Saturday, April 30, 2016

D&C 101:32-34 -- On the Revelation of All Things

"Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things—
Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof—
Things most precious, things that are above, and things that are beneath, things that are in the earth, and upon the earth, and in heaven."
Doctrine and Covenants 101:32-34

I love the idea that one day all of our questions will be answered, even the things from the far past that right now we can't know.  Everything.  Huge idea.  It probably also means that there won't be secrets anymore, so if we're keeping some, they'll be out there.  But, you know, so will everyone else's.  And hopefully at that point it just won't matter, because we'll be standing in front of our savior, which will be all that matters.  Those other things just won't matter anymore.

Today, let's live our lives a little more openly, so that we won't be surprised or dismayed when everything is revealed... only pleased that we can finally satisfy our curiosity and get some answers about all of those things we've been wondering about. :)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Proverbs 14:6 -- On Scorn and Understanding

"A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth."
Proverbs 14:6

This idea that scorn prevents us from developing wisdom is both interesting and also a little scary.  It's really easy to dismiss things that we don't like, or even to scorn people that we don't understand.  If we don't like a certain political party, skin color, opinion, type of music, hobby or interest, religion, clothing style, way of life, etc. we often mock it among others who are like-minded.  We even criticize one another over gender and weight and beauty.

It's easy to do, but God tells us here that scorn harms our ability to gain wisdom.  Instead, if we focus on understanding others, on finding out more about them and loving them, then we learn more, and we will gain a lot of wisdom in learning from the people around us.

Today, let's remember not to scorn, and work on that.  Let's be more mindful of the things and the people that we don't understand, and instead of dismissing them, let's work on that understanding, compassion, and love, that God asks us to have for others.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

James 2:14 -- On Faith and Tests

"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?"
James 2:14

There comes a time in all of our lives when our faith will be tested.  Not just about one thing, but about each and every thing that matters to us.  Faith is good, and having it can work miracles, but it is built and backed up by our actions.  We can read about Christ asking us to love our enemies, but we don't really understand that concept fully or have a powerful faith in it until we actually work to put it into practice.

And so it is with every principle.  The gospel can lead us in the right direction while it is theoretical, but it can't save us until we actually live it.  And so, we get to those moments in our lives, and we have to decide... okay, do I really believe this?   Maybe it is paying tithing, and it doesn't get tested until money is tight and it's either pay tithing or pay a bill.  Or it's chastity and it doesn't get tested until we are in a situation where we really want to give in to temptation.  Or it's kindness and generosity, and it doesn't get tested until we're faced with someone rude and demanding.

Faith can help prepare us for those tests.  We can think ahead and decide what we're going to do, and have a plan, hopefully to stay as far away from temptation as possible.  When the situations come up though, what we *do* determines who we are.

Failing once can make it easier to fail again.  Which brings up another principle of faith: Repentance.  We don't have to be the person who keeps failing.  God tells us that we can change, and we can have faith in that as well, but again... we have to *do* something about it.  We have to change our behavior.  Sometimes that means asking God to help change our hearts, so that we don't desire to do evil any more.  Believing repentance is possible is mega important, but we also have to really give up the bad things, not only believe in it. :)

Today, let's remember that our faith in God can only save us if we follow through on it and pair it with works.  Let's prepare for those tests of faith, and keep working on becoming better people, even when we mess up.  Let's have faith, and hope, and love, and put them all into action.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

2 Corinthians 5:15 -- On Escaping Ourselves

"And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."
2 Corinthians 5:15

Always good to remember Christ's atonement.  We forget sometimes how miserable life would be without Christ, without his fulfillment of his father's plan... without his help.  Imagine this world without his influence.  Imagine our loved ones without his influence.  Sometimes we think we can make it alone.  I have felt that at times.  But whenever it actually happens, it's horrible.  I'm horrible.  I need my Savior in order to be my best self.  I think we all do.  He calms the storms of selfishness and pride.  He walks on the water of our afflictions to save us from drowning.  Sometimes we feel restricted by having to think about other people, but true freedom comes exactly this way... when Christ gives us the freedom and the calmness and the patience and the love that we need in our lives so that we can learn to live unto and for him and serve him, rather than trapping ourselves in our own cubicles of selfishness and pride, and living for ourselves alone.

Today, let's remember all that Christ has done, and does, for us.  Let's free ourselves from the chains we forge for ourselves, and like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, awake to a new life: one in which we realize how important it is to escape from living for ourselves, and start living for Christ, and blessing the lives of others.  Because of him, we can live again... physically *and* spiritually, if we are willing to make the change.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

John 6:17-21 -- On Darkness and Krakens

"And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.
And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.
So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.
But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.
Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went."
John 6:17-21

Christ's disciples started towards Capernaum, and they had gone a little over 3 miles.  It was dark, the wind was crazy, the sea was acting up, and here, in the dark and the wind, someone is *walking* on the turbulent water, and getting close to them.  I'd be afraid too.  Sounds like a horror movie, or a kraken trying to sneak up on you... err, actually, that would be a horror movie too.  Nevermind.

Anyway, they were understandably afraid... what could be coming towards them on the sea in the middle of the night?  And instead of a horror movie, it was Jesus, and then, when he had gotten into the boat, instead of being three miles out, they were instantly at the far shore.

