Saturday, February 28, 2015

Jude 1:10 -- On Natural vs Spiritual and Inner Peace

"But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves."
Jude 1:10


This reminds me of King Benjamin's words in Mosiah 3:19: "the natural man is an enemy to God."  We try to figure so many things out by asking what our "nature" is, or what evolution has taught us... we try to understand ourselves by defining ourselves by our desires or our emotions, thinking that is the "real" or "core" part of what we are, and that we have to be true to it, when on the other hand God is telling us that that part of ourselves is only one aspect of the self, and although it is valuable and amazing, it needs to be taught trained and bridled.   I think it is the same mistake that we make when we're kids.  We want to be independent and we go at it full steam, not understanding the consequences.  We would burn ourselves or get ourselves run over or hurt in countless ways if our parents or caregivers weren't watchful.  We make similar mistakes with love, especially believing the version that is popular in teen novels.  In that version, and in the way we feel sometimes, we just *want* something so much, and supposedly that makes it right.  I was watching an old Kim Novak movie today and they actually said the line "that's what love is: obsession" (or something very close, I might not have gotten it verbatim).  Popular media tells us this a lot.  That addicted feeling justifies anything and everything.  So God can be unpopular when he tells us that love is important and amazing, but that we have to bridle that desire as well, and not jump into and out of responsibilities and relationships based on every crush that comes along.  King Benjamin tells us that we have to put off the natural man and become saints.  Perhaps, especially when our desires are strong, that seems impossible or superhuman.  But it isn't being "untrue" to ourselves at all... it is being true to the higher and better part of ourselves, and will result in much longer-term happiness.
Today, let's not corrupt ourselves by living "true" to the baser side of ourselves.  Let's be true to the whole self by allowing our spiritual selves to take precedence and guide us to better things.  Let's put kindness and love and trust first.  Let's put other people before selfishness.  Let's listen to God, our Father, when he tells us not to run out into traffic.  Let's hear him as he teaches us how to guide our desires into healthy avenues.  Let's find ways to love that don't make us hate ourselves or others the next morning.  Since we have a choice, let's be the saint rather than the "brute beast." :)  It does seem impossible sometimes, but with practice, it never is.  God is helping.  We can control ourselves and learn to make better choices.  As we do, we'll be true to our souls, and learn to direct our desires into healthier areas, which will make that part of ourselves happy as well.  With God's help, we don't have to be torn in half... we can find peace.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Matthew 5:9 -- On Peacemaking

"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
Matthew 5:9


This is part of a lesson that Jesus gave that is known as the Sermon on the Mount.  I like this verse and the idea that peacemaking is an essential part of being a child of God.  So many times in our daily lives we have the opportunities to make situations better or worse, and the distance between ourselves and others wider or smaller.  I'm not saying that all conflict is avoidable, or that there aren't cases where we should widen the distance.  I think God is saying here that Peacemaking is a good idea, and should be the rule rather than the exception.   Sometimes our pride gets in the way.  We want so badly to be right, or to have our way.  It's hard... hard to even see the way to peace in situations where our ego rears up and where we get angry or can't see why we are being prevented from having or doing or being whatever it is.
Being a child of God is something that is amazing and full of possibility.  To walk as he walked, to follow him, to learn to be as much like him as we can be... that is a a path full of incredible potential.  But to live up to that name, we have to let go of our egos and instead of getting our way... get HIS way.  We need to learn it and understand it and follow it, rather than worrying about what we deserve.  Today, let's be the peacemakers.  Let's find the way to make situations and relationships better and not worse.  Let's heal rather than hurt, and lift rather than drag down.  Let's be worthy of being called the children of God, as we walk in his path.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

2 Nephi 9:28-29 -- On Vanity and Collaboration with Deity

"O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God."
2 Nephi 9:28-29


I like how the second verse is kind of thrown in kind of as an afterthought.  Education and learning *can* be good, if.  ... And as much as I know God loves education, intelligence, light, and truth (D&C 93:36), and as much as I personally love the idea of learning and growing and becoming, Jacob makes an excellent point here.  We are vain, and frail, and foolish.  We so easily slip into pride and think that we are cool and we know better than other people, and better than God.  *Neither* of which are true.  Even when we have expertise in a subject, there are other people around who do also, and who know the context better.  We consistently overestimate our own competence, which often results in blocking other people out and pushing for our own way, even if it is the wrong way.  Working together and listening to each other is better than bullying, and will result in better solutions.  And really, even though God created us and deserves so much more, he only asks for that same respect and consideration that we should be giving to everyone around us:  that we include him and listen to him as we work through problems.  Like any parent, he knows we need him, but he is also trying to teach us to be ourselves, and to learn to make good choices.  And he knows that if we learn to trust him more, he can help us more too.
Today, let's hearken unto the counsels of God.  He *can* add to the discussion, as resistant as we are to listen.  If we give him a chance, he can make our lives better than they ever could have been without him.  And our learning and expertise will do us some good too, if we don't let it go to our heads. :)  Let's go out there and try to be humble today.  Let's listen, and learn, and collaborate... *especially* with God.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Psalms 50:1-2 -- On Becoming Shiny

