Thursday, December 31, 2015

Joseph Smith--History 1:54 -- On Reflection and Revision

"Accordingly, as I had been commanded, I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days."
Joseph Smith--History 1:54

This is an idea found elsewhere in the scriptures, that we need to learn line upon line (Isaiah 28:10), including Jesus growing up and learning as he grew (Luke 2:52).  It's all of life, really.  Joseph Smith saw the first vision at a really young age, but he had to learn more and grow up a lot before he was ready to translate the Book of Mormon, and part of that were these yearly meetings with the angel.
We're impatient, and we keep looking for shortcuts, but there isn't a shortcut for growing up.  We all have to learn, a little bit at a time.  Hopefully, as we grow and progress, we're looking back at our former selves and wondering how we ever could have been so... whatever it is.  We've all made some gigantic blunders in our lives, made mistakes that make us cringe.  We've said mean things that we shouldn't have said, and been unkind at the very moments when we should have been forgiving.  We've been people that we shouldn't have been and don't want to be. 
Fortunately, just like Joseph Smith, and Jesus Christ, and all the prophets, and every person who has ever lived on this earth, we have the ability to stop and take a look back at our lives.  We can change.  Christ gave us the opportunity to repent... to take what we've learned so far and build on the good things and let go of the bad things.  Today, let's take the time to review and to consider who we are and who we want to be, and how to get from one to the other.  Let's include God in our review, and be open to his advice and assistance.  If we want to change, God will help us to do so.  Let's trust him, and tell him all of the obstacles, and then start making it happen, little by little, one day at a time (Matthew 6:34; 3 Nephi 13:34).

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Luke 18:10-14 -- On Humility and Comparison

"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
Luke 18:10-14

A good reminder for us today about humility.  It's really easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we are better than other people, measuring by so many things... weight, beauty, politics, religion, marital status, musical taste, where we live, color of skin, first language, literacy, grammatical ability, age, mental health, dental health, and so on.  Christ reminds us here that we shouldn't even be prideful about how well we live the gospel, because the whole idea of making ourselves feel better by comparison has serious flaws.  There are always going to be things that we're good at, but assuming that we're better than others limits our ability to learn from them about the things that *they* are better at.  And maybe they know things we don't, even about the things where we think that we're the best.  Sometimes that is hard to take, because we want to seem smart and for people to admire us.  Maybe a better idea, if we are in need of comparison, is to compare ourselves only to God.  He is the example that we need to emulate, and in that comparison we are always going to fall short.  Maybe that will help us remember to be more humble, and that we still have an awful lot to learn about probably even in the areas where we feel like we are doing the best.
Today, let's be like the publican rather than the Pharisee.  Let's recognize that we need God's help and mercy in our lives, and let's plead for it, rather than assuming we already have Heaven on preorder. :)  Let's humble ourselves, and work on helping others rather than just feeling superior to them.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Colossians 3:1-2 -- On Setting our Affections Wisely

"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth."
Colossians 3:1-2

In the previous chapter, it talks about us being "dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world."  So the symbolic message here is one of rebirth.  Sort of a lose yourself to find yourself thing, like in Matthew 16:25.  We're dying to earthly things, and being reborn/resurrected with Christ... to spiritual things.  Setting our affection is an interesting phrase, and I think it just means that we get to pick our priorities.  We get to pick who to love.
Today, let's make this choice... or remake it if necessary in our lives.  The dramatic imagery is there because it is a significant decision in our lives.  We can't be wishy washy about choosing above over below, or letting go of sin and earthly things.  It has to be dead to us.  Which leaves us free to find new life... better life, in spiritual, godly things.  Let's let go of our addiction to immediate gratification, and work on placing our affections on things that are good and that will last eternally. :)

Monday, December 28, 2015

2 Corinthians 8:3-5 -- On Being Willing to Step Beyond Our Power

"For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God."
2 Corinthians 8:3-5

Some great ideas here.  In the first verse, I like how some of the early church members were willing "beyond their power."  That's a big step to take, and I think that we often stop before that point because we're scared.  We're scared of not being in control, of going beyond our own power and relying on God that much.  It's a big, scary commitment to be willing to commit beyond your own power... and without God, of course, a really bad idea.  We can overwhelm ourselves and wear ourselves out if we don't learn to manage our own commitments and to say no to things that we can't do... like double booking ourselves to run two events at once, or take so many credits in college that we can't keep up with the homework.  But *with* God, what we can't do alone, we CAN do, according to the will of God.  That's how we grow beyond our own abilities: because God is there, sustaining us.  I think Bishops and Relief Society presidents, and so many things that we do specifically for God, are often possible only because we have God's help.  Not to mention Prophets, Apostles, or Missionaries.  I think callings that place us full time in the service of God allow us to feel that sustaining hand and that spiritual guidance even more.
Of course, I think that church and life aren't really as separated as we feel they are most of the time, and we can have that same spiritual guidance and sustaining hand in our non-church callings as well:  in our employment, in our schooling, in our family responsibilities.  I think it is sometimes harder though, because it is harder to know what God wants when it isn't spelled out as clearly... but God still is there to help and guide us at all times in our lives, if we are willing to step beyond our power and allow God to sustain us in doing his will.  One important part of that is in the last verse of the selection.  We can give or dedicate ourselves to different people, goals, pursuits... but only "by the will of God," if we want to be able to work beyond our power.  God has to come first as a priority, and all other goals and priorities have to be secondary to him.
Today, let's be willing to step beyond ourselves and work closely with the Lord in all our pursuits.  Let's make him our top priority, and know that if we do so, and keep his commandments, we'll have more power in our lives, more direction, and be operating at a level that we never could alone.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Psalms 55:22 -- On Trusting God with our Burdens

"Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved."
Psalms 55:22

I like this promise.  If we cast our burdens on the Lord, he will sustain us.  I think it is hard to do sometimes, because we lack faith.  We often think our problems are insurmountable, and that nothing can save us, or that certain situations are just hopeless.  And I'm not saying that we aren't going to be tested in life, because we are.  We need to have our faith tested sometimes in order to build it.  But I think in the eternal scheme of things, God does deliver us from every challenge, if we can just trust him enough to hand the problems that we can't solve to him, instead of trying to control events that are uncontrollable, or letting the world erode our hope.  The deliverance will be on his timetable, not ours, which is often hard because we aren't very patient.  But God *is* there, and he answers prayers and is willing to save us, even from our own stupid mistakes.  He will be there, to help and to heal, if we can learn to trust him more, and give him our burdens.
Today, let's try not to assume that we know better than God does what the outcome will be of each event in our lives.  Let's remember that God has a plan for us... not only an overall general plan for humanity, but a specific, personal plan for each of us.  He is mindful of each of us, and wants us to be happy.  Let's look to him, and give him the burdens that we can't carry.  Let's trust him, and stand our ground in the gospel rather than looking for answers elsewhere.  No one else has the answers that we need, but God is ready not only to answer us, but to help us ask better questions, so we can learn more and progress higher and farther than we ever thought possible.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

3 Nephi 5:8 -- On Never-ending Truth and Opportunity

"And there had many things transpired which, in the eyes of some, would be great and marvelous; nevertheless, they cannot all be written in this book; yea, this book cannot contain even a hundredth part of what was done among so many people in the space of twenty and five years;"
3 Nephi 5:8

I like this verse because I think it shows how much there is that God wants to tell us... which is everything.  Of course, we can't handle everything at once, and we have to go a little slower and learn line upon line... but as we learn, there is always more.  We never get to the end (at least in this life) and say, okay, done.  I've learned it all. :)  Luckily we have an eternity for that.  Just like Mormon selected specific records to pass down to us, so we have to make decisions in our lives about priorities, and what to learn first.  As we do, hopefully we are putting God first and making the gospel a priority.  That's what you have to do when you have everything to learn... you prioritize, and tackle whatever part you can do for now.  I think that is what God was saying in Matthew 6:34: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."  We do what we can, today, and make sure that we are putting God first, and take each day one at a time.
It would be impossible to read all of the good things that God has done in this world, even if they were all written and presented to us, because they keep happening, and God keeps having things to say, and he remains involved in our lives if we let him in.  So, let's keep learning, and never stop and assume we've mastered the gospel.  There is always more, more, more. :)  Let's notice and keep a journal of the great things that the Lord has done in our lives, and add our voices to the story.  And let's remember that God always has more to teach us.  Let's keep learning truth and taking the opportunity to improve.  Let's accept the fact that we can't know or do everything yet, and focus on the most important things.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Isaiah 9:2 -- On Light and Fleeing the Darkness

