Sunday, August 31, 2014

Alma 32:17-20 -- On Signs and Responsibility

"Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.
Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.
And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?
Now of this thing ye must judge. Behold, I say unto you, that it is on the one hand even as it is on the other; and it shall be unto every man according to his work."
Alma 32:17-20

It is so interesting how we want things to be certain, but then when things *are* certain, we back away slowly.  I think that it is because we are always looking for the easy way out.  We think that asking for a sign relieves us of responsibility... we've supposedly put the ball squarely in God's court, and if he doesn't show us something obvious, then we're off the hook, right?  ... Wrong, actually.  Alma 32 is a great one for learning about the gospel and how to really tell.  Alma compares the word to a seed, and tells us to plant the seed and to try the experiment and see if it will grow. :)  *Trying* God's gospel and seeing if it works in our lives and makes us happy is the way to tell.  Not asking for a sign.
Alma points out another danger of asking for a sign: what if we get it?  Knowledge carries responsibility, and if God does reassure us in the way that we are asking him to, then we have a lot to live up to.  And, if we were asking for a sign in the first place, we might not have the spiritual maturity to handle it... which is why Alma leaves it to us to judge.  Would we rather try the experiment, and trust... work on our faith and take it step by step, or do we *really* want what we are asking for, a big sign, and a sure knowledge all at once that all of the parts of it are true, knowing that it comes with the associated responsibility to live by it, since we *know*?
Today, let's do good works, and let's plant the seed of faith and see if it grows and improves our lives. :)  Let's listen to God and let him teach us at our individual pace, rather than demanding more than we can handle.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Job 11:13-16 -- On Investing in Hope

"If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him;
If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.
For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be steadfast, and shalt not fear:
Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away:"
Job 11:13-16

There is a lot of good stuff in this chapter.  I liked this part because it reminds us that we have to prepare our hearts.  A lot of times we want to just jump in without thinking or preparing... and God is there, whenever we seek him.  However, sometimes, if we aren't prepared, and we haven't thought about it, it's kind of like trying to communicate with a faulty phone line.  The sound is spotty and we aren't hearing everything that we should be.  But if we prepare, then there won't be any interference in our communication.  We'll be able to stretch out our hands and reach God.
Part of preparing is letting go of iniquity, and putting it far away.  We have to repent, and clean up our lives... get rid of the heaviness of sin.  Then we can lift ourselves up, clean, without fear.  And I love that we will also forget our misery, and only remember it as a temporary thing in our past.
Today, let's prepare our hearts, and stretch out our hands to God.  Let's take the time and put in the effort and make contact.  Our relationship with God is the best one that we could ever have, with anyone.  Let's invest in hope, and let go of wickedness.

Friday, August 29, 2014

2 Timothy 3:1-7 -- On Learning Lies

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."
2 Timothy 3:1-7

It is interesting to be in the last days as we are and to read this list, because I think perhaps it was meant to be this list of really horrible things, but to us it seems normal.  And maybe, for us, we need to remember first that these *are* horrible things, and then read it again.
We have a tendency to focus outwardly when we read things like this, thinking about how we've observed these things in other people.  And that might be true, but let's focus inwardly for a moment and consider: how many of these things can we see in ourselves?  It won't do us any good to wade out into our world and start labeling people with these problems, but it could do a lot of good if we recognize them in ourselves and work to change.
The silly women part I am sure could also be silly men... and good to not be silly and easily led, but I think that the point is that we shouldn't prey upon people, even silly ones.  Being the temptation for someone else might make us feel powerful, and sometimes disobedience and danger is exciting.  ... But it never equals good, and it doesn't lead to long term happiness.  We have enough to deal with repenting of our own sins; we definitely don't need to get mixed up in being even a little bit responsible for anyone else's.
The ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth part I find to be the saddest.  God is offering to teach us every day, and when we choose to learn other things, we lose so much.  All the things on this list are things that we learn about, learning how to be proud, how to be sneakier and more tempting, and how to get away with lies or theft, how to look holy on the outside but be unholy on the inside.  ... We get really good at those things, because we spend time learning them.  But what could we accomplish if we actually started learning real holiness?  What if we started accepting tutoring from God?  If we spent the same time on learning good things that we have spent in our lives learning bad things, we would be super double-plus amazing. :)  And, we'd start getting some truth in our lives instead of feeding ourselves lies.
I'm not saying that we're all pure evil.  Just that it is the last days, and I think we are all more intimately familiar with this list than we should be.  Let's not blow it off as normalcy.  Let's take it to heart, and start changing ourselves, and letting God into our lives.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Alma 41:6-8 -- On Walking Out of the Darkness

"And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness.
These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil.
Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved."
Alma 41:6-8

This is a good reminder that we all have the chance to repent and be saved, no matter how bad things are.  If we're still here, we still have a chance to change, and God will grant us the power to do so, if we humble ourselves and go to him.
What struck me today is the phrase "delivered from that endless night of darkness."  I really like that.  "Endless night of darkness" doesn't mean endless for us... it just means endless for the darkness that remains there, and the night that exists as we choose to live in it.  But we always have the choice to walk away.  We can welcome the new day.  No pain or misery is permanent with the Lord.  But, truly, God's decrees, and his path, are unalterable.  He isn't going to make a new shortcut to accommodate us; we have to get ourselves on his path.  Let's do that.  Let's make the effort and walk out of the darkness into the light of day, and let our eyes adjust a little.  Let's get on God's path and choose to be saved.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

