Thursday, June 30, 2016

Alma 19:4-5 -- On Hope and Light and Imaginary Stink

"And she said unto him: The servants of my husband have made it known unto me that thou art a prophet of a holy God, and that thou hast power to do many mighty works in his name;
Therefore, if this is the case, I would that ye should go in and see my husband, for he has been laid upon his bed for the space of two days and two nights; and some say that he is not dead, but others say that he is dead and that he stinketh, and that he ought to be placed in the sepulchre; but as for myself, to me he doth not stink."
Alma 19:4-5

This is part of an interesting story about Ammon's mission to the Lamanites.  This is after the part where he saves the king's servants with some pretty miraculous strength, killing several of the thieves that were after the sheep, and cutting off the arms of anyone who tried to kill him.  The king asks him about this event, and Ammon tells him about God, and the history of God's dealings with their ancestors.  Then the king starts praying, and is overwhelmed so much that he doesn't get back up.  I'm not sure if it is kind of a spiritual coma or what, but as you can see from these verses, a lot of people thought he was dead.

I love the queen in these verses.  She wasn't there when the king went into his coma, and has only heard about Ammon from others, but she cares about her husband, and she wants so much for him to be okay that she reaches out to that hope, and asks to speak to him.  I especially like "to me he doth not stink."  It seems so illustrative of not only her hope that he isn't dead, but her love for him.  So many people around her are telling her that her husband is dead and ought to be buried, and yet she has as much faith as her current knowledge allows, and trusts Ammon when he says there is something else going on, and that he will wake up in the morning. :)  And he does.  The stink of death was imaginary.

Sometimes we're surrounded by people who encourage us to see the world in a certain way, or that tell us there is no hope or no way out of a certain situation or habit or lifestyle.  When these things happen, let's remember the queen, and instead of believing in death and despair, let's believe in hope, and life, and miracles.  God and his servants are always there to help us, and we are never, ever trapped in a hopeless situation.  Not saying it is instantaneous.  It likely will require patience, faith, effort, and perhaps some longsuffering.  But God is always shining a light into the darkness, and if we look for it, and work our way toward it, eventually we will be in a better place.  The world, and our lives, don't stink as much as people say they do.  Let's see the good in the world, and have hope, and work to make things better.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Alma 17:11 -- On Patience, Afflictions, and Example

"And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls."
Alma 17:11

This is part of a really cool story about the conversion of Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah.  They started out as pretty bad kids, the sons of leaders of the society, but they rebelled, as we so often do.  They were going around trying to destroy the church, when they were visited by an angel.  Unlike some other angelic visitations (read: Laman and Lemuel), these men actually listened, and changed their lives.

In order to make up for the evil in their lives up to that point, and because they knew how lost they had been, the sons of Mosiah wanted to go on missions to preach the gospel to those who didn't have it.  In this case it was a dangerous thing to do, because the Lamanites and the Nephites were not on good terms with each other.  Here, though, the Lord grants their request and tells them to go, with the warning that they need to be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, in order to show them a good example.  That's an interesting warning, and I think it's one that also applies to us.

It's pretty easy to be a good example when things are going well.  We can be happy, we can not complain, we can look to God in our daily lives.  But when things are going bad, that's sometimes when our example counts the most.  Do we *still* trust God?  Can we *still* be happy and not complain?  Do we still look to God as we should?  It's much harder to keep ourselves in that peaceful spiritual state when things seem to be melting down around us.  Yet, this is what God asks... not only for the sake of our example to others, but for our own sanity.  Even at the worst times, God is still faithful... wanting to be there with us, helping and lifting and loving.  If we leave *him* during the storms of life, blaming him for them, then we lose the anchor that we need most.

The sons of Mosiah ended up suffering a lot, but also having a lot of success because they retained hope, they were grateful rather than resentful, and because they were obedient to, and always in contact with, God.  He helped them know what to say and what to do, and how to touch the lives of others through service.

Today, let's be patient in afflictions and long term suffering.  Let's hold on to the anchor of God in our times of trouble.  Let's remember in the midst of trials that God can help, and deliver us, and that there is always a happy ending waiting.  Let's strive to emulate the example of the sons of Mosiah, being humble and grateful and of service to our fellow men.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

D&C 64:7-10 -- On Repenting and Forgiving

"Nevertheless, he has sinned; but verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, forgive sins unto those who confess their sins before me and ask forgiveness, who have not sinned unto death.
My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.
Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men."
Doctrine and Covenants 64:7-10

The first verse here comes at the end of God telling the people of the church that they were forgiven, "this once" (verse 3).  Then, he has to continue, telling them specifically that he has also forgiven the prophet, which is the "he" referred to in the first verse of this selection.  He continues to explain that, yes, he has sinned, but that there is a way to be forgiven, and he reminds them (and us) what that is.

The story about his disciples I think is to emphasize his point.  God himself has just forgiven everyone in the room, and yet he still has to address individual bitterness.  So, he explains that if we don't forgive others, the greater sin is ours. That can seem pretty strong to us, I think, because some of the sins that we're holding against others are the extreme kind. Not little ones where it is silly to hold a grudge... or so we think.  But God doesn't back down from this and come up with some sin balancing formula so we can figure out who is more to blame, even though that is often the game that we want to play.  He's serious.  We have the greater sin if we refuse to forgive.

How can not forgiving "that horrible person" be as bad as what he or she did?  And I think the answer comes in thinking about who we are arguing with, and in contemplating the last verse.  Christ suffered for all of our sins, so that we can be forgiven.  When we refuse to forgive someone else, we're basically saying, no, the atonement wasn't enough.  I demand more. We're valuing our own satisfaction over Christ's atonement, and over God's justice.  In the end, both mercy and justice will be fully satisfied.  But it is going to happen in God's way. He paid dearly for that privilege, and if he had not, we would all be condemned.