I think our lives are a little like this.  Sometimes we're out rowing, and it gets dark and windy, and we are afraid and unsure.  We look out and we imagine the worst: ghost krakens are out there waiting to crush our little life rafts.  But even in the midst of our tortuous journey, trying to reach our destination in the darkness and winds of our worst fears, Christ meets us more than halfway.  We recognize his voice, and he turns our nightmares into the slumber of safety, and our horror movies into superhero triumphs.  He teleports us our of danger and we find ourselves safe and whole and okay. :)

Sometimes we forget the nightmares, and that's okay... but let's try not to forget how God saves us, over and over and over again, from our fears and doubts and weaknesses.  Let's turn to him even in the daytime stillness and peace, and thank him for all that he does for us.  And when we're ready, let's work on helping others face their ghost krakens too, by calling on God, and trusting in his voice.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Romans 2:5-8 -- On What we Treasure and What we Obey

"But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath."
Romans 2:5-8

This is an interesting idea... that we treasure up our own wrath.  When we're hardened and impenitent (unrepentant and inflexible/unwilling to work with God), then we are basically banking all of that same stuff for ourselves, because God "will render to every man according to his deeds."  That all sound pretty scary, because we might like feeling that tiny surge of power and self-importance when we refuse to work with God, but... how are we going to feel if we get that deed turned back on ourselves, and he refuses to work with us?  And, depending on how long we persist in that, we'll be treasuring exactly that up for ourselves, because we'll have used up all the time that we have.  It's also interesting that we would "obey unrighteousness, indignation, and wrath."  That kind of sounds like we are listening to our own urges and emotions rather than to God.  We're letting the natural man be in control, and becoming slaves to our own impulses.  Which also goes along with treasuring up wrath... we're placing wrath and every other emotion *before* God.  Letting them rule our lives rather than choosing to follow God.  Not saying that emotion is inherently evil... there are kindness, love, compassion, and many good things in there too.  But in order to be in control of our lives, we need to learn to bridle our passions, to use them rather than letting them run our lives.

Today, let's stop treasuring up wrath.  Let's do some good things, and treasure up good instead.  Let's make sure that we're focusing on eternal, immortal things and not living by every whim.  Let's look to God for help in making sure we're obeying him rather than emotion, and not letting other things get in the way of who we want to be.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Alma 31:21-23 -- On Rejecting the Rameumptom

"Now the place was called by them Rameumptom, which, being interpreted, is the holy stand.
Now, from this stand they did offer up, every man, the selfsame prayer unto God, thanking their God that they were chosen of him, and that he did not lead them away after the tradition of their brethren, and that their hearts were not stolen away to believe in things to come, which they knew nothing about.
Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner."
Alma 31:21-23

This is part of an interesting story in the Book of Mormon about the Zoramites. This is the description of the Rameumptom from earlier in the chapter: "For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person" (verse 13).  As we can see in these verses, they all repeated the same prayers, and that was the extent of their worship.

I think some of this is tempting.  We sometimes want to believe that we are chosen without having to work for it, and that we are naturally better than other people, and just naturally know more... feels like less pressure when God automatically favors you.  And the praying once a week thing is tempting too.  When the only maintenance your relationship with God takes is memorizing one prayer, that is a lot easier than messier real life. :)

Despite the tempting nature of what the Zoramites were doing though, they weren't accomplishing anything spiritual.  They were just convincing themselves that they checked the "church" box in their lives, and could move on.  But having a relationship with God is kind of like other relationships with family and friends.  We can't just send a form letter to God once a week and think that makes us best buddies.  Additionally, the whole "Thanks for making us better than everyone else" part (actually the actual words from verse 17 of the chapter are "thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell"), along with the physical symbolism of standing above everyone and everything else, I think shows the inherent pride of the whole situation.  They weren't really praying to God as much as they were praying to themselves.  That's probably how it got so popular in the first place.  It became a mutual admiration society, where everyone got to go and say "hey, look how cool I am" with other people feeding that belief.

So, we look at the Zoramites and we shake our heads... wow, how unenlightened they were. :)  But today, let's take it one step further, and look at our own lives and our own church habits.  Do we perhaps have some Zoramite habits in our lives?  Do we think that we are better than other people?  Do we worship God just once a week?  Does our church participation amount to a mutual admiration society, or are we joining more of a sinners anonymous, trying to help each other find our way back to God?  Do we take the time to pray sincerely and specifically, or do we just repeat the same thing every time we talk to God?  Let's think about these things, reject that internal Rameumptom, and talk with God (more than just once) about how to cleanse ourselves from any  Zoramite tendencies we might find. :)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Alma 37:44 -- The Path to Eternal Bliss

"For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land."
Alma 37:44

Eternal Bliss.  Those are strong words.  And they are also what *all* of us are looking for, right?  We just want to be happy... blissful, forever. :)

We don't always look for happiness in the same ways, or even in places where it can be found.  That's theoretically the goal of a lot of us when we use drugs, gamble, or pursue extramarital relationships.  Sometimes we really think that we can find it in those ways, and sometimes even after we learn we can't, we keep trying the same way because it's a temporary high... higher than our seemingly mundane lives.

God tells us the real way to get to eternal bliss right here.  And hey, I know it is sometimes hard to believe that God knows the way and we don't.  I think though, as much as we have failed to find it on our own, God's way deserves a chance.  And the cool thing is that when we give it that chance, it actually works.  God's been doing this God thing for way longer than we've been alive, and he knows what he is talking about.  Even the things that seem trivial in the midst of God's rules, they matter, and they can help us if we are willing to sincerely follow them.  We can still pursue other things if they are good... hobbies, professions, interests.  Those go along with God's words.  He wants us to develop our talents.  We also have to listen to him on the things that we don't really start out wanting to do though.  Reading our scriptures is kind of a prerequisite to knowing his word.  And we have to break it off with those bad habits.

Today, let's realize that the path to eternal bliss is the path to God, and let's stop letting ourselves get sidetracked trying to get there another way.  It won't ever work.  Christ is the way, and he's willing to lead us there, if we can work on becoming willing to follow.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Malachi 3:7 -- On Returning to God

"Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?"
Malachi 3:7

I think when God asks us to return to him we ask this sometimes, with different emphasis, depending on the situation:

Wherein shall we RETURN is when we're prideful enough to think that we haven't really gone astray, and that other people are way worse, and where we're currently at is good enough, and should qualify us for heaven... because after all, look at that person and that other person.  I'm way the *crap* better than that. :)

Wherein shall WE return comes when we're selfish enough to think that God needs to cater to and come to us, rather than us returning to him.  He needs to change HIS rules, because of course he should adjust to our desires, and our needs, rather than us adjusting our desires or learning to change our hearts.