D&C 93:33-34 -- On Not Getting in the Way of Joy

"For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy."
D&C 93:33-34

I like the idea that spirit and body united inseparably pretty much equals joy. :)  I don't think that we are there yet in this life, not inseparably, but we get a taste of it.  And in a lot of ways life IS joy.  Being alive, being able to take action, make a difference, choose who to be.  If we're doing it right, then we can get a lot of joy out of it.  And if we're miserable, then we're either not doing it right, or maybe we're really sick.  The cool thing is that in the resurrection, when all of this does become inseparable, there will be no sickness anymore.  So many things that get in the way of our enjoyment will be gone, and then, life will equal joy.  I think the only times that God is sad is when we choose darkness and pain rather than joy and life.  So, as we make better choices, we not only make ourselves happier, we affect God's happiness in a positive way as well.  Today, let's make good choices and work for the long term goals of happiness and life and love and goodness, and not be swayed by the limited darkness and the brokenness of evil... no matter how tempting or temporary we think they are.  Anything that can get in the way of our eternal enjoyment is definitely to be shunned.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Proverbs 18:21-24 -- On Language and Friendship

"A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.
The poor useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
Proverbs 18:21-24

The first two verses seem to go together. Before this, the chapter talks briefly about the dangers of offending someone, and this perhaps relates to that.  If we speak with kindness and show ourselves friendly (as in the final verse), then we'll have a feeling of satisfaction with ourselves rather than guilt and anxiety.  Death and life are in the power of the tongue.  Literally, yes, on a jury or as a judge, and figuratively.  Our words can build up or tear down other people, and if we love people, and life, and the skill of using language for good, then again, going back to the first verse of the selection, we'll be satisfied with the fruit of our actions.
Communication can help us with other relationships too... like finding a wife or husband.  We need to remember to be humble when we develop communication strategies, and resist the temptation to dismiss people because we think we are better.  Speaking roughly to anyone probably isn't a good thing, even if we can get away with it because of wealth or position.  If we want to have friendships, we need to be friendly, and if we are kind and good to people, then we can build relationships that are as close or closer than some family relationships.
To me, the point in all of this is that people matter.  God wants us to remember that.  Sometimes we get so far into our selfishness bubble that we think that people are disposable, or replaceable.  That this or that person doesn't matter, and we don't mind burning bridges behind us.  And if we have done that... it's understandable.  It's life, and we all have made mistakes in relationships and hurt people we shouldn't have.  But today, let's repent.  Let's make sure we don't go back to being that type of person again.  Let's nurture the relationships that we still have.  Let's heal where we have hurt, wherever possible.  Let's be kind and good and not use people or take them for granted.  Let's take God's advice, and show ourselves friendly. :)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Proverbs 21:1-3 -- On Hearts

"The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.
To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice."
Proverbs 21:1-3

The first verse seems to be expressing the idea that the Lord is in charge.  Figurative heart-holding rather than literal. :)  Also, God turns rivers wherever he wants them to go.  That is kind of cool too.   like this verse because it reminds us that everything is in God's hands.  If we have faith, we're going to be okay, no matter what madmen are in control.
Then we hear that we always think that we are right, but God observes our intentions and motivations, probably more clearly than we do sometimes.   This is instructive because it helps us remember that we need to take a step back and trust God's judgement, especially when we are clearly biased.  If we obey God's commandments, we allow room for God to make the call and we don't rely on our own justifications and excuses, which often fail us when it comes to temptation and pride.  When in doubt, we should always keep the commandments rather than assuming that we're the exception... which can be a big temptation sometimes.
The last verse of the selection is great because we get dramatic sometimes.  We think that some grand gesture will solve our problems, get on God's good side, or whatever.  We want to solve it all in one fell swoop.  In actuality, it's the day to day choices that we make that forge us into better people.  The dramatic gestures don't last.
Today, let's do the daily things that make us better and the lives of the people around us better.  Let's have faith that God knows what he is doing, and things will work out the way they should.  Let's obey God's commandments and not trust ourselves when we start justifying exceptions to his rules.  Let's ponder our own hearts, and get going on improving our intentions. :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ether 12:26-27 -- On Weakness

"And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them."
Ether 12:26-27

It's hard to imagine a world without weaknesses... but I imagine that it would be a lot harder for us to be humble.  We already think a lot of ourselves sometimes... think that we know better than God does... I can't imagine how much worse that would be if we didn't have some significant weaknesses that remind us to be humble, and that we aren't supermen.
I really love the way God talks about weaknesses as well.  We often think of them as permanent impediments in our lives.  We say "oh, I'm not good at that" as though that is the end of the discussion.  But God talks about weaknesses as temporary things.  Reminders that we need to be humble, but things that can turn into strengths if we are humble and have faith.
Today, let's learn from the way God talks about weakness.  Let's resolve to be humble and have faith, and to work on those weaknesses so that they no longer stand in our way.  And if we do turn a weakness into a strength with God's help, let's remember that help, and our need for God, despite our strength.  Let's help others with their weaknesses, and not take advantage.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ecclesiastes 5:9-13 -- On Silver and Eye Candy

"Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?
The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt."
Ecclesiastes 5:9-13

This is interesting.  I like the idea that the profit of the earth is for all, and that it hurts us to hoard things just for ourselves.  "What good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?" :)  That's hilarious, and pretty true.  When we have more than we need, it is just eye candy, right?  And it could be used in a better way, to make people's lives better, to feed people, to help them.  It reminds me of Jacob 2:19: "And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted."  Those are the things that God approves of us doing with riches... and maybe too often we're worried about things well beyond the basics.  Another pair of shoes, another car.  More clothes.  With me, perhaps more books and games and LEGOs.  And totally not saying that having some of what we like is bad, or that we can't have fun... but in the context of this verse, perhaps we should take a serious look at our stuff and how big a pile of it we have.  At some point, will it be enough, or will we keep wanting more and more and more?  And, if we can afford the extras... are those things more important than providing the basics to someone else?  That's a hard call to make, for sure.  Today, let's think about it, and pray about it, and if we can do more for others, let's make the effort.

