Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Mormon 4:5

"But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed."
Mormon 4:5

This is interesting to me, mainly because of the "it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished" part.  We don't have to wait for the lightning forking out of the sky to strike us down... we mostly just get consequences that seem a natural part of life.  There is an educational movement that favors disciplining (in school and out) in a "natural" way... no arbitrary punishments, but natural consequences of actions... and there are good and bad sides to that, as with most things, but this scripture made me think of that whole school of thought and how God runs things. :)  He doesn't zap us from the sky to teach us obedience... he shows us how obedience makes our lives better and how disobedience makes our lives worse.   Most of the punishments we receive are from each other.  So it's interesting the way that it comes full circle.  In order to not be punished, we have to stop punishing others.  We have to stop the cycle somewhere... which is basically the golden rule, and the "judge not" rule too.   We have to live well and treat others well in order to live righteously and happily... and in order for that idea to work, everyone has to participate.  It's building Zion as well. :) Maybe the place to start, at least today, is to stop punishing people.  I honked my horn at two people today, in my little world of road-rage.  I need to stop that... I definitely don't want people honking at me when I do something stupid... so that's an example.  How do we punish the people around us for the things that they do wrong?  Let's stop... the first step to a better world.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Mosiah 26:30-31

"Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me.
And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation."
Mosiah 26:30-31

This is good... and something that I need to think about.  The second verse here basically tells us that forgiving other people is *part* of our own repentance.  That seems appropriate to me, since in the first verse we learn that God forgives us whenever we repent... so, to become more like him, we need to forgive more often. :)   Additionally, *maybe* those people don't "deserve" forgiveness... maybe they haven't asked for it, haven't changed their lives, or whatever... but that isn't part of the verse.  We need to forgive them anyway... if only for the simple reason that *we* don't deserve to be forgiven by others either.   We've all done stupid things; we've all offended people... let's be as nice to others as we are to ourselves, and forgive others as we are begging forgiveness for ourselves.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Helaman 13:25-27

"And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet."
Helaman 13:25-27

I think that this is true for our day as well. We have a tendency to believe people who flatter us and tell us that we are cool, and a tendency to avoid people who give us the hard facts about our sins.   We read about the Israelites and think... "psh... a golden calf?" and that they were crazy to get so evil in such a short time... but *are* we any better?  Do we listen to the prophet today?  He offers advice, and usually we assume that we are part of the exception rather than the rule.  Do we pick and choose which prophetic advice to follow?
I think this is something to think about for me, and perhaps something that we all need to consider.   Our true allies in life are the ones who will tell us when we're going astray, and also help us to get back on track.  It's nice to think that we're perfect... but we aren't. :)   We all need help, and have work to do in order to return to God's presence.  Let's face it rather than ignore it, and give thanks to the people that help us find the right way. :)

Monday, March 22, 2004

Helaman 14:16-18

"Yea, behold, this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death—that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual.
But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.
Yea, and it bringeth to pass the condition of repentance, that whosoever repenteth the same is not hewn down and cast into the fire; but whosoever repenteth not is hewn down and cast into the fire; and there cometh upon them again a spiritual death, yea, a second death, for they are cut off again as to things pertaining to righteousness."
Helaman 14:16-18

I think that this is interesting... I see the same seeming dilemma here that exists in the whole Garden of Eden thing. Adam and Eve were supposed to stay in the garden and not eat of the tree... but they did. It is a tragedy in a way, but it made our lives possible in another way... the same thing with Christ's suffering and death. It is the biggest tragedy in the history of Humanity... and yet, it made our resurrection and salvation possible. Because of Christ's death, we will all be resurrected, and because he took upon himself the sins of the world, we all have the chance to repent and triumph over our weaknesses.
The thing that I don't get is why (in the first verse), it says that being cut of from temporal things is part of Spiritual Death... any insights on that from my kind readers? Does it just mean that we can't realize the *full* blessings of the Earth (as it was in Garden of Eden days for instance... maybe we don't realize the full extent of that tragedy?)?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