"The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined."
Psalms 50:1-2


I like that the Lord is calling the earth, and that Zion is the perfection of beauty.  I think the association here is that Earth, too, can be like that... and God shining is similar to the idea of us needing to be lights to the world, building Zion, until everything gets to that "perfect day" (D&C 50:24).  The fact that beauty is involved is awesome too.  Sometimes I think that we get wrapped up so much in life that we forget the beauty, or think that it doesn't matter.  But it does... the beauty of the earth around us, the beauty of thoughts and ideas, the beauty of God's plan for all of us.  I think beauty is tied in with hope a lot... we can stop in the middle of the worst situation in our lives, and look up, and be surprised by that beauty and that hope around us.  It is still there, and God is still there, both calling to us to let go of the bad and embrace the good.
I'm definitely not talking about romantic attractiveness, which is subjective and overhyped.  In the annals of beauty, it deserves a footnote, but only that.  Beauty is so much more.  I like that God tells us here that Zion is the perfection of beauty.  Not just physical beauty, which is what we usually think of first with the word, but every kind of beauty.  The proverbial pearl of great price, the treasure that you would throw everything else away for, knowing that everything else is lesser.  And Zion is that, God is that.  (Lust, perhaps needless to say, is not.)  Heaven is like that too.  Not boring. :)  I think that when we have a chance to see even a glimpse of it, we'll understand that it is the high goal worth dedicating all our lives to.  Today, let's work on being ready for that day, with God's help, so that we can be part of that beauty and that perfection, rather than having to admit that we're not prepared to live there, and to shine like that. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2 Samuel 13:12-17 -- On the Mockery of Love

"And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly.
And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee.Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her.
Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone.
And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her.
Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her."
2 Samuel 13:12-17


This is a scary story from the Old Testament of a man raping his half-sister.  I'm not saying that it is a pleasant story, but perhaps it is important for us to learn something from it, and that is why it is in the scriptures for us.  To me, this story is about the mockery of love.  Amnon was making himself sick with how much he wanted Tamar, and when asked about it, he said that he loved her.  ... But was it love?  Is love a sickening, selfish thing that can cause someone to do this kind of evil?  Is love something that can immediately turn to hatred as soon as its object is achieved?  It isn't either of those things.  But we pretend it is, often, in our society, both in rape, which is at least recognized as evil, and in seemingly-normal courtship ritual.  Analogies fly about predator and prey, and as soon as a sexual goal is achieved, the "love" is gone, and on to the next conquest.  And I am definitely not just calling out men.  This is something that we, as a society, do... and the sickest part of all of it is that, like Amnon, we call it love.  We actually convince ourselves that we are in love, and make love a priority over everything else... but Amnon didn't love his sister at all.  Otherwise, he would have listened to her entreaties.  And when we pretend what we are feeling is love, we risk damning ourselves just as surely as Amnon did.
Today, let's remember that love is not selfish... that it doesn't cause us to commit crimes or do evil, or harm others, even emotionally.  Let's not sully the name of love with this particular brand of egocentric lust.  Let's care for the people around us.  Let's remember love is about wanting what is best for another, not for ourselves.  Let's go to God and work on learning what love really is, and not accepting a poor substitute.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Alma 46:12 -- On War

"And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole."
Alma 46:12


This is from one of the war chapters in the Book of Mormon.  Sometimes I think that we wonder, if God is all about love, why is there so much war in the scriptures?  Are we supposed to be learning how to kill people?  Of course that is not the case, but then why preach death in the books that are supposed to be teaching us what to be?  I think it is because God is trying to show us that some things are worth defending.  Specifically, here, the things that Captain Moroni writes on his coat.
It's a tough line, trying to balance things like "ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (3 Nephi 12:39) and "let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God" (Alma 61:14).  One way to balance them is individually versus societally.  If someone individually offends us, we should probably let it go.  If, as a society, our freedom is threatened, then we should probably not just let it happen.
Now, please don't read into this that I am favoring violence of any sort.  I think war is always an offensive exception.  The rule is love.  Christ tells us that even to be angry is to put our souls in danger (Matthew 5:21; 3 Nephi 12:22).  And harming or killing people to establish dominance or to eliminate some group that we don't like is completely wrong.  But even God had to take action in the War in Heaven, to separate the influence of the evil from the good.  And, like Captain Moroni, sometimes we have to stand up, and separate ourselves from or defend ourselves against evil.  ... Let's hope we never have to take that step.  And let us never treat violence lightly... but let us also be sure that if we do stand up as Captain Moroni did, we are doing it for the right reasons.  For God, religion, freedom, peace, and family.  Otherwise, we are not only cutting short the gift of life given to people on the other side of the conflict, we are putting our own souls in jeopardy. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Alma 41:12-13 -- On Getting Back

"And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature?
O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful."
Alma 41:12-13


