Saturday, October 31, 2015

1 Corinthians 13:10-12 -- On Glass and Graduate School

"But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
1 Corinthians 13:10-12

These verses I am thinking of in relation to James 1:23-24, which says, in part, "he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: / For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was."  This chapter in 1 Corinthians talks about a lot of things failing or going away: prophecies, tongues, knowledge, and how we can't really rely on other things, but charity (the love of God) is the one thing that will never fail.  And in all of that context, I think that Paul is saying that "when that which is perfect is come" (which I take to mean the afterlife, or at least the second coming, because I am not sure how we could reach a state of perfection earlier than that) is just so completely different from now that most of what we are currently invested in will be meaningless.

For instance, my undergraduate degree is in English.  I'm mainly a writer and editor by profession.  If "tongues," meaning languages, are one of the things that "shall cease" (1 Corinthians 13:8), then all that cumulative language knowledge and dedication to the Oxford comma throughout many years of my life will just be kind of a puff of smoke.  But I'm not so much upset about it because it is what Paul calls a "childish" thing.  God was there during the whole Tower of Babel fiasco.  He had the power to "confound" (Genesis 11:7) the language of the people and scatter them to different parts of the earth.  He can say "let there be light" and because he says it, it happens. (Genesis 1:3, Moses 2:3, Abraham 4:3) What is an English degree compared to that?  ... And I think almost everything is going to be like that.  Not saying that we are wasting our lives.  This life absolutely matters, and we have a lot to do and to learn.  But the point is that when we've moved on to graduate school, we won't need all of this elementary school stuff anymore.  We'll have grasped the ideas and moved on.

The seeing through a glass, darkly part I really like.  It works with the same analogy... we can't see the world, the universe, or God clearly.  Only in part.  We don't have all of the facts, because we're still young, and still learning kid things.  And, in relation to the verses in James, we don't see *ourselves* clearly either.  That glass is also cloudy, and we so easily forget even what we were able to perceive as soon as we stop looking.  Eventually, in the second coming or the resurrection, or whenever else we finally get to see perfection, then the glass will be clear... whether we are talking about a window, a mirror, a crystal ball, or whatever other dirty, cloudy source of understanding we are imagining.  At that point, we won't need to imagine or interpret the blurry images.  We'll be right there in person.  We'll have access to knowledge and language that far surpass anything that we knew before.  We won't need prophecy to tell us what God wants us to know, because he will be there, in front of us, telling us himself.  So many things that were so important to us won't matter anymore at that point.  But love will still matter, and so will our relationship with God.

Today, let's do what we need to do, of course, to learn and develop on this Earth... but let's make sure that we're investing at the same time in the few things that will truly last.  In God, and in love... which are sort of the same thing, but you know... sharing that love with others as well. :)  Let's not get freaked out by the dirty mirror or our inability to see the whole picture, or to see the future clearly.  It's supposed to be that way.  Let's not get hung up on a self-image that is based on shadows and in judgement and worry that is based on incredibly flawed views of others and of what we thing we might see in the future.  Instead, let's focus on love, which still works even when we can't trust our eyes... and let's allow God to help us find the way... to love, to the promised land, to perfection, to graduate school, or wherever else we need to go.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Revelation 20:12-13 -- On Being Judged and Looking Forward to Good

"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works."
Revelation 20:12-13

The first part of this chapter talks about the first resurrection and then the Millennium, which is the thousand years of peace when Christ reigns and Satan is bound.  Then the rest of the people are resurrected, Satan is loosed, there is deception and battle, then Satan's army is consumed with fire, and Satan is cast into a lake of fire.  And then suddenly we are at the point where the dead are judged.
It seems like there is a lot of drama when we talk about the last days.  The part before the Millennium sounds even kind of scarier, but I think for us, there is a lot of good to look forward to as well.  It comes down to these verses.  God tells us in D&C 38:30 that "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear."  We also know that "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28) and that "walk uprightly" (D&C 90:24 and 100:15).  We don't have to be afraid of the drama to come... the next chapter talks about the new heaven and the new earth and pretty much eternal happiness. :)  But, of course, we should be prepared to be judged according to our works.
Today, let's examine our lives and make sure that we are doing good works--working for the welfare of others, and making the world a better place.  Let's be magnifying our talents and building the kingdom of God... loving the people around us, and doing all we can to help them to be happy in the long term.  As we do, the book of Revelation won't seem so scary, because we'll be ready for whatever comes.  Some bad, yes, but in the end, as we keep turning the pages, only perfect, eternal good.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Moses 6:17 -- On Leaving for the Land of Promise

"And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan. And Enos and the residue of the people of God came out from the land, which was called Shulon, and dwelt in a land of promise, which he called after his own son, whom he had named Cainan."
Moses 6:17

I love the theme of the promised land.  In this case, a couple of verses earlier we learn that "in those days Satan had great dominion among men, and raged in their hearts," which is likely why they were led to a land of promise.  But even here, close to the beginning of man, where everyone alive had probably known Adam, since they lived for so long back then, God provided promised lands for people, and led them away from the evil, to start over.  And I think sometimes we need the same thing.  We get surrounded sometimes, by temptation, or memory of past sin, or people who expect us to be who we used to be which makes it hard to be someone new.  We stay in places where the physical surroundings encourage us to look back and become like Lot's wife.  And I'm not saying that we can't change the context or make new memories in old places.  Sometimes we can.  But let's be open to that message from God which sometimes comes, as it came to Enos, and Moses, and Lehi, and even Brigham Young.  And when God asks us to go, it isn't always to escape anything at all, but just because God has something better in store for us.  Even if it is just moving down the block, or into a new job, let's listen when God whispers to us that there is something better.  Let's embrace the idea of the promised land, and be able to let go of the past and what we have been.  Until we can let go of the past, we can't be ready to embrace the future.  And, if we are led into it by God, it will without doubt be a glorious future.  We don't have to be afraid.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Alma 62:39-40 -- On Good and Evil and Prayer