We often feel isolated and unloved in our lives... feel a distance from God, and wish that we could bridge it and know how to get back that happiness and intense spirituality that we have felt before.  This is how.  What we should be asking here is WHEREIN shall we return, in a completely sincere way.  We can look to God to help us know *how* to come back to him, how to feel that goodness in our lives all the time and not have to lose it.  And he *will* teach us, if we seek it... but that's the whole idea here.  When there is a distance, it is WE that have walked away, never God.  He always stays who he is, and is always our home.  We wander away, but all we have to do to feel all of that again, to belong, to be loved and accepted, to have that peace in our lives... is walk back to him.

It's sometimes really tough... not saying it isn't.  It can take some intense emotional turmoil to get over some of the walls that we've built up inside.  It can make us feel pretty awful about ourselves when we realize how far from perfect we are, and it can tempt us to despair.  It can cause an awful lot of sadness when we realize that we've set something up in our lives to be more important than God, and that we have to change our priorities and maybe even lose that thing or that person... which by definition is going to tear our hearts to shreds.  But that is what the gospel takes: a broken heart; a contrite spirit.

As we learn about this life and about ourselves and about the gospel, we're going to face tough things.  And sometimes we're going to wander away from God, and feel abandoned. :)  Today, let's remember that we never have to be abandoned.  We can choose otherwise... all we have to do is turn around, and do the work it takes to return to God.  And he will return to us, always, and be with us in our lives, helping us with everything.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

D&C 107:56-57 -- On Further Revelation

"And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.
These things were all written in the book of Enoch, and are to be testified of in due time."
Doctrine and Covenants 107:56-57

I really like that God tells some of the prophets EVERYTHING.  From the beginning to the end.  I think the only record we have where some of it was written and we still have it is John, who wrote of the end of the world in Revelations, in a very symbolic way.  But later, we'll have the Brother of Jared's account (the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon), and also Adam's account, and maybe even others.  Pretty cool. :)

We question a lot why we can't have some of this stuff NOW though, right?  As we've discussed, we aren't typically very patient.  The second verse in this selection tells us that it is up to God... "due time" usually means he knows the timing better than we do, and we need to be patient. :)  But Ether 4:6 gives us a little bit more insight at least into the Brother of Jared's version: "For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord."

The Lord teaches us line upon line.  It's like school.  We typically need to go through kindergarten before we're ready for first grade.  Even when we skip grades, we usually have to catch up socially a little, or even physically.  And it is the same with the gospel... and all of life.  We might be at kindergarten level with our faith, but third grade level with our church attendance.  We don't all learn at the same pace, or even in the same order, and some things are easy for us, and some are hard... but what *is* the same is that we all learn step by step, and we all eventually learn all the same lessons.  We don't learn them the same *way* of course, but we all learn faith.  We all learn hope, charity, happiness, love... and we progress as fast as we learn the prior lesson in that area.

The reason that we don't have this further revelation is that we just aren't ready for it as a people yet.  But the cool thing is, the more we as individuals learn, and the more we help, lift, and teach others about God and happiness and faith, and every other little lesson, the more we will move closer to that mark, of being able to know all of it, or at least all of it about this life. :)  Today, let's learn.  Let's soak it up.  Let's work on getting out of the little ruts we get into with different lessons, and see if we can talk to God and start moving forward in that area again.  Let's make ourselves better so that we can all become better as a society. :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

D&C 89:16-17 -- On The Lord's Law of Health

"All grain is good for the food of man; as also the fruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—
Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain."
Doctrine and Covenants 89:16-17

This is part of the Word of Wisdom section of the D&C.  So many interesting things here, but I liked these verses because instead of restrictions, they are explaining some of the things that are good.  Grains and fruits are mentioned, and wheat is even mentioned as being specifically for us.  So, some things to think about.  I like this section because it says that it was adapted for the weakest among us (D&C 89:3), which gives hope to us all, that we can all be healthy, according to the Lord's law of health.

Of course, that doesn't mean that we don't have to do anything.  As with everything else, we have to work with the Lord on what is going to work in our specific circumstances.  (Not talking about exceptions to God's rules, but more health problems that might add restrictions or  limit our options.) We need to be prudent (verse 11), which is a pretty big one all by itself, since many of us don't make perfectly prudent choices about food.  We also have to be obedient, which means avoiding a lot of things like alcohol and tobacco, discussed earlier in the section.  But there are a lot of blessings promised if we can get it right, including running and not being weary and walking and not fainting.  I love those ideas.

Today, let's take some time to read through the Word of Wisdom and think about how we can apply it to our lives, or perhaps more fully apply it if we are already doing great. :)  Let's talk to God about becoming healthier and what steps that we as individuals can take to feel better and happier, and to be able to do more and serve more. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Proverbs 14:20-21 -- On Having Mercy on the Poor

"The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.
He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he."
Proverbs 14:20-21

Good reminders that the Lord is concerned for the poor, that he wants us to love them and help them rather than ignoring or despising them.  We don't usually want to think of ourselves as haters, but sometimes we veer away from people who we think will ask us for money, or we blame people for their own financial problems.  Those are expressions of judgement and pretty extreme dislike, even if we don't want to go all the way to despise. :)

Today, let's remember that we are all in need when we go to the Lord.  None of us has enough without his mercy.  That's why King Mosiah asked "are we not all beggars?" (Mosiah 4:19).  And since we are already dependent on the Lord, let's do as he asks, and share the goodness and bounty that he blesses us with individually.  We don't know the circumstances of others... and does it even matter?  Does God ask us only to have mercy on the deserving poor, or only to help the needy who didn't dig themselves into their own hole?  Is that the way that God treats *us*?  I think not, or we would all stand condemned.  Let's reach out and help, dismissing all of the reasons we come up with as to why we shouldn't, or won't.  Let's bless as we desire to be blessed, without judgement and with kindness and sincerity.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Jeremiah 17:10 -- On Choose Your Own Afterlife

"I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings."
Jeremiah 17:10

This is a good reminder that part of the test of life is to see what kind of afterlife we want to live in, and that is determined by our actions here.  Our hearts and desires come into it too, but the main part is how we treat other people.  How we interact with them, judge them, love them, serve them, etc.