Today, let's remember both that we can be forgiven through Christ, and also that as we have been forgiven, we need to forgive others.  God will work it all out in the end, but that is his job, not ours.  Let's repent, and let go of the burden of anger and resentment that poisons our lives, and move on in the love and peace of Christ.

Monday, June 27, 2016

D&C 42:27 -- On Neighbors and Prayer

"Thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, nor do him any harm."
Doctrine and Covenants 42:27

I think this is a good reminder.  Let's remember today that our neighbors are everyone on the whole earth.  So, anytime we say anything bad about anyone, we're breaking this commandment.  It's really easy to go into critic mode and start tearing people down.  It's a lot more challenging to think about how to build people up and make the world better.

We might not like certain leaders or certain groups.  We might be angry at a friend or family member.  We might be scared of what certain people will do.  It seems justified to say bad things about people we perceive as bad.  Let me ask you this one question though... which will help the world more: saying bad things about people, or praying for them?  It seems like anathema to us to bless and love and pray for people that we can't stand, but that is what God asks us to do (Luke 6:27-28) anyway.

Spreading hatred harms the world, no matter where the hatred is directed.  The solution is never more hatred, or returning hatred for hatred.  The solution is love.  To pray for someone, we have to learn to love them just a little bit.  It's hard, believe me, I know.  But it helps to change our hearts for the better, and it accomplishes *so* much more than speaking evil.  Even if all we can do is pray for God to help them to consider others, or learn an important lesson about love or peace, it helps us to consider another viewpoint, and it helps us to think about how to help someone rather than how to blow them up.  God loves those people too, you know?  And if there is a way to save or help them, that's an important thing to find, and to pray for.

And what about when we're on the other end of hatred?  It also helps us more if people pray for us rather than talk about us in an evil way.  Maybe God will help us learn something we need to know, or consider how we're affecting other people's lives.  Hearing that someone is tearing you down just makes you want to avoid them, not change who you are.  Sometimes these hate-conversations are best had through the medium of God. :)  He translates our intentions and desires into sometimes that might actually be useful to the other person. :)

Today, let's think about who we've been tearing down, and instead of going off on them, let's pray about and for them.  Let's talk about it with God, and if we're brave, we can even ask God to show us why he loves them. :)  Having prayers invested in people we start off hating has the power to change us dramatically, if we let it.  Let's be open to that kind of change, and let's try this the Lord's way.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ether 12:11-12 -- On Interactive Miracles

"Wherefore, by faith was the law of Moses given. But in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way; and it is by faith that it hath been fulfilled.
For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith."
Ether 12:11-12

This is an interesting discussion of faith.  I think that I've mostly thought of Faith as a one-way thing.  If I believe and trust in God enough, and act on that, then that's Faith.  But in reading this we learn that faith is more than one way.  It's our faith in God, for sure, but it is a two-way thing, that allows him to act in our lives as well.  The age-old agreement: "And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God" (Jeremiah 30:22).

I think that we forget how much of a limit God has placed on himself with the whole free agency thing.  Allowing us freedom sets self-imposed boundaries on how God can interact with us.  All of our interactions have to be agreements... which also means that we have to make choices and take actions in order to receive blessings.  Our freedom necessitates these rules.

Sometimes we think that freedom isn't all it is cracked up to be, and we'd rather have safety, or security, or something else.  But let's remember that with freedom come greater possibilities than could ever possibly come for us were we forced to live a certain way.  A person in prison might like the consistent meals, but definitely doesn't have the same options that someone outside prison has.

In a weird way, faith is like a permission slip, or maybe a deposit on a bus trip.  God has all of these cool plans waiting for us, but if we don't read the plan, figure out our part in it, and sign on the dotted line, we can't participate... and he can't take us anywhere.  We might sit back and think, well, I'm not really sure if the trip is going to happen.  The bus might not show up, people might not want to go... the teacher might flake out, and on and on.  In that sense, faith is belief and trust... that the teacher knows what he is doing, that the trip will actually happen, but it also goes beyond that.  We have to be willing to participate.  We have to show up, and do our part.  We have to show that we're all in by bringing in the slip or putting down the money.

In a figurative way, God can show us the universe, as long as we make that commitment to him that we're willing to go, and we show him that commitment through our actions.  And if we do sign up and pay the price of the trip, we can go with God, and he can show us more than we ever expected.  I love the thought that people participated in Christ's coming in that way... through having faith that it would happen, and committing to and living the gospel.  And we can participate now in his second coming, in the same way.  Today, let's examine our commitment and our faith... and let's step it up a little.  Miracles happen interactively.  Let's do our part. :)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Genesis 48:18-20 -- On Changing Plans and Expectations

"And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.
And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh."
Genesis 48:18-20

Reading this today made me think of how we so often have everything worked out in our minds, the way we think that it should be.  In these verses, Joseph specifically sought the preferred blessing for his oldest son... such was the tradition, and he probably thought his dad was getting it wrong because of his poor eyesight (mentioned in verse 10).  So, he tries to correct him, and is in turn corrected.  Jacob (Israel) prophesies that the younger son, Ephraim, will be greater than the older son, Manasseh.

This switch has some impact on latter-day prophecies, but what I wanted to talk about is how sometimes with God, we have to change our expectations.  God's ways are often at odds with the way that we think things should be.  Maybe we don't get to keep the dream house.  Maybe we lose the job.  Maybe someone that we love dies.  Maybe we have health problems or other limitations in life that keep us from doing what we want to do.  Life changes, plans change, and sometimes there is nothing we can do about it.  And that's over and above things like who inherits the best blessing. :)  We're not all going to be able to be rich and famous and powerful, and really maybe none of the three.  Maybe we'll lose money, or a promotion, or a job, or even more because of someone else's bad decision.  Sometimes life goes great, but guaranteed: sometimes things that we care a *lot* about aren't going to always go the way we want them to.

