Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Moses 3:5

"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;"
Moses 3:5

This says that we were all created before there was anyone actually on the earth.  So, presumably, we all existed together in the same place where God was before coming here.  I wonder about that time.  How well did we know each other... are there friendships that started there that we get echoes of here?  Were there spiritual cockroaches?  Presumably yes, right?  I wonder if we all got along better then. :)
I also think that the idea of creating everything spiritually first is interesting... it seems like that shows that some part of us is more permanent than this life.  Not only some part of us, but some part of everything... in the water and in the air as well.  I like that idea of eternal resilience.  That the body isn't everything, but some part of us knows more than this life, and that somehow we can tap into that part of ourselves sometimes, and see past mortal limits.  Today, let's think about the spiritual part of ourselves and reach beyond perceived limitation, remembering that we are eternal beings.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 120:1

"Verily, thus saith the Lord, the time is now come, that it shall be disposed of by a council, composed of the First Presidency of my Church, and of the bishop and his council, and by my high council; and by mine own voice unto them, saith the Lord. Even so. Amen."
Doctrine and Covenants 120:1

This is a verse that refers to the law of tithing and the disposition of the funds involved.  What I find interesting about this one is the foresight involved here.  Even though it was 1838 and the church was relatively small, so many people were involved here on the council that this revelation could last basically forever. :)  Other groups have utterly failed when people have run off with the money, but God makes sure that there are checks in place, even from this time, to prevent the large-scale corruption of the system.  Kind even in that it takes that kind of temptation away from any one person... because it is hard as an individual to be in charge of that kind of worldly wealth and to resist using it for ourselves.  And that is what tithing, the law of consecration, and all of those types of laws endeavor to teach us... to be less concerned with ourselves, and more concerned with the community.  Maybe today we can take God's advice to his church and use it in our own lives... remove that kind of temptation from ourselves alone, and share the big decision-making with others.  If we keep the good of other people at the forefront of our minds, it will help... but it is also awesome to set up life so that we don't have to always rely on our good judgement, since we aren't always in a good frame of mind. :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Alma 42:30

"O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility."
Alma 42:30

I think that we do this.  We try to excuse ourselves because of one thing or the other... try to blame things on others, our circumstances, or whatever it is.  Instead, what would happen if we just gave up all excuses... valid or not... and just tried to solve the problem, or at least our part in it.  Our reactions, our mistakes, our sins.  I love that God doesn't want us to excuse ourselves, but at the same time we are reminded of his mercy and long-suffering.  No matter what we've done, we can still talk to God about it, turn around, and change.  We don't have to continue on that path we've set ourselves.  We can always return to God.  Not only does he offer a way back, through humility and repentance, but he blesses us with the power to accomplish that change in our lives.  Sometimes it seems impossible, but with God it never, ever is.  Today, let's let these things have full sway in our hearts. :)  And even if it brings us to the dust as we remember our mistakes, let's remember that God is our way out of the mess.  Let's be humble enough to turn to him, and trust him to help us change our hearts, and minds, and actions.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ecclesiastes 8:11-13

"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:
But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God."
Ecclesiastes 8:11-13

A good thing to remember.  Just because sins aren't answered with immediate lightning bolts from the sky doesn't mean that it isn't sin and that it won't have negative consequences.  And just because righteousness isn't immediately rewarded with whatever kinds of blessings that we are wishing for doesn't mean that there aren't positive consequences for righteousness either.  To me it is kind of like the whole free agency thing.  If everything was obviously good and obviously bad, we wouldn't have that real context where we could choose either one.  If good food all tasted good and bad food tasted bad, there would be no temptation or real two-sided freedom.  Same with other choices, and with obvious consequences.  Today, let's remember that no matter how things look sometimes, the truth is more complex.  God exists, and following him always pays off, even if we have to wait patiently for the great stuff. :)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Colossians 1:9-11

"For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;"
Colossians 1:9-11

I really like the ideas and even the emotion here.  I think it is clear that this isn't just empty preaching, but that it comes through as a true desire to see other people improving and happy.  And if other people were praying for us, wouldn't this be a great prayer?  Or if we were praying for other people too.  To know God's will, to be filled with wisdom and spiritual understanding.  That's huge by itself. :)  But it goes on... to be worthy, fruitful in good works, increased in the knowledge of God, strengthened unto patience.  I really like that.  Strengthened unto patience.  I think it does take strength to be patient sometimes.  The immediate is right there in front of us, and even though we know that patience is the best idea, and the long term payoff is so much better than the short term... still, it is hard to wait.  It requires strength and resolve, and the ability to "sacrifice" short-term rewards for ones that last longer, and are vastly superior, but which also take longer to achieve and feel.  I guess that's what leads to the "longsuffering with joyfulness" part, right?  I think it is really important that it is joyful.  It isn't just suffering.  It is longsuffering/patience... but not with depression and regret and reluctance, but with happiness... knowing that it is totally the right thing to do, and seeing that life will be so much better this way, even if it doesn't happen immediately.  It's joy... looking to God rather than to our own selfish desires for an immediate payoff.  Seeing the trade-off as totally a good deal for us. :)
Today, let's expand our knowledge of God.  Let's pray for others, and let's find the joy inherent in choosing God long-term over our desires for immediacy.