Now, of course I am not saying if we screw up once that we are damned forever. God isn't super harsh like that.  It's more of an overall thing, where God looks at what our ideals are and who we are trying to be.  If we repent, of course, we are clean, and God isn't going to hold those things against us.  The point is who we are becoming.  Are we teaching ourselves to love and serve, or are we teaching ourselves to put ourselves before God and others?

God doesn't restrict our choices.  Whichever way we choose, he allows it.  Let's just remember today that we are going to get the same things that we give out, and think about it.  Let's make sure that really is who we want to be, and the afterlife that we really want to live in.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Jacob 2:20-21 -- On Letting Go of the Superiority Complex

"And now, my brethren, I have spoken unto you concerning pride; and those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts, of the things which God hath given you, what say ye of it?
Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other. And all flesh is of the dust; and for the selfsame end hath he created them, that they should keep his commandments and glorify him forever."
Jacob 2:20-21

Always a good reminder that we need to beware of pride.  It's easy to start thinking that we're better than other people because of what we have, or to think that because we worked for something that we're somehow above someone who hasn't (in our view) worked for the same thing.  We forget sometimes, not only that there are a variety of circumstances where people don't have the same opportunities that we do, but also that (in terms of that parable of the talents), having 10 talents didn't make one person better than the person with 5, or even better than the person with one.  What mattered in that parable, and what matters in our lives, is doing the best we can with what we do have.

"The one being is as precious in his sight as the other."  This is true across racial boundaries, across national boundaries, and doesn't change with citizenship status.  Poor people, whether or not they are to "blame" for their own poverty, are all just as precious in God's sight as rich people.  Muslims are as precious as Mormons.  God loves Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, Communists, and even Fascists... and he loves all of us *equally.*  God loves both men and women.  He loves us whether or not we have mental or physical impediments.

We're all made from the same dust. :)  Let's remember that we're also all God's children, that he loves us all so, so much.  Today, let's work on letting go of our superiority complexes.  Let's see the people around us that are in need and let's do something about it.  Let's remember that they are our family, and our neighbors--all of them, and that the way we treat them counts just like we were treating God that way, because they are his children.  Let's lift each other up instead of stepping on each other.  Let's love and give and offer kindness, compassion, and respect to everyone.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

1 Corinthians 6:7-11 -- On Taking Wrong

"Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?
Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
1 Corinthians 6:7-11

This is interesting.  I think that it is really hard for us to accept injustice sometimes... at least when it is the injustice of others.  We really want justice, and we're quick to judge others.  Paul and God make an excellent point here though.  What's the better choice?  To judge, and be judged in return, since we do many of the same things, or to leave the judgement to God and accept wrongs and being cheated/defrauded when it happens?  Clearly, it is to accept wrong.

Now, I am not saying this is easy.  In fact, I am probably one of the worst offenders in this area.  When I have been wronged and cheated by people, it has made me really, really angry, and it is hard to let go of that.  Hopefully I am getting better, but it's difficult. Even if we can financially absorb a loss, it's hard to know that someone has taken our money and given us nothing in return as agreed.  Even harder when that loss affects important things in our lives.  Or when someone lies about us, or to us, or damages our property, or zillions of other things, whether or not they affect our finances, our reputations, our employment, or whatever.

Sitting down and thinking about it myself, though, even though I can tell you some horror stories where I was on the losing end, I think that I could also tell you, unfortunately, and intentional or not, some horror stories where someone else was on the losing end specifically because of me.  I have no idea whether you guys have similar stories and realizations, but I can see clearly the wisdom in the advice to accept wrong and move on.  Maybe we should all think about focusing on repentance and not being in the big list of bad things.  If we all judge each other instead of letting it go, then all of us are going to end up in sad shape.  God will be a much better judge than we will be, since he knows all of our individual stories, and God gives us all a chance to repent and change, so we don't have to be that person all of our lives... we can move on, and change, and be better.

In essence, accepting wrong means giving people another chance, and if we all do that, it means WE get another chance too.  So, today, as hard as I know it is, let's really work on letting things go.  On accepting loss and wrong, and moving on.  Let's give other people the same room that we need in our lives in order to change and improve.  Let's leave justice in the hands of God, where it belongs.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Luke 11:11-13 -- On Asking and Giving and Following

"If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"
Luke 11:11-13

God is making a couple of points here.  One is that we should ask for the Spirit to help guide us in our lives.  So often we wander around, wishing that we knew how to accomplish things, or what decisions to make, and we forget that there is a way to know those things.  God is always just one prayer away, and the Holy Ghost can be all of that for us.  God can help us find the right path through all the obstacles, as we look to him and trust his guidance.

I think the other point is one that he has said in several other places as well: "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away" (Matthew 5:42).  If God blesses us with whatever good thing we ask for, we should also help the people around us with whatever good thing they ask for, if it is in our power.  Sometimes this is challenging.  We'd rather enjoy our stuff or our leisure time rather than dedicating time or stuff to orphans, widows, or refugees, for instance.  But as we are blessed by God so abundantly, as he leads us carefully and gives us so much, let's work on sharing what we have with others who are in need... not just monetarily, but in so many other ways.  People need friendship and love and acceptance.  God finds those things for us when we need them, and we should be his representatives and share those things with others.

Today, let's ask and give, freely.  Let's trust God with our hopes and desires, and follow his path.  It isn't always the exact path we were going to make for ourselves, but often God knows our minds and hearts better than we know ourselves, and he gives us not just what we asked for, but more than that; better than that, if we can trust the path and not give up when it doesn't look immediately fun.  Let's ask for the spirit, and follow the spirit's promptings to help others.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

1 Kings 8:39-40 -- On Knowledge, Fear, and Change

"Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)
That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers."
1 Kings 8:39-40

I read this today and I thought about how scared/vulnerable we can be sometimes with people that really know us inside and out.  With people who don't know us, we think, well, they don't have all the information, and so that judgment is easier to dismiss.  When people who really know us well judge us however, it can be awesome and validating, or it can be devastating, because they know everything, and if they judge us, it's more similar to our judgement of ourselves.  And I'm thinking that is what these verses are talking about... that kind of fear, and respect, and vulnerability, with God.