Here's the thing though.  God knows what's what.  He guided Jacob's hands, and he can guide ours.  He can help us know what to choose and where to go, and how to recover from setbacks.  With him, no matter what the interim chapters seem to suggest, things always, always work out for good.  I realize that life isn't easy, and I am not trying to make light of anyone's difficulties.  But no matter how bad things are, this is God we're talking about.  He *can* help.

Today, let's remember, when things seems to be melting down, that it is all going to be okay.  Let's chill out a little bit, trust God, and consult with him about next steps.  Even if all we can do at the moment is not explode, that's still positive. :)  Let's help the people around us, and make a new plan with God that allows us to continue towards the promised land. :)

Friday, June 24, 2016

D&C 45:6 -- On Hearing God Today

"Hearken, O ye people of my church, and ye elders listen together, and hear my voice while it is called today, and harden not your hearts;"
Doctrine and Covenants 45:6

This is a good reminder that our test is timed.  Timed tests usually stress me out, actually, and this one too sometimes, but luckily this isn't limited to minutes or hours, but to our lifetimes, and what we can accomplish today, each day.  D&C 64:23 has more clarification about how God might be using the word "today," but no matter how we interpret it, it still reminds us that now is the time to act.

We are tempted in life to procrastinate, to put things off and repent later, or fulfill our responsibilities later, because right now we want to do something else, or it scares us, or we want to wallow in sin just a bit longer... or whatever it is. :)  I think one reason that we get unhappy in life is exactly this though... we put stuff off and off until all of the things that we "should" do are hanging over our heads, with us trying to run away and avoid all of it because it seems so overwhelming.

God doesn't want us to feel this way at all.  But the answer isn't to harden our hearts or just blow off all of our responsibilities and give up either. :)  The way to relieve all of that stress it to just pick something and actually do it.  It doesn't have to be a big thing, but picking something to do today will help us get back on track.  And if we're trying, God will help us get a handle on things, until slowly, we're handling things as they come again, rather than just trying to dodge the fallout. :)

Today, let's find some renewed hope in our lives, and remember that God wants us to succeed, and will help us do so.  Let's listen to his voice as he is telling us that he knows we can do it.  All we have to do is get up, pick one thing, and start.  He'll help us through it, and we'll be okay.  Let's believe him, and get started, while it is called today. :)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Isaiah 58:10-11 -- On Drawing Out Our Souls

"And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
Isaiah 58:10-11

This sounds really cool.  To have our lights rise in obscurity, and our darkness be as the noonday, to be guided, to be satisfied even in drought, to be like a watered garden.  Great symbolism.  And to have our lives be like this, what do we need to do?  We need to draw our our souls to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted souls.  I think this means we need to help other people, right?  Both physically and spiritually, helping them when they are hungry, sick, sad, or lost... literally and figuratively.  So often we are caught up in our own problems and we don't see the difference that we could make for someone else.  I think that's what drawing out our souls means... pulling them out of our self-focused funk, and getting them out there to notice other people.

Today, let's be mindful of the people around us.  Let's see them and their needs, and if it is in our power, let's help them and make them happier, and better fed, and more at peace.  Whatever we can do... not only for them, which is worthy by itself, but also for the Lord who has asked us to. :)  It's just a bonus that he will help us abundantly in return. :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mark 11:24-26 -- On Prayer and Forgiveness

"Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Mark 11:24-26

There are a lot of cool things in these verses.  I love the idea at the beginning that if we can believe, we can have what we truly desire.  That partially seems like just getting whatever we want, but examined more closely, I think it is a strong lesson on being careful about what we desire.  ... Because when we get it, sometimes we end up regretting those desires, and working towards those things.  But if they are good desires, it gives us a lot of hope, that we can have and be what we ask for and work for, as we consult with God.

In the later verses, it talks about how when we are praying for forgiveness that we should also forgive.  I think that is an easy idea to grasp, but the actual putting it into practice is super difficult.  It's really hard to forgive people who scam you on purpose, or who lie about you to get ahead, or who harmed you when you trusted them and abused that power... or pretty much countless other things.  We do to each other things that seem unforgivable sometimes.

So, I think there are a couple of reasons that we need to do it anyway.  Two are that God asked us, and we also do unforgivable things sometimes.  And yet God is willing to forgive us anyway, and Christ paid the price for our sins, and he stands between us and justice... for our benefit, but also for the benefit of that person who sinned against us... not because God likes it when we do cruel and horrible things to each other, but because he is willing to give us ALL another chance.

We're in this together, and we need to give each other another chance as well.  Not another chance to hurt us, necessarily.  Good to get away from scammers and abusers.  But learning and growing, and letting others do so as well, albeit perhaps from farther away, is a good thing.  And hating and holding grudges harms us so much.  It erodes our happiness, it makes it harder for us to trust, and it can make us mean and cynical if we let it.  Instead, let's accept our lessons and our losses, and move forward with God.  If we've lost something, instead of trying to take it out of someone's hide, let's petition the Lord, and believe. :)  Back to the hope at the beginning, right?  People aren't going to make up for their deficits and the harm they have done to us, just like we can't always make up for what we have done to others.  But God.  God can help us.  Let's turn to him and ask, and believe, and we'll be okay.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Genesis 20:2-7 -- On Living in the Present

"And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife.
But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?
Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.
And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine."
Genesis 20:2-7

This is an interesting story that is hard to understand in the modern day.  Abraham said that Sarah was his sister (half-truth... she was his half-sister, but also his wife), and needed to do that because it was common in those days for men to be killed in order to make taking their wives okay.  In this case, the king didn't know that Abraham was Sarah's husband, and just kidnapped her, without killing him.  This was apparently normal.  There is nothing said about the kidnapping, just the potential adultery.

I like how God talked to Abimelech the king, and helped him to not sin as well. It seems like it was his plan to have things happen this way so that these two powerful people wouldn't destroy each other.  Although, of course, God felt it necessary to threaten Abimelech with destruction to make sure that he would do the right thing, so it is likely that if Abraham had said he was the husband at first, he would have been murdered before there was time for a dream and any reflection about what God wanted.