Friday, August 22, 2014

D&C 52:42-43 -- On Inheritance and Enemies

"And thus, even as I have said, if ye are faithful ye shall assemble yourselves together to rejoice upon the land of Missouri, which is the land of your inheritance, which is now the land of your enemies.
But, behold, I, the Lord, will hasten the city in its time, and will crown the faithful with joy and with rejoicing."
Doctrine and Covenants 52:42-43

This is an interesting scripture, which reminds me of God talking to Moses, telling him that all the land that he could see would be his, and belong to his descendants.  Things like that can turn sour when translated into the modern world where wars and monetary transactions tell us who owns what, and very few respect or understand the real-estate-based gifts of God. :)  In this particular passage, God mentions that it was the land of their enemies, and in retrospect, knowing about the extermination order that made it legal to kill Mormons, that is pretty clearly true.  But interestingly, God doesn't do the same thing here that he did with Joshua and the children of Israel.  He doesn't command them to make an army and go down and conquer the land.  He says instead that he "will hasten the city in its time."  ... And I wonder if God just means that enemies, in time, can become friends, and forget past offenses.  That we, through normal means, can together build an inheritance and forge a promised land.
We know that the stakes of Zion reach all over the world, and building a Zion people can happen anywhere as well.  Anyplace where people are gathered together, living God's laws, can bring us closer to the ideal.  Today, wherever we are, let's work at building Zion and furthering God's kingdom.  Not through destroying those who disagree with us, but through loving them and taking care of them, and unifying us all.  Sounds like plenty of reason for joy and rejoicing to me. :)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Romans 6:4 -- On Newness

"Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."
Romans 6:4

I like the idea of walking "in newness of life."  The symbolism of baptism as a death and a resurrection seems powerful to me.  Changing ourselves is hard.  Giving up habits and ways of thinking and whole lifestyles sometimes, especially ones that we've embraced for years... it can seem impossible.  And the symbolism is appropriate.  It can feel like a death, of part of ourselves.  But, just in case that starts seeming negative and as though it isn't worth it, equally, on the other side, laying the burden of sin down along with the part of ourselves that wants it, it is a relief, and it does feel like a brand new life, starting from scratch, when we are able to stand up straight and walk without those gigantic burdens on our shoulders.  And that laying down of our burden of sin doesn't only happen at baptism, but also when we sincerely repent and renew those promises that we made when we were baptized.  So, we can be new each week when we take the sacrament.  ... As often as we sincerely lay down those burdens and let them die, we can start fresh, and walk in newness of life. :)
We sometimes forget the power of newness.  We pull our old, ratty life around us for comfort sometimes.  We're used to it, and afraid to give up the familiar, whether it is making us happy or not.  But God calls us up from the audience and asks us if we want to trade our old life for a new, warmer, cleaner one.  And we get confused.  We think there will be some trick.  Maybe a goat will be behind curtain number two... but God isn't playing a game, or offering anything that is hidden.  He is just offering us something new, if we are willing to give up something old that doesn't even help us anymore.  If we are willing to lay down our sin, he will teach us the joy of learning to walk and run and leap without that weight.  Let's take the deal.  Let's release our chokehold on the bad parts of ourselves.  Let's be willing to lay down our sins, and exchange them for newness and lightening of burdens, and clean hearts and hands and minds.  And let's do everything we can to keep our new lives clean, and go to God for help learning new things and new ways. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

1 John 4:18 -- On Love and Fear

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."
1 John 4:18

The relationship between fear and love here is intriguing.  In normal circumstances, fear and love seem to be able to exist together.  You can fear for someone, and maybe even fear someone, and still be able to love them.  Even in the scriptures we are taught to fear God, right?  Leviticus 25:17 seems pretty clear on that one: "thou shalt fear thy God."  And yet God is love... so, we're supposed to fear God and love him, but in this verse those things aren't supposed to be able to exist together.  Somewhat confusing.  I think what makes it clear is that we're talking about two different types of fear.  When we're advised to fear God, it means the respect, awe, reverence type of fear.  And the type of fear that love casts out is the uncertainty, worry, anxiety type of fear.
This is a really good clarification if we think about what an ideal relationship with God is.  We're not aspiring to an abusive relationship here, where we are afraid of God and doing what he says so that he won't hit us or strike us with lightning.  We don't follow God only because the alternative is hellfire and damnation.  D&C 121:45 says "then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God."  2 Nephi 4:24 tells us "by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer."  These are not the actions of the abused.  As we learn and grow and live closer to the Lord, we respect him, yes, and we feel his strength and power... but instead of being worried and anxious in his presence, our righteousness gives us confidence and power, and we can speak to him with boldness... because he is our friend and our father, and we know that our relationship is okay.
I love the idea that torment and love can't exist together.  That someday, all worry and anxiety and that sort of fear will be completely out of our lives, because we will have learned perfect love.  We'll have perfect *confidence* in God's promises to us, and we will be able to perfectly embrace whatever is before us.  It might take us a while to get there, so today, maybe we should practice a little. :)  Let's love and respect God and the people around us, and let's do what we can to remove the torment from those interactions.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Helaman 12:4-6 -- On Spiritual Makeovers

"O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!
Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!
Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide."
Helaman 12:4-6