Friday, July 26, 2013

1 Nephi 4:2

"Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea."
1 Nephi 4:2

I really admire Nephi's faith here.  He didn't know how things would work out, but he knew that if he trusted in God, and tried to do as he asked, that it *would* work out, somehow.  I think that same power and strength is available to us, but we often flinch away.  Moses didn't... he led the people out, and it looked like there was no escape from the pursuing Egyptians, but there *was* an escape.  Here, Nephi and his brothers were almost killed by Laban, and most of them were flinching.  They didn't see how it was possible to accomplish what God had asked.  And yet, when Nephi trusted, and tried anyway... kept at it even after the times that they had failed, God again made it possible.
So, today, let US be strong like unto Moses... and Nephi... and let's trust God, even when we can't see how things will work out.  Let's do as he asks, and know that he will provide a way for things to work out.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Matthew 23:27

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness."
Matthew 23:27

Staying with our recent theme of being beautiful inside, this is an interesting scripture.  Christ is illustrating here that we often pretend to be good, and look good on the outside, but inside we're a lot different.  And I think it is really easy to fall into that sort of life... looking good, acting good most of the time, but not ever thinking about being good on the inside, or being confused about what we really think... just blocking that out and trying to be all external.  But, apparently, that doesn't work long-term, or God wouldn't have mentioned it here. :)  Today, let's work on behaving in accordance with our beliefs... or believing in accordance with our actions, whichever are better. :)  Let's work on being unified on the inside, and figuring out who we want to be, inside and outside.  Let's be whole.  That is an important step... hard to unify with anyone else or become part of a unified community until we get there internally.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

1 Corinthians 12:23

"And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness."
1 Corinthians 12:23

This chapter is talking about how we need ALL the parts of our bodies, not just a few favorites... and then it proceeds to relate that to how we need each other, as in all of us being parts of "the body of Christ" (verse 27).  And I think this verse totally relates to both.  For ourselves because so often we like parts of ourselves and not other parts.  Sometimes this is pretty valid, as in when we're trying to overcome internal things like addictions or desires for unhealthy or evil things.  But a lot of the time it isn't valid, as when we really hate external things like the way that our nose looks, or we loathe our curly hair, or the fact that it doesn't curl, or we have the WORST skin in the universe.  Whatever it is, we still need it, and it works with the rest of our body to keep us alive and functional.  And even the ugliest parts of ourselves are needed... bile duct?  Intestines?  Ick.  ... But how desperately do we need them, and how amazingly sick and lacking we feel when those parts of ourselves aren't working well.  No matter how ugly our perspective of those things is, they are beautiful when they are working right, and keeping us well and healthy.
Same goes with people.  If we are symbolically parts of God's body, then God needs us all, and we need each other.  It doesn't matter what we do for a living or our external and highly subjective level of beauty.  We're truly beautiful when we are working together with other people and accomplishing greater things than we can on our own... just like the different parts of a body.  Complex, magnificent, and highly specialized... but in need of all the rest of the pieces in order to function.  Other people's success doesn't diminish our own; it enhances it.  It allows it, it magnifies it.  And as we help each other to succeed, we multiply our capability as a community and as a people.  We can accomplish so much more as we learn to work together.
So often we think that parts of our community are useless.  An appendix or a gall bladder or a spleen... these people don't matter, and the sooner we get rid of them the better.  But community doesn't work that way.  If we consider any part of ourselves to be extraneous, obsolete, or discardable, then the whole suffers, and we start throwing away things that matters, or an internal war.  In a community, the war isn't internal, but the same thing happens.  The community stops working, cooperation and communication breaks down, and the entire group suffers.  Today, let's remember that none of us are garbage that can just be thrown out.  We're all needed, and we need to work together and resolve our differences in order to accomplish our goals, and to build Zion. :)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Genesis 2:1-2

"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made."
Genesis 2:1-2

I think that the whole creation thing is mind-boggling.  God just you know, decided to make all of this... the universe, the world, stuff.  ... And he's God, so he could do it, and he did.  But I think it is really cool--even though God is that powerful, and can basically do anything--that God rested... that he took the time to do something that wasn't work for a while.  And that he taught all of us that lesson as well.  That we should take time away from work stuff sometimes, and rest.
I think sometimes we go too far thinking about our responsibilities and obligations, thinking that everything that isn't work is lazy or that that's the only part of us that is good... the responsible part.  But I think God shows us here that it is okay to rest once in a while. :)  Not saying we should rest ALL the time, but it is okay and even good in its proper place.
Today, let's make sure we have some balance in our lives.  Being lazy all the time isn't good, but neither is being workaholic.  Working with God, let's make sure that we find the proper balance.  Let's take the time to get our work done and fulfil our responsibilities, but make sure we also take the time to rest when needed.  We need to manage our stress and make sure we don't take on too much just as much as we need to avoid idleness. :)  Maybe we err to the lazy side more often and we need to work on that more, but let's not forget to rest, or beat ourselves up for doing so.