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."
Isaiah 9:2

This is Isaiah talking about the coming of the Messiah.  This is similar imagery to Lehi's dream, to 3rd Nephi, to actually a lot of scriptural events... and just life events.  The darkness, the shadow, and then the glorious light.  And that is what God is.  That is what his birth and his life symbolize in each of our lives... the light that shines to lead us out of darkness and the brightening of our lives, "brighter and brighter until the perfect day" (D&C 50:24).
Today, let's rejoice that we don't ever have to be lost or alone or in the dark, because we have God.  He was born, and he lives, for us.  Let's honor his love and sacrifice rather than dismissing it or taking it for granted.  Let's flee the darkness, and look to Christ to lead us to him.  Let's be lights to others, setting an example of good works (Matthew 5:15). Let's get to know our Savior and let him teach us to love as he loves, and to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), as he is (John 9:5; Mosiah 16:9).

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Matthew 2:1-2 -- On Coming to Worship Christ

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Jud├Ža in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."
Matthew 2:1-2

It's interesting to me how many things happened because of Christ's birth and how big a deal it was even at the time.  In Luke 2 we read about the shepherds that saw an angel, and were witnesses that the Savior was born.  They told people.  In these verses, we read about people who came from another country seeking Christ.  It wasn't just a local phenomenon.  We know from 3 Nephi 1 that even across the world the announcement was made, and a sign given.  Herod took the wise men so seriously that he felt that his rule was threatened.  These things weren't done in secret... it was big news both where they were, and elsewhere in the world.  The "good tidings of great joy" that the angel brought to the shepherds were for "all people," which includes the whole earth, and I submit all time as well.  All people, everywhere, whether they lived in the past, the present, or the future.  Christ's birth brings joy for everyone, whether we're willing to accept him or not.  Resurrection and immortality are coming to all of us as free gifts just for participating. :)  But the true gift of "eternal life" is more than immortality.  Eternal life has a spiritual component and requires a little more effort.  It basically means eternal life with God, which necessitates that we learn how to be more like him and how to become our best selves.  Which is basically just teaching us how to put extra whipped joy on top of the joy we already get. :)  Today, let's be wise men (and women), and follow the example of our predecessors, following the signs, listening to the message of joy, seeking Christ wherever he is to be found, and coming to worship him.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Proverbs 4:17-18 -- On Food Safety and Being Shiny

"For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
Proverbs 4:17-18

This is really yucky symbolism.  The idea of it makes you almost taste it... the bread of wickedness and the wine of violence.  Scary, and gross, and repulsive as foods.  I'm sure you can imagine as well as I can how discolored and unappetizing those things would be... not something that you want to take into your body, knowing that it very likely would make you sick.  And yet, we do take those things into us spiritually, and it does make us sick.  Sounds like something to avoid. :)
I like the next verse with the shininess and the idea of the perfect day.  I like to think this is how we progress... our light getting progressively shinier, until eventually we shine from within with that perfect light.  Perfection is a powerful concept, and the idea that we can even approach that is an exciting thought.  Even more reason to stay away from corrupted food, symbolic or not. :)  Today, let's live without a bad taste in our mouth.  Let's eat the bread and the waters of life (John 6:35; Alma 5:34) and all the purity and goodness that God offers us.  Let's not make ourselves sick with that other stuff.  And let's keep getting shinier, until the perfect day. :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Isaiah 29:13 -- On Sincerity and Worship

"Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:"
Isaiah 29:13

I think we are often like this.  We say the right things, or the things that we think that we should say, but we lack internal commitment.  We understand God only through what people have said about him, but we haven't gotten to know him personally.  It isn't necessarily a bad thing... it's often that we just haven't learned yet to see past a shallow view of religion and understand the reality underneath.  It is a good thing to work on, however, whether we think that we have a good relationship with God or not.  Who can't benefit from learning a little more sincerity, a little more truth, and developing a closer relationship with God?
Today, let's think a little more about what we're saying when we talk about God.  Let's think about where our hearts are in relationship to God... and let's go directly to God through prayer and scripture study to learn about him rather than relying only on what others say.  Let's understand who we worship, and why, and work on internalizing the gospel and living what we believe.

Monday, December 21, 2015

2 Corinthians 8:13-14 -- On Equality

"For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened:
But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:"
2 Corinthians 8:13-14

I really like the idea of equality here, that in helping people and in a community of believers... in building Zion, that is how it should be.  I think that the problem usually is that in our society I'm not sure if we really want equality at all.  Instead, everyone wants preferential treatment.  We want people to see our worth and we want to be on top... but we don't usually take the time to see other people's worth and lift them up.  And the problem in a system like ours isn't that we want good things... it is that when we focus on ourselves we're encouraging society to be divided rather than united.  It's like we're the puzzle pieces from a partially completed jigsaw puzzle and we're against fitting in with everyone else, because we can't be a corner, or we didn't get the good part of the picture, or that piece next to us is a little bent, and we refuse to be seen with him.
We're all different shapes and different sizes.  We all have our own personalities and view of the world, and all of them can be good... but we become more than we could ever be alone when we join with others to create a community like Paul describes... where everyone is taking care of everyone else, and filling in the places where we fall short or are in need.
In Matthew 20, Christ gives the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, and in verse 12 it says "These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day."  Equality, again... but the laborers are complaining about it.  They don't want to be equal... they want more.  And our society reinforces that way of thinking constantly.  We've grown up thinking that way... we don't see a thing wrong with it.  After all, if I do more, shouldn't I get more?  And I'm not saying that we should throw away our belief in the value of work... far from it.  But I do think that we might be looking at things from the wrong perspective.  From a gospel/eternal perspective, "are we not all beggars?" (Mosiah 4:19).  In our mortal lives we justify ourselves a lot because we do more, and so we deserve more, and we often overlook or try not to think about people that are less fortunate than we are.  But if we switch it up, realizing that compared to God every single one of us is basically a beggar... homeless, relying on God for everything that we receive every day, maybe it makes a difference.  Maybe it can help us see things the other way around, and realize that things look a lot different when we're the ones needing help, and not able to satisfy our own needs.  Maybe the puzzle seems a lot more comforting and worth completing that way.
Today, let's work on building a community.  Let's work to help others, and let's try to step back and rethink what equality means, from someone else's perspective, and from God's perspective.  Let's help each other and find ways to strengthen each other's weaknesses... making the world better, and becoming equal in love, in joy, and in salvation.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

2 Corinthians 6:2 -- On Salvation Now

"(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)"
2 Corinthians 6:2

Now.  I think sometimes we get pretty complacent about the gospel.  It's easy to think that we have all the time in the world to learn and become, and putting it off for a while isn't a big deal.  We'll repent later, we'll attend church regularly when we're not so busy... whatever it is, we can do it someday.  We don't have to worry about it now.  It's easy to think that and fall into that... but as Paul points out above, now is the time, and the day.  Salvation is available to us now.  It isn't about a specific time, like the particular day that Paul said this so long ago. :)  It's about the fact that what we do now is who we are.  Now leads us to the future and to eternity.  Now matters more than anything else ever will, and that unknown future where we imagine that we will do all of those things... that won't ever happen without now.  Now is when we make habits that stay with us, and now is when we need to step up for God and work out our salvation.  Timing is everything, and now is the time. :)
And hey, I know it's hard.  I'm an expert procrastinator, and participate in a very good share of escapism as well.  I get it.  I want to put things off until later too.  Maybe we all do with some things.  It's hard to face things and it's so much easier to justify and say, no... later.  I'll deal with it later.  But we have to concede Paul's point, really.  I mean, let's look at our own lives.  Do any of us finish everything we start?  Do any of us actually come back to things that we put off?  I think maybe occasionally, but it isn't really that likely, given our track record, right?  So, today, let's plunge into the pool of now.  Yeah, maybe the water is colder than we wanted, and maybe we wanted to lose a few extra pounds before going swimming... but now matters, and it's all we've got.  Let's get on our knees... now.  Today.  Right in the middle of this sentence if necessary.  Let's not put off our relationship with God.  Let's not wait to commit to the gospel.  Let's repent, and work out our salvation... now.  And then we can have that "utmost assurance" that it talks about in D&C 123:17.  That's a better thing to look forward to than trying to work out our salvation at the last minute. :)  Let's remember: Now.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

