Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Alma 12:10-11

"And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell."
Alma 12:10-11

It is cool, and also very very scary, to think that our knowledge and memories are affected by the state of our hearts. It is cool because it's this awesome opportunity to learn without so much studying as just being open and willing to learn and to receive that blessing from God. 

I love that idea of just kind of having knowledge poured into your mind. Wow. :) And I think that God does that sometimes for us... if we're open and willing, and ready to listen and understand. ... 

The idea is also amazingly scary because as soon as we turn away from that, and shut down, and stop listening, that same knowledge that we got in the cool, amazing way... we can just lose it again. It's like the spirit... or lots of things: friendship, relationships, or a job. All of those things we can easily lose if we don't value them and work to maintain them... or we fail to prioritize them in our lives. 

Our knowledge and memory, especially spiritual knowledge, is like that. We have to maintain our relationship with God in order to keep it. It's something that progresses one way or the other... we're either learning more and more about God, until we know everything (how cool is that?), or we're losing knowledge, little by little, until we know nothing in that regard... and that is the scariest part of all. Because then it's really true at that point... we don't know God at all, and he doesn't know us... not because of any lack of knowledge on his part, but because we chose to withdraw ourselves from the relationship. We're not even acquaintances anymore.

In this story, since we're children, and God is our protector, choosing not to know God is like choosing not to go home after kindergarten and instead getting into a stranger's car. We don't get to choose to be independent of both God and Satan. We're not mature enough and we don't know enough for that. It's one or the other. The parent or the stranger with candy. Today, let's stay far away from that candy, no matter how tempting, and keep our heads (literally our knowledge and memories) by sticking with God and opening our hearts and our minds to him.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Matthew 11:28-30 -- On Burdens and Rest

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

I love the idea of this scripture... that God will give us rest. That if we yoke ourselves with Christ, everything is easier. Sometimes, with our limited earthly perspective, it is easy to start thinking of God's plan as a hard thing or a burden. We have lessons on the value of work, and people frequently talk about willpower and sacrifice, and unlike many other churches, we think of Heaven as a place where we continue to work and learn and do... and we can start thinking of the afterlife as just an extension of this life, with more of the same. Falling into this idea of heaven as a continued burden can make people not want to bother with trying to get there... deciding to settle for something less because that sort of heaven just seems too hard, or really, maybe we're just not the type of people that want to slave and sacrifice for eternity. And hey, I agree... if Heaven is just unpleasant work, I'd rather take a nap myself.
It's an understandable way of thinking... work is central to our lives here, and we know that God works to help us. However, I don't think that work on Earth and work for God are even close to the same... God's work is tough, but for someone who can move mountains and walk on water... I'm not sure how even that could be physically burdensome.
One of the coolest glimpses we have into the changes that our bodies will undergo after this life is the three Nephites. They really *were* going to get several lifetimes of "more of the same," and Christ said this: "ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world." No pain at all (wow!) and no sorrow, except in a limited way. That sounds pretty cool. Pain and sorrow were some things introduced into mortality after Adam and Eve transgressed... and apparently, they can be taken away again, after we learn what they are meant to teach us.
And the people of Alma... they were in bondage and slavery... and God made their burdens light and strengthened them, so that even in a situation where they could get killed for praying, and they were in slavery, "they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." That's some pretty cool stuff, and that is something that we can have now. God isn't only promising us rest when we become like him (no aging! hurrah!), or after taking 900 level graduate courses in heaven... God offers us rest today. No matter how hard our lives are, or how many burdens we have on our backs, God asks us to come unto him, put him first, make him part of our lives... and he will help us carry every burden, and shoulder every weight. Today, let's look to God. Let's take the time to pray and get to know him, and allow him to lift some of our burden... of stress, of effort, or pain, of guilt, of sorrow, or of being too busy to think. :) He loves us, and will help us if we come to him.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

1 Peter 5:6-7 -- On God's Care

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."
1 Peter 5:6-7

This is great stuff. I think that the verses are basically saying that instead of resisting God, we should trust and rely on him... why? because he loves us. Thinking about God sometimes can be like thinking about any other authority figure... a parent, a teacher, a boss... and sometimes people telling us what to do or how to live our lives can grate on us and we feel this rebelliousness and want to start saying no, even to the most reasonable requests. :)

Aside from learning to trust people in general, and accept help, God is significantly different from other authority figures. First because he knows us SO well. Before this life, we knew each other, and he knows us even better than a best-friend level knowledge... if he were with us today, he could finish all our sentences, and order lunch for us and get it exactly right. He knows our hopes, dreams, secret ambitions... all of it. There is no one on Earth who knows us as well as God does. And he knows our bad sides too, and still loves us more than anyone else ever could. He's on our side even when no one else is... rooting for us, and doing everything he can to help us to learn and become even better. :) He is more trustworthy than anyone else, and always keeps his promises.