The whole idea of restoration is interesting.  Alma in the second verse of this chapter calls it "the plan of restoration" and goes on to talk about how our souls and bodies will be reunited, but also that the things that we have done, and desired, in our lives will be restored to us in the end.  This is an interesting principle, because if we think about all the things in our lives that we've done, and desired, there are probably some, if not many, that we don't really want restored to us.
So, then, even though God is the judge, in many ways our lives ARE our judgement.  What we're doing and thinking and feeling matters, every day, and we'll get it all back.  For the parts of that that are terrifying, God has granted us repentance.  But the sort of insta-repentance that we sometimes hope for doesn't really work if you think about the idea of restoration.  Do we want empty or easily-broken promises restored to us?  God is willing to of course give us the benefit of the doubt and allow us to start again... but for the idea of restoration, we really, actually have to change.  If we want love and mercy, we are going to have to really *become* loving and merciful, not just say it.  If we want generosity and kindness, we have to learn those things.
The idea of nature here is interesting as well, and in our society people say different things about our natures as well... that it is natural, for instance, to cheat on your spouse.  That it is natural to sin or act out in certain ways, and that these things are built into us.  ... And I don't know.  Maybe they are.  Maybe our bodies are prone to poor choices, just as theoretically our Ids, psychologically, aren't really good at thinking things through.  But we're not just that.  God gave us free agency... and it is our gift to choose.  To choose to act on instinct or to behave differently.  ... In the end though, whatever we do choose is going to be returned to us.  I think that is one of the most important reasons that God tells us that the most important commandments are about love.  ... The sincere, trustworthy kind. :)
Today, let's take some time and think about restoration, and what we want out of life.  If it is different than what we are putting in to it, let's rethink.  Let's talk to God today about how to become more loving and kind and generous and good, and then let's really take the time to change ourselves into what we want back.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Deuteronomy 26:11 -- On Being Commanded to Rejoice

"And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you."
Deuteronomy 26:11


I like the whole being commanded to rejoice thing.  Not in a creepy "I know you are unhappy, but smile anyway" type way, but this is God telling us to be happy... that it is okay to be happy, that life is about happiness.  We have so many reasons to be thankful, and we can be a big part of everyone else around us being thankful as well. :)
Bad things happen, and I am not suggesting that we pretend that they don't... but as 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; / Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."  Even when bad things happen, there are still good things, and God helping us through it all.  God makes us stronger than the bad things, and makes a way for us to keep his commandments... in this case, to rejoice.  Today, let's find the way that God has provided for us to rejoice. :)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Luke 17:9-10 -- On Duty and Thanks

"Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."
Luke 17:9-10


My favorite part of this is "I trow not."  I think we should start saying "trow" instead of "think" more often and bring it back. :)  But aside from the humor, there are some really good things here.  This is the end part of a lesson on Faith that Christ was sharing with his apostles.  I think the point of the lesson is that we think of faith and works and commandments kind of backwards. 
The best similarity I can think of is Corporate America.  We agree to do a job for a specific wage and benefits package.  That is the basic fact.  But then when we get inside the company, we expect a lot more things.  We want appreciation and thanks, for doing what we are already obligated to do... and TONS of other things, sometimes at the cost of the other people trying to do their jobs.  And I'm not arguing that appreciation and the art of motivation are wrong or bad.  Employers could be better... but so could employees.  The best situation is where both sides recognize that they aren't "owed" more than agreed on in the original transaction, but are both grateful for the extra effort taken to enhance the relationship.
I think that this is sort of like our situation with God, except God already is better, and we are not.  We feel like he owes us something, all the time, when he has already offered us, freely, everything he has.  But if we want to be promoted to his job, we first have to learn it.  And he is teaching us all the time, helping us learn more and more and do new jobs until we master the next level... but all we do is continue to demand, never stopping to realize that God owes us nothing, and we owe him everything.  All that we have is through his grace.  And all of this work that we are grudgingly doing is all part of what we agreed to in the first place.  The only thing that we can gift God with is our willingness and our cheerfulness in tackling our challenges and doing our daily tasks.  Today, let's remember all that God has done for us and for the whole of humanity.  And then let's get our there and be thankful rather than whiny.  Let's do everything we can to make the relationship better.  Let's do good, and find ways to uplift others.  Let's remember that God is the coolest one in the room, and when we're tempted to demand or think that we're actually involved in a popularity contest, let's remember our new phrase: "I trow not." :)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Isaiah 1:18-20 -- On Reasoning with the Lord

"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."
Isaiah 1:18-20


I like that the Lord is willing to reason with us, even though his reasoning abilities far surpass ours.  He is willing to sit down with us and explain it to us on our level.  And he tells us that if we want to turn around and change and repent, that we can.  We can clean up our lives *completely* as far as God is concerned.  As we really and truly change, we don't get listed on a spiritual watch list or have to appear before the heavenly parole board.  God lets it go completely if we repent completely.  Not saying that he is going to be easy, or that other people will do that for us, but God will.  And he offers the same deal to everyone.  If we learn to be willing and obedient to God's instructions, as he teaches us how to learn and be good, and achieve eternal happiness, then that's what we will get.  And if we instead refuse to listen, rebel, and try to find another path... we will find one, but it won't lead to happiness, and we'll again be rewarded with what we chose.  But at *any* point along the way, if we realize that we are going the wrong way and we want to come back, God will accept us, and help us, and be willing to again teach us.  It definitely isn't easy... to turn around, to walk back, to be humble when we have been rebellious, to re-learn what we have rejected, or un-learn lies we have taught ourselves.  But it is possible, and God is willing to reason with us, wherever we are.  Today, let's go to him in prayer.  Let's talk to him about our lives and ask for the strength to find our way back to him.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Psalms 97:10-11 -- On Gardens of Light

"Ye that love the Lord, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.
Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart."
Psalms 97:10-11