Monday, July 22, 2013

1 Corinthians 14:24-26

"But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying."
1 Corinthians 14:24-26

This reminds me of Numbers, where Moses said "would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets."  Later in this same chapter, it says "For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted."  I like this theme.  Yes, there might be only one official prophet that is the official mouthpiece of God for the entire world, but because of the spirit, we can *all* be prophets in smaller ways.  And, even, we *should* do this, to help other people come unto Christ.  When we come together (I'm thinking in church, but not that it has to be confined to that), we all have something to offer, since the Lord speaks to each of us, not just one. :)  Some of us will have studied different things, and have different things to share, but we all have something to contribute to the discussion, and we are all living testimonies to God's revelation.  Today, let's work on being close enough to God that we can know revelation when it comes. :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mormon 9:25

"And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth."
Mormon 9:25

If we doubt nothing, everything will be confirmed.  But what if we do doubt?  What if we can't figure it out?  Stuff won't be confirmed, but we're looking for a confirmation.  Seems very difficult to figure out.  I think actually that it is a good question.  Sometimes we wonder why God makes it all so hard... why doesn't he just TELL us he is real, make it obvious, and then of course we would believe.
Let's think about that for a minute though.  God is about freedom and teaching and agency.  If he made it obvious to everyone that he was there (and personally I think it is already fairly obvious... but stay with me)... if he took away all of the distractions and self-blinders that we wear... what kind of choices would we have left?  What kind of education would we be missing?  If God just gave us the answers, we wouldn't be able to learn it for ourselves, and we'd never learn to stand on our own and make our own independent choices.  We'd always be leaning on him... not out of choice, but out of necessity.  His own plan, where we get the chance to grow up to be like him, would be ruined.  We'd always be less... guided to everything, never able to figure it our ourselves and discern truth from error.  Just like if my mom always tied my shoes for me, or walked me across the street every time.  I wouldn't learn to do it myself.  She had to let me try it on my own at some point.  And although of course some of the choices that we face are more complex, God can't do it for us.  He is there, we can talk to him, get his advice, read his words, get overwhelming help... but we still have to do it.  We still have to go out, face the fears, face the doubts, and make the choice.  It's not called a leap of faith for nothing. :)  It takes trust, and belief in the often intangible reality of God.  Who is so much more real than most of the tangible things out there... but it's not always easy to trust what we can't see. :)  Today, let's try.  Let's believe... let's take that step, whether we start out acting like we believe, or wanting to believe, or just getting on our knees and having trust enough in God to ask him if he exists.  Whatever we can do.  The smallest attempt.  Faith to move mountains doesn't come instantly.  But if we practice, soon we'll be able to feel God letting us know that he is there.  And our small attempts will grow together until we have action and belief both going at the same time.  And one day, we'll realize that we don't doubt anymore.  It starts small, just like so many things in life... but if we start today, we'll be building our own faith, and figuring it out rather than just not knowing.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 101:36-37

"Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.
Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul."
Doctrine and Covenants 101:36-37

Today it seems to me that these verses go together really well.  Fear not unto death, don't care for the body... care for the soul.  I think telling us to "fear not even unto death" can seem scary.  On this side of the veil, death seems like such a HUGE thing, and it is hard to see past that to eternity.  And God knows that, and he understands how hard it is.  But he still asks us to trust him.  In order to have fulness of joy, we have to get past that hurdle.  God is our only way to that complete happiness.  And as further explanation of that, God explains that we don't need to worry about our bodies, but we should really be worried about our souls.  Which is another thing that can turn our worlds upside down, right?  We're so busy in this life trying to put roofs over our heads, and concerned about health and weight loss and whether our noses look too big or whether people think we're ugly.  And those are natural things to think... but wow, when we consider what God is saying here, what crappy priorities, right?
Today, instead of worrying about death and physical health and whether we look externally ugly, let's learn from God (and Dorian Gray), and spend more time on beautifying ourselves internally.  Let's see if our souls are unhealthy.  Let's go on a *spiritual* diet, and start getting that part of our existence in shape. Spiritual death is way scarier than physical death.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Jude 1:16-19

"These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.
But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;
How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit."
Jude 1:16-19