Now, of course, he won't give us everything that we want, or solve all of our problems, or remove the consequences of our mistakes in many cases. We still have to learn. He isn't a Genie who will grant all our wishes whether they are good for us or not... but if we think of him as a loving Father, a superhuman best friend, a brilliant teacher, a wise and supportive boss... he is all of those things rolled into one, and there is no one anywhere that deserves our trust and love and humility and willingness to learn more than he does. We can cast all our care... both love and worries... on him, and he will accept and respond to all of our emotion and communication with him. He wants so much to talk to us and to be part of our lives.

Today, let's accept God into our lives and be humble with him... accepting his help, knowing that God will lift us up, and love us. :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Moses 7:62

"And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem."
Moses 7:62

This is great imagery... righteousness from heaven, truth from earth, and both sweeping the earth as with a flood... all leading to Zion. :) I like the idea of this flood not being destructive as was the flood of water in the time of Noah... but this one is constructive instead... gathering people from the Earth to come and build Zion. Doesn't it make you want to be a part of that... to be caught up in that flood? :) I can't imagine how cool it would be, even if you could just hammer one nail during the construction... to be part of that flood, that idea... building perfection and having the opportunity to be part of it. Today, let's prepare for that time by embracing the righteousness and truth that we have now, and by working on being Zion people now. People who bless others and include them in our circles. People who lift people up and find the good... who look at others with love, no matter who they are or what we know of them. Let's take a few steps towards Zion.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Matthew 9:20-22 -- On Faith, Patience, and Healing

"And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:
For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour."
Matthew 9:20-22

This woman was amazing. After twelve years dealing with one problem, she still hadn't given up or given in to it and let it run her life. She had hope, and even after all that time, she believed that just touching the hem of Christ's robe would make her whole. And her faith and hope and persistence led her to the place and time that could free her from that burden and challenge. I wonder if we have some of that same strength within us. We face long-term challenges as well... things that are hard for us individually, and that we can't seem to overcome. And do we just give up and give in, thinking that is just the way life is, or the way that *we* are? Or can we, like the woman, continue to have hope and faith that God will heal us and free us of our burdens? I don't think it is easy to have that kind of faith and patience. We want our challenges to be over NOW, and if God says "only twelve more years" it's pretty tough to hear... just like when we're little and we ask how long till we're grown up. :) But, just as when we were little, patience and faith can get us through. If we became adults overnight without learning all of the things in between, we might be pretty scary adults. And perhaps it is the same with some of our long-term challenges. We might still have things to learn... even if only about patience and hope and faith. Today, let's remember the woman who could still believe after 12 years that she could be freed from her disease of body... and let's have faith and hope in God that we can yet triumph over our obstacles and be healed of our diseases, whether they be physical or otherwise. And let's have the patience to seek out Christ, however long it takes, to receive that healing.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Moses 7:18-19 -- On Building Zion

"And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.
And Enoch continued his preaching in righteousness unto the people of God. And it came to pass in his days, that he built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion."
Moses 7:18-19

I love the idea of Zion... building a Zion community, and improving ourselves as people who could fit into Zion. It takes a lot of work to be a member of a Zion community. God gives us a lot of ideas about how to work towards an ideal society, and the places in the scriptures or in history where people got there or almost got there are amazing to me.

 These phrases... one heart and one mind. I don't think this means that we have to like the same kinds of music or become a hive-mind like the Borg. But it probably does mean that we have to value the same basic principles and ideals... valuing life, freedom, love for each other... and work towards the same goals.

Dwelt in righteousness: if anyone has the power to help people achieve the kind of peace and unity in a Zion community, it is God, and living his principles seems to be necessary to this kind of society. 

No poor among them: wow. That is inspiring, and humbling. They took care of each other and made sure that everyone had enough. I think it is amazing that Enoch could build a city where everyone lived that way.

I don't know if I could fit in there, but I so want to be able to someday. In working toward that, I not only need to make sure that I am communicating with and right with God, but also that I am communicating with and supporting my fellow human beings... my brothers and sisters and fellow potential members of a Zion people. This is something that we achieve together, not separately. 

