alma warns that if it is not a good seed, we should cast it away.
One thing I have noticed in my attempt to grow good seeds in my garden, is that weeds don't take as much nurture as vegetable plants. I have seen weeds grow out of cracks in the sidewalk where there isn't much soil. If left unattended, they can choke out the good plants, and rob them of nourishment. They can also wind their roots in to the root system of the healthy plants so that you can't pull the one without pulling up the other. The Savior talked about this principle in the parable of the wheat and the tares. The best course of action in building a testimony is to not even let the seeds of doubt grow enough to put down roots.
I was talking with someone this week whose wife has lost her testimony. From what I understand, she read something that cast a doubt in her mind, and she nurtured that doubt until she no longer had the faith to attend church anymore. The impact on her family has been devastating. I also talked with another person whose spouse also lost their testimony, but in this case, I think it was a matter of neglect. It's so easy to lose our faith when we don't do the things that strengthen it. Sabbath observance, prayer and scripture study are to faith, as good soil, water and fertilizer are to a growing plant. They are the very life blood of testimony. If we neglect these three things, our seed of faith can't survive. And even grown plants cannot survive if they are left unattended. None of us are immune to losing our faith if we don't nurture it.
I have allowed the seed of faith to grow up and produce fruit for me. I have tasted the fruit, and I know that this plant is precious. Even though it is a grown plant in me, it still can die if I don't continue to nourish it. It would be a shame to lose this fruit because of simple neglect. It's very easy to neglect our faith. It doesn't take any action on our part at all. All we have to do is NOT do anything. It takes effort to pray. It doesn't take any effort to stop praying. It takes effort to get up for church on Sunday. It takes no effort at all to sleep in. It takes effort to read our scriptures regularly. But it is very easy to just put scripture study off for another day.
My experience is that no matter what we do, or don't do, seeds will still be sown in our minds. If we aren't paying attention, we can allow seeds of doubt to take over. The weeding process is much more difficult than it might seem. I've found weeds in my vegetable garden that I couldn't pull out by hand. I had to use a shovel to get way down deep to the long roots. It took great effort on my part, and in some cases I couldn't get all of the root. The best course of action is to remove the weeds before they get large, and harder to take out.
The fruit of our labor really is worth the work. Alma taught, "42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
Seeds are being sown in our minds and hearts. Some of those are being sown by us, and some are being sown by our enemy. Which ones will we allow to grow and flourish?
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Tonight I had the privilege of going with the youth to help them while they did baptisms for the dead in the Oakland temple. When I was a youth, I also did baptisms for the dead. This is an ordinance that any worthy baptized member over the age of 12 can do, but for some reason, it is more commonly done by the youth of the church. As I watched them tonight, I felt again what a great privilege it is to help those who cannot help themselves. I also was reminded of the amount of work still needing to be done. The work of geneology still goes forward to find our ancestors so that they can receive the saving ordinances.
I was very impressed tonight with our virtuous youth who willingly took time out of their busy day to serve in this way. It is such a wonderfully spiritual experience for the youth to enter the holy temple and take part in this important ordinance. What a great opportunity for them to meditate upon eternal principles and the plan of salvation. Surely they come away with a better perspective of their relationship to God.
One of the wonderful things about being in the temple is that there is no distinction between us with regards to socio-economic status, or fame, or education. We are all dressed in white, and we are all serving together as brothers and sisters. Some of the youth in attendance tonight were from the Latino congregation. It was wonderful to listen to the ordinances being performed in spanish for them, and then in english for the youth from our congregation. Though the languages were different, we all felt the unity of the gospel.
The temple is one of the few places in this world where we can escape the evils of the world. In the temple, the holy spirit is felt in abundance, and we can feel that truly we are walking on hallowed ground. I hope that these youth will develop a life long practice of attending the temple, and worshipping there, for I know it will bring great blessings of peace to their lives.
Below is a picture of the baptismal font of the Oakland temple.