It's interesting to be told to hate something, isn't it?  God is about love and light, and doesn't often encourage "negative" emotions.  But when I think about what we usually do with evil... take it in small doses, flirt with it a little, choke it down when we think we have to in order to get what we want... God's admonition here seems overwhelmingly wise.  Importantly, we're not told to hate *people* who take evil actions.  We're told to hate evil itself.  And if we do hate it, we won't be so casual about allowing it into our hearts, minds, and lives.  God tells us this in order to preserve our souls, and deliver us out of the hands of the wicked.  Sometimes we think that compromising with evil is the best we can do.  We think accepting a little evil here or there is okay, and that it won't poison or corrupt us.  But in the end, it always does.  We can't be tolerant and accepting of evil.  Not evil.  We have to hate it, and reject it whenever we see it.  We can't let it into our lives and think that it is okay.  We can't watch it or listen to it, or make a deal with it.
God is about light, and love, and happiness.  And that is what he has in store for us.  He plants them for us, and even though it doesn't happen all at once, if we are willing to nurture and harvest that light for ourselves, we won't have to worry about darkness.  Today, let's love people and do good, but let's hate and reject the darkness and the evil that hurts the world and wants to become part of us.  Let's weed our gardens of light instead, and only give room within ourselves for God and his goodness.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Helaman 3:14 -- On The Rest of the Story

"But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work."
Helaman 3:14


The fact that the scriptures can't possibly contain all the history of the past makes you wonder sometimes what else happened to some of our favorite characters.  I would love to read more about King Benjamin or Lamoni and his wife, not to mention Christ's childhood or insights from Mary and Martha and Lazarus about what it was like to be his friend, in person, and have him come by for dinner. :)  It would be amazing to know the rest of the story.
I think that keeping records is really important, not only because some lessons from our lives could become scripture, but because sometimes we need to remember who we used to be... and our families and friends might benefit from those insights down the line as well.  President Kimball said the following:

Begin today and write in it your goings and your comings, your deeper thoughts, your achievements, and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies. We hope you will do this, our brothers and sisters, for this is what the Lord has commanded, and those who keep a personal journal are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives.

I was doing my taxes the other day, and a story from my grandfather's life popped into my head.  He was audited by the IRS once, and after going through all of his records, they found that they actually owed *him* money.  He was amazingly honest.  And I want to be like that.  Sometimes we aren't that honest, and maybe we don't want to write things down because people will learn the wrong things from our examples, thinking... well, if they did it, I can too.  I understand that fear, and it is scary writing down things that you don't want remembered.  But you know, the very facts that we don't want them remembered and that we are writing them down can be an impetus to us, to get our lives in order so that we have something good to say. :)  And writing things down can help us see our progress later, when we have done the work and we *have* changed.  We can see it and others can see it too... that change of heart, and that increase in happiness and joy.  We don't have to just write the bad... we get to write it all, and give the rest of the story.
Today, let's write in our Journals, or if we haven't started one, let's start.  Let'get a book, or even keep it online if we are technologically adventurous like that. :)  Let's give our relatives and friends down the line some insight into who we were... and even if anyone else reading them is anathema to us, let's write them for our own benefit.  God knows it already, but sometimes writing helps us ponder and discover ourselves a lot more than just rushing through everything. :)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Judges 5:23 -- On Helping the Lord

"Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty."
Judges 5:23


The thing that I find interesting about this verse is that people are cursed because they didn't help the Lord.  ... But we know that the Lord has all power, right?  So why would he need help?
I think there are a few things that come into play here.  The Lord might not be limited in potential power, but he is self-limiting.  Just like we have the power to kill, but choose not to, the Lord has the power to solve things by crushing our free agency, and he chooses not to.  Because he has given us freedom, and he values that gift, even when we don't, he refrains from forcing us to do things.  Thus, bad things can happen through our choices, either through making poor choices, or by inaction.  In order to stop some of those bad things without endangering freedom, the Lord does indeed need our help.  He needs our willingness and our obedience.  We need to be open to learning and choosing right... we need to be actively finding ways to make the world a better place.
Today, let's help God.  Let's be instruments in God's hands to answer prayers and bring relief.  Let's help the Lord in all that we do, by choosing the good.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ecclesiastes 10:20 -- On Learning to Like the King

"Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter."
Ecclesiastes 10:20


This is an interesting verse.  The message here seems to be, don't speak evil, even when you think you won't be found out.  There are many other scriptures that ask us not to speak evil, for instance Titus 3:2, Jude 1:10, Acts 23:5, etc., so we know it is a bad idea.  This one though talks specifically about our thoughts.  Not only shouldn't we speak evil, but we shouldn't think it either.  Why?  Because it will be known.  Not necessarily by anyone else, although of course that can happen, but always by God.
Sometimes we think that the gospel is only a gospel of actions.  We are used to living in this world after all, and here we can't be legally condemned for our mental activities.  Our brains remain free even if our bodies are in chains.  And we kind of assume that the same freedom applies to the gospel... as long as we *do* the right things, it doesn't matter what we think.  And on one level that's totally right.  God isn't going to take away our freedom.  He loves freedom, and he doesn't seek to chain our thoughts.  However, he does know them... and beyond him knowing those things that we don't really want anyone to know, he knows what they can do to us, which is why he includes them in his instructions to us.  Thoughts lead to actions, and if we curse the king in our thoughts, it could lead to cursing him with our voice, or typing it on the internet. :)  Either way, our thoughts can get us in trouble.  And when we think things or say them in private, we should think about why.  If it's because we are part of the underground freeing people from slavery, maybe it's good.  A lot more often though, I think we keep things secret because we're ashamed of them on some level.  And if we are ashamed on some level, maybe learning to school our thoughts as well as our actions is a good idea.
Sometimes we don't think that we can change what we think... like opinions or emotions are inborn and completely non-malleable.  But God talks in many places in the scriptures (including Alma 5) about the mighty change of heart.  God can help us change internally as well as externally.  We can stop sinning AND stop wanting to sin.  We can stop speaking evil AND stop thinking evil.  Who knows, maybe we'll stop cursing the king and actually start liking him one of these days. :)
Today, let's be open to change... not just externally, but internally.  Let's talk to God, and work on getting rid of the actions and the thoughts that we are ashamed of.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Revelation 3:15 -- On Being Opinionated