"And thus ended the thirty and first year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi; and thus they had had wars, and bloodsheds, and famine, and affliction, for the space of many years.
And there had been murders, and contentions, and dissensions, and all manner of iniquity among the people of Nephi; nevertheless for the righteous’ sake, yea, because of the prayers of the righteous, they were spared."
Alma 62:39-40

I hear the question a lot "Why would a good and loving God allow evil?"  Some people even argue that God's allowance of evil means that he is bad or cruel.  But, as Abraham argued when God was about to destroy the city of Sodom, it would be wrong to slay the righteous with the wicked (Genesis 18:25).  In Matthew 13 we read the parable of the wheat and the tares... which explains how we can't tell the wicked from the righteous until we are "fully ripe" (D&C 86:7).  I think it also gives us the chance and the time to figure out for ourselves as well.  We need the chance to learn and to grow and to become who we are going to be.  God put us here on earth for just that reason, so that we could all figure it out together... who we want to be, and what choices we are going to make.  Why does God allow evil in this world?  Because we all have some evil in us, and we have to learn to overcome it, and that takes time.  Because we have to have good and evil in front of us in order to make a real choice.
It's just like a child growing up and going to church because that's what his parents do.  Learning that worldview because that is what he's always known.  We don't know whether that child is true to God for himself until he gets out there on his own, away from that original influence, and makes choices as an individual, whether to rely on God and grow closer to him, or whether to walk away.  Likewise, a kid that has grown up without that influence and has made a lot of poor choices, far away from God... we don't know who she is going to become until she has a chance to be away from the bad influences of her life and discover what the good is about and find her own way.  We can't condemn or judge her prematurely, just as we can't judge the other way.  Only God knows when we've had a real chance to choose, and enough time to repent or change our minds.  We have all of this time to become something more and develop our talents and our ability to love.  God doesn't destroy the evil, because if he did, all of us would be gone, well before we had a chance to change.
These verses in particular I like because they talk about the prayers of the righteous to spare the people.  They, like us, are still here and not destroyed like Sodom was, because so many people want to give us more of a chance... to grow up.  To learn who we are.  To become something more.  To develop and shine.  Today, let's pray for the people around us as well, and ask God to spare us all a little longer, as we learn.  And, nourished by those same prayers, let's step up and change our lives before the harvest and the end.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Titus 1:15-16 -- On Cleaning Up Our Minds

"Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."
Titus 1:15-16

This selection is interesting when compared to Mark 7:15: "There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man."  We're assisted in our interpretation by Christ's explanation of his words in later verses, and also by the Joseph Smith Translation, both of which help us to understand that the verse in Mark is talking about food... that what we eat can't defile us, but rather what we think, and do, and say.
This selection goes further, showing us that if we keep ourselves clean that things from without can't poison us, but that if we allow things into our hearts and minds that are bad, and we nourish them and let them grow... that doubt and hate and evil that we let in can indeed defile us, and corrupt even the way that we perceive the things around us.  And at that point, even things that are said or done in innocence can be interpreted in a corrupt way.  The whole idea of a "dirty mind" in a figurative, but very damaging sense.  It's not something that is funny or to be encouraged, but something that truly harms us, and the people around us.  We might not even realize it when we invite fear and doubt and disobedience into our minds and hearts, but they cloud our minds and our justifications start to look like truths... and then we start trying to talk others into our way of thinking.
Today, let's try to knock the cobwebs and corruption out of our brains.  Let's renew our efforts to repent and become pure, not just in actions, but in our thoughts and our conversation as well.  Let's rethink our position on anything where we deviate from God's opinion.  Let's stop justifying our own perspectives and actually try to understand God's perspective.  Let's pray for understanding and for purity.  As we do that, I think everything will start to look better, and we'll be way less paranoid and worried about life... because when we're pure, we won't be looking for impurity all around us.  We'll be paying attention to the good and the pure. :)  Maybe when we're less distracted by evil, we'll see more exciting possibilities for good.

Monday, October 26, 2015

D&C 82:17-19 -- On Seeking the Interest of Our Neighbors

"And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just—
And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church—
Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God."
Doctrine and Covenants 82:17-19

This is a good reminder that we're interconnected.  God asks us to be equal.  To him we are, but in order to be so in practice requires a lot of effort on our parts to help those in need, and to make sure that all of us have opportunities to develop our talents and become more than we are.  I like the idea that God wants us to seek the interest of our neighbors... and as we learn in the story of the good Samaritan, it requires action to be good neighbors to each other.
Today, let's think seriously about the interests of the people around us.  Let's figure out how we can help someone else overcome obstacles that are getting in the way of developing talents or satisfying needs.  We won't be able to snap our fingers and solve everything at once, but what we do matters to the individuals that we help, and overall, the small things that we do for others add up, over time, into a better world.  Let's help God bless people's lives.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

D&C 93:24-28 -- On the Truth of All Things

"And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things."
Doctrine and Covenants 93:24-28

I like the idea of truth not just as something that depends on individual circumstance, but as something that works for all time.  Knowledge that survives time.  And God's truth... God AS the spirit of truth... is like that.  It's a completely different perspective than the way that we think of truth, or really anything else, because he can see it all at once.  Who we were, who we are, who we will become.  And with that kind of perspective, he sees the real, everlasting truth of everything--not just the kind of snapshot truth that we rely on.
God gives us commandments so that we can learn to see truth the way that he sees it.  As we keep the commandments, we learn more truth.  It's kind of like practicing a musical instrument... getting better as we go.  We gain more experience with truth and with the spirit the more we practice with them, until someday in the far future... the "perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18; D&C 50:24), when we master them, and can see the way God sees... all of it together, the whole nuanced, multidimensional picture, not just the flat, limited snapshot.
Today, let's remember that the commandments free us rather than restricting us.  They lead us to truth... a greater truth than we could ever know otherwise.  Let's embrace truth, and learn more of it from God, the source of light and the spirit of truth.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Acts 19:15 -- On Authority