No one knows us like God does... not even our best friends or significant others.  God knows every thought, and he remembers what we can't.  And he loves us more than anyone else possibly could.  That's incredibly validating, or at least it can be, if we stay close enough to God to feel that.  He loves us and encourages us to do good and be better.  He's the best relationship in our lives, if we don't walk away from it.  And he forgives, and gives to all of us according to our ways.

I think where that vulnerability of God knowing everything about us turns into something a little more panicky is when we walk away from him and do bad things.  We don't want anyone to know our evil side.  Or at least we don't want to be judged for it.  We don't want to get "according to our ways" when our ways are bad, and we start thinking that God is suddenly unfair and judgy because he's doing the same thing he does with everyone else.  We're used to, in this life, being able to shut people out and not deal with them if we don't want to.  And we can do that with God to a certain extent, but ... he's God.  We can stop talking to him and refuse to listen to the spirit, but he still knows us.  We can't erase that.

Today, let's remember that God isn't going to stop being God, ever.  He's always going to know us better than anyone else.  So, let's treat God like a friend rather than an enemy and talk to him about our lives.  Let's get his advice, and tell him why we do what we do.  He will listen, and as we are humble enough to ask for help, he will help us learn to change and be better.  He can be the source of the most comfort and validation that we have ever felt, if we can stop running away... and if we're running away from that knowledge, then we're basically afraid of ourselves too, right?  Let's respect him and turn to him to get help in learning about and loving ourselves, rather than resenting him and running away from our need to change.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Deuteronomy 4:30-31 -- On Tribulation and Turning

"When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
(For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them."
Deuteronomy 4:30-31

When we are in tribulation, we can turn to the Lord, and he will show us the way out of our problems.  It isn't easy; in most cases, he won't just make them go away, but he does always bless us with hope that, through obedience and following his plan, we can get out of the mess that we're in.

We worry sometimes about the "forsake" and "destroy" parts, especially when we've done a lot of bad things and the troubles we are in are of our own making.  We look up from the bottom of the pit that we've dug for ourselves and we doubt that anyone will be kind enough to save us from this level of bad judgment.  In times like that, we should remember that God *always* loves us, more than we can imagine.  If we are willing to change, and we seek the Lord with all of our hearts and souls (Deuteronomy 4:29), we will always be able to find him.  He won't turn away.  He'll welcome us, and rejoice that we have come home to him. :)

Today, let's turn to the Lord in our tribulations, and trust in his love and mercy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Moroni 10:21 -- On Hope and Faith and Love

"And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope."
Moroni 10:21

This is interesting.  I think sometimes we feel like these requirements are unfair.  Who needs God more than the hopeless?  And sometimes it seems like the world can drum faith, hope, and charity/love right out of us.  So, why would God refuse his saving grace from us just because of what the world has done to us?  Definitely easy to feel that way.  I think the reason is because we still have a choice.

The world can beat us down, yes. But with God we always have a choice, to retain hope, to not let the world dictate who we are... to be more than the sum of our experiences.  As it says in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, "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."  Bad things can happen to us, but that doesn't have to make us hopeless.  We don't have to lose our love or our faith when the worst happens.  We can, instead, retain that spark of good that is in every one of us, and fan it back to life, no matter what the world does to us.

I'm not saying it is easy, and definitely not that we can always do it alone.  Sometimes we need counseling, psychological and/or spiritual.  We *always* need God.  It's not bad to ask for help... this is our soul that we are concerned with.  In order to be saved, we have to be able to have that spark of hope, to have faith that the Lord can help us, and still be able to love other people.  It's often difficult in the best of circumstances, and seems impossible in others... but with God, it never is.  He can show us the way in the darkness... the way to hope, and he can teach us how to trust and have faith again, and to love.  Even better, he can teach us how to help and support each other, finding love and friendship in the midst of the turmoil of the world.  Today, let's reach out to God for help, and let's reach out to each other to offer support, as we all work to keep the hope and love and faith alive in our lives.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Ether 11:12-14 -- On Not Being a Moron

"And it came to pass that in the days of Ethem there came many prophets, and prophesied again unto the people; yea, they did prophesy that the Lord would utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth except they repented of their iniquities.
And it came to pass that the people hardened their hearts, and would not hearken unto their words; and the prophets mourned and withdrew from among the people.
And it came to pass that Ethem did execute judgment in wickedness all his days; and he begat Moron. And it came to pass that Moron did reign in his stead; and Moron did that which was wicked before the Lord."
Ether 11:12-14

So, prophets come and then they withdraw because the people reject them.  Later in this chapter Moron has a son named Coriantor, and prophets come in his day too, pleading with the people to repent.  Generations of wickedness, and we aren't surprised because it runs in the family, right?  And people teach wickedness to each other, so you can't escape.  ... Except, wait.  These are the descendants of the Brother of Jared... one of the greatest, most spiritual people we read about in the scriptures.  He saw Christ, he had amazing faith... he moved a *mountain* with his faith.  And (spoiler alert), Moron's grandson is who?  Ether.  The prophet.

It's hilarious to say "Don't be a Moron" at this point, but after we finish laughing, let's also take it seriously.  Moron didn't have to be a wicked man.  People before him and after him chose God instead.  He didn't have to follow in his father's footsteps and choose evil over good.  There is good in all of us... just as much, or more, good than bad.  God never puts us in a situation where we don't get a choice, or where we don't have some possibility of a good influence.  We *can* change who we are: what we choose to do and to be.  No one is stuck, no matter how many generations of wickedness have gone before.

I'm not saying it is easy.  The easy way is to do what Moron did... to slip into wickedness because that is what our fathers did and that is what we know.  It is much harder to choose to do what Ether did, and break the cycle.  To read and recognize and learn to love the truth, and stick to it even though it makes everyone around us uncomfortable or angry and they cast us out and we have to hide in a cave (Ether 13:13).