I didn't choose this scripture so that we can wallow in discouragement and give up, and I don't think that it was written for that reason either.  I think that sometimes we really need a spiritual mirror placed in front of us, so that we can see what we look like, who we are, and the state of our souls.  We get that sort of mirror through meditation and prayer, because God grants us self-awareness sometimes so that we can grow and change.  And maybe this is the next best thing... looking at the state of all the children of men, and measuring ourselves against the specific complaints.  Just as the apostles sitting with Christ asked, "Lord, is it I?" (Matthew 26:22), it is good to examine ourselves to see if we are betraying God through our actions.
Today, let's think about whether these things can be said of us, and if so, then let's start changing.  Spiritual makeover time.  I think especially the desire part... do we really want God to reign over us?  If not, that's understandable, but we have a ways to go in our understanding of the Lord and perhaps in overcoming our own rebellious natures. :)  Let's be watchful and quash our own pride when we start thinking we are cooler than other people.  Let's be quicker to do good, and stop ourselves from doing evil.  Let's heed God's counsel, and seek his guidance.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Proverbs 4:20-22 -- On Words and Life

"My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh."
Proverbs 4:20-22

The interaction here with the words is interesting.  We're not just hearing, but we're actively listening.  We're not just reading, but collecting words in our eyes.  We're not just emotionally impacted by the word, but we're retaining the words and the feelings in our hearts.

I think not letting the words depart from our eyes could be including them in the way that we view the world... seeing things the way God would, or letting scripture influence our perception.  For instance, instead of seeing a homeless person, we see a brother and know that "inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40).  We remember the parable of the good Samaritan, and we realize that our interaction is more about deciding who we are than judging someone else.  Similar with word in our hearts I think.  When we are tempted to go the wrong way, we remember how it feels to be separated from God, and how much we need him.  We remember Psalms 119:105, and know that God's word can direct us and light our way, and we decide to avoid the darkness.

In John 6:68 it says "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."  Today, let's remember that God's words are life, and health, eternal and otherwise.  They can help our sight and all of our senses.  They can help us make decisions and know where to go.  They can offer hope and peace and joy.  Let's listen, and read, and love.  Let's see things and feel things differently because of God's words.  Let's be different, and better, people because of them... and let's continue all of that by reading them today, and letting them change us.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

2 Samuel 23:3-4 -- On Justice and Shining

"The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain."
2 Samuel 23:3-4

This is a cool and interesting selection that God shared with David.  The first part is clear... if we rule over other people, we need to be just, and show respect to God.  In other words, our ruling needs to be informed by and subordinate to God's rules.  ... Okay, good lesson.  And then comes the light and grass part and we're like, hmm.  It seemed so clear at first. :)  The thing is, it is still on topic; it just gets a little poetic.  And that is okay.  Poetry can be beautiful, and I love that God (and David) can slip from one to the other.  And, if we are able to follow along, perhaps we will catch the beauty and a little more of the point of what God is saying.
We know that Christ is the light and the life of the world, and the morning here reminds me of God talking about laying the foundations of the earth in Job 38:4-7.  Part of it says "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy."  The morning... the light... they all speak of things that the Lord created.  In the beginning, God divided the light from the darkness, and a ruler needs to be like this as well... like Christ, following Christ... a light to the world.  No shadow or clouds, but clarity and warmth, bringing life to the tender grass by shining clear after a storm.  Even referring to God at the beginning of the first verse.  God is God, our leader clearly, and he is also a rock, our stability and strength.
Maybe a leader of men needs to be both as well, and needs to be able to see the letter and the spirit, clear and bright laws layered over and meant to enhance life and beauty.  Leaders need to make sure that mercy and justice can both coexist, and not rob one another.  They need to see that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.  They need to understand how the gospel and the truth of everything fit together... not one stapled or nailed to the other, inadequately joined, but both alive, woven as part of each other.  And maybe all of us need to see that just a little more today.  God and his gospel aren't a little part of this life, or a puzzle piece that we fit into our week right around Sunday. :)  They encompass it all... their pattern touches all the pieces.  They are what makes it whole and understandable.  Today, let's remember the words and the pictures that God gives us... the literal and the figurative, the job and the meaning behind the job, and let's stay true to both.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

3 Nephi 19:31-34 -- On Hope and Wonder

"And it came to pass that he went again a little way off and prayed unto the Father;
And tongue cannot speak the words which he prayed, neither can be written by man the words which he prayed.
And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed.
Nevertheless, so great and marvelous were the words which he prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man."
3 Nephi 19:31-34

Sometimes I think that people mock religion because some things are unknowable.  There are mysteries that we tolerate and things that we know we won't understand completely in this life.  Perhaps we ourselves mock others in similar circumstances who don't understand or know the things that we do, and we feel sorry for them or look down on them because they embrace ignorance or rejoice in a mystery.  But truly, sometimes the wisest thing we can do is recognize our ignorance, and realize where the gaps in our knowledge are.  Without that, we can't see reality, and we become overconfident, thinking that we have everything figured out, when really we don't.  It's sort of like being 5, or even 13.  At many young ages we can be supremely confident that we've grown into ourselves and that we've mastered dealing with the world.  We know what is up, and we sometimes think that we know more than our parents do about jumping into life and never compromising.  And yet, we grow up a little, and we realize how ignorant we used to be.  Sometimes that helps us realize that we are still ignorant... but sometimes we get a false sense of confidence again, that *now* we have it figured out.  I think these verses are a good reminder that we're still a long way from figuring it all out, and we're still a lot closer to thirteen than we thought.  Words that can't be spoken, or written.  Things that are too amazing to express.  Christ could express them, but it's beyond us currently.  That's amazing.  And I think that we lose a lot when we start thinking that there isn't anything left to learn... that there aren't mysteries and puzzles and lifetimes of amazing things still to discover.  Imagining that heaven is boring, for example, or that the only excitement in life is doing stuff that is forbidden because it makes us feel all independent and rebellious.  ... Those things are utterly and overwhelmingly lame in comparison to the things that God has in store to teach us.  Things like this... too wonderful for earthy language.  Walking on water.  Being instantly at shore, when you were really far out.  Being taken by the spirit to the top of a mountain.  Ascending into heaven.  Being resurrected.  Being able to move a mountain with faith.  There are no end of mysteries still out there... things that Christ has done and we can learn and actually maybe be able to do ourselves someday.  It's wise and full of hope to realize that we still live in a world filled with wonder, and that we can't possibly know everything yet.
Today, let's look to God to teach us, and let's remember how much we don't know, and be open and receptive to the new things that God has in store for us.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Luke 6:37-38 -- On Giving and Happiness