There are some good lessons here.  Don't sleep with married people.  Don't go against what God says.  Don't mess with prophets.  All good lessons.  What I was thinking about when I read it though is how many times I have seen things in the Old Testament used to justify actions in the modern day.  Abraham married his half-sister, Abimelech treated women as property... murder, incest, rape, promiscuity, prostitution.  All of these, and much more, happen in the Old Testament.  Does that make them okay?  No.  No, it doesn't.  Why not?

This is one of those huge reasons that it is important to stay up to date with God's word.  His gospel doesn't change, but our society does, with different norms and different things that God needs to teach us to get us to the right place.  This is one of the reasons that Christ brought us a new law and the New Testament.  He saw that we as a society were ready for the next step.  In these verses clearly the entire group knew that adultery was wrong.  When Christ came he told us that it was clear that adultery was wrong, but he wanted us to understand that on a deeper level even looking at a woman to lust after her is wrong.  Which is why the prophets today counsel us against looking at pornography, and so many sins that are around adultery... that can lead to it.

The Old Testament isn't a book that we should shun or toss in the dustbin... I'm not saying that at all.  There is a lot of truth and evidence of God's dealings with man that we can learn *so* much from.  But like everything else, we shouldn't twist it and use it to justify sin.  To truly understand it, we have to have the spirit, which will help us fit it into the entirety of God's word, so that we can see it in the proper context... how God brought his people and the whole world more and more truth and helped us get to where we are today... and will continue to help us move past this level into greater things.  Reading about Christ in the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon, and reading and listening to the words of modern prophets help us to understand today's truth today, including obeying laws like no kidnapping.

Today, let's pray and listen to God, and let's not try to justify sin because of things that people did so long ago.  We're here, now, for a reason.  We have work to do in God's service.  Let's find it, and repent, and live in the present, listening to what God has to tell us and continuing to make the world a better place.

Monday, June 20, 2016

John 8:34 -- On Being Servants of Sin

"Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin."
John 8:34

This idea is interesting because I think a lot of the time when we sin, we think that we are getting away with something... that it is somehow making us more free, to do whatever we want in the moment.  And yet, even without that initial faith, our experience and perspective show us that Christ's words are true.  Sins trap us.  They preoccupy our minds, they take over our priorities, and they start to run our lives.  We start doing things and arranging our lives to support the sin, rather than feeling free to walk away from it.  We start thinking of it as who we are, branding ourselves its servants, and helping to pass those sins on to others.

We've probably all seen or heard of extreme cases with gambling, smoking, pornography, or dishonesty.  These things can ruin our lives: our health, our financial stability, our marriages and family relationships, and our jobs.  But even if we aren't embezzling or doing other serious things, sin still harms us, and the people around us.  Sometimes we don't even know it is happening.  We can become preoccupied with foul language or sexual thoughts, and think... hey, that's just society.  Everyone thinks and talks this way.  But they don't.  We're self-selecting environments and encouraging the people around us to choose those things, and we don't see the other environments because we're poisoning them ourselves, trapped in our own assumptions.  We don't know how to stop doing or spreading those things because we're far into a habit.  This holds true for a lot of sins, and is a good reason to attend church and find a group of people who help us to realize that we can work and live without those self-inflicted chains, free ourselves to function without those obsessions, and feel comfortable in sin-free environments.

Today, let's not trap ourselves in sin, or spread it to others.  Let's repent, turn to God in prayer, and realize that sin doesn't have to define anyone.  We can change.  We can become pure and clean and good, no matter what we have been before.  Christ suffered for exactly this reason... to free us from bondage, and make us free indeed.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Psalms 17:5 -- On Not Slipping

"Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not."
Psalms 17:5

I like this prayer.  Seems like life is often very, very slippery, and we need God's help to stay the course, so we don't just fly off course with the touch of a breeze. One thing that helped the people stay on the path in Lehi's dream was the rod of iron, representing the word of God.  Praying, reading our scriptures, and reading or watching or listening to Conference Talks can all help with that.

Today, maybe we can put some of those non-slip things into practice.  Let's especially pray, and just like the psalmist, ask God to help us not slip.  As we do so, let's also examine our actions and our motives, making sure that we're not self-sabotaging and adding to the slipperiness ourselves. :)  Sometimes life seems out of control, but with God we can find traction and progress in our journey.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Ezekiel 13:22 -- On Truth and Deception and Happy Endings

"Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life:"
Ezekiel 13:22

In this verse God is explaining why he is delivering his people, speaking to the people who he is delivering them from.  I think it is instructive for us, because in life, as in the scriptures, sometimes God needs to explain to us why we screwed up.  We don't always notice at first what we're doing wrong, and we need to become aware before we can fix it and repent.  And here are a couple of subtle things that we don't always get.  Making the heart of the righteous sad, and strengthening the hands of the wicked.

I took a Mormon Literature class once, and in the class one of the authors that came to talk to us made an impression on me by explaining why her books always had happy endings.  She said that she thought it was deceptive and wrong to teach her readers that evil wins, because that isn't the way that things work.  Sure, bad things can happen along the way, and life is hardly easy... but the eventual happy ending is certain, because God is in charge.  I'm sure she didn't say it in those exact words, but I've always remembered that idea, because it struck me as deeply true.  We go through a lot of ups and downs in life, and sometimes we can't actually see the hope, but even if we can't see it, we know that with God there is always a happy ending... and pretending otherwise can be a deception.