Today, let's cast off the influence of the world.  Let's not let wickedness win.  Let's determine our own path and our own destiny, no matter what stands in the way.  Let's break the cycle in our own lives, and choose God.  Let's be the good influence in our families rather than the bad... let's teach love and not hate, kindness and not cruelty.  Let's choose Ether's way over Moron's, and place God over any other influences in our lives.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Alma 41:12 -- On Restoration

"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?"
Alma 41:12

This is interesting.  In context this is talking about the restoration that will happen to us after this life.  Everything that we have been in our lives will be restored to us... if we've been and done good, then we will be restored to good, and if we've been and done evil, then we will be restored to evil.  It's a good reminder that, even though we want to believe that we can do whatever we want and still get eternal perfection later... it doesn't really work that way.  We'll get back what we really are.  Of course, with repentance and change taken into account... but if we don't learn to be good people in this life, we won't suddenly become good later.

I was also thinking today about the restoration of the gospel (probably because I am teaching a Sunday School lesson on it later).  And maybe this is a good question in that context too.  The gospel was restored to what it eternally IS.  You can't build a new gospel or make something up and call it the gospel just because you have one shard of truth that makes sense.  The gospel isn't some fluid moldable play-dough structure that we can change to fit our personal needs.  The gospel is God, and his church.  If something needs to change so that we and the gospel fit together... *we* need to be the play-dough, fitting ourselves into the good mold, and getting rid of the hardened and evil parts.  We don't change God; he changes us.  And thank goodness that he is willing to help us change when we ask, or we would be stuck as we are forever.  We would be petty, whiny, selfish children forever.  Today, let's be willing to change... not because God wants us all to be the same, but because God wants us all to be good... to learn and to grow up into our potential.  Let's embrace the restored gospel, and pray that we can all one day be restored to good, and joy, and enjoy forever what we have learned to become here and now.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

D&C 131:6 -- On Avoiding Ignorance

"It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance."
Doctrine and Covenants 131:6

Here's another statement that seems to be kind of unfair on the surface.  We can't possibly know everything, right?  So, we're all going to be ignorant of some things, and so how does that work?  ... Glad you asked. :)  Let's talk about it.

In the context of the section, this verse is talking about being saved--specifically God letting us know that we will be saved through revelation.  So, it could mean that being saved is not going to be a surprise. :)  Being saved isn't like one of those tests we take and we aren't sure if we passed or not.  We'll know. :)

I think it also means more than that though... but it isn't just normal ignorance that God is talking about here... the kind where we don't know something just because we haven't run across it before, or because we studied something else and didn't have time to study everything.  I think that the type of ignorance we should be concerned about here is the chosen kind... willful ignorance, where we don't know because we are trying to block it out and pretend that we don't see it.  I think we try to do that one a lot, especially when we're making bad choices.  God tries to get through to us and warn us, but we specifically tune him out.  We don't find out why something is wrong because we don't want to know.  We don't want to have to examine our own actions and change.  Or we don't pray or study because we know that God will tell us to change our ways, and we don't want to hear it.

All of this dovetails together because it's really about communication with God.  He can't reveal to us that we are going to be saved, either, if we are ignoring him about something else.  We'll never get to know him well enough to *be* saved if we are actively blocking him out.  Today, let's avoid willful ignorance... let's humble ourselves and pray to God, pleading for him to talk to us even though we have blocked him out in the past.  Let's open up our minds and our hearts and be willing to make the changes in our lives that it takes in order to be saved.  They're the same ones that it takes to have a good relationship with God.  Let's pray, read, attend church, and with all of it, let's be willing to learn, willing to study, and willing to know, accept, and do the Lord's will.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Proverbs 8:11-15 -- On Wisdom and Rubies

"For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.
I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.
By me kings reign, and princes decree justice."
Proverbs 8:11-15

These are some verses extolling the virtues of wisdom.  And right here at the beginning is a very bold statement.  Anything we can desire can't be compared to wisdom... including material wealth.  That's probably a good thing to ponder today.  I know that we are often tempted to pursue fame or monetary gain in this life.  We want adoration and wealth because it makes us feel safe and loved.  Wisdom seems kinda nerdy, kind of old-hermit-guy.  And we don't have time to sit on a mountain and grow a beard and ponder the universe.  We want to move faster than that, and grab what we can, be the insta-success story.  Be the winner of the lottery.  And while those desires are understandable, let's step back for just a moment and think about this.

Wisdom and prudence go together... prudence is good judgment/common sense.   I like the witty inventions part. :)  In looking it up, it says that a better translation would be good ideas, or well considered designs... but witty inventions are good too.  The idea here is that learning wisdom helps us think good things, and have great ideas, and make good plans.  Wisdom gives *and* invites counsel.  It isn't nerdy.  It's strong.  It's understanding, and knowledge used for good.  Evil, pride, and arrogancy get in the way of that.

Let's think about that desire for insta-success or winning the lottery.  We look at others and we want to have instantly what they have.  ... But that's covetous.  We want stuff now, without having to work for it, but that's arrogance.  It isn't much different than instant gratification in other ways, and that's lust and greed.  It's the natural man trying to steer us away from God, which is the very definition of pride and evil.  It doesn't mean we don't still want those things, but let's recognize those desires as what they are.

God in these verses is offering us a very good alternative to our evil desires.  As we learn wisdom, and sound judgement, we have great ideas... we might be better even at witty inventions... and we learn how things work.  He's telling us the *right* way to go after success.  Learn, grow, plan ahead.  Make good and wise decisions.  Don't be hasty.  Consider the consequences, weigh the cost.  Wisdom is the way that kings and judges ascend to those positions.  Wisdom is strong, and it is the way that we can pursue our goals without giving in to the natural man, or encouraging evil in ourselves. If we're wise, we're never going to gamble and risk it all on a get-rich-quick scheme, because we know the odds.  God isn't going to assist us in skipping over the basic knowledge and foundation that we need before we can handle success anyway. :)

Yes, wisdom is slower, and we are infinitely impatient.  But wisdom is God's way.  Line upon line, we learn, and we progress as quickly as we have the capacity to learn.  Our lessons might lead to riches and they might not.  Our lessons might lead to celebrity, and they might not.  But one thing is sure... our lessons in wisdom *will* lead us to God.  And that is where we want to go anyway.  There are no shortcuts in that journey.  Today, let's listen to God and not ourselves.  Let's learn and grow and get counsel from the Lord... and let's gain wisdom and follow his path.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Genesis 2:18 -- On Being Alone

"And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him."
Genesis 2:18

This is an interesting idea... that it isn't good for us to be alone.  I ran across a Harvard study recently that followed people's lives over lifetimes, and they were emphasizing how important good relationships were to happiness and well being.  This is a scripture blog, so we aren't going to discuss the study, but because I read it, it triggered some thoughts about why God would say this... because he knows that relationships are important for us, and that learning to love isn't just about some external charity for other people, but it is also about our internal peace and happiness.  I think the idea in general that we shouldn't be alone carries over into the rest of the scriptures, the rest of the gospel, and the rest of our lives.