"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot."
Revelation 3:15


I was thinking of this scripture this morning, and I think sometimes God just wants us to THINK, right?  We often back away from issues, trying to be Switzerland and not take sides, but if we don't think about the issues and we try to please everyone, then we aren't really developing opinions and thinking for ourselves, or standing up for anything... and to learn to be like God, and to walk in his footsteps, we have to think about things, and learn about them, and figure out where we stand... even when it is hard.
Now, don't get me wrong.  I am in no way saying that we should be fanatical about everything and refuse to compromise.  In order to maintain relationships and make good things happen in the world, sometimes we need to work with people who disagree with us, and it's hard to find two people who agree about *everything,* so just getting through life requires some compromise and collaboration, to find answers that help people to live together and respect each other. 
There are, of course, some things that we can't compromise about.  Personal worthiness, for instance.  In general though, I think there is a huge need in our society for us to come together and talk about things and work together, even when we disagree.  But I think that finding solutions that work for everyone also requires thinking things out and knowing where we all are coming from, and not just picking a side and ignoring other perspectives, or trying not to take sides.
I think learning about other perspectives was a huge part of the atonement.  Christ, our perfect example, suffered for our sins, and in so doing, he actually felt what it was like to be each of us, in our shoes... to go through our pain and experience what it is like to be us.  We don't have to go through the same thing, but learning what it is like for other people is part of what we need to learn on this earth, and one of the ways that we learn to love people who are different than we are.
Today, let's think.  Let's learn enough about things to know what we think and where we stand.  Let's learn what other people think, and let's especially learn what God thinks, and how we feel about that.  We have to have an opinion and know what these issues are about before God can teach us more and help us understand some of it.  Even if we don't agree with God on something, instead of just ignoring it, let's study it, and learn about it, and then we can talk to him about it and figure it out.  Let's be opinionated, but always open and willing to learn and change. :)

Friday, February 13, 2015

D&C 42:61 -- On Asking

"If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal."
Doctrine and Covenants 42:61


Those are some pretty amazing things to get if we ask.  I think sometimes we get distracted in life and we are focused in on asking only for the ability to find our keys or for the money to make the rent or the ability to stay calm in whatever situation we are in right now.  And those are good things to pray for, absolutely... We need those things, and I think that we should include God in all that we do.  Sometimes though, we should step away from our worldly concerns, and ponder the things of God.  We should expand our knowledge and learn more.  We can always use more light, and more peace and joy. :)  Let's take some time today to learn about God, and ask him some questions.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Revelation 3:17-18 -- On Sight and Progress

"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."
Revelation 3:17-18


So often in life we walk around in a daze, not really seeing what is right in front of us.  I was reading about a study the other day that shows that we tend to greatly overestimate our abilities and are unaware of the reality of our own incompetence. (A summary seems to be listed under the "Dunning–Kruger effect" on Wikipedia, if you would like to read more about it.)  I think that is part of what God is talking about here.  We look at our lives and think, wow, I'm really doing great.  We start thinking that we don't need help from God or anyone... but we aren't seeing reality.  And since we can't see it, God is telling us: we're wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.  We look at ourselves and think... oh, no, I'm okay.  But that's what the psychological study and God have just told us.  We don't have the ability to see our own problems.  I've seen it as a teacher and a manager before.  People who think they are great at spelling or grammar so they don't check their own work, and lots of errors come through.  Or people who greatly overestimate their social skills, and so don't work to improve them, even though it is harming their relationships.  I think that it happens to all of us about different things.  And that is where humility and determination kick in.  If science and God are both telling us that we might not be as cool as we thought, then there are some things that we can do about it.  We can start really listening to feedback, and not blowing it off.  We can take some time to look at ourselves and find areas where we need to improve.  We might not see them all at first, but there is always something, and it helps to be open to our own faults. :)  And of course we can ask God.  Additionally, there are some things right here that God is already telling us.  He says to buy our gold from him.  What he has is the true treasure, even if we are blind to that.  He talks about white raiment, a reference to the temple and being worthy to enter his presence.  And he says that we can anoint our eyes with eyesalve, which I think means that we should be working to see ourselves as we actually are, as God sees us.
One thing I want to mention here is that I don't mean at all that we should hate ourselves, or think that we are worthless.  We are not.  All the descriptors that God uses above are of people who need help, not people that might as well give up.  We should never give up.  God sees us as beautiful and valuable, even when we are filthy and suffering.  I am only suggesting that we realize that we all have problems, and specific problems seeing what our faults are sometimes.  We all have a vast need to learn and grow and become better.
Today, let's be humble.  Let's listen to God, and talk to him about where we need to improve.  Let's trust him when he gives us feedback, and let's value his gospel as a treasure beyond anything we could ever attain monetarily.  Let's never settle for the status quo.  Let's improve, ourselves and the world around us, and never stop improving.  Let's become as cool as we think we are. :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Luke 6:7-10 -- On Mind-Reading and Sabbath Observance