"And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?"
Acts 19:15

This is a good reminder of how important authority is.  What was happening here is that Paul and the other apostles were casting out evil spirits in Christ's name, and so some other people decided to try it.  And after this verse you find out that they failed, and the evil spirit beat them.  Why?  Because of what it says in this verse.  The evil spirit knew that they didn't have the power to cast him out.  They were calling on Christ's name, as preached by Paul, but that's all they had... a name.
Authority... sometimes that is a bad word for us, right?  We like to fight against authority, and often the people who have it abuse it, so we don't even usually respect it much.  In God's case though, his authority, otherwise known as priesthood... the power to act in the name of God... isn't like the authority that we usually want to rebel against.  We might think it is, but just like most of God's things, there is a huge difference between the way other people do things and the way that God does. For instance, God's love is completely different than the love that we learn about in the media.  And it is similar with his authority.  The priesthood doesn't work like "the force" from Star Wars.  There isn't a dark and a light side.  It is the power of God, and it only works when we are doing as God asks, *and* we have his permission.  That permission is given to man through prophets and apostles in the organization of his church, it needs to be accompanied by obedience and faith, and learned line upon line from God.  It doesn't work for anyone who just decides to say the same words... it's an actual connection with God's power, and one that we have to work for and cultivate in our lives.
Today, let's make sure that we aren't just saying the words when we call upon God.  Let's know what we're talking about... let's learn, and study, and do all that God asks.  As we do, he will teach us of his ways, and, as needed and within his guidelines, allow us to act on his authority.

Friday, October 23, 2015

D&C 105:37-40 -- On the Power of Peace

"And inasmuch as they follow the counsel which they receive, they shall have power after many days to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion.
And again I say unto you, sue for peace, not only to the people that have smitten you, but also to all people;
And lift up an ensign of peace, and make a proclamation of peace unto the ends of the earth;
And make proposals for peace unto those who have smitten you, according to the voice of the Spirit which is in you, and all things shall work together for your good."
Doctrine and Covenants 105:37-40

The first verse is cool... if we follow God's counsel, then we'll have the power to accomplish what we need to as we work to establish Zion.  What I really liked though was the verses after, because we read power, and we think POWER!! We can take over and make everything right... or that God is going to throw some lightning bolts and get everyone in line for us, or that we'll suddenly just be that good, or that charismatic and everyone will *want* to do things our way. :)  But I think that these other three verses clarify that God isn't offering us power in the way that we usually think about power.  Instead, we will have power to accomplish things peacefully.
Sometimes the peaceful way is the hard way, or it seems like the boring way, but if we take a step back from our drama-filled society and really look, I think that we will all see that our histrionics usually get us into trouble.  Drama and anxiety and looking for the next thrill turns us more and more away from looking at eternity and into only worrying about the moment.  There has to be a better way, right?
God is willing to grant us the power of peace.  And if we follow his counsel and seek peace with that power he gives us, he further promises that "all things" shall work together for our good.  That's huge. ALL things?  Wow.  That's actually more amazing than power. :)  It's like having like 9 extra helpings of luck, because when we do things God's way, everything wants to help us. :)
Today, let's listen to God's advice, and follow it.  And let's do what it takes to be so in harmony with God and the world that *everything* works with us and not against us.  What a great concept.  Let's make it happen, not through force, but through peace.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

1 Nephi 18:12-13 -- On Having it God's Way

"And it came to pass that after they had bound me insomuch that I could not move, the compass, which had been prepared of the Lord, did cease to work.
Wherefore, they knew not whither they should steer the ship, insomuch that there arose a great storm, yea, a great and terrible tempest, and we were driven back upon the waters for the space of three days; and they began to be frightened exceedingly lest they should be drowned in the sea; nevertheless they did not loose me."
1 Nephi 18:12-13

This reminds me that we can't have it both ways.  We want to.  We would love to be able to do whatever we want, but still get guidance and blessings from the Lord when it seems convenient... but it doesn't work that way, and it really can't.  It isn't about God being mean to us.  It's about natural consequences.  In order to get the blessings, we have to live the laws that they are attached to, and if we don't, then it all stops working.  Sometimes we want so badly to be right, or we ARE right, but still have to let it go.  We can't prove it to people or get our way.  Sometimes people take advantage of us, and we have to deal with it rather than getting what we perceive as "justice."  And really from both sides here, it wasn't working.  Nephi was right, but he couldn't have his way to have the respect and love of his brothers.  Laman and Lemuel were wrong, and they couldn't have God's guidance after treating their brother like that.  And so the lesson here isn't just about releasing Nephi... the older brothers eventually had to let Nephi go in order to save themselves... but I think the lesson is larger than that.  It's more of a lesson in doing things God's way.  Yeah, Laman and Lemuel couldn't have their way, but neither could Nephi.  God isn't choosing sides in family conflicts here, and he doesn't choose sides in our families, companies, schools, friendships, wars, or political contests for us either. Choosing God can't ever be about getting our way, because we aren't.  None of us.  The idea is that we have to choose *his* way, regardless of how we feel about any of the rest of it.  The short term consequences of choosing God aren't always warm and fuzzy, but that is the ONLY way to get things working again.
Eventually, of course, as we grow in the gospel and get to know God, then we start understanding more, and wanting more of the same things that God wants.  As our desires match the desires of God, then we start getting our way a little bit... but really it is still his way. :)  Luckily, he loves us so much and wants us to be eternally happy... so hopefully that matches up with our long term goals too.  Today, let's work on getting God's way, which is the only way to keep things functioning happily. :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Matthew 20:32-33 -- On Opening Our Eyes

"And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?
They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened."
Matthew 20:32-33