3 Nephi 13:34

"Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof."
3 Nephi 13:34

I think that this is interesting, especially in light of the "eternal perspective" idea. :)  Immediate gratification is bad, so we should think long-term, right?  But how does that relate to this verse? :) Now, some will say that this scripture was meant only for the apostles, and that it doesn't apply to us... a popular argument, and you can use it if you like... but I think that it probably applies.
I think that the eternal perspective idea makes sense in the sense that we shouldn't risk eternity for a temporary fix of whatever our particular obsession is.  But we have to balance that with this advice, and what I see here is that we're supposed to focus on now... being happy now, addressing the problems we have *today*... We have plenty of evil things to worry about already without worrying about all the bad things that might happen later.  We already have good things that can make us happy today... we shouldn't have to focus on future happiness in order to deal with present despair.
So, while we're learning to balance long term thinking with immediate gratification, let's also remember not to put off solving the things that we need to face today. :)  Let's learn to be happy today, in the moment with God, and not think that all happiness comes after a life of suffering... or get discouraged thinking of the lifetime ahead where we also might have to face hard choices. :)  Today we have enough to worry about.  Let's not make it worse. :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Helaman 6:16-17

"And in the commencement of the sixty and seventh year the people began to grow exceedingly wicked again.
For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murders, and to rob and to plunder, that they might get gain."
Helaman 6:16-17

It's weird how we start getting complacent unless something bad happens. ... It's almost like we are hungry for evil.   If things are going well, we end up sitting on our posh butts, wondering how we can get into trouble. :)  If we aren't worrying about our basic needs, then we start worrying about power and pride, and all those crazy things.   Can't we be satisfied with something good? :)  Today, let's be happy with what we've got, and try not to get into any extra trouble. :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

3 Nephi 13:1

"Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven."
3 Nephi 13:1

Our motivations matter.  If we do the "right" thing for the wrong reasons, then we still have work to do.  I think it is okay to start that way, if we are trying to learn, but eventually we have to unite body and spirit in the service of God.  Just like loving God and wishing we were better is good, but not enough... acting good without that desire is not enough.  We have to love God, want to serve him, and then actually do it. :)  If we are good because we think our parents are going to freak out, that isn't good enough.  If we are good because that way we'll get a date with someone who admires us, that isn't good enough.   We get rewards for both of those, but not from God.  Someday, no matter how we learn... starting with the motivation or the action... we have to get to the point where we are making choices because we love those choices, and we are happier when we do the right things.  It's part of learning to be whole rather than divided within ourselves... so, let's continue learning. :)

Monday, March 15, 2004

Jarom 1:7

"And it came to pass that they came many times against us, the Nephites, to battle. But our kings and our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord; and they taught the people the ways of the Lord; wherefore, we withstood the Lamanites and swept them away out of our lands, and began to fortify our cities, or whatsoever place of our inheritance."
Jarom 1:7

This is cool. I like that he doesn't say "but we had a great big army, and we had a better military training program..." or something like that. He says that the leaders were mighty men in faith... they didn't have to be mighty in anything else.   Fascinating how our perspective changes when we have God in our lives.  "They taught the people the ways of the Lord; wherefore we withstood the Lamanites" ... that is just mind-boggling.   We win, even in war, because of our faith and knowledge of God.  They had an army, but it is never mentioned here, because that isn't the important part.  The important part is that they were doing what was right, and the Lord was watching out for them.  We have that same protection in our own lives... and whether our wars are bigger or smaller, what matters is never the size of the army or the cool new techniques we have for combat (physically or spiritually).  What matters is that we are doing what is right, and God is watching out for us.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Doctrine and Covenants 86:4-7

"But behold, in the last days, even now while the Lord is beginning to
bring forth the word, and the blade is springing up and is yet tender—
Behold, verily I say unto you, the angels are crying unto the Lord day and night, who are ready and waiting to be sent forth to reap down the fields;
But the Lord saith unto them, pluck not up the tares while the blade is yet tender (for verily your faith is weak), lest you destroy the wheat also.
Therefore, let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest is fully ripe; then ye shall first gather out the wheat from among the tares, and after the gathering of the wheat, behold and lo, the tares are bound in bundles, and the field remaineth to be burned."
Doctrine and Covenants 86:4-7