This is a great chapter that also has some more positive things to say, but I thought this was instructive, because it is so easy to go astray.  So, today, some things to avoid. :)  Murmuring and complaining kind of go hand in hand.  And I think, unfortunately we do it a lot.  We're all, well if it were up to me, then things would be so much better, blah blah blah... and perhaps, occasionally, that's true.  But even when it is, is that the way to change it, or to love the person who made that decision?  Is that the way to solve the problem, or does it just make things worse?  And, then, when we go a step farther and we start murmuring and complaining about what God does... well, then we've crossed over into insanity pretty much. Instead, maybe what we should do when we encounter those times is admit that our problem is that we just don't understand... and then talk to God about it. :)
The parts about our own lusts and ungodly lusts are also easy traps to fall into.  Whatever we lust after, whether it is physical pleasure, or mental escape, or emotional catharsis, or some non-God spiritual exploration... when we want anything more than God, then it gets in the way of that primary relationship.  We start putting our favorite addiction first, before anything else we care about, and thus let it control us.
Having men's persons in admiration because of advantage... sounds like politics.  Not always professional politics, but the kind that any of us can encounter.  The politics of the workplace, the neighborhood, the school... whatever it is.  There, perhaps we need to take a step back and examine our feelings.  How much of what we're saying or doing is sincere, and how much is just playing the game?  Let's work on caring about people in general, not just because they can do something for us.
Mocking is another thing, kind of like murmuring and complaining, that is easy to do.  And separating ourselves... maybe that is setting ourselves apart like we're somehow cooler, rather than participating in the community.  Trying to say that we know better instead of working with the entire group to improve things as a whole.  I definitely do that sometimes.  Lots of these things.  And sensual.  Funny that is it a positive adjective... people like to buy things that will make them more sensual. :)  But I think at the core, what it means is trusting too much in the senses... caring too much about that sort of tactile pleasure.  So much so that we kind of muffle the spirit, and can't hear it anymore because we are focused on the body.
Today, we still don't have to be perfect all in one breath.  But let's look at these things closely and start working on the ones where we have some weakness.  Let's try to murmur and complain and mock less.  Let's work on not letting sensuality or lust control our lives and block out the spirit.  Let's not treat people kindly just to gain advantage, but develop sincere friendships, even with people who can't do us any huge favors. :)  These are all hard things, but the common theme is that all of these things block out the spirit.  Let's work on listening, and bring the spirit back into our lives.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 136:42

"Be diligent in keeping all my commandments, lest judgments come upon you, and your faith fail you, and your enemies triumph over you. So no more at present. Amen and Amen."
Doctrine and Covenants 136:42

This is a good warning from God.  And like other warnings, I think it is letting us know the natural consequences of our actions, not warning us of punishments that will be rained down if God doesn't like our opinion.  We humanize God too much sometimes, and imagine imperfections where there are none.  And we think too much of ourselves as well... imagining that we can pit our will against God's as though we were equals or coworkers or classmates.  When in actuality, the relationship is much more that of a parent to a non-adult child... in fact a very young one.  And when we rail against God it is really just us having a temper tantrum about reality.
Today, let's try to listen to God's warnings with humility, realizing that God is trying to help us learn how to avoid pain and failure and heartache.  Let's work on our obedience.  Not lying, not hurting other people, loving our brothers and sisters, learning about the world... sharing. :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Alma 26:35

"Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name."
Alma 26:35

Ammon is great. :)  To review some history here, Ammon was one of the sons of Mosiah, and they in their early lives had been the bad sort... hanging out with Alma the Younger and really trying to tear down the church.  And they kept doing this until one day when an angel appeared to them because Alma (the elder) had been praying for God to help his son.  It was a huge thing for Alma, and also for the sons of Mosiah, and they worried that they had done so much bad in their lives that they would never be able to make up for it.  Even though their father was the king, they refused to rule, and instead went on the seemingly-impossible mission of converting the Lamanites.  Seemingly impossible because the Lamanites and the Nephites had been at war for generations, and Lamanites were taught to hate Nephites from way back when Nephi and Laman had a falling out.
Anyway, so... here is Ammon.  He and his brothers have turned from the dark side and given up the kingdom, and they've suffered a lot in the hands of the Lamanites... but have also had a lot of success.  And here you see the complete change in his heart.  He doesn't care about himself at all.  He is this happy because he feels like that wake up call that God gave him, through the angel, he has had the opportunity to share with other people... so they can be saved just like he was.  He glories in God, who granted them the opportunity and the success, and he has a huge testimony of repentance, because he has seen it work in his life, and in the life of all these Lamanites, many of whom were also dark siders... killing people for minor infractions and whatnot.
And what's not to love, really?  It applies to us as well.  God is a merciful being, even unto salvation, if we will repent and believe on his name.  Even if we've been fighting against God.  Even if we have harmed others.  Let's turn around and embrace God, find our way to forgiveness and salvation.  Ammon's joy can also be ours as we repent, and change, and become the people we want to be rather than the people we regret being in the past.
Dark side cookies taste like sawdust anyway.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Alma 10:5-6

"Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.
Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart, even until the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of the judges."
Alma 10:5-6

This is Amulek, speaking to the people in Ammonihah.  I think that what he says here is something that we can all relate to.  God's hand is in evidence all around us, and acting in our lives all the time... but how often do we stop and notice, and take responsibility for that knowledge by communicating with and listening to God?  We mentally block God out so often, perhaps worried that we'll have to change our lives or that God will ask us to do something dramatic that we don't want to do. 
And to be sure, sometimes those fears are confirmed.  For instance, later in this book, Amulek, who was a rich man, loses everything.  And some would say, look... he finally did what God asked, and God punished him for it.  But is that really the case?  Is that *ever* really the case?  Although we can of course choose to see things that way, I think that if we look at the evidence fairly... in the case of Amulek's life as well as our own, we'll see that God is always preparing us for greater things.  When we do as God asks, even when that results in giant changes take place and it seems like we are losing everything, if we look back with a better perspective, we see that we were being preserved, and assisted.
In Amulek's case, it was an angel appearing to him that made the difference and got him to stop blocking God out.  For us, God probably won't be quite as overt.  Amulek was asked to feed and take care of a prophet, and we don't have a lot of them walking around with nothing to eat nowadays. :)  But God is still asking us to listen, to know, and to help.  He does everything for us.  Today, let's get on our knees and ask God what we can do for him.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 38:25-26