This is from an event where Christ healed two blind men who were bold enough to keep asking, even after being told to quiet down.  I think that this teaches us not only to be bold and persistent in asking the Lord to help us, but also to ask wisely.  In this case, the blind men asked to have a weakness make strong, and I think that we can all ask for that, although of course the process might take longer than it took for these men to be able to see.  Mental and Spiritual changes sometimes take an extended period of practice and adjustment before we learn to be comfortable with the new reality.  Can you imagine living your whole life blind, and then suddenly being able to see?  It might take a while to learn how to deal with a new sense.
I think we are all like these blind men in a lot of ways.  Not just figuratively, either.  Consider the stories of Elisha and his servant (2 Kings 6:17) or Balaam and his ass (Numbers 22:31)... or even Adam and Eve (Moses 4:11).  We are literally blind to many things that God can see clearly.  And whether it is chariots, or angels, or just out own nakedness or inadequacy, sometimes we need God to open our eyes, so that we can learn, and change our actions and our selves to adjust to this new information and knowledge.
Today, let's be aware of our weaknesses and inadequacies.  Let's see reality as it is... not so that it can wear us down, but so that God can lift us up.  We have to realize our blindness before God can cure it.  Let's understand how short sighted we always are, compared to God, and when we do, let's call out to him and ask that our eyes may be opened... to reality, to possibilities, to understanding.  As we do, our lives will be changed just as thoroughly as these men's lives were changed.  Let us never lose hope.  There are so many amazing things waiting for us beyond the limits of our sight.  Let's trust God, and move forward, confident in his guidance and love.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Psalms 13:1-6 -- On Doubts, Fears, Trust, and Praise

"How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me."
Psalms 13:1-6

I put in the whole Psalm because I like the way that it moves from questioning to confidence.  I think this is a pattern that we follow over and over in our lives.  Bad things happen, and we start wondering where the Lord went.  Why we are forgotten... which we never are of course, but it is very easy to feel that way.  And we're sad, and we feel like other people are winning, and *we* want to win, and be right, and we want to be noticed and heard.  But, just as the Psalmist remembers, we have trusted in God's mercy and we joy in his salvation.  All of our storms; physical, spiritual, and emotional; can be calmed by Christ's voice saying "Peace, be still" (Mark 4:39).
Today, as we experience the turbulence of everyday life, let's remember that God is deserving of our trust.  Let's let go of our doubts and sorrows and rejoice in God's salvation.  Let's sing unto the Lord literally or figuratively, because he will always deal bountifully with us, blessing us over and above our ability to accept.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Jude 1:21 -- On Staying in the Love of God

"Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."
Jude 1:21

I like the idea of basking in God's love, and that being a commandment. :)  Seems like a cool thing to have to do.  I think there is more involved than just basking, of course, but basking is the best part of it. :)  In Lehi's dream the tree of life was a representation of God's love, and it was described as "most desirable above all things" and also "the most joyous to the soul" (1 Nephi 11:22-23).  So, basically, as usual, God is just asking us to find satisfaction and happiness.  Yes, certainly, God is telling us how to find them, and to maintain our path towards the tree, we have to listen to him... but that isn't because God doesn't love us, but because too often we seek satisfaction and happiness in places that will never result in those things, or that offer cheap, temporary imitations.
It also seems to me that the love of God goes both ways.  We need to maintain that conduit with the Lord so that we are feeling love from him, but we also need to learn to understand that type of love and share it with others, and that is keeping ourselves in the Love of God as well.  Always bringing it in, and always sharing it out.  And that's where we can find the mercy of our Lord and eternal life... in those constant transactions, filling ourselves and filling others, because the Love of God is not a limited resource.  It's always there if we do the things that please God and therefore have the ability to tap into it and be guided by it.  When we don't feel God's love, it isn't because he has walked away from us, but because we have walked away from him... like getting mad at a family member and not talking to them.  Luckily, God is never far away.  If we learn to let go of our anger and pride, we can invite him back into our lives by just kneeling down and praying.
Today, let's get ourselves into the Love of God, and then let's keep ourselves there, finding mercy and eternal life, and sharing the Love with everyone around us.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Proverbs 16:7-8 -- On Peace and Righteousness

"When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right."
Proverbs 16:7-8

The first verse of this selection reminds me of "love your enemies" (Luke 6:27 and several other places).  When we're doing things the Lord's way, we aren't going to instigate conflict, or keep it alive when others instigate it.  The second verse, I think, is also about peace.  It's better to maintain our integrity and righteousness and have a little, than to abandon them and have a lot.  Being *good* is more important than being rich, just as having peace and showing love is more important than having the last word, or getting our way.
Today, let's get our priorities straight, and let's make sure we are doing things the Lord's way... the way that encourages peace and righteousness, rather than greed or pride.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

1 Corinthians 13:13 -- On No-Fail Charity: The Greatest Kind of Love

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
1 Corinthians 13:13

I was reading this today, and I don't think that the impact of what Paul is saying here had really hit me before.  Charity is bigger than faith, which can move mountains.  Charity is bigger than hope, which is sometimes the only reason we get out of bed in the morning.  Both of those are amazing comparisons.  And not discounting faith and hope at all.  On the contrary.  The vast importance of both of them just serves to point out the unique position of charity as greater.
In 2 Nephi 26:30 we learn that charity is love, but it is a specific kind of love, which Moroni 7:47 describes as "the pure love of Christ."  It goes on to say that we are supposed to learn this type of love, and if we do, then it will be well with us at the last day.  Which is a pretty good promise, and kind of all encompassing.  If we really learn this one thing, it seems like we'll be okay.  As Proverbs 10:12 and 1 Peter 4:8 say, love and charity cover a multitude of sins.  And I think they do.  Maybe not as in "I can sin all I want as long as I am filled with love," but more like "If I learn to love, then I won't be tempted to sin" or "As I learn to love I will want to change my life and repent of my sins naturally."
The idea of charity goes along with the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  It helps us clarify the type of love a little bit though.  The pure love of Christ isn't the everyday type of love that we have for our friends and family.  That kind of love is essential of course, but when we graduate up to the pure love of Christ, we have to remember some of the things that Christ taught.  For instance Matthew 5:44 "Love your enemies . . . do good to them that hate you." In addition, we have Christ's example of not condemning the woman taken in adultery.  The Lord can't look on sin with the least degree of allowance (D&C 1:33, Alma 45:16), but he can, and does, refuse to condemn us, and tells us to "go, and sin no more" (John 8:11, and similar statements in D&C 6:35, 24:2, and 82:7).  If we love as Christ loved, we need to have a similar compassion, and allow sinners room to repent without our condemnation.
Christ loved the people that came to arrest him, and healed one when his own followers attacked him (Luke 22:51).  Christ asked his Father to forgive the soldiers who crucified him (Luke 23:34).  That's the kind of love that makes charity the greatest of all, and is why in Moroni 7:46 we learn that all things must fall, but that "charity never faileth."  Today, let's rely on the greatest principle and the one that can never fail.  Let's learn how to have charity: to love in God's way.