I like scriptures about the last days... not sure why.  Maybe I am too cynical or something. :)  This whole thing about the wheat and the tares makes me think about... what do the wheat and the tares symbolize?  ... are they people, or churches, or what?  It is also interesting that the angels are crying unto the Lord about it.  I mean, we live in a world that has a lot of bad stuff in it, but it must be way worse than even I, as a cynical person, perceive, if the angels are so worried about it.  Our faith is weak, as it says in the third verse, and so God lets the evil alone, so that we have a chance to reach our potential... which is cool.  Wheat and tares look pretty similar when they are young... let's make sure that we grow up into wheat, and take advantage of this chance the Lord gives us to distinguish ourselves from the tares. :)

Friday, March 12, 2004

Helaman 6:37-39

"And it came to pass that the Lamanites did hunt the band of robbers of Gadianton; and they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites.
And it came to pass on the other hand, that the Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations.
And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God."
Helaman 6:37-39

Interesting stuff... the Lamanites, in their newly-converted state, eradicate the bad guys (partly by preaching, which is cool...), but the Nephites, in their experienced-in-the-Gospel wisdom, help the bad guys take over the government.  Yikes... and really, too close to comfort in our modern world as well.  Interesting how they talk about it using the word "seduced" in the second verse.  Sin is attractive like that... "look, we murder and steal from people, and get away with it... wouldn't you like some of our stash?"   And the injustice of it all plays with your mind, and the money tempts you for so many reasons... and there you are, in the middle of it all.  Part of the evil.
What was different about the Lamanites and the Nephites here... why did the Lamanites find a different way to deal with things than the Nephites did?  Were they more experienced in that type of evil, and knew what to avoid?   Were the Nephites so used to the gospel that they could not take it seriously?  ... I think it all relates to the "endure to the end" mantra. :)  Enduring to the end isn't just gritting our teeth and getting through it painfully... it's retaining that hope and wonder and belief in the gospel all the time.  Remembering that it is still miraculous, no matter how many times we hear the same topic discussed in Sunday School... remembering that God still talks to us and answers prayers, even when we think we know it all. :)   Let's retain our hope, and not give in to temporary temptations, no matter how seductive they are.  We're children of God, not the Devil... let's remember that, and not repeat this part of Nephite history.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

"For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified."
1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

What struck me at first about this scripture is the last verse here... that "the Lord is the avenger of all such."  If we defraud each other, the person we have to worry about isn't the person we just hurt... it is God, who takes those offenses and deals with them himself. That's scary enough as it is, but the second thing that struck me here is that they are talking about fornication... which is why I added the earlier verses.  Fornication looks to be one of the manners of defrauding your brother.  That is interesting to me, and true. When we engage in sexual activity outside of marriage, what are we *doing* but defrauding each other?  Making promises that we can't possibly fulfill... attempting a bond that will undoubtedly be broken.  That sounds like fraud to me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Omni 1:30

"And I, Amaleki, had a brother, who also went with them; and I have not since known concerning them. And I am about to lie down in my grave; and these plates are full. And I make an end of my speaking."
Omni 1:30

I like the way that you can get insights into individual lives in the scriptures.  Amaleki had no children, so he gave the plates to the King, who he knew was a righteous man... and he missed his brother.  The cool thing is that WE get to know the end of the story.  Later in the scriptures we find out about the group of people that his brother went with, and what happened to all of them. :)  The scriptures are full of great stories, and great, interesting people. :)  ... Let's read some more! :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

1 John 2:4-5

"He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him."
1 John 2:4-5

This is interesting... I wonder if it means that we lose our knowledge of God as we get farther and farther off the path, or that when we sin, we obviously haven't gotten to know God, or we wouldn't do it in the first place.  I'm guessing the latter, but I really don't know. It is interesting to think about it the other way around too... we come to know God through living his commandments.  There isn't a way to separate the relationship from the gospel.  Kind of like people... we come to know other people through being involved in their lives, knowing what they love... those kinds of things.  And how can we possibly know God without knowing that everything he does is directed towards us, and trying to get us to come back to him?  How can we participate in his life without working towards the same end?  We don't know him if we can't keep the spirit with us... which means keeping the commandments. :)
I like the second verse too... the love of God is perfected in us if we keep his word... it's part of knowing him, but also part of knowing and loving others it seems. ...and "hereby know we that we are in him." ... We are part of him somehow, through the unity that comes from knowing God and participating in his plan.  We become part of something bigger than ourselves, and become more than we are in the process.  Not in some science fiction body-snatching way. :)  I just think that when we know anyone really well, and have a fabulous friendship, then we almost become part of each other... we know what the other will say, we participate in the other's joy, we have that kind of connection that is unseverable.... and who better to have that kind of a friendship with than God?   In fact, I'm sure any other comparison falls short... having God as your close friend is better than anything I can imagine. :) The first step is keeping the commandments... let's go for it.