"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."
Luke 6:37-38

I like this idea that if we can be kind and good to others, that we will receive kindness and goodness in return.  If we refrain from judging and condemning, then we will be blessed with the same kindness.  If we forgive, we will be forgiven.  ... And in the first verse it seems equal, matching us action for action, but in the last verse we see that it isn't anything like equal, to our benefit.  Because even though it is the same measure, it will be compressed and running over... God returns more to us than we could ever give to anyone.
Today, let's see if we can do kind things, or extricate ourselves from bad judgements if we already have done them.  Let's refrain from judging and condemning others.  Let's forgive people who have wronged us.  And if we can do those things, and clear our relationships of resentments and baggage, then let's start giving and blessing the lives of others all that we can.  As needed, let's make up for some of the hurt we've caused, and let's make a positive difference where a difference needs to be made.  Even when it will only bring a smile and not right an injustice, let's take the time to bless and cheer the people around us.  And let's do it, not just because it is worth it to see the smiles, or even that God will repay us with blessings and happiness, although all of that is of course cool.  Let's do it because it will make *God* happy, and make the world a better place for all of us together.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

D&C 6:32-34 -- On Growing Good

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, as I said unto my disciples, where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of them—even so am I in the midst of you.
Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.
Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail."
D&C 6:32-34

Scriptures like this help me to realize how really close to us God is.  If we're gathered together to talk about gospel topics, he will be with us.  We can reach out to him in prayer, and if we are living in tune with the spirit, God will always be there, hearing us.  Even if not, actually, he will still be there.  When there is no communication, it is we who have to work through our faulty ability to feel and receive.  We deafen and blind ourselves through sin and distraction, and God feels farther away because of that sometimes... but he is closer than we know.
Fear not to do good. :)  Isn't that an awesome statement?  And fearing to do good seems strange in a way, but just like we deafen ourselves, sometimes we paralyze ourselves and we are afraid to do anything.  We're stuck in one place, waiting for a sign, or thinking in only one direction.  And maybe we should wait, in that way, but it never means that we have to sit idle in other ways.  It's just like we think when a kid tells us that he or she is bored.  There are SO many things to do.  Books to read, places to go, games to play, tasks to accomplish, things to clean. :)  And we're kind of like that with the future.  We're scared and wondering... this way or that way, or what should I do?  And we forget that we are *surrounded* with things to do that don't require us to make huge dramatic decisions.  Things that we can learn, ways that we can help others.  And when we sow good, we also reap good, and so it makes everything better. :)
Today, let's not fear to do good.  Let's build upon God's rock.  Let's seek his presence.  Let's do whatever we can think of to help God in his work and bless the lives of others.  Let's plant lots and lots and lots of good out there, and watch it grow. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2 Nephi 9:42 -- On Puffing and Learned Foolishness

"And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them."
2 Nephi 9:42

This is an interesting verse because elsewhere in the scriptures, in many, many places (D&C 109:14, Alma 37:35, Daniel 1:17, Acts 7:22, and many others), God encourages us to learn, and to gain wisdom.  So, reading this out of context of the rest of those verses we might be tempted to think, wow, God isn't really into education so much.  But knowing that he very much IS, we can look at what God is really condemning here.  God seems to be condemning pride... being puffed up because we are richer or know more than other people.
We can't just flip a switch and become humble.  It's really hard sometimes, and unfortunately, even when we have problems with self-esteem, sometimes the problem is even greater, because we hang on to some of our accomplishments much more, believing that those things prove we have worth.  We react to feeling unworthy by comparatively showing that we are better than others.  And that's a normal reaction... but again, God asks us to be better than normal.  We need to rise above, and be examples, and learn to love other people, which is difficult--perhaps impossible--if we think that we are better than they are.
I like the phrase here that we need to consider ourselves "fools before God."  This might be a good place to start, because we're used to comparisons, and compared to God, it's pretty hard to argue that *any* of us are not foolish.  And if we realize that, then perhaps we can have some sincerity in the thought that we really, really need God's help, and that we should ask for it, which is the main point of this verse.  We're not wiser than God.  No matter how rich or knowledgeable or wise, we can't out-think him or find a better path in life than his.
And if we can get there, then maybe we can accept advice from God, and know that the people around us are also his sons and daughters, valuable in his sight, and equal to us, even though he has given us individual strengths and weaknesses.
Today, let's work on not being puffed up, and on using any advantages we have for good, to help people and not to prove our superiority.  Let's share what we have and what we know with others, and remember that they have things to teach us as well.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Moroni 7:45-47 -- On Perfect Love