Friday, October 16, 2015

1 Corinthians 3:18-19 -- On Humility and Continuing to Learn

"Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness."
1 Corinthians 3:18-19

This is an interesting idea, that if we seem to be wise that we need to become fools... to learn wisdom. :)  Seems like circular reasoning at first, but if we think about the comparison between ourselves and God, I think it makes sense.  We get ahead of ourselves sometimes, thinking that we are maybe a little cooler than we are.  And I'm not saying that we don't have worth or that we should hate ourselves at all... but sometimes we start thinking that we're smarter or better than other people, or that we have all the answers, and whether we're dealing with humans or with God, that kind of attitude can get us into trouble.  When we think that we have it all figured out, we stop searching and seeking, and we start stumbling a lot more along the path.  We stop listening to others and including them in our decision making processes, and we make mistakes.  If we work at staying in that mode where we realize that we still have plenty to learn, then it is easier to be humble enough to listen to and learn from others and to keep improving ourselves.
Today, let's not stop and think that we've arrived at wise or perfect.  Let's realize that we need to keep striving and learning, especially from God.  It's hard to be humble sometimes, but it's the humble ones that can *keep* learning and *keep* improving.  If we've mastered kindergarten, *awesome.*  But let's not stop there. :)  It's hard.  If we were the best in French 101, it's tough to switch up to a higher class where maybe we don't know as much.  It can be uncomfortable to not be the best anymore, but we have to go through that kind of discomfort sometimes in order to keep learning and progressing.
Let's never stop, however far we've come... let's keep remembering that we aren't as advanced as God is, so there is plenty of room to grow. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Proverbs 6:32 -- On Not Destroying Ourselves

"But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul."
Proverbs 6:32

A few verses earlier it says "Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?," also referring to adultery.  And the idea of burning ourselves or destroying our own souls I think holds true not only for adultery, but for all sin.  Serious sins might burn us and destroy our souls more quickly, but really, all sin is bad for us.  It poisons us and desensitizes us to the spirit.  It makes us forget spiritual things and to regress rather than progress on our journey back to God's presence.
Often we try to justify our favorite sins by saying they are no big deal, or that we wouldn't have been born with the desire if we weren't meant to indulge, or that we'll repent later, or that we can handle the consequences, or we just try to imagine that God is telling us not to do something out of spite, or gambling with the Universe or something.  The truth is though that God, like a knowledgeable guide, knows more about our path and the place we are traveling than we do.  He understands the dangers perfectly, and instead of trying to control us he is trying to *protect* us.  He doesn't want us to burn ourselves, or destroy our souls.  He wants us to make it through the journey with our souls and our senses of humor intact.  He even wants us to enjoy the journey, and he encourages us to learn to be guides ourselves so we can help other people on the path.  But we can't do that if we keep ignoring his advice, and walking into deadly traps.
Today, let's avoid fire and destruction rather than walking right into it.  If we've already been singed or badly burned, let's work on healing up and learning not to set ourselves on fire anymore.  If our souls are sick and diseased, let's turn to the gospel for help and healing.  Let's remember that God is trying to help us avoid the traps and dangers of our earthly journey, and let's listen more closely and follow his advice.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Joseph Smith—History 1:10 -- On Finding the Missing Answers

"In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be aright, which is it, and how shall I know it?"
Joseph Smith—History 1:10

I think that we all have times in our lives when we feel this way.  There are so many issues, and so many people claiming different things, interpreting the same facts in wildly different ways.  Research is useful, but often the two sides hate each other so bitterly that we are condemned for even thinking about the other side or considering its validity... not to mention the fact that it is almost impossible to find an unbiased source.  Joseph Smith was trying to figure out what church to join.  We might be considering the same thing, or politics, or world events, or policies at work or school.  There are a lot of confusing and harsh arguments out there.  I think when we feel this way, we should learn about the issues and think through them, certainly, but it might also be wise to ask ourselves, as young Joseph asked, how we can know the truth.
Joseph studied the scriptures to find the answer to his question, but when the different interpretations of the separate groups muddied the issue, he went straight to the source to find out what church to join.  He got on his knees and he asked God.  And God answered him.  It takes sincerity, dedication, and faith, but God will answer our prayers as well, if we approach him with humility and ask for his help.  Joseph acted on the advice of James 1:5: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."  All men includes us. :)  There are ways to tell truth from error, and the best of them includes the guidance of God, who will help us think through the issues and see the light, enabling us not just to find our current answers, but to be better prepared to ask the next set of questions.  Today, let's remember that there are answers to our questions, and that God has promised us wisdom if we ask for it.  Let's do our research and then ask God for the answers that we can't find on our own.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mormon 9:11 -- On a God of Miracles