John 12:25-27 -- On How to Save a Life

"He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour."
John 12:25-27

It's kind of the opposite of the way that we usually think about our lives, the idea that putting ourselves first isn't the best idea, and that being willing to lose our lives or give our lives in the service of others is a noble thing.  In our society we often learn that self-sacrifice is equivalent to "doormat" status, or that we need to put ourselves first for our own well-being.  God's message is different.  If we love our lives, he says, then we should be willing to lose them, and putting eternal life first is a good idea *even* when it means that we temporarily hate our current lives.  (I say temporary because of Mormon 9:14, which I think clearly tells us that God wants us to learn to be happy in our current lives.)  I think part of the trick to grasping this different perspective is thinking about generosity and giving to others.  When we give a gift freely, without compulsion or pressure or expecting something in return, it's a taste of joy to know that we did something for someone else... and I think that is because we're putting other people's lives before our own.  We're getting our priorities straight.  When we put ourselves first, all we really accomplish is stressing ourselves out about stuff... what we "deserve" or what we want/need or what we think will make us happy, although we are so often wrong.  In Luke 6:30, Christ admonishes us "Give to every man that asketh of thee."  It's turning things around and thinking about what can we give, rather than what we should be getting.  And I think a natural consequence of these perspectives is that one leads to happiness and the other leads to us making ourselves crazy. :)
In a very dramatic example of this lesson, Christ worries in the last verse because he is going to have to be in a lot of pain, and he is going to have to leave his family and friends, and die.  He knows this, and it causes him emotional and spiritual pain.  If he were putting himself first at this point, he would walk away.  But, for others, he is willing to go through with the plan, at enormous personal cost.  None of us are going to suffer what Christ suffered when he paid the price for our sins.  It's more than we could possibly bear as mortals, even if we wanted to try.  But we do face similar choices... between doing what we want and what God wants/what is right.  Life is scary sometimes, and we want to run away... but just as Christ worked towards the hour of his own death in order to save us, even the bad parts of our lives are part of the plot that leads us to our happy ending... the experience that molds us into the people we came to earth to become.  And the answer is clear.  It's thinking in superhero terms: saving someone else's life is exactly how to save our own.  The work of doing good *makes* us good. 
We don't have to hate ourselves or live depressed lives to please God... the point is the perspective and the priority.  If we look forward to eternal life, we'll make better choices, and if we put other people before ourselves, we'll become who we need to be.  Today, let's put God first, and not run away from the difficult lessons.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Helaman 13:25-28 -- On Trusting God's Perspective

"And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.
Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him."
Helaman 13:25-28

These verses are interesting because they pretty much nail exactly how our minds work most of the time.  It's so much harder to accept truth when it requires effort or makes us feel guilty or uncomfortable.  But it is SO easy to accept lies when people tell us that we really can have something for nothing, or that we can go straight to heaven without sacrificing our sins.  Who doesn't want to believe that life is easy, and that we are already good and perfect the way we are?  It's hard to face our faults and imperfections.  It's challenging to admit that we need to change, especially when we need help to do it.
Unfortunately, if we believe the lies, we're never going to get where we want to go.  Just like everything else worth having, reaching heaven takes some effort and some sacrifice, and requires some self-development.  It doesn't mean that God doesn't love us... it just means that God wants us to be ready for the reality of the afterlife, not living in a fantasy world where we're just naturally all that and don't have to work at it. :)  God knows what he is talking about, and his prophets have messages that are important and relevant for us today.  If someone isn't seeing the whole picture here, it's always us.  God painted the picture in the first place... he wrote the story.  We're in his reality.
Today, let's trust God's perspective before we trust our own.  Let's accept the gospel whole, without editing out the truths that we don't understand or like.  Let's realize that we don't yet know everything, and that we still need God if we want to get to that stage.  Instead of pretending that it doesn't exist, let's accept the discomfort and guilt we sometimes feel about sin and remember that we are sinners, and we need God's help to quit the habit.  Let's make the effort to change.  Let's listen to the words of the Lord through the prophets and turn away from the flattering lies that lead us away from God's servants and his gospel.  Let's accept the truth as God sees it, and then we can get to the important work of making the world better for everyone.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

2 Kings 6:15 -- On Trusting in the Unseen Truth

"And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?"
2 Kings 6:15

In this verse Elisha's servant is kind of freaked out because they are surrounded by enemies.  And we get that way too, you know?  We see the world around us and we worry that we're surrounded, and overwhelmed.  We fear.  We think that everything is going to either blow up or melt down, and either way, it's not going to end up good.  We sometimes try to control things that we can't control, or even do things that we wouldn't normally do or that we might not think are completely right, because we're afraid that if we don't, things will just get worse.
Elisha's servant couldn't see the future, and he actually couldn't even see the spiritual reality of the present.  Elisha assures him in the next verse that the good outnumbered the bad, but all the servant could see was the enemy.  Elisha then prays that God would open the servant's eyes, and he does.  When his eyes are opened, he sees the horses and chariots of fire protecting them.
I think that our experience in life is an awful lot like Elisha's servant.  It is hard for us to trust God and do as he asks, but only because we can only see with our physical eyes.  We worry because we see all the bad things in society, and those things are definitely scary. But what we don't see is that God is balancing and overpowering those forces with his own.  The future is certain... the happy ending written.  Spoiler: God wins.  And so do we, if we can overcome our fears and trust him enough to do as he asks, despite our fears.  Regardless of the reality that we think is the only thing there to see.
It would have been so easy for Elisha's servant to think that he was crazy, and run away.  It seemed like an impossible situation.  But there was more there than he knew, and he was patient, and God opened his eyes.  And maybe it seems crazy in our world to not be afraid.  Maybe all of the available evidence tells us to panic, to not trust or love or give or serve, or whatever else God asks us to do instead of run, because it's safer and smarter to flee and protect ourselves.  It's a completely logical choice.  But God. :)  God exists, and that changes every equation.  We say alas, and God tells us that it will be okay.  God already knows the ending and the answers and the solutions.  Today, when we start to panic, let's remember that God's protection is all around us, whether we can see it or not.  Let's remember that God is mindful of us as individuals and that the very hairs of our heads are numbered (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7).  We don't need to fear.  Let's go forward with faith, and trust God, who can see more than we can see, and who has written us a very happy ending.  We just have to stay the course and get there.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Alma 37:38-40 -- On Faith and Miracles

"And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.
And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.
And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day."
Alma 37:38-40

The part that says "and it did work for them according to their faith in God" is fascinating to me.  It makes me think of all the possibilities of faith-based technology. :)  Which is an interesting thought, but I am not sure how well we would do with that.  If our blenders worked by faith, I think it would help us a lot because we'd have that tangible feedback each time we used it... but then, who knows.  The frustration might make us angry, driving the spirit away and making it less likely that we could use it.  And you know, I think that really, our lives already work this way.  We just don't pay as much attention to the way it happens.  Our lack of faith might not turn off the blender, but it changes our outlook and our level of hope, and our faith really does affect our day-to-day lives.
When bad things happen, whether we have faith makes a huge difference.  Are we ready to give up, or do we have confidence in God that we will be able to get through this and come out on the other side better and happier?  Definitely not saying that it is always easy to see things that way, but I think it really does come down to that sometimes.  Just like having faith that the Liahona could point them in the right direction made a difference to Nephi and his whole family, our faith that God can lead us and get us through anything makes a big difference in our lives.  And our faith in ourselves also makes a huge difference... are we committed to following God's directions as he helps us through the obstacles of life?  God can give us perfect directions on how to slam-dunk this challenge and make it to heaven, but if we don't follow those directions, then we're still going to be stuck.
Doubts and fears are natural and understandable, of course, but faith isn't something that we can hang back and prove without some investment.  We can't prove that a marriage or a career is going to work before we make the commitment either.  We have to do our homework, of course, but at some point we have to jump in and live it.  The cool thing about faith in God is that unlike with marriages and careers sometimes, God always holds up his end of the bargain, and as we jump in and trust him, and live that faith, we learn more and more about it, and our trust and faith can become stronger, and we, like Nephi and his family, can see miracles wrought, day by day.
Today, even though we don't have a Liahona, or a faith-powered blender, our lives are still guided by our faith in God.  Let's look to him, trust him, and follow his directions, and we will get to the happy ending, and a better future than we could ever have hoped.  Because God is faithful.  Let's work on being the same. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