“The strength of the Church lies in the conviction carried in the hearts of its members, by the individual members of the Church. It is the privilege, it is the opportunity, it is the obligation of every Latter-day Saint to gain for himself or herself a certain knowledge that this is the work of the Almighty, that God our Eternal Father lives and watches over His children when they look to Him in faith; that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of all mankind, who rose from the dead to become the firstfruits of them that slept. That testimony ... is the most precious possession that any of us can hold” ( Teachings of GordonB. Hinckley, 647).
“I am satisfied, I know it’s so, that whenever a man has a true witness in his heart of the living reality of the Lord Jesus Christ all else will come together as it should. ... That is the root from which all virtue springs among those who call themselves Latter-day Saints” ( Teachings of GordonB. Hinckley, 648).
This is part of a great discourse given by the prophet Alma to a people who did not believe in Jesus Christ. He likens this belief to a seed, and gives counsel on how to grow that belief.
Alma 32 27-43
Monday, February 1, 2010
“When individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, these other areas of activity will automatically come. Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow” ( “The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 81 ).
Pres. Spencer W. Kimball:
“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.” (“What I Hope You Will Teach My Grandchildren and All Others of the Youth of Zion,” address to Seminary and Institute personnel, Brigham Young University, 11 July 1966, p. 6.)
Pres. Joseph Smith:
“Search the scriptures—search the revelations … and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 11–12.)
Elder L. Lionel Kendrick:
"It is not enough to read the scriptures. Random reading results in reduced retention. We must search for specifics. We must seek for truth and increased understanding of its application in our lives.
If we are to be effective in our study of the scriptures, we must prepare for it to be a special spiritual experience. The following suggestions may be helpful.
Schedule a time to search the scriptures daily. Scripture study is such an essential part of our spiritual development that we must take time and make it a priority in our daily schedule. Our spirits should never be deprived of the much-needed spiritual nourishment which comes from scripture study. Without this spiritual food our spirits become starved and weakened to temptation.
President Kimball taught the principle that “no father, no son, no mother, no daughter should get so busy that he or she does not have time to study the scriptures and the words of modern prophets.” (Ensign, May 1976, p. 47.)
We should begin and end each study session with prayer. We must invite the Spirit to teach us. Nephi taught that: “the mysteries of God shall be unfolded … by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (1 Ne. 10:19.)
To search is to seek, to explore, to examine carefully. As we study we should do so with purpose, searching for specifics and an expansion of our vision of eternal truth. We must search for principles, doctrines, answers to questions, and solutions to problems. We should look for doctrinal relationships and for possible hidden meanings of that which has been recorded.
To ponder is to meditate, to think, to feast, and to treasure. It is more than a mental method, it is a spiritual striving to obtain and to understand truth. We should follow the process taught by the Savior to the Nephites as he taught them sacred principles. He then instructed them to “Go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow.” (3 Ne. 17:3.)
We should ponder the meanings of the things we learn from our search of the scriptures. The Apostle Paul instructed the Philippian Saints to “think on these things.” (Philip. 4:8.) To think involves forming mental images in the mind and focusing intently upon that which has been discovered. Nephi counseled to “feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:3.) To feast is to consume, to digest, to absorb.
As we ponder, we should follow the counsel of the Savior when he said, “Treasure up in your minds continually the words of life.” (D&C 84:85). This implies that we should repeat in our minds the principles we have learned and draw upon them in each of our decisions.
Nephi has counseled to “liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” (1 Ne. 19:23.) We must read as if the Lord were speaking directly to us in a personal manner.
President Marion G. Romney counseled: “Learning the gospel from the written word … is not enough. It must also be lived. … One cannot fully learn the gospel without living it.” (Ensign, Sept. 1980, p. 4.) As we learn a principle, we must make a real effort to apply and to live it in our life."(L. Lionel Kendrick, “Search the Scriptures,” Ensign, May 1993, 13)