I think that this scripture reminds me of that experience because that's what we do sometimes, without realizing it.  We discourage the righteous and uphold the wicked.  Sometimes we're just trying to write a story, or support a friend, or do our jobs.  Sometimes we're trying to choose the lesser of two evils, or finding ways to accept something because it comes as part of the political party package, or the educator package, or the medical professional package, or whatever it is we do or participate it... there are often different values in different areas.  Maybe today we should take a step back from all of those external influences and make sure that we're not upholding evil in any way.  Let's make sure that we're not setting a bad example or making the heart of the righteous sad.  Let's make sure the values that we learn from God trump the floating values of any other part of our lives.  Let's trust and believe in the happy ending, and always tell that truth, making the hearts of the righteous happy, and never supporting evil.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Abraham 3:24-25 -- On Collaborating with God

"And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;"
Abraham 3:24-25

There is something really compelling in the idea presented here... that the creation was a collaborative effort.  I like the idea of participating with God in building something, and the idea of being part of something so great and vast.  I like also that God explains why they are doing it before they begin.  It almost makes it seem like a normal construction project, even though the materials and the construction are way beyond what we on Earth currently know how to do.

As stated in the verse, part of the purpose of building the Earth, and of our lives, is a test, to see if we can choose goodness and God without him standing right there. :)  So, in that sense, we have some distance from God where we need to make our own choices.  But in another way, I think our lives are similar to the situation in these verses.  We need to make our own choices and do our own jobs, but God is also offering to collaborate.  He wants to help us, but that choice, to turn to him and ask for help, that's part of the test.  It's like a coming-of-age journey, and we need to figure out for ourselves that we need our elders. :)

Today, let's realize that we need God, and let's turn to him and be willing to collaborate with him in the building of our lives.  Maybe if we learn a lot and get this project right, we'll be able to participate in much bigger ones someday. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Luke 6:44-45 -- On the Treasures of our Hearts

"For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh."
Luke 6:44-45

Sometimes we think that we can *be* good, and do bad things... or that other people can.  Here, I think God is telling us that isn't the case.  I'm definitely not talking about abuse and coercion here, but when it is our free choice to do bad, then something within us is bad as well.  That doesn't mean we're lost forever, of course, there is a cure.  We don't have to continue being part evil.  But the first step is admitting that when we choose evil, it means that we need to change.  It isn't the environment or the government or our parents' influence that caused us to be evil.  It's inside us.  All of us are partly good and partly bad.  Mosiah 3:19 tells us that "For the natural man is an enemy to God" but later also tells us that we can change. We have to "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit," and put "off the natural man" and become saints "through the atonement of Christ the Lord."  Or in other words, we have to repent, and turn to God.

Now, of course, there is good in all of us as well.  We're blessed with God's spirit, and a big part of us longs to return home to God.  We don't have to let the evil win.  Our good side is also strong, and it can get stronger the more we let it take charge of our decisions.  And I think that is what these verses are saying as well. We make decisions based on what treasures we're allowing our heart to focus on. Treasures might be people, habits, hobbies, or just beliefs and values.  Whatever we're letting into our hearts.  We need to think about and ensure that we're investing in good treasures and not bad ones.

Today, let's recognize that the choices we make directly reflect what is in our hearts.  If those choices are tending to the bad, let's make sure we start working on our priorities and our focus.  Let's turn to God, do more and more good, and give our goodness more and more power in our lives, and start repenting of our bad actions, and rooting out the evil.  As we do, we'll become more good and less evil, until the perfect day when there is no evil left at all. :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

2 Nephi 9:51 -- On Delight and Feasting

"Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness."
2 Nephi 9:51

This is a good scripture to remind us about perspective and priority.  I don't think that God is saying here that we can't buy an ice cream cone now and then, or that there can't be value in a toy or a game.  Instead, I think he is asking us to think about where we are spending our money, our time, and our effort overall.  What are we working toward?  Where are we headed?

If we're headed towards a life where all we do is eat ice cream and play with toys, then we might need to re-think our priorities. :)  If we buy one cone, good. if we go on a quest to try to sample every flavor of ice cream all over the world, and build an ice cream hotel, and dress as ice cream scoops for Halloween... I'm not trying to judge, but we might want to think about whether we're going too far.  If we're focused on one thing to the exclusion of all else, God suggests that we can still feast... but instead of ice cream, let's try focusing on something that lasts longer.  Something that people can't ruin by mixing in something we hate.

If we choose God as our obsession instead, finding joy in the gospel and in serving and loving others, then that's typically an area where we don't need to fear gluttony.  We can feast and delight in serving God to our heart's content. :)  (I say typically, because of course we can twist dedication to the Gospel into a justification to judge and condemn others, thinking that we are better than they are, rather than being humble, obedient, and loving to all.  But true dedication to God, with no twisting, isn't something that we can overdo.)

Today, let's take a step back and consider where our money, our effort, our time, and our dedication are leading us.  And if it is to an Ice Cream Palace with an Ice Cream Monarchy, or something even less wise, let's work on changing our ways, and our hearts.  Let's dedicate more of everything to God's purposes.  As we do, we'll find ourselves more and more satisfied with ourselves, with the world, and will be able to delight and joy in our feasts, rather than worrying about them taking over. :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

D&C 93:24-27 -- On Truth and Shards

"And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments."
Doctrine and Covenants 93:24-27

This is a good explanation of truth, and what strikes me in reading it today is the idea of "a fulness of truth."  So often I feel like in this world we're getting by on broken shards of truth, and, so often, those shards are used completely out of context as weapons against other people, when the fulness of truth, which is practically synonymous with God, is that we should never harm others.

The first verse shows us that we have to have a historical perspective.  God tells us this in the scriptures as well, asking if we have sufficiently retained in remembrance things that God has done in the past.  Knowing the past informs and helps us to understand the truth of the present.  And so does knowing the future.  ... Not in a 1-900-PSYCHIC way or anything, but knowing the future because God has told us about it.  About eternal life.  About resurrection and judgement.  About having something to work for and to accomplish, in this life and after.  The fulness of truth can't be properly informed without that information.