2 Corinthians 5:17 -- On Becoming New Creatures in Christ

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
2 Corinthians 5:17

I like the whole idea of becoming a "new creature" in Christ: the idea that when we know Christ, and are part of him, that everything becomes new.  Everything that we used to be and everything that we don't want to be can be discarded, and everything that we are and that we want to be can start fresh.  It's the symbolism of baptism and rebirth... leaving sin behind and becoming clean and pure.  As an added clarification, the footnote on "in Christ" leads us to 1 John 2:2-5, which says in part, "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments" (1 John 2:3).  So, it takes some effort on our parts, to let go of the old so that we can be new.
Alma explains the process a little bit more fully in Mosiah 27:24-28.  Alma's story is interesting.  He was persecuting the church, and then he saw an angel who asked him to stop persecuting the church, and he realized it was all real... all the things that his father had been teaching.  And he goes through a very dramatic transformation.  In order to be "born again" and changed, he had to repent of his sins and turn to God, and become his.  It wasn't easy.  He said that he had to wade through much tribulation and repent "nigh unto death" (Mosiah 27:28).
Although hopefully it won't take all of us close to death, becoming a new creature or being reborn in Christ is always a process that requires effort and change.  Alma explains part of the process in Alma 5: "And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?" (verse 14) and then later, "And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" (verse 26).  The rebirth can't just be a one-time thing.  It has to be something that we experience, and maintain, always feeling that connection with God and that newness of Spirit... changing for God and *staying* changed.
Today, if we haven't been reborn in Christ through baptism and confirmation, or being born of water and of spirit, then let's consider taking that first step... symbolic, yes, but also literal, as our sins are forgiven and washed away.  And if we have been reborn in Christ and changed into a new creature, then let's make sure that we are retaining that gift in our lives, through the sacrament but also through the lives that we live every day.  Let's make the effort to stay free of sin, to stay in contact with God, to live in newness of Spirit.  Let's feel so now, and be new creatures today... to feel reborn every day, in Christ.

Monday, December 14, 2015

D&C 103:8-13 -- On Saving, Blessing, and Redeeming

"But inasmuch as they keep not my commandments, and hearken not to observe all my words, the kingdoms of the world shall prevail against them.
For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men;
And inasmuch as they are not the saviors of men, they are as salt that has lost its savor, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.
But verily I say unto you, I have decreed that your brethren which have been scattered shall return to the lands of their inheritances, and shall build up the waste places of Zion.
For after much tribulation, as I have said unto you in a former commandment, cometh the blessing.
Behold, this is the blessing which I have promised after your tribulations, and the tribulations of your brethren—your redemption, and the redemption of your brethren, even their restoration to the land of Zion, to be established, no more to be thrown down."
Doctrine and Covenants 103:8-13

I love the idea that we are not only supposed to be lights to the world, but also saviors.  To emulate Christ in even that.  Obviously we can't save the world in the way that he did, but we can do his work in other ways, and work on saving each other by coming unto him, joining together, building a community of love and service, and being the solution to the world's problems rather than being part of the problem.  Building Zion is God's work, and something that we can join in... we need each other to build the perfect community.  It isn't something that we can do alone.  Just as we're told that we can't be made perfect alone (Hebrews 11:40; D&C 128:15), we can't learn what it takes to save or be saved alone.  The first commandment is to love God, and the second is love our neighbors as ourselves.  How could we do that with no neighbors? :)
I also really like the idea here that the blessings come after the tribulations.  It reminds me of the movie Shadowlands: "The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal."  Pain and joy seems to be part of each other in a way.  We wouldn't be able to learn joy if we didn't know pain... but unlike life (and Shadowlands), we know that with God the joy and blessings in the end will always outweigh and overcome the pain... so much so that our greatest suffering will seem slight.
In the last verse of the selection, God promises us the blessing of redemption.  The specific redemption mentioned here, but also redemption in general.  It's why Christ suffered for us, and the gift that he gave.  Because of him, we can repent, and every single thing that we've screwed up or done wrong... every time we're hurt people instead of healing them... every time we made the wrong choice and made things worse instead of better... God will make it better.  He will make it okay.  He will step in and save us from ourselves, from our mistakes and our petty cruelty, and from everything that we don't want to be.  He will make it okay and allow us to change, and grow beyond that.  That's what redemption means... that's what being saved is.  ... And what is even a lifetime of suffering compared to that, really?  To have all the bad things erased, and to stand clean before God, free of all of our sins and errors?
That's what Christ does for us, and that is what we can share in as we work to become lights and saviors in other people's lives.  We can be examples, and we can show God's love to others by forgiving and loving them as he would.  We can spread his message and his acceptance and goodness.  Today, let's work on bringing blessings, and on spreading the message and miracle of redemption with others.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

1 Nephi 12:4-6 -- On Coming Out of the Darkness

"And it came to pass that I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise; and I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises; and I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk; and I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof.
And it came to pass after I saw these things, I saw the vapor of darkness, that it passed from off the face of the earth; and behold, I saw multitudes who had not fallen because of the great and terrible judgments of the Lord.
And I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and showed himself unto them."
1 Nephi 12:4-6

These verses are talking about Christ, after his resurrection, appearing to the people in the Americas.  First there is a mist of darkness, and chaos, and then things calm down and Christ appears.  The words "mist of darkness" are also used in Lehi's dream (1 Nephi 8:23-24) to describe times of trial and temptation for those trying to follow the path to the tree of life, which I think is an interesting parallel.  These verses show us that the mist of darkness is a powerful symbol, and actually can be more than merely a metaphor.
When we face darkness in our lives, it's not just a tiny cloud... a moment of doubt or a minor misstep.  We're all going to have to face real trials, where the darkness is tangible... real impediments in our path, dangerous obstacles that can truly harm us.  The people in this chapter faced a physical mist of darkness, and lived through great destruction, and after all of that, the darkness cleared and they saw Christ.  Similarly, in Lehi's dream, some people stumbled in the mists of darkness and are lost.  The ones who made it through held tightly onto the rod of iron, which is a representation of the word of God.
The mists of darkness came to everyone in Lehi's dream, righteous or not, just as they did literally in this chapter.  And I think that this is true in our own lives too.  We're all going to have to face the darkness.  Following God doesn't mean we won't encounter the mist, and understand how easy it is to become lost.  But, as followers of God, we do have the means, and the hope, to make it through the mist and to our Savior on the other side.
Sometimes the darkness might come into our lives in a very literal way, the way it came for the people in this chapter.  Other times, maybe it will be a spiritual challenge where we face sin and have to endure temptation that makes us question our devotion.  And maybe we have to go through different types of darkness over the course of our lives, physical and spiritual, as we learn to endure them, and come out on the other side.  But on the other side of the darkness, always, is God, talking us through it, guiding us with his spirit to stay on the path and hold onto his word, and waiting, with arms outstretched, for us to find our way to him.  Today, let's remember that the darkness is not permanent.  It ends, and if we can stay strong, and stay committed, we will get through it, and see God on the other side.  Let's dedicate ourselves to enduring the darkness, and helping others find their way as well.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Luke 2:11 -- On a Personal Savior