"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him."
Moroni 7:45-47

So many good things to remember and learn here.  Charity is the pure love of Christ.  If we have it at the last day, things will apparently be okay for us.  And then a lot of help with what it is and isn't, which helps us to learn it.
Suffereth long: to me, that seems like patience.  If we love as Christ does, we're willing to endure trials, and we don't just jump ship when it gets difficult.  We stick in there, learn the lesson, and help others to learn good things and to get through it as well. 
Is kind: well, that one might be clear all by itself, but I love it anyway.  We could use so much more kindness in the world, and I think it is one of the things that we forget easily as we go throughout our days.
Envieth not: we're not always looking for what other people have.  We're okay with what we have, and we know we can make do, and if not for some reason, God will provide.  We're not willing to trade our goodwill or our integrity for anything. 
Is not puffed up: we don't think that we're better than other people.  We're not prideful, thinking that we have better stuff, and we don't place ourselves above others.
Seeketh not her own: very interesting one.  I think it means that we're not being selfish.  Maybe also that we don't only seek out people like us, but we're willing to interact and learn about a variety of different kinds of people.  Also, we're willing to share... we don't need to have a pile of toys and for no one else to have any in order to be happy or feel fulfilled.
Is not easily provoked: we don't have big red neon buttons that other people can push to make us angry.  We're able to bridle our emotions--not saying turn them off, but control them--and we are able to choose calmness and rationality when we discuss ideas.
Thinketh no evil: this is awesome stuff.  It reminds me of Alma 19:33 "... their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil."  We've had that mighty change of heart, and we don't want evil things that throw wrenches into life and relationships.  We know that God's way will help everyone, and we don't ponder the evil alternatives. :)
So many more.  We rejoice in the truth, and not in bad stuff that we do.  We bear and endure, similar to suffering long.  We don't freak out.  We deal with reality, and we don't lose patience with God's timing.  Believing and hoping all things... we're committed to God.  We don't shrink from his truth, and we throw ourselves into it, knowing that he will hold us up and fulfill his promises.  We have hope in our futures and in the world and in other people.  We can believe in them, and help them to achieve more and to be more... and with God, we can achieve anything together.
It's a lot of things to include in a definition of love, but I think that's what makes God's love so astounding.  We love in such selfish and corrupt ways sometimes... and here, God is helping us understand what true love really is, that it is the "greatest of all," and if we learn it, it can never fail us.  ... Today, let's start learning it.  Let's pick one aspect that we aren't really good at and start incorporating it into our lives.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Moses 7:32-33 -- On Freedom and Hatred

"The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;"
Moses 7:32-33

This is very similar, I imagine, to what an earthly parent goes through when his children go astray.  Doing everything a parent can do, short of locking them up and forcing them, and wondering why they choose to hate or destroy, when they were never taught that by their parents.  ... I'm sure God has more insight into why we make the choices that we do, and maybe that is even more frustrating, knowing that we are choosing hatred and cruelty for flimsy reasons.
Today, let's remember that we have freedom to choose love or hatred.  Let's remember that we have the knowledge to choose, and that God is always there to help.  And let's choose love.  Love of *all* of our brothers and sisters, of whatever race or gender or political persuasion.  On whatever side of war or legal or political issue.  Even if we disagree with their choices... let's love.  Let's work together and make the world the best we can.  Let's try to understand each other, and not sully our souls with hatred.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Alma 32:8-11 -- On Wealth and Worship

"I behold that ye are lowly in heart; and if so, blessed are ye.
Behold thy brother hath said, What shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God.
Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?
And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?"
Alma 32:8-11

This is an amazing chapter.  In this particular part of it, a group of people comes to talk to Alma.  They were forbidden from coming to church "because of the coarseness of their apparel."  In other words, they didn't have the money for nice clothes, so they couldn't go to church.  Alma has some good advice for them, including that being poor can work in our favor sometimes, if we let the enforced humility (being lowly in heart, or sad because of our circumstances) bring us to real humility (coming to God, repenting, etc.).  The thing that strikes me overall is that Alma didn't become outraged at the oppression that these people were living under.  He didn't rage and encourage them to form committees and petition the government.  Instead, he accepted the reality of their situation, and encouraged them to look at it in a different way... to look at the forced humility as a blessing and an opportunity, and to work around the fact that they couldn't go inside those particular church buildings... because it didn't matter.  They could still worship God, as can we all, every day of the week.  This, of course, is not to say that God doesn't want us to attend church.  I believe very strongly that he does want us to attend.  But if we're forbidden to go one place, that shouldn't stop us from continuing to worship and to live as we should. :)
Today, let's try to think like Alma.  Instead of raging against our circumstances or against the injustices that we face, let's look at them not as limitations, but as opportunities.  Maybe we're learning humility, or love, or how to relate to more kinds of people.  Whatever it is, there *is* something there to learn, and our opportunities to get closer to God and to serve him are intact.  Let's turn our enforced humility into sincere repentance.  Let's find God in everything around us, *and* at church.  Let's not be upset that we aren't rich or start coveting nice clothes.  Let's just be clean, and come unto God with whatever we do have.  And let's remember on the other side to love other people and not forbid them from hanging out with us... even if they can't afford the best.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Revelation 13:10 -- On Our Final Grade