Today, let's step back from trying to use shards of truth to inform and justify some really bad decisions.  Let's look ahead, and behind, and to God, who is the source of all truth.  Let's stop being short-term people and start considering our world, and the consequences of everything we do.  ... Totally not saying that we need to be filled with anxiety about it all.  God is okay with happiness and joy and focusing on positives and having fun.  In fact, that is part of the whole picture... focusing on the good.  Let's work to see the whole picture, and make ourselves and the world better.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Psalms 5:1-2 -- On Thinking with God

"Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation.
Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray."
Psalms 5:1-2

This is a good reminder that we need to stop sometimes.  Not stop thinking entirely, but stop thinking about worries and things that we can't control.  Stop the madness, if you will. :)  Instead, we need to retreat from all of that, find our inner calm, and think about God.  Think about our lives, think about who we are, who we want to be, and how to get from here to there.  Think about how to address the things that we can control... how we react to people, how we show our love, how we can improve the choices that we make.

Prayer is just thinking *with* God.  Inviting him into our thoughts, asking him to help us change and improve, and guide us to where we can make a difference. He knows it already of course, but he can't help us unless we participate, and think, and listen.  Which is why we have to stop the distractions sometimes, retreat from the crowd, and find time to sit and ponder and pray.

Today, let's find the time to think, and consider, and make good decisions, all in the company of, and with the help of, God.  Let's include him in our lives, and think with him, and of him, often.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

1 Corinthians 15:54-58 -- On the Sting of Death

"So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:54-58

I love the whole idea of victory over death.  It might not make death less sad in the short term.  We still have to live without our loved ones in life, and that is very hard.  I don't mean to belittle that struggle at all.  Long term though, it definitely helps to know that, eventually, we can all have that victory, because Christ gave us the gift of eternal life.

I have read that phrase "O death where is thy sting" before, and it always seemed rhetorical, making the statement that there is no sting, through Christ.  Today though, I realized that there could be.  The verse afterward says that the sting of death is sin.  And even though resurrection is a free gift for everyone, through the grace of God, if we haven't unburdened our souls of sin before death, we will still feel the sting of that sin on our souls, which won't be very fun since resurrection precedes judgment.

Christ gives us a solution to sin as well, but in this case, we have to actively choose it and work for it... and it is something that we should take care of *before* death, so that there is no sting. :)  None of us want to stand up on resurrection morning and have to face God with a sullied soul.  ... I don't even think any of us really want to feel that right *now* ... it's a horrible feeling.  So, today, let's do something about it.

Yes, it might be hard: embarrassing, or emotional, or difficult to imagine how to let go of that sin or shame.  Sometimes only a little part of us wants to, and the other part wants to keep the sin as long as possible.  And that's why we have help.  The first step is always going to God and telling him how we really feel about the whole thing, even if it is something we don't want to give up yet.  Maybe asking him to show us why it is wrong is a first step in that case.  Asking him to help us understand is always something that he will help us with... and never something that we need to be ashamed of.  God wants us to understand as much as we can. We just need to be open to God's information rather than only accepting our own, so that we can get an answer.

I like the last verse telling us that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.  In a way, every choice we make in this life is an investment in eternity.  We are the sum total of our choices, and that is who we will still be when we are resurrected.  We don't suddenly become different creatures and grow wings and halos... not that halos wouldn't be cool, mind you.  Just that isn't the way it is.  We're going to stand up on resurrection morning exactly the same people as we are at death.  And that is the person that is going to stand before God to be judged.  So, we have our work cut out for us, right?  We have between now and then to shape up a little and do some soul-scrubbing. :)  And yes, it is hard, but as it says... our labor is not in vain.  We have much more than many lifetimes to look forward to in the future.  Let's make sure we become who we need to be now, so that there is no sting in that future.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Alma 5:33 -- On Invitations and Repentance

"Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you."
Alma 5:33

The "he" here is of course God, and I really liked the idea of an invitation.  I wonder what it would be like to go to the mailbox one day and have an engraved invitation from the Lord. :)  And symbolically, we do... that's exactly what he is talking about.  We're invited, individually and specifically, to join the Lord in heaven, to learn things that we can't even imagine now, to be happier than we've ever been... eternally.  But instead of having to dress up for this party, or instead of having to donate to charity for a ticket, or bring something to the pot luck, or whatever other requirements different kinds of celebrations have, this invitation depends on repentance.  Repent, and he'll be there at the door, waiting to let us in with a big grin on his face, so glad that we could make it.

Repentance isn't something horrible, like being forced to jump through these nine hoops and then walk on hot coals just so someone will let us in. It's not an arbitrary requirement. It's more like washing our clothes, or dressing appropriately.  If we get to the front door and everyone else is dressed up, but we just came straight from digging a ditch and didn't even wash our hands, that doorkeeper might ask us to go wash up and change and then come back.  Repentance cleans up our souls, makes them bright and shiny, and it helps us to feel more comfortable talking with God.

Today, let's work on repenting.  Let's get those sins under control, and washed off of our souls.  The longer we leave them there, the worse it gets, and the easier and more tempting it is going to be to walk away from God entirely.  Let's stop ourselves now, while there is still time, and never abandon what we know to be right.  It's hard, but infinitely worthwhile to repent.  The reward is worth all of it.  To get to hang out with God.  To feel clean, free of guilt and pain.  To know that we will get to learn and grow and live in a perfect society. :)  Awesome stuff.

Friday, June 10, 2016

D&C 90:1 -- On Prayer and Forgiveness

"Thus saith the Lord, verily, verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee, according to thy petition, for thy prayers and the prayers of thy brethren have come up into my ears."
Doctrine and Covenants 90:1

The remission of sin is clearly linked to prayer in this verse, and I think that if we think about it, this linkage is always there.  I think it's good to call out that connection because sometimes when we feel the burden of sin, we shrink away from God.  We don't want to face him, or have to be as honest with ourselves as prayer always demands.  ... However scary though, the only way out is through prayer and through God.  We have to talk to him about our lives, about what we've done, what we regret, and where we want to go from here.  We have to talk to him about who we dare to hope to be, if we can have his help.