"But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are."
Mormon 9:11

This is a great chapter, and this part is explaining that a God who is unchanging, consistent, and perfect, as God is, wouldn't just stop doing miracles, or talking to prophets.  I like this verse because it emphasizes a couple of things.  This is the same God who created everything... it isn't as though he doesn't have the power.  And this is the same God who talked to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob... who has been our God from the beginning of time.
The fact that he is perfect and consistent is something that is hard for us to grasp, since we tend to think of God as similar to us... fallible, uncertain, mistake-prone.  But God is better than that, and better than we can be in this life.  Understanding that idea... of God as capital letter GOD and not as some nicer version of a rich grandfather, is really important, because until we get that, we are still thinking about what can we get, or how can we play this, or what can we say that will get the most favorable response.  But God knows us, perfectly.  He made this world, all of it, with a plan, taking into account all of time... past, present, future.  He didn't just start it up and watch to see what would happen.  He isn't fallible like that.  He's GOD.  And he is the God of our fathers, and he is a God of miracles.  Let's take that seriously today.  Let's go to him in prayer and get to know him, as Abraham and all the prophets have.  Let's learn from him and walk in his paths, and become more like him.  He is God, after all... we'll never accomplish more without him than we can with him. Today, let's not worry that God used to talk to man but somehow decided to stop.  Let's remember that God is still a God of miracles, and that we can ask for and receive his help in our lives.  God can help us to change and overcome our problems, no matter how impossible it sometimes seems.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

1 Nephi 17:13-14 -- On Moving Closer to the Promised Land

"And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.
Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem."
1 Nephi 17:13-14

There are some interesting things here.  I think the coolest one, to me, is that as we keep the commandments, we will be led towards the promised land... because the promised land wasn't just for the Israelites or the Nephites.  It is for us all.  And yeah, it's a different promised land physically... but spiritually, God is leading all of us to the same place:  to heaven: to him.  And so, when we are living the commandments, we know we're going in the right direction.  Just like the Liahona only worked when they were obedient.  Just like priesthood only works that way... just like *life* only works when we're trying to do what's right.
Another part I like is the knowledge part.  If we are obedient, we'll come to know that God is leading us.  It won't be faith anymore, because we'll learn it that well.  And when we get to the promised land, that won't be faith anymore, because we will be there, and know that God brought us out of our own darkness and wilderness to that place.  To get to that point though, as with all other things, we have to learn a little at a time.  Let's be wise today, and start learning some obedience... however much we can handle.  And then God will direct us towards the promised land however far towards it we have the strength to go... and as we grow in our ability to be obedient, the closer and closer we will be able to get.
The promised land isn't the glorious land of eternal happiness where we arrive after a lifetime of pain and suffering.  It's the beginning of a new life, and we learn how to live in that new world during our journey.  Whether our current promised destination is physical or spiritual, we start learning the happiness and glory now, and we start letting go of the pain and affliction that we cause for ourselves.  Doesn't mean life will be perfect... but life is always better with God than without him.  Let's remember that lesson today, as we practice our obedience, and learn to move closer and closer to all the promises that God has in store for us, individually and collectively.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mosiah 24:11-14 -- On Lightened Burdens

"And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.
And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their hearts to him; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions."
Mosiah 24:11-14

This is part of a story about a group of people that had gone through a lot... and here, they still were.  They were basically enslaved, and were treated badly just for fun, which I guess you could call torture, and they were commanded that they couldn't even pray.  ... And in one way, you could blame it all on their religion.  If they didn't believe in God or the gospel, they would have never gotten into this situation in the first place.  And it is possible, that if they had denounced God, that they could have joined with their captors rather than being their slaves.  I imagine that it could have been a source of bitterness... but instead, they kept praying in their hearts... and God promised to deliver them.  I want to be clear on this though.  He didn't prevent them from being enslaved, and after they were he didn't deliver them right away.  First he lightened their burdens, so they were happier... but still slaves.  It was only after they had endured this for a while that God delivered them.
Our lives are sometimes like this as well.  Bad things happen... and sometimes we have to deal with it for a while.  Sometimes we have to deal with it our whole lives.  But God can, and will, lighten our burdens as we seek him with patience and faith.  And he will also deliver us, whether in this life or the next, from *every* pain and heartache and burden.
Today, because we have the freedom to do so, let's raise our voices *and* pour out our hearts to God.  Let's thank him for his amazing blessings and ask him to help us with our burdens.  God does indeed visit his people in their afflictions, and as we pray in faith, he will lighten our burdens.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Micah 7:8 -- On Winning by Turning the Page

"Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me."
Micah 7:8

I love how determined and even triumphant this is.  We know that any enemy to our spirit or testimony can never win, because if we fall, we get up and try again.  No matter how black it is, it can't touch the light of God.  That's faith.  Knowing that there could never be an unhappy ending because we are determined to survive all of the challenging in-between chapters and get to the happy ending that God has promised, that we believe in, and that we are going to keep working for.  We can always win, if we stick with God and keep trying.
Today, let's be this determined to succeed, and when something tough pops up, let's keep turning the pages and living the right way, and get to something better.  Let's not let any obstacle beat us.  Let's keep getting up, let's finish the race, and let's look to God for light and strength when ours are spent.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Luke 10:39-42 -- On Taking Time to Listen

"And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
Luke 10:39-42

Today this makes me think of priorities.  Sometimes we overdo things.  We make a big production out of things when we don't really need to.  We might host a party and spend the whole time serving and making sure everyone else is okay, and we're so busy that we don't even have a good time.  Or maybe we plan a work event and part of it goes wrong, and we were so invested that it feels like a failure, even though it still happened, and people still got to talk and interact.  Or, often, we're so worried about what other people think that we forget where we're going. :)
Sometimes it is okay to let go of making things perfect, or organized.  People get fed whether we plan a 7 course gourmet feast or just order out.  People can get to know each other with low-cost pencil and paper games if the expensive activity falls through.  The house doesn't have to be perfect.  It's okay sometimes if the guests serve themselves. :)  I don't really know what the circumstances were with Martha, but I think that she probably could have taken some time herself to drop everything and listen to the Lord.  No one else is more worth it, in fact... and *everyone* is worth it on some level.  Today, let's make time for other people, for building relationships, for listening... and let's make time for God.  For building that relationship and following that example.  Let's adjust our priorities, and take time to listen to the Lord... every day.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