"And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.
For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?"
Doctrine and Covenants 38:25-26

I like this short little parable.  I think it is a good reminder of who we are.  Sons and daughters of God.  We hear a lot in the scriptures about loving our neighbors, and treating them as we would like to be treated... but how often are we really esteeming each other as ourselves?  Our brothers and sisters are all around us... not just the people in our immediate family, but our friends, our coworkers, our schoolmates.  That lady at the grocery store.  The guy on the street.  People who believe differently than we do... people of other nations, religions, and political persuasions.  People who do things that we find abhorrent.  ALL of these people are our brothers and sisters, and worthy of our esteem as humans and equals.
I wonder what God thinks sometimes looking down at his children, some of whom are clothed in robes, and some in rags.  Does he think that we're lost and we'll never get it? :)  ... He is going to fix it eventually, and he will right every wrong, including the ones that we do.  But until that time, let's practice being the people that we need to be.  Let's be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.  Let's respect and love the people around us, whoever they are, whatever they believe, and however they live.  God loves them.  Even if we don't, yet, let's find out why, and take the first steps towards understanding.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Moroni 6:5-6

"And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.
And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus."
Moroni 6:5-6

I love this idea of how church should be.  Not like a fashion show, an exclusive club, or a graduate school, but more like Sinners Anonymous (without as much anonymity).  A place where we go and talk about our lives, and our challenges, and our struggles in letting go of our addiction to sin and remembering and embracing God.  A support group for all of us, where we help each other to become the better people that we want to be.
Maybe not only church, but the world should be more like that.  A place where we build up and encourage and recognize that we all have faults.  A place where we speak as equals and friends, helping each other to hold on to hope, and believe that we can change.  That today can be better than yesterday.
Let's work on that today.  Having that hope, treating other people as equals struggling with similar challenges, and helping each other improve and come to God.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Isaiah 35:5-7

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes."
Isaiah 35:5-7

I love God's message, throughout the scriptures and all of the gospel, that things will be okay in the end.  That there IS a happy ending for all of us, as we strive for it.  So many things go wrong in life... things happen that we can't always control.  We get ourselves into situations and make mistakes that we can't undo or rewind.  But God tells us in these verses, and in many others, that none of it is permanent.  Someday the blind will see, the lame will leap, the deserts will have water, and places where scavengers hang out will be lush and green.  All our physical maladies will disappear... and if we work on improving ourselves, our spiritual health can be ensured as well. :)  As we repent and change, God can wipe away even the internal mental, emotional, and spiritual scars.
No matter how things are now, we can become whole, and good, and be redeemed.  Let's look to God, the author of our salvation... the guarantor of the happy ending, and allow him to assist us, and do as he asks.  The happy ending is always worth it. :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Helaman 13:2-4

"And it came to pass that in this year there was one Samuel, a Lamanite, came into the land of Zarahemla, and began to preach unto the people. And it came to pass that he did preach, many days, repentance unto the people, and they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land.
But behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, that he should return again, and prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart.
And it came to pass that they would not suffer that he should enter into the city; therefore he went and got upon the wall thereof, and stretched forth his hand and cried with a loud voice, and prophesied unto the people whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart."
Helaman 13:2-4

I think Samuel illustrates here his dedication to God.  God told him to preach to Zarahemla, and he did... he went and taught them repentance, tried to get them to change, and then they kicked him out.  Okay, he did what he could... time to go home.  But no.  God told him, go back, tell them what I give you to say.  And he did.  They wouldn't let him back in, but he didn't give up.  God asked him to do something, and he was going to find a way to do it.  So, he got up on the top of the wall and preached to them from there.
How many of us are so persistent in doing as God asks?  I know I am not.  Usually I try sort of halfway, and if it works out, great, and if it fails, then oh well, I tried.  But not Samuel... not Nephi.  Not any of the prophets.  Not Christ.  And with all of these examples, maybe I should ... maybe we all should... take another look.  Find a way to do as God asks.  Even if someone tries to kill us, like Laban did to Nephi.  Even if they kick us out, like they did here to Samuel.  Even if we really, really don't want to... like Jonah, or Moses, or even Christ. :)  God understands that what he asks is sometimes hard.  It's hard to let go of one possibility in order to embrace another.  It is hard to grow up.  Hard to learn new things.  Hard to choose to be good people rather than just ending up the bad default people we would be without making an effort.  Today, though, let's make the effort.  Let's find a way to do as God asks.  Let's be the people that we want to be someday... we're going to have to practice a lot to get there, and if we keep putting it off we might end up not going anywhere.  Might as well start now. :)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ether 3:4-5