"And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.
But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.
Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?
And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other."
Luke 6:7-10


I like the fact that "he knew their thoughts."  I wonder if that is another class we can take in the afterlife. :)  Anyway, this is a cool miracle that Christ did.  It's also an interesting lesson in context because it teaches us a little more about the sabbath day.  In Mark 2:27 Jesus tells us that "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath."  It seems that the church at the time had been emphasizing the sabbath as a very, very strict code that restricted action on the sabbath, with no flexibility at all.  Christ reminds us that the sabbath day is important.  It is given to us to rest, to focus on God, to have a time where we aren't burdened with other things, but that it is always okay to do good on the sabbath.  In Luke 14:5 in another healing-on-the-sabbath situation, Christ asks "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?," making it clear again that it is okay to do good and help on the sabbath.
Of course, in backing away from severely restricted sabbath activities, and in the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, we sometimes go way too far in the other direction, justifying almost anything we want as an "ox in the mire" situation.  In D&C 59:13 we're told "on this day thou shalt do none other thing," and in Isaiah 58:13-14 God tells us "If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: / Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord."  There is a balance between the flexibility to do good, and doing whatever we want, and I think that we find it here.  We should be focused on what God wants on the sabbath, and not on what we want at all.  That is the balance that Christ had, and the balance that we should strive for.  More so on the sabbath, but really every day.  Today, let's focus on what God wants rather than on what we want.  I think that will help everything go better, whether it is the sabbath or not. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

1 Nephi 4:37 -- On Trust and Integrity

"And it came to pass that when Zoram had made an oath unto us, our fears did cease concerning him."
1 Nephi 4:37


This is part of the story of Nephi retrieving the brass plates from Laban.  After he had gotten them (dressed up like and pretending to be Laban), he had Laban's servant follow him outside the city to meet his brothers.  When the servant, Zoram, found out it was Nephi's brothers and not the elders of the church, he was afraid and wanted to run.  He knew his life was in danger.  And Nephi knew that if Zoram went back and reported what happened, that their lives would be in danger as well.  So they tell Zoram that God had commanded them to get the plates, and they promise Zoram his life if he will come and live with them.  And Zoram agrees.  And their fears cease.  Which kind of blows my mind.  I mean, obviously the hand of the Lord was in all of this, and it seems that God softened Zoram's heart and led him to the promised land as well... but someone promises when they are in fear for their life and you immediately trust him?   That doesn't seem like our society at all.  We seem to give our word really lightly, and we talk ourselves out of keeping promises all the time, because of stress or circumstance.  But Zoram's life was being turned upside down.  He had good reason not to trust these people.  Easy to justify breaking your word given under duress and escape at the first opportunity, right?  But he doesn't.  Nephi trust him, not worrying about whether he will keep his word, and truly inviting him into the family.  And he stays true to Nephi all his life, and continues to trust God, even after leaving his homeland far behind.  I admire that kind of vast integrity under stress, and I want to be calm and trustworthy like that.  Today, let's try to be more like Zoram:  full of integrity and worthy of trust, even when our lives are turned upside down.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Alma 49:27-29 -- On Anger versus Gratitude

"Yea, he was exceedingly wroth, and he did curse God, and also Moroni, swearing with an oath that he would drink his blood; and this because Moroni had kept the commandments of God in preparing for the safety of his people.
And it came to pass, that on the other hand, the people of Nephi did thank the Lord their God, because of his matchless power in delivering them from the hands of their enemies.
And thus ended the nineteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi."
Alma 49:27-29


This is an interesting juxtaposition... the leader of the Lamanites angry, swearing to drink Moroni's blood, and the Nephites happy that they hadn't been killed.  One angry with God, the other thankful to him.  And I wonder what it would have been like if the Lamanites had won.  Would they be thankful and happy, and the Nephites angry and swearing to drink blood?  I can't be sure of course, but it doesn't seem to be that blood vengeance or swearing to right the wrongs of your long-dead ancestors by killing people ever makes anyone happy.  What seems to make people happy is living the gospel and listening to God, now: being safe and knowing God is watching over them.  Ephesians 4:26-27 talks about the safe way to deal with anger: "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: / Neither give place to the devil."  Letting our anger fester over time and grow until we are ready to drink blood can't be good.  Teaching anger and hatred to our children can't be good.  No matter what wrongs we've suffered, we are harming ourselves if we allow anger to eat us alive like that.
Today, whether we win or lose the battles of the day, let's be the thankful ones.  Let's let go of our anger and our hatred, and allow God to heal and help us.  Let's be safe physically and mentally, with him.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Helaman 14:31 -- On Exposure to Evil