D&C 130:6-7 -- On God, Time, and Butterflies

"The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth;
But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord."
Doctrine and Covenants 130:6-7

The whole time thing is interesting.  This verse tells us that past present and future are all continually before the Lord.  Alma 40:8 says "all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men."  Revelation 10:6 says that "there should be time no longer" ... I'm guessing time no longer for us, since the implication of the other verses is that God can see it all, and isn't bound by it.
There's an interesting story that Ray Bradbury wrote in 1952 about time travel called "A Sound of Thunder."  In the story, a group of hunters goes into the past to shoot a dinosaur.  The whole thing was well planned and the timing was perfect.  The dinosaur was about to die anyway, and so the hunt wouldn't cause anything in the past to change.  But the hunter freaks out, wanders off the path, and ends up stepping on a butterfly.  When they go back to the future, the destruction of that one butterfly has upset the future and caused massive tragedy.
In our lives, hopefully our futures are not as fragile as the world in Bradbury's story, but the idea that small things can turn into big things is supported by Alma 37:6: "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass."  The small things that we do every day, over time can turn into great, amazing things.  And the reverse is unfortunately also true.  The mistakes we make, if we continue to make them and follow that path, can ruin our lives.
How do we know what will help us or hurt us in the far future while we are still here in the present?  I'm glad you asked. :)  God can see all of it, and he can help us know what effect our actions are going to have on our future.  He can warn us and guide us, and if we listen to him and obey his commandments, then the small good things that he encourages us to do will become great, amazing, exciting futures for each of us... and we can avoid stepping on our own proverbial spiritual butterflies, and thus avoid the large meltdowns in the future that they could cause.
Today, let's turn to God, who can see everything, to guide us on our path.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Isaiah 49:1-3 -- On a Mission from God

"Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.
And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;
And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified."
Isaiah 49:1-3

I really like this.  God chose Christ as the redeemer before he was born, and used him to make a difference in the world.  And that is huge... it makes a difference in all of our lives, every day.  I don't want to diminish that at all.  I think though, that this verse isn't just about Christ, or just about Isaiah, or even just about Israel.  I think it is about all of us.  If we are going to follow the pattern of Christ, don't we also follow this part of the pattern?  God has a work for each of us to do.  It might not be as world-altering as the mission of Christ, or Isaiah, or a whole nation, but *all* of us are in the quiver of the Lord, and if we are willing, he will use us to make a difference in the world as well.
Today, let's work on getting past the things that are standing in the way of our commitment to God.  None of them are as important as the mission that God has for us.  Let's talk to him about it, and get to it.  Let's focus not on our missions for ourselves, having to do with power or money or fame or whatever it is... let's focus on what God wants us to do, which undoubtedly will be zillions of times more significant and important, both for us and the people around us, than the things that we thought up alone.  When we partner with God, our dreams turn into realities that are good for everyone.  Let's go for it, today.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Matthew 7:21-23 -- On Heaven and Teen Fantasy

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Matthew 7:21-23

Sometimes it is hard for us to reconcile the idea of God's love and the idea of God's rejection.  How could unconditional love ever end, or result in us wanting into heaven and him asking us to depart?  We're tempted to think that God should accept us all, no matter what, and perhaps like an elderly grandparent, just shake his head fondly at our "eccentric" behavior.  But that isn't the way that love works... or at least it isn't the way that it *should* work.
We are somewhat poisoned by the media, watching books and movies that hold love up as something that is universally accepting, and that has no aspect of choice associated with it.  Suddenly, you are just there, in love with a vampire, and there is nothing you can do about it. :)  We listen to songs about being overcome by love, forced into bad actions because of it... again, without being able to choose otherwise.  Some movies even go so far as to show why it is a *virtue* to give up heaven or transcendence or your soul, for love.  And let me just say now, if that is what love truly is, then it is dangerous beyond description and we should stay far away.  Luckily for us, love is not what the media portrays, and not what we read about in teen fantasy.  It isn't diminished at all by that... it is *better* than that.  True love is something we work at and choose every day... not something that just happens to us.
God's love is unconditional, but it isn't attached to universal acceptance, just as real love is not.  We can love a family member and still reject their behavior.  We can love someone and know that they are not a good influence on us, and that we should not hang around with them.  And that is okay, and that is still love.  The whole "if you *really* loved me..." line, or the idea that we should prove our love by doing something we aren't comfortable with is one of the worst, twisted, evil interpretations of affection that there ever has been.  You don't blackmail people that you love, or hold their affection hostage to your whim.  It's an immature, manipulative, harmful move.  ...And yet, this is exactly what we try with God sometimes.
We think that if God really loved us, he would accept whatever we want to do, no matter how harmful to ourselves or others.  But he won't.  And that's why some of us will say to God, didn't we do great things in your name?  And he will still love us, but ask us to leave.  Because love is actually getting to know God, and finding out who he is, what he wants, and how to do better.  It isn't just imagining him for ourselves or figuring that he accepts everything.  We have to work at this kind of love, every day... because it is the real kind, not the teen fantasy kind.  We have to know God, and be open to his knowledge of us, honestly and sincerely working through the things where we aren't in agreement, and realizing that we need to change the way we think and feel and act in order to truly understand him and allow him to make us what we can be.
Does that mean that God doesn't really love us, or want us around?  Absolutely not.  He loves us unconditionally, and welcomes us back, whether we deserve it or not.  If we are willing to follow his path, he will always help us.  Despite our challenging past actions, he will help us change into people who don't harm others, who don't make horrible choices, and who don't self-destruct.  He will never ask us to leave while there is even the tiniest chance that we can come back.  He only rejects us if we have well and thoroughly rejected him first, ignored all his warnings, and died in our sins.  So, hey... let's not do that. :)  Today, let's get past our teen fantasy view of the world, and get to know God and love him with some of that real, chosen, useful kind of love... the kind that actually helps us to be better, and makes the world better.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Luke 7:12-15 -- On Seeing, Having Compassion, and Making a Difference

"Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.
And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother."
Luke 7:12-15

What strikes me about this story today is the compassion that the Lord has for us.  Even though in an eternal sense, everything we go through is a temporary tragedy, Christ has seen and suffered from our perspective.  He understands, and he cares.  He knew that this woman would have her son again in the eternities, but he had compassion on her pain in the moment, and blessed her to allow her son to return to her for a time.  They rejoiced at their reunion, as they will rejoice again in the resurrection.
God knows that whatever we are going through right now is temporary... and even his solving of our problems in this life is temporary.  But Christ still cares.  He cares when our loved ones die.  He cares when we are in pain... physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.  He always cares, even if he knows that everything will be better very soon.  If we look to him, we can find comfort and compassion.  We won't always be miraculously saved from every tragedy, but we can always be miraculously comforted, because unlike anyone else, Christ's atonement give him the ability to actually know what it is like for each of us.  He does understand how we feel, and he has compassion for our struggles.
I wonder if today, we could work on being like Christ in just this way... to have compassion on the people around us.  To see and understand how they are feeling, and help in whatever way we can.  We probably won't be able to bring a son back to her widow in this exact way, and maybe our fixes can't be permanent either.  But we can do a lot.  We can make a difference.  The first step is to see: to notice the suffering around us, then to have compassion and care about that person who is in pain.  Then, to do whatever we can to lighten the burden.  In this way, we can follow Christ's example, and make the world a better place, today.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

3 Nephi 19:30 -- On Smiling

"And when Jesus had spoken these words he came again unto his disciples; and behold they did pray steadfastly, without ceasing, unto him; and he did smile upon them again; and behold they were white, even as Jesus."
3 Nephi 19:30

To smile upon someone, here and elsewhere in the scriptures, is not only to be happy or pleased, but to bless.  Moses 7:43 talks about the Lord smiling upon the ark of Noah, and Jacob 2:13 talks about how the hand of providence has smiled upon the people so much that they started to get prideful because of their wealth.  In terms of everyday smiling, this is interesting to me.  I think it applies.  When we smile, it can be more than just expressing an emotion.  It can be a blessing to others, to lift and to lighten.  In General Conference yesterday, one of the talks mentioned that we should smile more. It seems like such a small thing, but in terms of making the world a better place, I think it could be huge.  Smiling defuses anger, makes it easier for us to be kind, helps people to know that we mean no harm, and so much more.  It is a universal symbol of happiness and friendship.
Today, let's smile upon the people around us. :)  Let's make the world, and ourselves, a little better. :)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Job 17:13-16 -- On Hopelessness and Finding our Way Home

"If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness.
I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister.
And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it?
They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust."
Job 17:13-16

This doesn't seem very hopeful, does it?  And I don't think it is meant to be.  The lesson here, perhaps, is a different one.  It isn't telling us all the reasons that we have to hope.  It is acknowledging that no matter who we are, or how righteous, not everything is going to go right.  Sometimes things are downright wrong... and we're all going to experience the darkness that it talks about here.  Another example is in Lehi's dream (1 Nephi 8:23).  As people were walking towards the tree, the mist of darkness came.  No one avoided it, only some people were able to make it through *despite* it because they held to the iron rod.  And in our lives, there are going to be dark times.  No matter how good we are, no matter how perfectly we live.  Dark times happen to everyone.  The difference is how we face them, and whether we can come out on the other side, or get lost completely.
God's gospel isn't just for the times of light.  It is a preparation so that we will be ready for the darkness.  So that even when things seem hopeless, and like Job all we can look forward to is the release of death, that even then we will have something to hang on to... even if all it is is the memory of light.  And like Job, and like many people from Lehi's dream, we can hold onto that memory, that knowledge, that taste of goodness and light that we still have and can read about and believe in even when we can't feel it... and we can make it through to the other side of the darkness, back into the light, even if the rats jump out at us, and even if we have to crawl part of the way.  We can make it through the dark times because God prepares us so we know how to get back to him, even when we get lost.  That's why he gives us the scriptures, and the church, and the prophets, and the gospel. ... So that we know the way back home, even in the dark.
Today, let's trust in the Lord, and hold on, even in the times of hopelessness and darkness, to his word, and his hand... he will lead us through.

Friday, October 2, 2015

2 Timothy 1:5 -- On Shared Faith

"When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also."
2 Timothy 1:5

I really like this idea that faith can be inherited, or just passed on to the people around us.  I don't think that means that we can't have any when no one passes it to us... because we always have God to help us with that, but I do think that it means that we can influence the people around us, and the world around us, with our faith.  Our parents and grandparents can show us what faith is about, and give us examples of how it works in their lives, and those things matter... we hold on to them for years, having an ideal in mind to work toward.
Today, let's live up to the good examples that God has blessed us with in our lives.  And lets set good examples for our families and the people around us.  Let's be faithful and strong in our love for God, and our willingness and motivation to build his kingdom on the Earth.  Let's make the world around us better through our faith, and let's rejoice in the faith of others who want to do the same thing. :)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Proverbs 16:23-24 -- On Actively Loving

"The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.
Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones."
Proverbs 16:23-24

This is a good reminder that we need to make sure our self-improvements and love and kindness show on the outside too.  We need to let our hearts teach the rest of us.  It might sound smarmy, but when we are motivated from the inside to be kind and pleasant, people can tell that we are authentic, and that we really care.  It isn't an act or done to get something, but because we truly love others and want them to be happy.  I think we feel this more often than we show it, so today, let's work on that outward expression.  Let's add some verb to those nouns, and start letting our feelings of love turn into actively loving and serving and caring.  Let's make sure what comes out of our mouths is kind and not angry.  Let's make sure it is caring and not critical.  As we do, we'll feel more sweetness in our own souls as well, and we'll also feel better.  Peace is always healthier than conflict.

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