"And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men."
Ether 3:4-5

The story of the Brother of Jared and the stones is awesome.  In this part of it, the Brother of Jared asks the Lord to touch the stones so that they can use them as light sources while they cross the ocean.  And what strikes me here is the incredible faith of the Brother of Jared.  He didn't just believe that God could solve his problems in ways that he was already familiar with, but he was absolutely confident that God could perform miracles like making stones into light sources.  I am sure that he was led by the spirit to do what he did, but still... to imagine something so far from your own experience and then trust God to do it for you, that's amazing, and cool, and I think really difficult.  And it makes me wonder what absolutely astounding and incredible things the Lord could do in our lives, if we would only believe.  If we only had a little more imagination and creativity in looking at the world rather than locking down our minds with what is "reasonable" and what we are familiar with.  Even in looking at God we imagine that he is like we are... broken, limited.  But how different and alien he must be, to be perfect, and pure, and all knowing.  Not like a "real" alien from a Sci-Fi show, but alien in the way he thinks.  He doesn't experience time in the way that we do.  He doesn't look at death the way we do.  He MADE everything around us, and in us.  Our limitations are never his, and probably not even ours.  We limit ourselves by what we believe we can do... and we can do so much more, with God's help.  We can become so much more.  Today, let's remember the brother of Jared.  And let's remember we live in a world where people have walked on water, and moved mountains.  A place where people have chosen to live forever.  A place where touching the hem of a garment has healed.  Where people have risen from the dead.  Let's remember that God isn't anything like the people we are used to.  He isn't a corrupt politician or a CEO that doesn't have time for the details.  He isn't power hungry or cruel.  He's our dad, and we have a dad that can do ANYTHING.  Let's open our minds today, and find the solutions and the secret escape hatches where once we thought there were only blank walls. :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Luke 6:32

"For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them."
Luke 6:32

This verse comes after a statement that we should treat others as we wish to be treated, which is a pretty common theme in the scriptures. :)  And I think that it is an important clarification.  Often when we think of doing as God asks and loving people, we consider only the people we already like.  We think we're doing pretty well if we can manage to love our families, our friends, and generically feel a love for church congregations or other people who believe or think as we do.  ... And, truthfully that *is* an accomplishment.  Any love and true openness and goodness is an accomplishment.  We should feel good about mastering that.  But I think what we need to remember is that it is only a first step.  We can't expect the gratitude of Heaven for learning to love people back.  The lesson here... the challenge in this commandment... is to learn to love people that don't love us.
Often we determine how we treat people by how they treat us.  If someone is rude, frustrated, or tense when we first meet them, we are accordingly less polite, less patient, and less calm with them.  It's a pretty natural reaction.  But God expects more from us, and he gives us the power between experiencing something and reacting to it to change the way that we think and feel about it.  We can take a step back mentally, and instead choose to be polite, patient, and calm.  And the ultimate coolest thing about it is that when we practice breaking that negative reaction cycle in ourselves, we start seeing a *positive* reaction cycle from other people.  If we treat people kindly, we often are treated kindly in return.  We can make the difference.  Even if it doesn't work at first, it often can long term.  And, in the end, it takes more than outward actions.  It is usually easy for people to see when we're being insincere.
Today, let's give other people the same leeway we give ourselves to be in a bad mood or to react poorly, and to still be a good person underneath. :)  Additionally, let's take time to seriously reflect on our underlying emotions.  If we truly dislike or hate an individual or a group... how can we learn to understand and love them more? Are there good things about that person or group?  Does God love them?  (Hint, the answer to that last one is YES.)    Let's pray, and with God's help, figure it out.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Romans 2:1

"Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things."
Romans 2:1

This is a good thing to ponder today.  I think that so often we fall into the trap of reading the scriptures or thinking about gospel principles, and in our heads applying what we learn and read to people besides ourselves.  We think, oh yeah, she totally does that, or wow, this scripture is describing that one guy almost exactly.  Today, let's look at this verse and remember that it is describing us.  Each of us.  And knowing us, of course, we're already in our heads denying and justifying... oh, no.  I don't do THAT thing.  ... But if we stop and think about it a little bit more broadly... yeah, we do.  Maybe we don't sin in one particular way, but we still sin.  Maybe we don't lie about that one thing, but we still lie.  Maybe we are strong where someone else is weak, but we still have awful weaknesses that are just as bad as someone else's, even if they aren't as obvious to the people around us.  Instead of denying that we are the same as other people, let's accept it, and work to become better than we are (not better than *they* are).  And maybe, when we see that we are all equal as sinners, it will be easier to have compassion for each other, and to judge people less harshly.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants 50:23

"And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness."
Doctrine and Covenants 50:23