Today, let's think about what we could do to make ourselves and our communities more Zionish. :) Let's talk to God about it, and take some first steps towards Zion.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mosiah 4:13

"And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due."
Mosiah 4:13

King Benjamin is one of my heroes, seriously. What an amazing leader. This whole chapter is jam-packed with goodness, but this stood out to me today... I think because what he is saying here seems so amazing to me. Never wanting to injure another person--I'm guessing this is a lot more than physical harm, but never wanting to hurt anyone emotionally or wanting to "get back" at them for a political move as well. And that's everyone... people in jail. People who exert unjust authority over you. People in other countries, or people who are breaking laws. People you are mad at. :) ... Not wanting to injure anyone, in any way. I really love that. And to give everyone what he deserves... I'm guessing in a positive way, since the first part already kind of obviates the argument for anyone deserving "a knuckle sandwich" or anything bad. :) The whole idea of really at the core *wanting* to live in peace, and have everyone get a fair shake, instead of the more common just wanting the scales of injustice to tip in our favor... that's pretty cool, and seems so far away as a society sometimes. Today, let's work on the goal of living peaceably. Let's remember God, talk to him, and really look at other people as our brothers and sisters. Would we act the same towards other people if they were family?
They are.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ecclesiastes 4:6

"Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit."
Ecclesiastes 4:6

When I read this and think of a handful or two hands full, I picture a little boy who wants all the candy he can get, and who scoops as much as he can into his mouth and grabs more. :) And, in a little kid I think it is sometimes cute, trying to get as much as possible of a good thing. :) And it is understandable that we sometimes, like that boy, want all that we can get, with both hands. But as adults, maybe we see the wisdom in being a little bit more moderate in our candy consumption... and maybe that is the lesson here. Not just about candy, but about anything where we feel particularly grabby. :)
I really love the word quietness here. I need some of that, and I think it feels pretty accurate that quietness is an opposite of that feeling of grabbyness... of wanting and trying to get it all. How do we get that quietness? Maybe it is that one-handful principle. :) Can we get some of what we want, and accept that it is enough? Can we be satisfied with moderation? A couple of verses before this it talks about envy and how that often shows vanity and vexation. And if we're going after that second handful just because someone else has it and we want it too, maybe it is time to stop and think about whether this is something that we really need, and whether it is a worthwhile goal. Will it rob us of some of that quietness, and if so... is it worth the time, effort, and vexation? Today, let's work on being satisfied with one handful. :) And let's accept a little more quietness in our lives, taking advantage of the opportunity to listen to God and feel the spirit.

Friday, March 11, 2011

1 Corinthians 3:9

"For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building."
1 Corinthians 3:9

This verse stood out to me today because I think that it shows God's core purpose... it is us. I think in this verse God is saying, to each of us, YOU are important. YOU are my work. We team up with God and work on improving ourselves, and that is the point of life: to get better and learn more. Perhaps knowing how much we matter to God can help us to not let ourselves make bad self-destructive choices, or slip into apathy, thinking that nothing matters. We definitely matter... and expanding on that a little, the people around us matter. They are also God's work, and so helping them is also helping God. Today, let's remember that we matter as God's work in progress. And let's help other people remember that they matter too. :) Everyone is valuable to God, and part of his work.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Helaman 14:30

"And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free."
Helaman 14:30

This verse seems a little depressing at first glance, and I definitely think there is a huge warning there, but I also think that the whole idea behind it is fabulous. We're free. What a gift that is. God, who has the ability to control and force every aspect of our lives, doesn't. He allows us to make choices, and to become who we want to be. He believes in this gift so much that everything is built around it. And his goal is that we'll learn to have joy... through making choices, choosing good... becoming more than we could ever be without that. Yeah, we can choose to perish and do iniquity. Might want to avoid that... but we can also choose life and goodness and service and love... all the things that lead to real, lasting happiness. And we can get God's help in doing so... but that requires another choice. We have to choose to go to him and ask. :) Today, let's remember that we are making choices every day that determine who we are, and what we become. Not choosing is also a choice... can't run away from free agency. :) Let's avoid inflicting that iniquity and perishing stuff on ourselves, and choose better than that. We can choose paths that lead to happiness, and not ones that lead to misery. Let's do it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Doctrine and Covenants 25:10 -- On Making God Our Top Priority