This is one of the earliest truths established in the scriptures, and if we examine the rest of the scriptures after this while keeping it in mind, we can see that so much of the Good versus Evil and God versus Satan dynamic throughout is also a battle of Love versus Hate; Unity versus Divisiveness.  We help each other to be perfect... we're the classroom and the course.  That's why the idea of Zion... a perfect society with no poor among them is so important.  It isn't that we kick out the poor, by the way, but that we lift each other so that we all have enough.  Our ideal of Heaven isn't some power fantasy where we make it and get to be at the top of the mountain.  It is rather a dream of unity with our families, and a place where we know our loved ones will be, and where we encourage others to join us.  It's not about competition to step on others to make it, but cooperation to help each other over the difficult spots so that we can be there together.

Now, this doesn't mean that single people are lost by any means.  It's not just romantic relationships, and it isn't a condemnation of any person, or an attack on the way that anyone feels comfortable.  Some people aren't into crowds... me among them.  Instead, it is advice from God.  It isn't good for us to be alone.  We don't have to suddenly learn to love loud concerts or revel in the sardine-packed scene in Times Square on New Year's Eve.  But we should learn to reach out to others and develop relationships.  We should learn to love people outside our current comfort zones... however narrow or wide they may be.  Relationships are hard, and learning to love people that are different than ourselves takes a lot of work... but it worthwhile work.  It is important for all of us to learn about and love each other.  We need the help to build both the internal and the external kinds of Zion.

Today, let's let go of our treasured hermit ideals, and participate in real life and be social and personable for as long as we can.  And let's find a friend to practice with, to make things more bearable. ;)  Little by little, we can get there.  And if we're already gregarious and popular, let's remember that it's not good for any of us to be alone, and reach out to some people that are on the sidelines, and make sure they feel loved and accepted rather than mocked or excluded.  Let's be about inclusion and community... building Zion, and learning to extend God's love to all the people around us.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

D&C 64:10 -- On Forgiving Everyone

"I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men."
Doctrine and Covenants 64:10

This is an interesting requirement, and sometimes we wonder... why should we have to forgive everyone?  Some people do things that seem unforgivable to us.  Do we have to forgive child abusers and genocidal maniacs?

Let's remember first that God isn't saying to us "You are wrong, these people are good, and you should treat them nicely."  He's saying very clearly "Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you" (Luke 6:27), because yeah... maybe Hitler isn't a good guy who we should honor as a hero.  But God *requires* us to forgive him anyway... and forgive everyone else too, even the people who very purposefully and coldly have harmed us in the worst possible ways.  Not because everyone gets off scott free, but because this is his job and not ours.  We don't have the perspective needed to make these decisions.  He will make everything right in the end, dispensing justice and judgement as needed.

Why, we ask.  Why would God ever ask us to do that?  And the answer is that none of this would work... the whole world wouldn't work... if everyone got to judge everyone else from their own perspective based on limited knowledge and specific actions.  Sure, yes, we think that we have a case.  And maybe we do.  But it doesn't matter.  The verse still applies.  It applies *because* if we all got to decide then absolutely no one would be saved.  We've all done things that others condemn.  We all have screwed things up royally.  The only way this world works and any of us have a chance is that God gave us a mediator, and Christ placed himself between all of us and justice.

In John 8:11 Christ says "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." Christ stopped them from stoning a woman, not because she wasn't guilty, but because he understood her, and chose to give her a second chance.  He got her accusers to leave because he made them realize that non of them had room to condemn her, because they also deserved severe punishment and needed a second chance.  And that is exactly the same thing that he does for each of us. He gives us another chance, and he demands that because of our chances, he be allowed to give others a chance too.

Christ's atonement gave him the ability to feel what we all have felt.  Our pains, our anguish, our suffering, our guilt, our sin... everything.  And only he, knowing the full extent of the whole world's pain, can fulfill justice while still offering us mercy.  He is what stands between us and the people we want to condemn.  And he is what stands between us and the people wanting to condemn us.  Today, let us forgive, and love, and pray that God's will be done, and that we can learn love and peace rather than tearing each other apart.

D&C 3:3 -- On Sources of Frustration

"Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men;"
Doctrine and Covenants 3:3

This is a good reminder for us today.  God's plans never get screwed up or ruined.  Only ours do.  And sometimes, when we think that our plans *are* God's plans, then we think that we've destroyed something permanently or ruined not only our lives, but our eternities.  So, let's remember, remember that this isn't possible.  God's plan is always intact, and in it, we can always turn around, repent, and get back in the boat so that we don't drown.  He's always right there, reaching out his hand to save us.

Today, let's remember this, for ourselves and for other people.  Let's never dismiss anyone because of the choices they've made.  They still have access to God's perfect plan as well, and God asks us to love even our enemies.  Let's offer them the same love and grace that Christ offers us. :)  Let's work on avoiding frustration, from whatever source, and remember that God's work moves forward, no matter what.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Isaiah 60:1-2 -- On Arising and Shining in the Darkness

"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee."
Isaiah 60:1-2

I love this idea of us, rising and shining in the darkness.  And I think that we need to.  God tells us that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).  He also says that he is the light of the world (John 9:5), and that is how we are lights as well... because he has "risen upon" us. :)

The darkness is really starting to cover the earth, and the people.  We see that.  But these verses, and the whole gospel, teach us that we can be different.  We don't have to walk in that darkness, because we have God's light in our lives.  And he asks us to arise and shine out to other people, so they don't have to walk in the darkness either.