I like the idea that God is only about lifting up, about making better... teaching, helping.  All the things that we encounter in this life that are about tearing down and that cloud our minds... those aren't from God.  I think that is a good way to tell what is good and bad in daily life.  Is it clear, it is uplifting?  Or is it harmful and something we feel like we have to hide from others?  Moroni 7:15-17 tells us that things which persuade us to do good are of God and things that persuade us to do evil are of the devil.
I think this is something we should ponder.  If the way to judge is as clear as it tells us in Moroni 7 (as the daylight is from the dark night), then why do we still participate in evil?  Why do we do things that are not uplifting to others?  Do we get caught up in the emotion, or in the cycle of justification?  Are we feeling too much pride, and stepping on someone else salves our ego?  Let's try to figure it out so that we can try not to get caught in those traps again.
Today, let's work on being like God.  Let's only do things that edify... that lift up, and not tear down.  That support and don't repudiate.  Let's teach, and lift, and help, and serve.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

John 13:12-15

"So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."
John 13:12-15

Christ's way is so different from the world's way.  He, who had the power to rule over everyone, taught us to serve each other instead.  To set an example of humility and assistance.  He was greater than all, yet nobody was treated as though they were beneath him, and he was/is God, and yet he served, and yet serves, us.  This definitely doesn't remind me of politics or of corporate America.  What it does remind me of is a good parent.  The parent has pretty much ultimate power over the child, and yet a good parent never abuses this to treat the child like a slave, or even thinks about it in that way.  The good parent is there to help the child learn, to help him navigate the world, develop a personality and a style, interact with others, and become an independent person... an equal, not a subject or a slave.
God is our father, and he encourages us to learn from him to serve each other... to grow together into a family.  Not just as individual sets of parents and children, but a human family.  Zion.  And we get there through following his example and serving the people around us.  No one is beneath us.  No task is too low for us to perform.
Today, instead of throwing our power around, let's exercise a little humility and serve: make life better for other people.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Colossians 3:4-5

"When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:"
Colossians 3:4-5

This is interesting stuff.  The first part of it seems to be talking about the resurrection.  Our lives are wrapped up in Christ... when he comes again, the resurrection will come, and we will rise to meet him, if we've lived good lives and are ready to come forth in the first resurrection.  And in order to prepare for that, the next verse.  We need to teach ourselves, body and mind, how to be like Christ.  We need to control ourselves, both action and thought.  But it isn't some power-willpower thing where we are just forcing ourselves to hold back.  Where we ARE this person over here, but we force ourselves to think and act like this ALIEN so that we can make heaven.  We try to talk ourselves into crap like that all the time.  We are who we are, but if God doesn't like it, then we'll pretend to be some mutation of ourselves in order to please him, and all of that repression and pain are just the price we pay for salvation.  Nice idea, but no.  God doesn't want our miserable, repressed selves.  It doesn't work that way.  If we really think that we can't change who we are, and we like ourselves that way, then we can go hang out with the other people who are like that, and accept that we aren't going to be hanging out with God.  But God tells us that we aren't locked into anything we don't want to be.  And we can change, completely, if we want to.
Have you ever felt that?  Looked at something that you just did, or that you've done in the past and realized that you didn't want to be the person that did that?  Haven't we all regretted our actions and even our thoughts?  And too often we think that is just who we are, but it isn't.  We're here to learn... to CHANGE.  We don't have to keep being the person that we were when we were 4, or 14, or 24, or 34, or any age.  We get to keep the best parts and throw out the bad parts.  That's what it means to be human... to have a choice.  Part of that choice includes choosing who we are going to be from day to day.  And yes, it takes work and it takes time, but if we start, and we have God's help, we can effect those changes in our lives.
I'm not saying that we need to cast off labels if they help us.  Sometimes remembering that we are addicts is what helps us stay away from the addiction.  But if there is something we want to change about ourselves, we can.  We don't have to be chained to any action, desire, or sin.  The verses above talk about a lot of things... actions and desires, inner selves and outer selves.  All of these can be addressed by God.
I like the last part that says that covetousness is idolatry.  How true.  When we want something that much, we put it before God.  And isn't that true for the rest of the things on the list... and even with the belief that we can't change?  We want... whatever it is, the sin, the self-concept, the desire, the need to be right... more than we want God.  If, instead, we want God most, and put him first, then he will help us to change ourselves into who we want to be.  The people that care about others and work to bring Zion.  Even if that is not who we are now.
Today, let's love God more than we love our sins and our current selves.  Let's put God first, and let him help us to change ourselves into the people that we truly want to be.  Not repressed zombie automatons, but sincere, caring human beings who *want* to be here, building Zion.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Moroni 7:9

"And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such."
Moroni 7:9

I really like the idea of having to be real with God.  So much of life seems to be based on fakery... "fake it till you make it" type stuff.  We act confident, we pretend to be good at things, we bluff our way through different situations... and not to say that it is all bad.  Often it is good to act good even if you can get there emotionally yet, as long as you are working on it.  However, with God, everything is on the table.  You can't pray a lie... and if we try, it doesn't do any good.  In order to really reach God, we have to be sincerely seeking.  And I think that requires some humility, some openness... some trust that we usually don't have.  We don't want to seem weak in front of others.  We don't want people to know just how dumb we can be sometimes, or how biased, or how messed up.  But God knows already.  And he loves us anyway.  Today, let's practice sincerity.  Even if we only start with God, let's try it.  Let's get down on our knees and tell him how we really feel.  What we really think.  All of it.  And as we work on sincerity, we'll be more in tune to feel the spirit, and to listen to what God has to say to us.  Often, just feeling his love is an overwhelming answer when we are looking for peace and solidity.  And maybe, after we learn to be sincere with God, we might be able to open up to a few other people too. :)  It's hard, after learning for so long to play a part.  But we can't learn to change our hearts if we don't know what we actually feel.  Let's find out.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Galatians 5:13