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:11

I like that the angel told the shepherds that a savior was born to them... for them.  Christ came for all of us, the whole world, and died for all of us too, but his life and death aren't abstract concepts that only apply to humanity as a whole.  His birth mattered specifically to the shepherds in the field, just as it specifically matters to us today... individually, not just collectively.  When we read that verse above, that "you" means YOU.  You, the person reading this.  YOU, the person that Christ lived for, and died for.  Yes, there are a lot of us, but that doesn't dilute or diminish the fact that he did it for you, and for me, and that he cares about us as specific human beings, with specific challenges and gifts, and that he was willing to suffer for our sins... individually, not just collectively, and that he can understand what things are like for us as individuals, because he has been in our shoes... not just in an academic sense, but because he has suffered for *our* sins.  Think anyone can know you better than that? :)
Today, let's try to feel the joy that the angels were bringing to the shepherds when they announced Christ's birth... it was a glorious day, for them, for the world, but also for us.  His birth brought us the greatest gift that we will ever be given... the chance to grow and change and repent... to inherit eternal life, not just physically, but spiritually, if we follow the path that our Savior laid out for us.  And this Christmas season, let's not think about Christ as an abstract concept or a far-off idea.  For unto us, not just unto them, a savior lives, today... which is Christ the Lord.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Psalms 92:4 -- On Gladness and Triumph

"For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands."
Psalms 92:4

This is a great reminder that God's work makes us happy... and it helps us succeed, and triumph over all adversity and trouble.  I think that we forget that sometimes, and we start thinking that the temporary pleasures of the world are the source of true happiness, or that our work in society gives us our ultimate success.  We think that it is wise to fear man, or reasonable to work for ourselves.  We shift around our priorities until God is lost beyond all of our more important tasks, or forgotten entirely.
Today, let's remember... remember to do God's work, to love, to serve, to shine a light.  Let's be the good, and the solution to the world's problems, rather than giving in to our fear and our selfishness.  Let's put God first, and find true happiness through his work.  Let's triumph in the works of his hands: the world, and everyone in it.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Luke 12:4-7 -- On Fear and the Happy Ending

"And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows."
Luke 12:4-7

I really like the message from God that we don't have to be afraid, even of people who kill us, and the surety that it is just a small thing.  We are all going to be resurrected and have our bodies returned to us in a perfect form... no more pain, no more sickness.  Although of course the idea is scary and we miss those who we lose from this life, death is temporary.  It is very emotionally taxing to lose people, but it can't harm them, or us, permanently.  The thing that can actually hurt us is letting sin take control and harming our souls... believing in hatred and evil, giving into addiction and lust, putting ourselves before others and before God... not using the lives that we have to prepare to meet God and become reacquainted.
God is in control.  He cares about us, and knows us, and values us.  The happy ending is already written... we just have to get there, and be part of it, rather than giving up in chapter seven.  Let's not let fear get in the way of our happy ending.  Let's not let death seem scarier than hell.  Let's remember that God is watching out for us, and in him we will find peace and rest, through any kind of temporary obstacle or tribulation.  Indeed, "If God be for us, who can against us?" (Romans 8:31).  Today, let's have trust and faith in God, and go forward without fear, doing his work.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Proverbs 10:12 -- On Hatred and Love

"Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins."
Proverbs 10:12

This is a good reminder that hatred is never, ever the answer.  Love is the better choice.  God asks us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31; Matthew 22:39).  The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) gives us the answer to who our neighbors are, if we hadn't guessed.  Our neighbors are everyone, and specifically, those we see that are in need.  God makes it very clear that we shouldn't do bad to anyone: "let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour" (Zechariah 8:17). Christ goes even further and specifically tells us to love our enemies and to do good to them that hate us (Luke 6:27, 35; Matthew 5:44; 3 Nephi 12:44).  We're even given clues about how to love when God tells us that we should "Give to every man that asketh of thee" (Luke 6:30, see also Matthew 5:42; 3 Nephi 12:42).
Sometimes we justify hatred because of our fear, which is understandable, to react negatively to something that we are afraid of.  But God asks us to rise above our fear, and to love our brothers and sisters.  Indeed, he says "perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment" (1 John 4:18).  There are so many things in the world today to be afraid of.  But if we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by fear, and to make all of our choices based on fear, then we're letting fear control us... and letting it win.  It isn't easy to trust God and get beyond fear... not saying it is, or even that it should be.  It takes time and patience and effort to learn to love the way that God wants us to love.  But he will help us avoid strife, and even forgive us of our sins (which is what it means by cover) as we learn to show love.
Today, let's make the effort.  Let's work on casting aside our fears, trusting God, and learning to love. Let's not be satisfied with loving just the people close around us that are easy to love, but let's recognize that many of our neighbors are the people outside our circles of comfort.  The people who seem strange, or different, or even who scare us.  Let's be like the Good Samaritan and show mercy to our neighbors.  Let's do as Christ asks and show generosity and compassion to the people around us.  Let's learn to love and never teach hatred.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mosiah 29:26 -- On Power and Right

"Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people."
Mosiah 29:26

This is a scripture from when Mosiah, the king, was talking to his people and telling them that judges were a better way to go, since kings can be good (like his father King Benjamin), but they can also be bad, and cause a lot of evil.  Mosiah used his power for good, and cared about his people more than himself... which is probably how all power should be used.  That's what God does for us as well.  He uses his power to help us become better, if we just listen to him.
Today, let's listen to God, and let's take advantage of our opportunities to learn and grow.  And in our current societies and governments, let's make sure our voices are desiring what is right. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Matthew 12:35-36 -- On Thoughts and Speech and Change

"A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."
Matthew 12:35-36

This is a good reminder that every thing that we say and do is turning us into who we will be... good or evil.  We say things that are in our hearts, and we tend to believe the things that we say.  It is a big circle... who we are leads us to do what we do, which leads us to who we become, rinse and repeat. :)  It's an easy cycle to get lost in... just justifying ourselves because that is the way we are... but we *can* change, and God gives us some hints about how here.  If we want to intervene in the cycle and become better, we can focus on what we say.  Thinking about what we are saying and why can help us to revise our words and change our hearts as we realize when we are thinking unkind thoughts, and about to say unkind things.  God can also help us with persistent habits that we are having trouble changing ourselves, if we are sincere in asking and we really want to change.
Today, let's think about our thoughts and our actions, and whether we are who we want to be.  Are we kind people?  Are we compassionate?  Are we good or evil?  And if we aren't satisfied with the answers, let's work to change, with God's help, and repent, so that we don't have to have those things on our consciences in the day of judgment.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Matthew 19:28-29 -- On Callings and Sacrifice

"And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life."
Matthew 19:28-29

So, Jesus is talking to his disciples here, telling them that they are going to be the judges of the 12 tribes.  I think it is cool that they will be, and it shows how much like God we can become... when God can trust us enough to do such a great work.  I don't think that each of us is going to be asked to judge, but we can all be called by Christ to do important things for the people and the world around us.  I also love the second verse where it promises that God will make up for the sacrifices that we make for him.  That's a good thing to know up front. :)  Today, let's live worthy of having Christ ask us to do something for him, and let's also not be afraid to make sacrifices for God, knowing that he will make everything okay in the end... all leading to that happy ending.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

D&C 93:24 -- On Truth and Freedom

"And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;"
Doctrine and Covenants 93:24

This is amazing stuff.  Later in this chapter it says if we keep the commandments, we will eventually know all things (verse 28).  That is amazing all by itself, of course.  But combined with this scripture it gets clarified further.  Knowing all things, presumably, includes truth, and truth, as shown above, means everything includes capital and bold EVERYTHING: past, present, future.  So, in essence, if we keep the commandments and keep learning from God, eventually we're going to be able to see the future, right? :)  That's COOL.
You know, it is just amazing sometimes to look at the difference between what God offers us and other offers that we sometimes choose instead.  Satan and society pretend to offer freedom from God's seemingly rigid restrictions... but what does any of that really get us?  Freedom to wallow, temporarily, in addictions and self-indulgence?  Freedom to triumph while harming others?  Freedom that leads to pain and regret and lost opportunities?  No one else is offering what God offers.  Yeah, like learning to play the piano or go to the Olympics... we have to practice and live by some rules in order to achieve the freedom to excel greatly and the freedom to develop our talents and be our best selves... but what a small price to pay for all that God offers... and he offers, literally, everything.  The knowledge and immortality and power to transcend all of mortality and discover so much more.  Walking on water is only the beginning. :)  Today, let's remember all that God is teaching us, and where the true freedom lies.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Alma 40:11 -- On Going Home

"Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life."
Alma 40:11

I like the idea of death leading home.  I'm not saying that the idea entirely removes the trauma of losing someone in this life, of course... but I like the idea that what seems like an end to us will be actually a joyful reunion, and that it will be familiar and comforting, not foreign and frightening.  In the scope of our eternal lives, our mortal lives are such a short period... just a blink, really.  And then God will welcome us home.  Maybe it is a little like going off to college or boarding school... leaving the familiar behind, but also looking forward to learning a lot and becoming more independent.  We'll be different when we return, but still ourselves, and welcome always in our Father's home.  Today, let's look forward to that reunion without fear, using our time here wisely, so that we have something positive and good to show off when we get there. :)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Proverbs 16:16 -- On Wisdom and Faith

"How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!"
Proverbs 16:16

Wisdom is better than money. :)  I think that is very clear, but the whole idea of wisdom sometimes gets clouded, especially in our society where some of what is called education actually encourages us to reject God.
God's concept of education is different than the one that we often see in the world.  He makes a clear distinction between the ways that we use our learning, and whether it is wisdom or foolishness. :)
Later in this same chapter we read "Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly" (verse 22).  We also read that sometimes being learned gets people in trouble because they think that they know better than God, and they don't listen to him (2 Nephi 9:28-29).  We're told to "seek learning, even by study and also by faith" (D&C 88:118).
God's way of learning incorporates spirituality rather than rejecting it.   God's gospel doesn't contradict any truth.  In fact, D&C 93:36 tells us that "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth."  Learning truth wherever it may be found is something that God wants us to do... as long as we are doing it with the spirit, and with him as our guide.  We can study and learn many truths, and faith can also teach us.  Today, let's not fall into the traps of either thinking that wisdom means rejecting God, or that learning makes us wiser than God is.  Let's study and learn and find out how all truth works together, and how God uses it to do the incredible things that he does.  Let's join faith and study together and gain more wisdom than we could ever gain by study alone.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Acts 7:9-10 -- On Deliverance

"And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,
And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house."
Acts 7:9-10

Joseph's life is inspiring.  Even though he was sold into slavery by his brothers (pretty traumatic childhood I would say) and had a lot of dark and challenging times in his life that he probably wasn't sure how he would get out of, he remained upright and full of integrity, and did good to the people around him.  We haven't gone through the same challenges that Joseph did, but I know we all have dark times in our lives where we can't see a way out.  Like Joseph, in the midst of those dark times, we can still have hope, through God, and keep getting back up and doing good.  God delivered Joseph, and he will deliver us all as we have patience and faith and keep striving for good.  Let's work on that today.  Now isn't the end of the story.  Let's keep turning the pages and find the happy ending that God has in store for us all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mark 2:17 -- On God as the Doctor

"When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Mark 2:17

This is something that Christ said in response to being asked why he hung out with publicans and sinners... and it is a good lesson about inclusion and love.  When I read it today I thought of it not from the perspective of a righteous person wondering why he would hang out with the baddies though.  I thought of it as one of the sinners.  I think that at times we can all relate to that perspective, and it strikes me how gracious and loving God is to care about us, talk to us, and help us even when we are far from worthy of his presence.  Like the prodigal son, he just wants us to realize our mistakes and turn back.  He isn't going to lecture us or tell us we are unworthy slugs, even when we clearly act like them.  He is going to throw a party and welcome us back into his life.
Today, let's remember that we are the spiritually sick, and Christ is our doctor.  Let's go with him wherever he asks, and do as he suggests.  Only he has the cure for what ails us.  We surely don't... we keep messing up our own lives. :)  Let's let go of our sin and rebellion, and turn to him for healing.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Romans 6:12-14 -- On Choosing a Better Ruler

"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace."
Romans 6:12-14

I like this idea of fighting the dominion of sin, as though sin were an unrighteous leader trying to get us to go along with evil.  If we realize that it is something external like that, we might start a rebellion, standing up to it, or participate in the underground, trying to save people in the midst of terror and tyranny.  The insidious thing about sin is that we start thinking  that it is part of us, or that it is our idea.  We think, oh, that's just the way I am... I like this sin, I want to keep it... in fact, it is really a large part of how I self-identify.  We label ourselves... we're smokers, we're gamblers.  We start justifying sin by saying it is natural... we evolved that way, we were born this way, it is just built into our DNA to cheat on our spouses, or the impulse to rape or abuse, or whatever it is.  It helps the species survive, or whatever the argument is.  But sin is not a part of us.  We have a choice, always.  To let it have dominion and control of us, or to choose a better path... a better ruler--one who will actually protect us, rather than eroding our consciences and corrupting our souls.
Today, let's choose God.  He works tirelessly for our freedom and happiness rather than for our entrapment and slavery.  Going along with the symbolism of baptism which they use in this chapter, let's die to sin and live again, free to choose so many good things and bright paths.  Let's break off our chains and follow God to happiness.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

D&C 88:32-33 -- On Accepting God's Gift

"And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.
For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:32-33

This is talking about the judgment, and the people who "remain" are the people who are left over after everyone else goes to a kingdom of glory.  It's interesting to me how it doesn't say anything mean about these people, or condemn them as evil, or say anything about them at all, except in a sad sort of a way, that they weren't willing to accept God's gift.
Today, Let's look to him, and learn about him.  Let's do the experiment and see if our lives are better when we are keeping his commandments and discussing things with him or when we aren't.  The proof is there, all around us, if we are willing to look, and consider, and try.
I pray sincerely that we will all learn and grow and be willing to build a relationship with God, and accept what God has to offer us, even when it takes some effort, and some humility, and some change.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Philippians 1:9-11 -- On Finding the Excellent

"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."
Philippians 1:9-11

I like the idea of love paired with knowledge and judgment.  The whole idea of "blind obedience" has some truth to it, because we trust God even when we aren't exactly sure where he is going with everything... but God doesn't take advantage of our ignorance to trick us or lead us astray.  He *wants* us to learn, and to grow, and to dig deep.  He wants us to see the truth, because we and he *are* truth in part (D&C 93:28, 36).  He wants us to gain knowledge, to improve our decisions, to grow and become until we become like him.  He mourns when we choose ignorance and stagnation.
Today, let's love, and learn, and make good decisions.  Let's find and choose the good, excellent things.  Let's focus on the positive and the wonderful.  Let's be sincere, clean, and good to the people around us.  And let's give Glory and praise to God who provides us with this life and this opportunity to learn and grow and see so much beauty, and find so much truth.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Matthew 5:38-42 -- On Space to Change

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away."
Matthew 5:38-42

I think the higher law that Christ taught is often hard for us to hear.  If someone hits us, let them hit us again?  If someone takes our stuff, give them more?  Let people compel us to do things?  Give people whatever they ask for?  Some of this stuff sounds like we are encouraging abuse or allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of.  And I don't think that God means necessarily that we should allow or encourage spousal or family abuse or anything extreme like that.  These verses are balanced by Alma 61:14, which reminds us that there are times when we should resist evil.  But I do think that Christ's message overall, at least for us as individuals, is: don't fight back.  Instead of getting upset when people ask for things, or take advantage of us, most of the time a better reaction than anger and fighting back is just... do it.  Allow it, go with it and see where it goes.  Accept the loss and move on.  We don't always like to hear that, because we want justice... but usually we only want justice when it is us being wronged or manipulated, and not when it is us doing the wronging or manipulation.  Think of what the world would be like if there was perfect restoration (an eye for an eye) without any repentance or mercy.  And how do we make room for the repentance and mercy God wants to grant us?  ... Someone, somewhere has to stop demanding justice.  We have to back down and do good even when faced with evil, so that there is room for mercy in our lives and in the lives of the people around us.  If we make room for mercy in our lives, and do good even when others do evil to us, then God will have more room to open up some mercy for us as well.  Justice will be served, eventually, when Christ judges us all at the last day.  But right now he gives us space to repent and change.  Let's remember that, and work to do as Christ asks, and provide that space to others as well.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