"And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better."
Doctrine and Covenants 25:10

Seems like I get caught up in the things of this world a lot, so reading this today reminded me that I should focus elsewhere.  I don't think it means anything extreme like we shouldn't feed or clothe ourselves or provide for our families, but it's more about getting our priorities straight.  Are we so caught up with something that it consumes most of our thought and time, and we have no time left for the Lord? ... I think that I get that way sometimes, and maybe we all do.  If we start laying some of those things aside, and putting God first, maybe we'll find that we still have plenty of time for the important things, but more energy and support from God to help us handle them.  Today, let's think about where our energy and time are going, and be willing to lay aside the things of this world in order to seek for the things of a better. :) As we put God first, he'll help us to prioritize and handle everything that comes up.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

John 3:20-21 -- On Doing Truth

"For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."
John 3:20-21

This is interesting. It seems to be saying that we hide our actions when we aren't doing the right thing, and we don't hide our actions when we are doing the right things. Seems fairly intuitive, but then when we actually examine our lives... which things would it be okay with us if they were revealed to the world? Upon self-examination, I think that there are way too many things that I wouldn't want everyone to know... and these verses make a really good point, that if I don't want those things brought to the light, then are they bad things or good things? Another cool thing about these verses is that the comparison isn't between evil and good, but between evil and truth. How interesting. To me, that really highlights the connection between evil and falsehood... and our need to be completely honest and open in our lives. It's hard to adjust to that ideal sometimes because we live in a society of legal disclaimers and "need to know" information. But today, let's try it. Let's say only things that we aren't ashamed to share with the world. Let's not lie... even a little. Let's find a better way to deal with those situations. Let's bask in the light, and keep the darkness far away. :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Matthew 20:9-12

"And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day."
Matthew 20:9-12

This is an interesting scripture, I think because we can relate to it from both sides. We can understand the resentment of the people who worked for the entire day and who got paid exactly the same as the people who had only worked an hour. It seems unfair somehow, even though they got the salary they had agreed on. And we can relate to the people who only worked for an hour. They didn't agree to any salary, they just went to work knowing that the man who hired them would be fair... but they still need to live, just the same as the people who were hired earlier. This is part of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard and to me, it seems to show how much we don't want to be equal. :) We get upset if Joe gets hired at the company after we've already worked there 10 years, and he gets promoted before us. We've got a lot of selfishness going on, and we find it difficult to be happy for others. ... The thing that I wonder though, is whether *any* of us are the ones who worked in the field all day. ... I'm inclined to think of myself in the other category, of those who have worked only part of the day. If salvation is the penny here, and we’re upset because we’re comparing ourselves to others who have worked less… then, do I really deserve salvation compared to say, Enoch? King Benjamin? The Three Nephites? ... any prophet at all? Maybe, at least compared to Christ and the prophets, we all fall short of a full day’s work. From my perspective, if I get that penny for my work during my short time on earth, I'll be lucky. ... and perhaps one of the things that makes those prophets the incredible men that they are is that they go in knowing that they are going to be working the whole day in order to help some of us who sign on at the last minute... and they are happy for us, and want us to have what they have. God’s way isn’t like the one we have in the world, which is hierarchical and sets one person above another for whatever random reasons work at the moment. You don't achieve heaven by being stronger or faster than the next person. You don't even achieve heaven by being more spiritual than the next person, actually. We are all worthy of heaven because we are children of God, and our divinity is inborn... none of us are more or less divine. The question has never been how hard we will work or how long we will work... the question is only, will we work? And whenever we decide to do that, whether it is the beginning or the ending of the day... no matter how long "enduring to the end" is for each of us personally... we achieve our reward not by beating out someone else, but just by being there, doing what we should do. God doesn't grade on a curve, and our salvation isn't cheapened by the number of people who are saved. It isn't about who can get more spirituality, knowledge, tithing receipts... children... whatever. God isn't grading us on some point scale where we lose points for everything we do bad, and gain points for stuff we do good. The thing that matters is who we are. How have our earthly experiences shaped us... what have we chosen? In the end, we're not going to be looking at some scorecard, we're only going to be looking at ourselves. What have we done with what we were given, and who have we become? Have we become better? Have we helped each other? Have we managed to get to work in the vineyard? If so, we'll gain our salvation. And that is all that matters... not who else got what, or what time we started. :) Today, let’s get to work… and let’s try to accept some equality as we work towards Zion.

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