"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another."
Galatians 5:13

This is a day on which we often spend some time rejoicing in and being thankful for freedom, for liberty... for the amazing opportunities that we've been given to choose who we want to be.  And it is indeed a good reason to celebrate. :)  There are so many good things to choose and ways to make the world better.  Happiness is before us, if we choose it. :)
In D&C 98:8 God tells us that we are "free indeed" because both God *and* the law make us free. :)  And then he warns us "Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn."  A similar warning is in the verse above.  We are free, but we can choose to place ourselves back into bondage.  We can choose misery.  ... We get to choose actions, but don't always get to choose consequences. :)
Today, let's use our liberty to choose happiness and continued freedom.  Let's not choose the bondage of sin.  Let's not choose to jump into the chains of an addiction.  Let's instead choose to notice, love, and serve the people around us.  Let's get outside ourselves and find ways to affect the world in positive ways.  Let's choose God, and happiness, and love.  2 Corinthians 3:17 says "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."  Today, of all days, let's choose freedom.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

1 Nephi 16:28-29

"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.
And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things."
1 Nephi 16:28-29

I love this idea of faith-powered technology. :)  These verses are talking about the Liahona that God gave to Lehi, and which led them through the wilderness on their way to the promised land.  I think it would be so cool to have one of these, that told you the way to go and provided writing as well that could also help you, depending on your faithfulness.  It would be a cool, tactile measure of whether you were being faithful or not... whether the Liahona worked. :)  Of course, it would probably also be occasionally frustrating, knowing our inconsistent spirituality, to be dependent on something that didn't work if you didn't have the spirit.
Of course, if you think about it... we're like that on some level.  WE don't work when we don't have the spirit.  It's easier to screw up everything... to lose our tempers, to become irritable, to get distracted, to not listen, to not care... everything just gets a little bit worse when we don't have God around.  I totally still want a Liahona... or a Liahona app for my tablet that works similarly. :) But, until then, let's work on having the spirit and trust that God can lead us in other ways if we listen to him, and are faithful and diligent.  Let's read, and pray, and heed the promptings of the spirit.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Isaiah 58:5-7 -- On Fasting

"Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?"
Isaiah 58:5-7

This is interesting stuff.  God is talking about fasting here, and asks if it is supposed to be a sad thing, where we make it obvious how much we are suffering and show that we are mournful.  He also asks in earlier verses if it is something that we do for ourselves, so that the Lord will listen to us.  And here, he tells us very clearly that it isn't any of those things.

We don't fast to suffer, or to get anything for ourselves.  We fast so that our spirits can better triumph over our bodies, and so that we can focus on spiritual things, like helping the people around us.  We can use that money or food that we would have spent or consumed ourselves and give it to others.  We do it so that we can be better people... happier, not more inclined to suffer. :) 

Today, fasting or not, let's help people; let's not hide from our families, but serve them.  Let's take care of the poor and the hungry.  And this next Sunday, or the next time we fast, let's fast without suffering... let's focus on helping, serving, loving, and doing as God would have us do.  Who knows, we might get so distracted we'll actually enjoy it. :)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Alma 30:12-13

"And this Anti-Christ, whose name was Korihor, (and the law could have no hold upon him) began to preach unto the people that there should be no Christ. And after this manner did he preach, saying:
O ye that are bound down under a foolish and a vain hope, why do ye yoke yourselves with such foolish things? Why do ye look for a Christ? For no man can know of anything which is to come."
Alma 30:12-13

The words of Korihor seem familiar, I think, even if we have never read them before.  It's a message we hear around us a lot.  Later in this chapter, Korihor says that we all prosper according to our genius and conquer according to our strength, and that nothing we do is a crime.  That when our lives are over, that's it.  ... I think the scariest part is that sometimes we hear these messages so much that we start to believe them.
Korihor was wrong.  He preached against Christ before his earthly ministry... and Christ came.  And, though we hear similar messages today, Christ will come again.  Honing our intelligence, our talents, and our strength are not bad things at all, but that isn't all there is, and the purpose of life is not to compete with everyone else.  And though people mock, and will continue to mock, we *can* know what will come... because God isn't some fable that we tell to each other.  He is real, and he affects our lives in ways that we can feel. 
Today, if we don't know how real God is, let's take that leap and get down on our knees and ask him if he is there.  And if we already know, let's work on approaching life in God's way and not the world's... cooperatively, not competitively.  Let's help each other, embrace each other in friendship, and listen to God's advice.  ... Let's make the reality of God obvious by our daily actions.

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