"He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you."
Helaman 14:31


Throughout history, and often individually in our own lives, the question is asked, "Why does God allow evil to happen?"  We wonder it overall about historic events, or about current issues like rape, murder, child abuse, and human trafficking.  And we wonder it about less-evil but bad things specifically in our lives.  Why did a relative or friend get sick, or die, or experience a challenging life experience?  We see things like this happening and we hate it.  We know it shouldn't happen, and we wonder why God allows it.  And I think that the answer is here.  We have to know good and evil.
God doesn't like evil; he doesn't condone it or encourage it, and he will help people who fight it.  But he allows it, because we need to experience both good and bad if we are going to learn to choose the good.  After this life and our time of testing is over, we'll be restored to an all-good environment. :)  No sickness, no death, and definitely no wars, famines, slavery, or other big bad evil that happens in society as a whole.  But while we're here, there will always be both, so that we have freedom of choice, and we can learn what we want and what matters to us, in an environment where we actually learn to appreciate good because we see the alternative.  This isn't something that we could get elsewhere, and it is a big reason that we are on Earth at all.  We came here to learn, and to choose.  What we choose now will affect where we spend our eternities, and will have a big impact on our eternal happiness.  I think that when we are restored to a non-evil environment, some people will miss the bad stuff.  Let's make sure that we aren't those people.  Let's learn to embrace the good, to understand the difference between good and evil and to stand up for good in all that we do.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Psalms 69:13-15 -- On Prayers In Times of Need

"But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Lord, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.
Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.
Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me."
Psalms 69:13-15


I like this prayer.  None of us want to face things that overwhelm us, especially alone.  We look to God to help us when no one else can.  And really, that is part of what prayer is for... we have access to God so that we can have his help facing the trials of life.  Today, let's remember to call upon our Father whenever we need him... and let's work on realizing that we need him every moment of every day, not just in emergencies. :)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Exodus 5:22-23 -- On Miraculous Timing

"And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me?
For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all."Exodus 5:22-23


Most of us know the story of Moses leading the enslaved people out of Egypt, and saving them from Pharaoh.  It's hard to remember that even in a triumphant story like that, there were still doubts and fears along the way.  This is early in the story when Moses has talked to Pharaoh and angered him, so that he takes the straw away, but still forces the people to make bricks.  So, Moses did what God wanted, and instead of saving everyone, he has made their lives much harder.  He's worried, and he asks God why he asked him to come in the first place, if he wasn't going to hold up his end of the deal.  God warned him that Pharaoh would say no at first, but it's still easy to see why Moses asks.  It's hard to see something that you are doing affect other people negatively.  Especially when you expected it to go so well, since God specifically asked it.  Other prophets have run into setbacks as they have tried to accomplish what God asks as well, and we run into setbacks as we try to do as God asks as well.  Does that mean that God doesn't actually want us to do it after all?  Is that what it meant for Moses?  No.  It just means that we're still in the trial chapter and haven't gotten to the deliverance chapter yet.  But it is there, waiting for us to turn the page.  We just have to keep working at it, as Moses had to... as Nephi did, in persisting in his mission to obtain the brass plates even after his life was in danger.
Moses talked to God about it, and he was reassured, and he persisted, and helped those people get on track toward the promised land.  Nephi accomplished his mission and got his people there.  Different promised lands, but that is okay.  God's promises can be different for different people.  Today, as we work to do God's will and progress towards our own promised lands, whether in a physical or spiritual sense, let's remember this lesson from Moses, and from our other prophets and ancestors who have learned the same lesson.  Doing God's will isn't a cake walk.  It is a process, sometimes difficult and discouraging.  But as we persist, we will triumph.  God always delivers on his promises.  Sometimes miracles take time... but they are always worth it.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Proverbs 16:32-33 -- On Self Control

"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord."
Proverbs 16:32-33


This is an interesting pair of verses.  In the first verse, the idea of being slow to anger is paired with ruling our spirits.  They are part of the same concept... self control.  And being in control of ourselves is better than being powerful or in control of a city.  I think that is a very deep truth.  Power isn't really any good when we are out of control... we are just as likely to hurt people as help them.  But if we are in control of ourselves, whether we have a small sphere of influence or a large one, we will be able to affect the world positively and not worry about hurting others.
In the second verse it talks about control again... just in a different way.  Sometimes we flip coins, roll dice, or cast lots to make decisions, but in truth, God is in control.  Not only of himself, but of all of it.  He knows everything and everyone, and how it all works together.  He can guarantee the happy ending.
Anger is like random chance.  It is just as unreliable.  And controlling ourselves is like God being in control.  If we stop being so unpredictable, we will be able to see the lives we have ahead of us, and plan a lot better. :)  God being in control can also help us individually with our anger or impulse issues.  He can help us find peace, feel his spirit, and trust in him rather than feeling we have to be in control of everything or have lots of power.  We don't.  We only have to be in control of ourselves.  Today, let's work on self control rather than power or acquisition.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Revelation 21:3-4 -- On Wearing the White Hats