Monday, March 8, 2004

Mosiah 16:12

"Having gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them; for the arms of mercy were extended towards them, and they would not; they being warned of their iniquities and yet they would not depart from them; and they were commanded to repent and yet they would not repent."
Mosiah 16:12

I think that we think of God as mean sometimes, especially when we read scriptures like this.  ... It can seem like he is mad at us, and we've done everything wrong, so we start feeling bad.  Which, of course, is silly. :)   The point of scriptures like this is to warn us not to make common mistakes, not to condemn us.  God's arms of mercy are there, open for us. He loves us, and wants us to take advantage of the plan of repentance.   He is working so hard to get us to see our mistakes, and to do what we can to correct them... but usually we just feel persecuted.  I think the reason is that we just don't want to give up our sins, whatever they are for each of us.  We have to know ourselves better, we have to do some mental and spiritual work to get to the point where we understand God's point of view. :)   We persist in thinking that we're smarter than God, and although that is pretty out there, somehow by not bringing it to the front of our minds, we are able to believe it.  Let's take a good look at ourselves today... and I do mean ourselves, not how this applies to persons B, C, or D.  What do we, personally, need to repent of?  Why aren't we doing it?  God's arms of mercy are extended to us... let's walk into them.

Sunday, March 7, 2004

James 4:7-8

"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded."
James 4:7-8

Submission to God... that is a hard thing.   Most of the time in our modern world we are resistant to submitting to anything. It seems weak, or uncool.  You definitely won't move up in the company if you are submissive... and you probably won't last long in a relationship (both of these because the submission is only one-sided... which is a topic for a whole other day...).  So, why does the scripture tell us this, when it seems such a scary thing? :)  I think that it is because we have to learn that there is more to life than pure aggressive power-seeking. :)   Submission and vulnerability are opposite of that "great sin of pride." ... they teach us a lot.
I like also the reciprocal nature of the second verse... God tells us, if you put forth some effort, then you'll accomplish something. :)   The big thing here that I noticed though, is "purify your hearts, ye double minded." ... I think, at least for me, that is is easy to be double-minded.  Especially if we divide our minds into intellectual and emotional components. :)   As in, "this makes sense... but I love this..." that kind of a thing.  And God says in response, "purify your hearts." ... Our hearts need to be united.  The things that make sense need to agree with the things that we love.  Our double-mindedness isn't the result of some oppressive societal truism... it's not some thing that just "happens" to us because of the nature of the universe... it is because we need to figure ourselves out, and purify our hearts.  So... something to work on today. :)

Saturday, March 6, 2004

Doctrine and Covenants 78:17-19 -- On Reliance and Thankfulness

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;
And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more."
Doctrine and Covenants 78:17-19

We're little children compared to God... a good thing to remember.  It is easy to start thinking that we are more than cool: that we can handle everything ourselves, especially our lives, or that we don't need God.  However, as this scripture tells us, we "cannot bear all things now."  We need help, and although independence is a good thing--learning to take responsibility for ourselves, to learn to stand on our own feet without leaning on other people--God is the only way we have any autonomy at all.  He is what allows us a sense of self. He offers us the choices that we make in life. 

Perhaps it seems ironic or contradictory, but only through reliance on God can we be truly free.  Just like I tell my students who are extolling the virtues of anarchy... sometimes we need laws in order to have more freedom.

Interesting as well, in these verses, that the rewards are specifically mentioned as earthly rewards.  A lot of times we have to deal with that whole delayed-gratification thing, and have faith that things will work out in the end. :)  This is actually a good thing that teaches us a lot of patience, but not so here. :)  "He who receiveth all things with thankfulness" doesn't have to wait long. Earthly rewards are specifically promised. :) 

So, you know, in addition to learning to be independent today, perhaps we should take some time to thank God for making it possible for us to be independent beings... to be able to choose and act and learn. :)

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