Today, no matter what situation we are in, whether seemingly hopeless, or so exultant that it seems it will never fade, let's turn to the Lord.  Let's talk to him, open our hearts, and be willing to change.  Let's tell him where we've been and where we think we're going, and listen to him if he suggests a solution or a course change.  With God, no matter how dark or heavy our lives, we can be light again.  Let's do whatever it takes to be forgiven, and then work on staying that way, again through prayer, every day... constant contact. :)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Luke 22:26 -- On Success through Service

"But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve."
Luke 22:26

I really like the idea of becoming great by being a servant.  It seems counter intuitive in our society sometimes, where we often see power going to those who grab it fastest and most aggressively.  However, power seized is also easily lost, through the next person who comes along and is willing to be more underhanded than you were.  In this verse, Christ shows us the true way to greatness.

When people around us know that we love them, and when we do all we can for people, then we are truly great, and if we are placed in a position of leadership, we do better, and people are more likely to support us.  When we are humble and giving and kind, people don't think that we are trying to steal their power (and we aren't).  Instead, we love people and we listen to them, and we use everyone's ideas to achieve success.

This is hard to do, but like all of the challenges that God gives us, it is worthwhile in helping us solve problems and become better.  It shows us the way to be successful without becoming evil.  Christ was more powerful than anyone, and he could have toasted the whole city rather than allow anyone to insult him.  Instead, he served the people, got to know them, and ultimately did the ultimate service when he gave his life for all of us.

Today, let's work on letting go of our power struggles and our pride, and follow Christ's example by serving and loving the people around us.  As we do, we will learn about true greatness, and become closer to our ideal selves.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Jeremiah 7:3 -- On Amending

"Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place."
Jeremiah 7:3

This verse reminds me that we take so many things in life for granted.  We think that we "deserve" or are owed them, when actually almost everything is a privilege and a blessing.  Where we live is one of these things, and what is addressed by the verse, and it reminds me of God sending people to the promised land (which was different for different groups), and watching over them there.  We should never take our promised land for granted, because if we don't live right and honor that privilege, then God will let someone else inherit it.

Not just with land.  We have talents that work the same way, as we learn in the parable of the talents.  And I think that this probably applies to all, or almost all, of our blessings in life.  If we don't take care of them and honor God's gifts, then he will pass them on to someone who will take care of them.

Now of course this doesn't mean that everything we lose is our fault, or that it all happens instantly.  Sometimes loss is just a trial that we have to learn from, and God gives us plenty of space to learn and grow, and he is very merciful.  It might happen quickly in some cases, as with Oliver Cowdery translating the plates (D&C 9:10), but more often we have a longer time to figure things out and learn.  A good thing to think about, even so.  What things can we amend in our lives in order to honor the gifts that the Lord has given us?  How can we be more thankful, and not take God's blessings for granted?

(Feel free to comment with ideas.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Colossians 3:18-23 -- On Pirate Pride and Living Heartily

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.
Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;"
Colossians 3:18-23

Living heartily sounds kind of Pirate-ish to me.  And I think sometimes we feel piratical trying to do this sort of thing.  These are tough things that we are asked to do.  Submissiveness is difficult, especially for selfish pirates, right?  We want *our* way, not someone else's.  Love is also hard... something that we have to work at and maintain, despite the immature fable of modern media.  Obedience is difficult, because we can't always see the purpose.  Watching out for how we affect other people is challenging, especially when we are used to just thinking about how things affect us.  Sincerity and honest effort can be hard when we are doing things that are not what we want to be doing.  And it is hard to be happy and hearty about what we're doing if someone else is choosing it.

First paragraph makes life seem kind of bleak, but let's step back from the Pirate perspective for a moment, and think about all of this.  If we pull the ego out, doesn't the whole thing become a lot more palatable?  It's not that hard to submit to people we love.  It shows that we trust them, and it's love when we are willing to compromise because that will make someone smile, and we find that the smile is somehow better than what we wanted anyway.

We can let go of bitterness, we can accept guidance and give encouragement, we can remember that it really *is* our choice to be every place that we are, and make the most of it.  We can turn bad situations around, we can make a difference in other people's lives.  We just have to let go of that poisonous pirate pride that keeps asking "what's in it for me," and realize that we already know.

God is in it for us.  And if we do everything in our lives as though we were doing it for God, he will consecrate everything that we do to our good.  We'll probably have to give up the pillaging and looting, but we can still live heartily. :) As we do everything in our lives heartily, as unto the Lord, our blessings will be also be hearty... we'll learn to be better, less selfish and more loving people, and we'll be happier than we could ever be trying to do it our own way.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

Hebrews 10:24 -- On Being Better Friends

"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:"
Hebrews 10:24

We all need help in life.  We need it from God, and we need it from each other.  It's so easy to help each other justify bad things for whatever reason.  So easy to say bad things about someone, or to blow off responsibilities.

And I'm not saying that we can't be funny or relieve stress sometimes.  But maybe we can find better ways to turn our humor, better ways to blow off steam, better ways to relieve stress.  We need to be helping each other do the right things, not the wrong things.  That doesn't mean we need to preach a sermon whenever we see a neighbor doing wrong.  But maybe it means that we can set a better example.  Maybe we can change the subject or choose a different activity.

Today, let's think about it.  How can we encourage love in our families and with our friends?  How can we encourage good behavior and not bad?  When we meet together, let's never be the bad influence.  Let's be the people who are making things better and the people that inspire others.  Let's pray about it, and learn to be the type of people we want to be around, and build friendships that help each other towards God and all good, rather than divert us in the other direction.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Mosiah 29:38-39 -- On Responsibility and Freedom

"Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.
Therefore, it came to pass that they assembled themselves together in bodies throughout the land, to cast in their voices concerning who should be their judges, to judge them according to the law which had been given them; and they were exceedingly rejoiced because of the liberty which had been granted unto them."
Mosiah 29:38-39

This is in the middle of an interesting chain of events in which the Nephite King, Mosiah, convinces the people that they should switch to a different government.  He explains before this how much harm a wicked king can do, and proposes a new government where the people get to vote on judges who would judge the people according to the commandments of God (verse 11).  So, the commandments are at least part of the law that they are referring to here.