Today, let's live so that God's light can shine through us... so that other people can see his glory in our lives.  Let's share the love and compassion and goodness and brightness of God's light with other people.  Let's make this world better and show each other that this world doesn't have to be a dark and dreary and negative place.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Alma 36:18-20 -- On Our Way vs. God's Way

"Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!"
Alma 36:18-20

Suffering from sin is real.  Before this verse the pain is compared to that of a "damned soul" (verse 16).  It could even be the same pain, except that there isn't the same hope that it can be lifted, as there is in these verses.  I don't know that, but I think that we've all felt at least a touch of that pain and despair in our lives, when we've purposely made a choice contrary to God's will and tried to go our own way.  It doesn't always happen immediately, but as we pursue our own paths, we watch our lives melt down around us, and finally we, like Alma, are racking our brains for anything that can make the pain stop.

I don't think that the pain we go through is the pain of punishment, although I think we often want to believe that.  We want to think that things would have worked out perfectly our way, but God couldn't let us have our way and so he ruined it to punish us, and now everything is bad, but no part of it could ever be our faults. :)  Unfortunately, the longer we persist in believing that we are perfect and God is flawed and resentful, the longer we're going to be in pain.

Like Alma, we can escape our own mistakes and stupidity and sins.  We can be free of the pain, and free of the burden of guilt and self-loathing.  But first we have to give up the idea that we can do it better than God can.  We keep thinking that, and we keep getting ourselves into jam after jam.  We can't do it better than God can.  We *need* his help.  I think that is what Alma realized right before these verses.  And he called out to Christ, and Christ immediately helped him.  He wanted to change; he needed God's help.  God doesn't want to punish us.  He wants to help us.  And he can banish even the *memory* of the pain, and swallow all of it up in unimaginable joy.

Wouldn't it be nice to be free of the self-defeating thoughts and guilt and pain?  Today, let's let go of thinking that we need any of this guilt or pain to define us.  Let's let go of past wrongs and present injustices.  Let's turn to God and ask forgiveness for the wrongs and injustices that we have perpetrated on others, and forgive others freely.  Let's let go of our ways of doing things, and let's try the Lord's way.  As we try, we will find that his way is infinitely more fun... and way, way, way less painful.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

2 Timothy 1:6-7 -- On Stirring the Gift of God

"Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
2 Timothy 1:6-7

Stir up here means to rekindle or revive.  Here, Paul is asking Timothy, and God is asking us, to remember the gifts of God that we have been given, and to revive them, and use them.  Often, we hold back in our lives.  We reserve our charity, our compassion, our love just for our immediate families and our friends.  We're afraid of the risk of going further than that.  We're often afraid of resistance, of rejection, or of mockery of those things that we love and believe.  It's often difficult to reach out beyond our circle of comfort... precisely because it is uncomfortable.

God, however, has not given us this spirit of fear.  He blesses us with power, and love, and a sound mind. :)  I think that sound mind part is partly so that we can realize that someone else wants us to fear, and it isn't him.  Let's reject the fear that the destroyer tempts us to feel, and let's go forward in the power of God, to love the people around us, and the people far from us.  Let's recognize the children of God in all nations as our brothers and sisters... the sons and daughters of God.  Let's do what we can, near and far, but most of all, let's change the way we think about others.  Let's not think of them as foreigners and outsiders and as scary.  Let's see them as God sees them, and help them, as he would.

Today, let's stir up and use the gifts and power that God has given us to love better, and to improve the world.  Let's lift us the hands that hang down, strengthen the feeble knees, and bring hope and light to those in need, wherever we are, and wherever our influence can reach.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

3 Nephi 19:2-3 -- On Laboring to Hear the Lord

"And it was noised abroad among the people immediately, before it was yet dark, that the multitude had seen Jesus, and that he had ministered unto them, and that he would also show himself on the morrow unto the multitude.
Yea, and even all the night it was noised abroad concerning Jesus; and insomuch did they send forth unto the people that there were many, yea, an exceedingly great number, did labor exceedingly all that night, that they might be on the morrow in the place where Jesus should show himself unto the multitude."
3 Nephi 19:2-3

Can we imagine having that opportunity to see Christ, and knowing that he would come again the next day?  Wouldn't we do everything we could to gather in our friends and our families, and even tell random strangers about the amazing thing that could happen, and that they could see for themselves?

I think we forget sometimes, that listening to the prophets is the next best thing to this.  Let's do everything in our power to be there, with our friends, and our families, and even tell random strangers if possible, the amazing opportunity that we all have to listen to God's prophets and feel the spirit of the Lord, again, tomorrow in General Conference.  It matters.

Just as we would if we were expecting to see Christ tomorrow, let's, today, pray and prepare for that day, being ready to do what the Lord asks, and dedicating our hearts to understanding and learning what the Lord wants us to hear.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Proverbs 15:14-15 -- On Hearts and Hope

"The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.
All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast."
Proverbs 15:14-15

Some interesting food and heart imagery here.  In the first verse, fools feed on foolishness, and kind of as the opposite of that, understanding-hearted people seek/feed on knowledge.  I like that image, of being sustained by knowledge. :)  Obviously it would have to be knowledge from God, since random wrong knowledge would just be fake plastic food, and we would starve.

In the second verse, merry-hearted people get the feast, and the afflicted people get evil days.  On the surface this seems stinky and unfair, but I think the point here is that we get to *choose* what our hearts are like.  No one can make us afflicted, and no external thing can force us to look at our lives that way.  Even in the worst circumstances, we can find some positive.  Like 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: "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."

Today, let's choose how our hearts will be.  Understanding and merry trumps foolish and evil.  And if we forget, and we make some foolish choices, or feel weighed down by our afflictions, let's go to God.  We can't always do it alone.  But with him, we can always find the lesson and the hope.

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