1 Thessalonians 5:18 -- On Giving Thanks to God

"In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Today, let's remember to give thanks for everything around us.  No matter what obstacles we face or what pain we are in, there are still good things to focus on.  It isn't always easy, for sure, but it is something that can make us happier... learning to see the good, no matter how much bad is trying to blind us.  Let's look for the hand of God in our lives, because I assure you, it is there.  God loves us so much, and he is helping us always, through good times and bad, and blessing us abundantly.  Let's pray for the eyes to see it, and give thanks to God for all that we are, and all that we have.  And while we're remembering friends and family, let's remember God, our Father, and his son Jesus Christ, who gave himself to save us.  Let's honor him and listen to his advice as we rejoice in our blessings this day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Alma 1:16-18 -- On Priestcraft and God's Will

"Nevertheless, this did not put an end to the spreading of priestcraft through the land; for there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching false doctrines; and this they did for the sake of riches and honor.
Nevertheless, they durst not lie, if it were known, for fear of the law, for liars were punished; therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief; and now the law could have no power on any man for his belief.
And they durst not steal, for fear of the law, for such were punished; neither durst they rob, nor murder, for he that murdered was punished unto death."
Alma 1:16-18

This is a good reminder of the dangers of what the Book of Mormon calls priestcraft... preaching for profit rather than for God, and preaching just what people want to hear.  Just like we didn't always (don't always?) want to hear what our parents have to say, we don't always welcome God's messages.  Despite our approval or disapproval though, God is still God, and he always has a point.
Today, let's make sure that we are listening to God's messages, and his will, and not picking and choosing doctrine because it sounds nice, or goes along with the bad habits that we want to retain in our lives.  Let's look to God, and change ourselves, rather than trying to change him, in his perfection.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Leviticus 19:33-34 -- On Loving Strangers

"And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."
Leviticus 19:33-34

Thanksgiving time seems to be a time when people come together in a lot of ways.  We ask each other what we are doing for the holiday, not just to be polite, but to make sure that everyone is taken care of.  There are big dinners at shelters, and deliveries at food banks.  It is a time of year where we are grateful to God not just for what we own and for our immediate families, but where we see a lot of reaching out to others around us as well.
When we're children, we're often taught about stranger danger, not to talk to them or accept candy from them... and that is wise advice for us as children when we are sometimes too trusting, and willing to believe and go with any adult who tells us a lie.  It's an unfortunate lesson, I think, even if it is a necessary one in this world, because as we grow up, we might retain a little too much of it.  God asks us to "become as little children" (Matthew 18:3) in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Part of that is finding that untainted and unreserved trust and love that we used to have, and re-establishing it in our lives... learning to love others as we love ourselves, and walk in the footsteps of God who "loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment" (Deuteronomy 10:18).
Today, let's try to let go of some of the cynicism and desensitization to human needs that we've learned over a lifetime in this corrupt world.  Let's become as little children, willing to reach out to others, including strangers, and love them like they are different versions of our own family, born among us.  Let's adopt some strangers, and find places for them in our lives.  ... And let's also try to extend our love beyond this holiday and into our lives, loving more and fearing less.

Monday, November 23, 2015

1 Corinthians 11:24-25 -- On Gratitude, Memory, and Healing

"And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me."
1 Corinthians 11:24-25

I never noticed before that Christ offered thanks before he instituted the sacrament. :)  I think that is really cool.  It is another good reminder of how thankful we should be to God for everything that we have, even if we are facing suffering and death, as Christ was.
God didn't just institute the sacrament because he wanted to be remembered.  He did it because it helps us to remember all that Christ did for us, suffering for our sins, giving us the chance to repent, and also overcoming death so that someday we, too, can be resurrected.  No one else could have offered us those priceless, eternal gifts.  That remembrance he asks for is a small token of our gratitude for what he did, and a reminder to us of how essential he is to our lives.
Today, let's thank God and remember Christ, and thereby honor his sacrifice on our behalf.  Let's accept his gift and use it to change our lives through repentance and rededication to the gospel.
My sister told me a story recently of a small child who was reciting her articles of faith and who accidentally said "gospital" instead of "gospel."  Seems to me that the little girl got it right in a lot of ways.  The reason we are here is so that Christ can heal us... he did all that he did for us, working to save and heal our souls.  Let's remember that sacrifice, and do all that we can to make it worthwhile, for ourselves and for others,  Let's give fervent thanks that through Christ, we have a chance to have the gospel in our lives and a chance to let it work on us, to change us and make us better.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Alma 11:42-44 -- On Living Forever and Long-Term Planning

"Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.
The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.
Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil."
Alma 11:42-44

The whole idea of resurrection is pretty incredible.  It seems like humans have loved the idea of immortality for ages... lots of stories and legends about things that could make you live forever.  Perhaps the idea came from the tree of life, which God protected when Adam and Eve were leaving the Garden of Eden, so that they wouldn't partake and live forever in their sinful state.  Instead, God made life a probationary period, after which, as you will note above, *everyone* gets resurrected... wicked and righteous.  These verses are part of a larger lesson, and there is more here, but I wanted to focus on that one part because I think it is such a powerful idea.  We're all going to be resurrected and live forever.  Awesome, right?  I think the only catch is that a lot of times we're living short-term lives, not thinking about that eternity... and that eternity is going be affected enormously by our lives now.  Today, let's look forward to that future continuation of life in a perfected state, and let's make sure that the life we are looking forward to can be a clean and guiltless one... one where we can move forward and progress, and not one where we will have condemned or limited ourselves because of our short-term actions.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Proverbs 20:17 -- On Gravel and Truth

"Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel."
Proverbs 20:17

This is a good reminder of what lies do to us.  Sometimes it seems sweet to us to practice deceit.  We think that it will smooth things out, or provide us with an advantage, or save us from consequences that we don't want to face.  But in the end, the sweetness turns to ash in our mouths.  Like picking up something to eat that looks delicious, and you find out that it is stale and gross and styrofoamish.  Bleah.  That's what lying is like... any kind of life where we aren't being truthful.  Today, let's stop trying to live fake lives.  Let's embrace the truth, and live it.  It might be tough at first, but it'll be REAL, and delicious, in the end... so much better than gravel.  And relationships, jobs, even just the way we feel about ourselves, will all be that much tastier as well, if they are based on reality rather than lies.  Let's dig ourselves out of any mesh of fakery we've gotten ourselves tangled in, and look to God for help unraveling it, and making everything taste better. :)  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Psalms 50:14-15 -- On Thanksgiving and Simplicity

"Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:
And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
Psalms 50:14-15

I like the idea that the offerings that God wants us to make to him are these simple things... to thank him in everything (D&C 98:1), and to keep our promises to him (Hosea 6:6).  And in return, he promises us that he will deliver us when we call upon him.  It seems so easy... and I think, really, the core of the gospel is simple.  God wants to help us and teach us, and we need the help, and the deliverance as we learn to deal with things... just like an Earthly parent sometimes has to deliver a child from danger or trouble before they have learned to handle those different situations themselves.
Today, let's try not to overthink or overcomplicate the gospel.  Let's give thanks to our Heavenly Father, and keep our promises to him.  Let's be humble, and obedient, and turn to him in our times of trouble.  He loves us, and if we listen to him and keep his commandments, we will learn and grow up into more than we could ever be without him.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Luke 22:31-32 -- On Strengthening Each Other