"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
Revelation 21:3-4


This is amazing stuff.  God living with man, permanently.  And no death, sorrow, or pain.  Any one of those things is overwhelming just by itself... but we'll have them all.  Think of no more pain.  I'm sure it means all kinds, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical.  No bad back, no headaches, no old war wound, no cancer.  No sadness at the loss of a loved one, because death is gone too.  No sorrow over social inequities or suffering because those things have been solved.  No arthritis, no incurable disease, no mental instability, no rift in the heart because we aren't comfortable with who we are.  No hole in the soul because we miss something and don't know how to fill it... that was where God should be, and he is here, with us. :)  Every problem or pain we can imagine, and it will all be okay in that day.
Not that the future perfection should stop us from making things better now.  We should be the ones standing up and making a difference for good.  We should be helping and lifting and caring.  I think that the knowledge that things will be perfect someday can give us hope in the daily work.  It's always more fun to read the book or watch the movie when you know there is a happy ending.  We're in things a little more than that.  We're writing and producing some of this, and we need to take responsibility for doing our part... but even in that way, it is better.  We're living it, so it's really good that we get to peek ahead and know it isn't in the horror genre.  Instead we get to be the heroes and superheroes, overcoming obstacles and impossible odds because we are fighting on the side of good.
Let's go forward today, wearing the white hats and righting the wrongs, helping those in need, and making the world a better place.  The happy ending is coming... and we can be a part of it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

1 Nephi 3:30-31 -- On Hearing Angels

"And after the angel had spoken unto us, he departed.
And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?"
1 Nephi 3:30-31


Usually in the scriptures when angels appear, people believe them.  In this case though, the angel departs and the doubt sets in again immediately, and Laman and Lemuel are wondering how they can do what God asks.  They think they are in danger of being killed, and actually with good reason.  They've already tried to do this thing twice, and the second time almost died for it.
... But it's an angel.  It's what we wish we had in our lives a lot, right?  A direct, clear message from God, telling us what to do.  And I think that this verse shows that direct, clear messages don't always help.  Often they increase the responsibility and don't remove the fear.  The difference is whether we are ready for them, and already faithful.  Nephi heard the same angel, and believed, and accomplished what was asked.  But Laman and Lemuel still wanted to avoid and run away, just like they wanted to before.  To me, this shows that the clarity that we seek is not an external thing that God can clear up for us by sending an angel or a lightning bolt.  The clarity is something we need to get internally, so that when we get the messages from God we are ready to hear them, listen to them, believe them, and act on them.  God can help us with that clarity, but it doesn't come packaged in a magical FedEx box from heaven marked urgent.  It comes a little at a time, as we learn to trust God with progressively bigger things, and learn to recognize his voice and his hand in our lives.
Today, let's work on getting into a place in our lives where we will hear and believe if that angel comes--or the spiritual prompting, or the vision, or the voice, or just the answer to a simple prayer.  Let's work on our faith and be willing to do as God asks, and trust what he says... so that he can trust us more and more and we can be open and ready for greater insight and messages helping us in our lives.  Let's remove the distractions, and dismiss the part of us that wants to run or hear something else.  Let's listen to God... really listen. If we do, then he'll be able to tell us what we need to know.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mark 3:31-35 -- On Family

"There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.
And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.
And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?
And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother."
Mark 3:31-35


This is an interesting lesson that Christ taught.  God has provided a way for families to be together even after death, so he definitely cares about families.  So why ignore their request to see him or teach a lesson that seems meant to illustrate that obedience is more important than family?
I think because it is.  God wants us to have eternal families, but he knows that it doesn't always work out that way.  Some family members might go astray, and some might ask us to choose between them and God.  And when choices like that have to be made, God is *always* the correct choice.  And of course, praying like mad that the person will come back.
Matthew 10:37 and Luke 14:26 should be mentioned here as well.  In Matthew, God tells us that we are not worthy of him if we love our families more than we love God.  And in Luke, God basically tells us that we have to be willing to give up anything for him, even family... that we have to stay true to God's purpose, whatever the cost.  Sometimes this seems unfair to us.  We do sometimes value people more than God.  But I don't think God asking us to put him first lessens family relationships.  I think it enhances them.  It is only about priorities.  If he comes first, then all the rest is better, in every way.
I think that my favorite part of this selection is the last verse.  "Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is" ... family, right?  Even if we're orphans or alone in the world family-wise, we get to build our own, of people we love who believe in the same things that we do, and God tells us right here that they *are* family.   It's just icing on the cake when we have built-in family members who are true, and we can build eternal bonds with them. :)  God still comes first, always, no question, but God wants us to have family and friends that we can stay close to eternally as well.  Seems like a massive blessing to me.  He loves us, and wants us to be happy and have love in our lives.  And on our sides, everything is better with God than without... even family.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

D&C 50:24 -- On Being the Light

"That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day."
Doctrine and Covenants 50:24


I like the idea that we can not only walk in the light, but that we can actually *be* the light.  It's a cool idea.  Sometimes I feel like I have darkness inside, not in the sense that my darkness gives me an excuse to be dark... but in the sense that I need to clean house.  Need to get it out, and end the pain that goes along with it.  And that's what God does... what God is.  He is the light that can drive away our darkness.  He comforts us by filling us.  By replacing that black hole that causes us pain and despair with a sun, he shines joy and hope through us, filling us with goodness instead.
Today, let's remember to let in God's light.  Let's become light, and let go of our darkness... trading pain for joy, and despair for hope.  It won't happen all at once, but that is okay.  We'll get to that perfect day eventually, as long as we don't give up.

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