To me, the idea of having God's laws be the basis of your regular judicial government is an interesting theocracy/democracy mix.  It probably wouldn't work in our modern world the way it is now, but it worked for this group because they all agreed on what the Gospel said, and they had a single scriptural standard.  I also like the idea that any King would willingly relinquish power like that.  I love that he was a righteous man, and that he was listening to God, and thinking about what would be best for the long-term happiness of the people.

I like how the idea of liberty and answering for their own sins caused so much joy for these people.  When we have less choice, we have less responsibility, because freedom and responsibility go hand in hand.  Freedom can sometimes be scary, because we increase our potential for failure.  But we also massively increase our potential for joy, and good, and learning.  Today, maybe we can examine our responsibilities and freedoms, and take this opportunity to give thanks and rejoice that we have so much power to make the world better and to do good.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Alma 1:30 -- On Helping Everyone

"And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need."
Alma 1:30

This is something to aspire to.  Usually the pride cycle that we see in the scriptures (and in life) is prosperity --> pride --> evil --> tragedy and loss --> poverty --> humility --> obedience --> good --> prosperity --> pride, etc.  Keeps cycling.  But here, these people were able to freeze the cycle in goodness for a while and not jump straight to pride.  Instead, they got to prosperity and they remained good, and they helped the people around them.

I really like also that it points out that there was no respect of persons going on as to those who stood in need.  They didn't just help people in the church, or who were similar to them.  They helped people in need... all of them, whoever they could help.  That's a good message for us to remember, in the midst of a society that seems to be more and more polarized about who does and does not deserve our compassion and assistance.

Today, let's not let the pride cycle move us towards the dark side.  Let's be thoroughly good, blessing and helping the people around us as much as humanly possible.  Let's help where we see a need, and leave the judging in God's hands.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Proverbs 18:23 -- On Self vs Submissiveness

"The poor useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly."
Proverbs 18:23

I like this because it makes me think.  I think that some part of us likes the answer roughly side.  It makes us feel powerful and independent and in control, while using entreaties feels like desperation and loss of power and being in someone else's control.  Rich and poor here could be spiritual states as well as physical, monetary ones. ... And maybe right here is the whole idea that we've been trying to grasp about humility and meekness.

We want those powerful things because it comforts us and helps us to think that things are going to be okay.  In truth though, we're looking at everything backwards.  The more we try to be in control, the more clear it becomes that we aren't the right people for the job.  Our lives fall apart if we are focusing on self and on power instead of on others and on God.  It's that whole lose-yourself-to-find-yourself idea (Luke 9:24-25).  If we can step back and focus on context and interaction rather than on our own needs and wants, we get a much clearer picture of the world, including ourselves.

Today, let's be willing to let go of our roughness and tough exterior, and let's be willing to ask for what we want and need with humility and trust.  Let's be the humble people that help and ask and are kind rather than the people who pretend they can do it all and are rude and demanding.  Let's make the world better by never abusing our power and always being open to God's influence and the needs of others.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Psalms 84:5-6 -- On Blessings from Tears

"Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.
Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools."
Psalms 84:5-6

When I was reading this today, I didn't know what "the ways of them" or "Baca" really meant, so I looked up some other translations, and after understanding a little better, I really liked the beauty of the whole thing, so I thought I would share it with you guys.

Many translations render the end of the first verse as "in whose heart are the highways to Zion." I really liked "in whose heart are thy ways" and "in his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps" as well.  Overall, with the help of the different translations, the idea seems to be finding strength in God, and seeking / working toward / ascending step-by-step to Zion / Perfection / God's presence.

For Baca, many translations of the second verse had "weeping" and I also liked "the vale of tears." My favorite translation of the verse was "Passing through the valley of Weeping they make it a place of springs; yea, the early rain covereth it with blessings." Overall, the verse seems to be saying that as we are passing through hardships / crying / suffering, we take those experiences / tears / hardships and we turn them into blessings, like a well or fountain... basically the idea of learning from the hard things, finding good in the midst of the difficult, and building ourselves into something *through* that suffering.

Today, let's get strength from the Lord, and set our feet on the highway to Zion by turning our negative experiences into learning opportunities and positive change.  God knows that we are called to pass through difficult trials sometimes, and that we don't always know what to do or where to turn, but with his help and strength, we can translate negatives into positives.  We can walk in his ways, and turn the vale of tears into a valley of blessings.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

4 Nephi 1:2-3 -- On Partaking of the Heavenly Gift

"And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift."
4 Nephi 1:2-3

This is a really cool time in the scriptures... one of those times when everything was good, and things were working perfectly with everyone involved.  That doesn't happen a lot in life.  City of Enoch (Zion) and this are the only examples I can think of.  And how did it happen, in both cases?  It was everyone serving the Lord, letting go of their own selfish desires and committing to assist and love other people.  It's such a basic thing--putting the group ahead of the individual, others ahead of ourselves--but we have a really hard time putting it into practice.  Too often, we want to get ahead, take that one step that makes us the winner and everyone else the losers.  We'd rather hoard all of our cool stuff than share with others.

Today we're not ready to live in a communal society where we share everything... but we can start getting ready by noticing the needs of the people around us.  We can do little  things like remembering to smile at people, and learn their names.  We can listen to other people's ideas before expounding on our own.  We can give, and lift, and love.  And as we do, we'll be blessed more and more with many heavenly gifts... joy, and peace, and communion with the spirit, and a sense of belonging, being able to feel safe and secure, and trust that things will be okay.  And eventually we'll get to the ultimate heavenly gift as they did here, unity and oneness with God and Christ and all of his followers.  A Zion society, where everyone works together and loves each other: something to look forward to: something to build.

Total Pageviews