"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
Luke 22:31-32

I don't think that Simon Peter's true test of Faith came until after the crucifixion.  Although he had already walked on water and been at Christ's side for so long, he didn't become truly converted until he had to stand on his own.  I think this happens to us too sometimes.  We go along in the gospel, studying, reading, understanding, believing... but until we're really tested because of losing our support system or someone or something we depend on regularly, we don't really internalize the lessons, or even see how much we depend on God.
For me, going away to college was one step... when you know that no one will notice, or care, whether you go to church, I found that to be a much different choice than going with my family or not.  That's a hurdle we often have to deal with when our lives change and we are responsible to ourselves and to God rather than our parents.
Later, on my mission that a more dramatic test came.  Unlike college, where I could pick up the phone and talk to my mom or a friend, or go somewhere and shut everything out if I wanted/needed to, I was in a position where I was never alone, and sometimes constantly with someone that bugged me (I am sure it was mutual).   The things that I had learned to count on and the ways that I relied on for dealing with stress were gone... and there, with my support system shorn away, I learned my first real lesson in how much I desperately need God.
Perhaps my situation was less dramatic, but in a small way similar to Peter's position after he saw Christ crucified.  He surely felt lost, and he had to rethink everything that he had learned, because doing it with Jesus beside him was one thing, and doing it by himself was very different.  But with time, and some extra lessons from the resurrected Christ, Peter became a powerhouse of strength and faith: the rock that Christ had predicted he would become.
Peter's instruction after he was truly converted and his heart was changed and he was completely dedicated to God was "strengthen thy brethren."  And I think that is what God asks of all of us as we go through similar trials.  We are *all* tested in this way, often becoming re-converted multiple times as our situations change and we encounter different trials and difficulties.  Being strong one day doesn't mean that we will be strong the next day... we all have weaknesses and temptations and fears.  The cool thing is that one way to become converted is the same thing that we should do after conversion.  We should strengthen each other.  As we serve, we are able to forget our own troubles as we work to assist others.  And as we help others, we see the Lord's hand in their lives, which makes it easier to see in our own.  It is all tied together, as we work with each other to offer strength and comfort.
Christ is praying for each of us, that our faith fail not.  Let's do our part, and learn the harder lessons... and as we do, let's strengthen each other... building a Zion community, a spiritual support structure, and God's Kingdom.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Luke 10:36-37 -- On Showing Mercy and Doing Good

"Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise."
Luke 10:36-37

This is the response of Christ to the lawyer who asked him who his neighbor was, in the context of loving "thy neighbor as thyself" (Luke 10:27-29).  In between he tells the story of the good Samaritan.  The story is interesting because in the story people who were considered wise, righteous, and very respected walked by the wounded man, but the person who stopped to help him was considered unrighteous and unacceptable... from a group that was ostracized and hated.  Christ preached something very different than what the world was teaching.  He indicated that our titles or positions in society don't matter as much as our actions.  To be good, taught Christ, we should be out there loving people and showing mercy to them.  The commandment to love our neighbors doesn't specify who our neighbors are.  Considering this parable and lesson, we can't justify only loving our families, or only the people next door, or only the people from our country or our circle of friends.  Our neighbors are everyone, and we are obeying God's commandment by reaching out to help them.  God tells us further that doing good to others is like doing good to him... and not doing good to others is like not doing good to him (Matthew 25:40, 45).  He asks us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27, 35), and to bless them that curse us (Matthew 5:44, 3 Nephi 12:44).  Today, let's have mercy on each other, no matter how scary or offensive we find the prospect.  Let's remember the story of the good Samaritan, and follow Christ's admonition to "go, and do thou likewise."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ether 3:4 -- On Preparation, Imagination, and Light

"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."
Ether 3:4

This story about the brother of Jared always amazes me.  He went before the Lord with two problems.  He made the barges the way God wanted him to, but there were no accommodations for air and light in them.  God solved the problem of air in the barges for the Brother of Jared, but the light problem he didn't solve.  Instead, he asked what the brother of Jared wanted him to do, and gave him a couple of hints about things that wouldn't work (Ether 2:23).  From there, this is what the brother of Jared came up with... and it is amazing, and creative, and I can't imagine how it works.  But it DID.  Can you imagine the amount of faith that takes?  I feel like we often get lost or frustrated at school or work, or just in life, if we don't automatically know how to do something. We want someone to just tell us.  We have very low tolerance for trial and error.  We hate failing, and we want to succeed immediately.  But, somewhat ironically, being left to figure something out on our own is often the very best way to learn it... a way that is solidly ingrained in us, that we will never forget.
God isn't going to do for us what we can do for ourselves.  Sometimes though, we underestimate ourselves and think that we can't do something, and that God is just being cruel leaving us to accomplish it on our own.  But, like the brother of Jared, we have to think, prepare, and ask... and often take a leap of faith.  The brother of Jared knew that God could light up those stones.  How did he know that?  Just pure faith.  He knew God could do miraculous things, and he got an idea about something where no appropriate technology existed, and he tried it.  God could have said go back to the drawing board, or given him more hints... but I think he was guided by the spirit as he thought and prepared, and so his first idea worked.  An idea that even today we think... wow, how is that possible?  But the brother of Jared had absolute confidence that God could do it. :)
Today, let's try to be patient when God asks us to figure things out.  Let's listen to the spirit, and let's think past our mental restrictions about technology and possibility.  Let's look at God the way we used to look up at our dads, back when we thought they were infallible and could do or fix anything for us.  Let's stop thinking that we can't overcome this or that, or that the world is stuck where it is, or that we might as well give up.  The possibilities are bigger than we imagine, and God knows all of it, every tiny part.  He *can* do anything, and he deserves our trust as he teaches us how to think, and imagine, and grow.  Let's trust that whatever he touches will shine forth in darkness, making all of our journeys more tolerable in the light.

Monday, November 16, 2015

1 Peter 3:14-15 -- On Happiness, Hope, and Answers

"But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:"
1 Peter 3:14-15

There are a lot of terrifying things in the world, as well as a lot of people calling "evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness" (Isaiah 5:20).  It's a challenging time.  And yet, God reminds us that suffering for righteousness' sake is not necessarily a horrible thing.  It's what Christ did, and it means we are walking in his steps.  It is also much better than suffering for our sins (1 Peter 3:17).  Suffering because of righteousness by definition means we *are* righteous, and that is a great reason to rejoice, because we are so easily drawn to sin.
God reminds us that we don't need to be afraid of the terror around us.  Instead, we should sanctify God in our hearts and be always ready to meekly answer people who ask us why, of all the terrified people around us, we are filled with hope.
Happiness and hope might seem like incongruous choices in the midst of the tumult in the world, but with God's help we can always find the good.  The good in others, the good in the world around us, and the good in ourselves.  Let's let our lights shine (Matthew 5:16), and be examples of the believers (1 Timothy 4:12). Let's spread light and hope where there is despair and darkness, and not be afraid of the terror and the tumult.  God has all the answers, and with him, so can we.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

D&C 38:27 -- On Oneness, Conformity, and Freedom

"Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine."
Doctrine and Covenants 38:27

I woke up thinking about this one today.  In some ways, asking us to be one seems like God is asking for large-scale conformity... for everyone to be the same and not express individuality.  But elsewhere in the scriptures, God protects people's individuality.  When Martha asks Christ to send Mary to help her serve, he protects Mary's decision (Luke 10:42).  When Peter and John chose different things, he granted both, because they both found joy in their different requests (D&C 7:8).  I suppose that you could say that God does ask conformity on a small scale... in keeping his commandments, but that kind of law keeping is just like choosing not to murder.  It keeps us out of physical jail, and spiritual torment, which allows us more freedom to choose good things.  There are worlds of good choices out there beyond that.  God isn't asking us to be the same as each other.  He is asking us to work together.  Specifically, from the verses right before this, he is asking us to esteem our brothers as ourselves, and to treat people equally (38:24-26).  I don't think that this restricts our personalities in any way.  Yeah, it might resist our desires, if we desire to hate, or persecute, or discriminate... but it doesn't restrict our individuality, or anything that makes us unique.  I think it can feel like that though, if we've really identified with a sin, and we perceive it as part of who we are.  Some people say they are nothing without their coffee, or they center their lives around the consumption of alcohol.  There are addictions of many, many kinds, and a plethora of desires, and we internalize them and think that that is who we are... we are our sins.  But that isn't ever true.  We are more than that, and better than that... sometimes we just have to discover a little bit more about ourselves, after letting that go.
I think that being one is not about conformity, but about community.  About supporting and helping and serving each other, and finding joy in each other's company.  About lifting each other and helping each other to be better.  Resisting the urge to judge and condemn and divide, and finding ways to join together.  Today, let's be one, with God, with other people, and with ourselves.  Let's find out who we are underneath the sins.  Who we are when we are truly free.

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