"He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints."
Revelation 13:10

I've been running across a lot of scriptures lately that have a similar theme to this one... what we do, we get back.  The way we treat others is the way we will be treated: restoration and judgement.  I think it might be finally starting to sink in.  When I was in high school I remember one of my teachers giving me a C on a paper, and when he did, he told me that if it was any of the other students, it would be an A paper, but he knew that I could do better.  A similar thing happened to me in college, and you know... I think both of those teachers were good teachers, and trying to inspire me, to let me know that they could see potential in me, but at the time I mostly just felt robbed of the grade I "deserved." ... If what I wrote was better than everyone else, then I should get an A, right?  So what if it wasn't my best effort?
We're all good at different things, and I think we get so used to competing with and comparing ourselves to others sometimes that we forget that God doesn't grade on a curve, or care what anyone else's grade is, or what anyone else has done at all.  Our judgement isn't going to involve what other people did that justified our actions, or how great we are compared to some other person.  God knows our strengths and weaknesses perfectly.  He gave them to us.  He knows whether we magnify our talents or whether we just do the minimum to squeak by.  It's our actions and our labor and our choices that determine what happens to us.  Warnings like this verse remind us that we need to think about who we are, that we have a personal responsibility to do the right thing all the time.  We can't blame missteps on passion or circumstance.  We can't solve ethical dilemmas by claiming that other people forced us into it. :)  We're here to love and help others, but we make our own choices, and no one else stands between us individually and God, besides Christ, who thankfully allows us to repent and change through his atonement.
God is the greatest teacher, the greatest parent, and his instruction and nurture is individualized so that each of us gets what we need.  Each of us has an opportunity to make choices and has strengths and weaknesses that help us to grow and become more than we currently are.  Today, let's remember to do the best that we can do, no matter whether that capability is greater or lesser than another's capability.  Let's stretch ourselves, and become better at our strengths and weaknesses.  Let's not just do the minimum to get by.  Let's be extraordinary.  Let's have the patience and the faith of saints, and avoid those traps that we are so prone to fall into, blaming other people or basing our behavior on comparisons.  Let's avoid evil and never justify it, and let's embrace good, and work hard to make the world better in any way we can.  In the end when we're judged by how we treated others, let's find kindness and love and generosity waiting for us.  Let's work out our lives through faith and prayer rather than comparison. :)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Luke 6:35-38 -- On Being Amazing

"But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."
Luke 6:35-38

We spend a lot of our lives on remedial education... just getting past our mistakes and up to some sort of "normal."  And I think part of that is because we don't really realize, in a way that affects our actions, who we are.  We call God our Father, and we understand on some level that we are his children, but it seems figurative and far away.  Maybe, if we let the idea of being children of God hit us in a more literal way, we would realize that we aren't the weak shades of humanity that we believe ourselves to be... unable to change, unable to resist temptation, unable to do as God asks.
God asks us not only to fix our problems, but to move beyond normalcy into amazing.  He asks us to learn to love people we hate.  He asks us to give to others, even people we might not think deserve it.  He asks us not to judge or condemn.  He knows we can... he *gives* us the power to do so.
And if we give, even to the supposedly unworthy or undeserving, and offer our love and mercy and kindness, then we will also be given to... even if we are unworthy or undeserving.  I know that I could sure use that kind of nonjudgmental kindness in my life.  Maybe we all could.  And God promises us that what we give, we will be given.  Today, let's give, and love, and offer everything we have for others, because that is exactly the kind of help that we need.  Let's remember that we are children of God, and capable of so much more than we yet know.  Let's help each other be amazing.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 -- On Hope

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which asleep in Jesus will God bring with him."
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

This is a hard one for us, I think, because we can't see past death, so it challenges our faith to believe beyond it.  Plus, it's natural to be sad when we don't get to hang out with someone we love.  A good reminder still, though.  Death should never take away our hope... even when it is our own death that we are facing.  Christ overcame death, and he'll bring us all back when the time is right.
I don't think that it is wrong to be sad.  After all, Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, even though he knew beyond doubt he would come back, because he was about to make it happen.  I think it is just the connection with the loss of hope that is warned against here... and sometimes we do sorrow that way.  As though nothing can ever be right again, or as though this one tragedy has ruined eternity.  And I know that sometimes it can feel that way when we are overcome with emotion... but that is never true.  We know that death isn't the end.  We know that, with God, we will all be resurrected and have a chance to be reunited with our lost relatives and friends.  Today, let's remember hope, even in the midst of sadness.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Job 20:4-5 -- On Happily Ever After

"Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth,
That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment?"
Job 20:4-5

This reminds me that all of life is short, but I think that even more, it helps us to remember that evil doesn't ever really win.  It might look like it temporarily, and some authors sure like to favor the bad guys, but in real life, good always triumphs eventually.  Probably all of us have felt like we've lost a battle with evil at some point... where we were clearly on the right side, and still lost.  And, in God's infinite mercy, some of us have also been saved even we were clearly in the wrong.  ... But the end of the story we already know.  God wins.  Good wins.  And our struggle and our lessons are to try to get ourselves in good enough shape, inside and out, to be firmly and sincerely on the winning side.  All good.
Today, let's not lose heart when things seem to be going quite literally to hell.  Let's remember that all things will work together for good if we love God and serve him (Romans 8:28, and others).  We might have to be a little bit patient.  We might have to endure some hardship... but the ending is good.  We all live happily ever after. :)  It doesn't have to be just a fairy tale, if we are on God's side.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Exodus 25:2 -- On Sincerity and Offerings

"Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering."
Exodus 25:2

This is a good reminder that our offerings to God have to be sincere.  Our employers or financial institutions or governments might accept grudging offerings of effort, fees, or taxes, but with God we have a different relationship.  With him, it's like we went up to Great Aunt Martha and said, "well, I didn't really want to get you anything because you're grouchy and loud, but my mom made me buy you something, so here."  ... And then we wonder why she doesn't appreciate it.  With God we don't even need to be overtly rude, because he knows how we feel and what we think.  Attitude counts, and part of becoming more like God and perfecting ourselves is curing our attitude problems.  That doesn't mean we all have to become little clones or Stepford Wives.  We still get to enjoy individual personality and humor and all that makes us unique.  We just have to sort out the good from the bad.  This doesn't make it okay to not give God anything because we don't want to.  What it means is that part of coming to God is changing our hearts and *wanting* to.
How do we start wanting to do things that we don't want to do?  Seems like so many things are just part of who we are.  We justify a lot of things that way, by saying, well, that's just the kind of person I am.  I tell it like it is, or I'm naturally rebellious, or you have to earn my respect, or whatever it is.  The truth is though, even if we have developed tendencies or emotional attachments to certain kinds of behavior, we still get to choose who we are... actions, feelings, all of it.  If we really want to change, it's probably going to be hard because we've developed our attitudes over time.  But God can help us change our hearts and our minds, and we can cement those changes by altering our actions.
Of course, going to God for help when we already have a bad attitude about him could be tough.  But he is willing to help if we are sincere about wanting to change.  It can seem like circular reasoning, but as it says in Alma 32, "even if ye can no more than desire to believe," God can take even that "particle of faith" and work with it.  We can be who we want to be, inside and out.  We don't have to hide behind attitudes or build false walls to protect our weaknesses.  Today, let's work on our sincerity and on offering what we are willing to give.  And then, let's work on improving in both areas... trusting God to help us hide ourselves less and offer more of ourselves honestly, to God and others.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mormon 9:35-36 -- On Family

"And these things are written that we may rid our garments of the blood of our brethren, who have dwindled in unbelief.
And behold, these things which we have desired concerning our brethren, yea, even their restoration to the knowledge of Christ, are according to the prayers of all the saints who have dwelt in the land."
Mormon 9:35-36

The idea here that our garments can be stained because of other people is interesting, and kind of scary.  We know that we don't have inherited sin from Articles of Faith 1:3, which states "men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression."  ... So, if it isn't inherited, then how does it work?  What it seems to be is that we have a responsibility to each other, to help each other get back to God's presence.  That's why the Book of Mormon was written... to help far future relatives and descendants of friends to come back to God.  Joseph Smith, speaking of our ancestors and people who have gone before us, said "their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation" (D&C 128:15), and he also quotes Paul who said "they without us should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:40).
God is our father, and so the analogy of family loyalty kind of fits here.  In our families, we want to help and protect each other, and we have a responsibility there... to be good examples for each other, to support and help rather than tear down, to share knowledge and encourage... to not let anyone go hungry or be alone when they need someone.  And I think here, and many many other places in the scriptures, God is reminding us that our family isn't just parents and siblings in a direct genetically related sort of a way.  As God is our father, we have a greater responsibility to him, and our siblings are the human race.
Sometimes the idea of Zion, a perfect society where there are no poor, seems impossible.  But if we look at our immediate families, I think it is easier to understand.  If, just on that level, we pooled our resources and helped each other, most of us would have enough.  God's idea is that we're all part of each other... all essential to each other's salvation, and we work together to make it happen.  Not just an abstract ideal, but a living truth.  An idea that can help us all, if we start thinking of each other as family.  Today, let's work on it.  Let's pray for each other.  Let's expand our sense of loyalty.  Let's be there for each other, and accept that larger responsibility to everyone.  Let's let that idea change the way we communicate and how we talk about others.  Let's love, and rejoice in our immense family. :) 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

D&C 58:26-27 -- On Growing Up

"For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;"
D&C 58:26-27

In 2 Nephi 32:3 we learn that "the words of Christ will tell you all things what you should do."  D&C 6:36 encourages us to "look unto me in every thought."  D&C 46:7 says "ye are commanded in all things to ask of God."  ... So, how does this fit in?  God wants us to ask him about everything, but then figure it out ourselves?  I think the answer is mostly yes. :)  God wants to be included so he can guide us when needed, help if things start going wrong, or correct us when we head in the wrong direction, but the idea is for us to figure life out, not to be robots programmed by God.
I've done this before, many time in my life.  I ask God about something, and then I pretty much sit there doing nothing at all about that particular thing while I wait for an answer.  But then I think of college students that treated me that way when I was teaching them and I realize how lame that is.  If I really want to learn something, I should be jumping in and trying to figure it out, not waiting around for clarification.  Not to say that there might sometimes be answers we need before we can move forward, but I think that we often put everything into that category when in actuality, very little belongs there.  Just as when we were children learning to become adults and make our own decisions,  God gives us room to become more independent.  When we learn to dress ourselves, we might still need some fashion advice, but we don't need as much help with not falling over or getting our shoes on the right feet.  So, even though we should still talk to God about everything and get his advice, we should also learn to take some initiative in our lives and do good when we have a chance to do good, rather than waiting for God to tell us to do it.  If we have an idea about how to help someone, or a lot of people, then let's talk about it with God, get his advice, but move forward.  It might be a little messier than waiting for approval at every step, and we might make a few mistakes... but mistakes in doing good things aren't sins.  They are just part of learning, and then we'll get better at helping and doing good.  Let's try it. :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

3 Nephi 11:11 -- On Suffering and Learning

"And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning."
3 Nephi 11:11

This was a good reminder for me today that Christ "suffered" too.  Sometimes we get so wrapped up with our own disappointments and tragedies that we don't remember that, like Christ, we have he ability to choose.  Christ chose to suffer.  He chose to do our Father's will.  ... We get the same choice.  We all learn step by step, according to our understanding and our capacity for obedience.  Christ probably learned faster and had a greater capacity, but we can learn the same things and do our Father's will to the limit of our capacity.  God gave us life so we can learn and become more like him.  Too often, we waste our daily opportunities feeling sorry for ourselves.  Instead, let's accept the suffering and the growth that goes along with it, and become that much better and more perfect.  ... All this not to say that life is all about suffering.  It isn't, but as we obey and suffer a little, we also increase our capacity for joy, and satisfaction with our lives.  Let's follow in Christ's steps today, and learn all we can.

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