Wednesday, August 31, 2016

D&C 50:23-24 -- On Edification and Improvement

"And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day."
Doctrine and Covenants 50:23-24

Edify means to lift, teach, improve... and I love that idea that anything that doesn't do that isn't of God.  Because in a symbolic (and very real) way, that *is* light, and goodness, and true power--the power to build and create rather than to destroy and ruin.  As we improve and learn and grow, we become closer and closer to God.  Someday, if we continue in the light, we'll get to that perfect, shiny day, where we've reached our potential, and are completely full of light, and truth, and goodness.

Today, let's edify, and banish darkness from our lives.  Let's focus on improvement and goodness, and remove the corrupting influences that sometimes surround us.  Let's be good, and teach goodness, and lift each other so we can all be closer to God, and closer to fulfilling our missions and reaching our potential.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

D&C 4:3 -- On Serving God and Doing His Work

"Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;"
Doctrine and Covenants 4:3

I was going to post more stuff from this section, but as I thought about it, I realized that this is a big enough idea on its own.  Although this section is often used in relation to full-time missionary service, it definitely doesn't only apply to that.  If we have desires to serve God, no matter where we are in life, we are called to do it.  Being a missionary is a great thing, and I am definitely not encouraging anyone to give up on being a missionary.  I'm just saying for people who can't make that dramatic change in their current lives, we are still called.

How can we serve if we aren't missionaries?  Tons of ways.  In recent conferences, we're heard about the great need that refugees have for help.  Widows and widowers sometimes just need someone to talk to.  There are children in need of help in all of our communities, especially orphans.  There are homeless people who need food, assistance, and sometimes just for someone to treat them like a valued person.  Giving to food banks, making quilts to keep people warm.  Tutoring or volunteering at an elementary school.  Teaching gospel stories to the toddlers in church.  God just wants us to help and lift and serve each other the best ways we know how.  If we pray and ask God what he wants us, as individuals, to do, he will let us know.

Let's be anxiously engaged in doing good, and serving God through serving others.  Let's give and share and help, sharing the gospel when appropriate as we go, but never requiring people to accept it before we are willing to help or love them.  Let's do what God would do if he were in our shoes, and let's continue his work and build his kingdom.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Proverbs 29:17-21 -- On Delicate Correction

"Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
A servant will not be corrected by words: for though he understand he will not answer.
Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length."
Proverbs 29:17-21

Proverbs sometimes seems like a bunch of disparate thoughts thrown together, but as I was reading this today, these seemed to go together really well.  I like the themes of son / servant and words / correction.

The first verse asks us to correct our sons, the third tells us that words alone won't do the job (referring to servants), and the last says that servants become sons, if they are brought up and taught "delicately."  Those seem to be part of each other; I think saying that correction requires being careful and delicate--setting an example and living the law, not just preaching and talking the talk.  Also, that delicate correction can make servants into sons (which is kind of the gospel, right), and perhaps the opposite as well... that heavy-handed correction can turn sons into servants.

I think the vision / law verse is talking not only about prophecy and the structure of the gospel, but also about the correction that runs through the rest of the verses.  We have to have an idea of who we are and where we are going, but there also have to be consequences for sinning and mistreating others, because we need that kind of structure in our lives (so we can turn from servants to sons, metaphorically, right?).

The hasty part is also interesting, going along with the whole correction and law ideas, part of that structure that we need is internal structure--thinking before we speak, choosing the kind words to say (the whole delicate idea again), and this could apply metaphorically to the parent or the son or the servant.  We all need that structure in our lives, in our quest to become sons, and to raise sons.

Today, let's work on correcting not only in word but in deed.  Not only externally, but internally... not only others, but especially ourselves.  Let's work on being worthy to be grow up into God's family rather than just serving him.  Let's find vision, and happiness, in God.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Helaman 3:34-35 -- On Humility and Preparation

"And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.
Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God."
Helaman 3:34-35

Stronger in humility almost seems contradictory, but I like it.  It takes strength to endure persecution, especially since if we try to fight pride with pride or persecution of our own, we become the same evil that we fight.  Instead, strong humility is the answer.  We have to be able to recognize our own faults, and work on them... then criticism can't touch us.  We need to look to God for affirmation, and not base our self-worth on others.  Then their disapproval can't touch us either.  And we need to love the people who are persecuting us, because setting that kind of example in the midst of being persecuted is the strongest and most powerful statement we can make.  It shows that we understand pride, because we've gone through it ourselves, and we forgive people who are weak like we are, but it also helps to show everyone a better way.

I love the yielding our hearts to God part as well.  Joy, consolation, pure and sanctified hearts... those are amazing things, and if we can figure out how to do this, how to yield our hearts to God, then we can have those things.  And obviously part of it is humility.  Letting go of our agenda, and accepting God's agenda.  Learning that God has a better plan, even for us individually, than we do.  Learning that God even knows what will make us happy better than we do.  So many times in life we feel this instinctive need to assert control.  We want to be in charge and not feel like we are passengers in our own lives.  And that is understandable to a certain point.  Trusting a regular person that much is often unwise.  But with God instead of learning mistrust as we get older and "wiser," we should be learning the opposite.  We should be seeing through experience after experience that God is more trustworthy than we are, and that we need his help to learn to even be a fraction as good. :)  Today, let's stop worrying about where God is leading us, because we know that it will be good.  Let's let God worry about the road, and get busy making sure that we are prepared (purified, sanctified, etc.) for whatever comes along the way. :)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Job 5:8-15 -- On Seeking and Hoping

"I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause:
Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number:
Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields:
To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.
He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.
He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.
They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night.
But he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty.
So the poor hath hope, and iniquity stoppeth her mouth."
Job 5:8-15

I love the first line here, seeking God and committing to him, and then so many reasons why.  All of the reasons are awesome, but one of my favorites is that God takes care of the poor, saving them from the sword, and from the mighty, so that they have hope.  Or so that we have hope, if that is our circumstance. :)

I think that we sometimes think that God does all of these things alone, but one thing that he is teaching us in life is how to help each other.  God works through us to help others, including specifically those who have less resources and opportunities than we do.  Our society has some built-in inequities, and we do God's work when we balance those by striving to help and lift each other.

Today, let's seek God and commit to him, not only because of all the amazing reasons listed here, but because of all the reasons we have seen in our own lives. Additionally, let's work to be part of God's plans to help the poor.  Let's help and lift each other and offer hope to everyone.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Helaman 5:12-13 -- On Storms and Solidity

"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
And it came to pass that these were the words which Helaman taught to his sons; yea, he did teach them many things which are not written, and also many things which are written."
Helaman 5:12-13

There are a lot of cool ideas in here.  The idea of the devil sending whirlwinds and storms into our lives is a big one.  This is something that Lehi's dream addresses as well: storms are going to come into our lives no matter who we are, or how righteous we are.  The difference is going to be in how we handle it, and how we weather it.  Lehi's dream talks about holding to the iron rod as the way to weather it, and this is similar: building our foundations on the rock of Christ.  Both mean that we need to hold to God and his gospel, and we can make it through.  Lehi's dream makes it seem like more of a struggle, but this verse shows us that it can actually be a triumph of sorts... that it will have "no power" over us, and that if we build on this foundation that we "cannot fall."  I love those absolutes.  It offers real confidence that if we put Christ at the center of our lives, and base everything else we do on that core, that the storms can come as much as they like, but they will never be able to touch us, because we're safe and solid.

I like the fact that this is part of what Helaman taught to his sons, and that he wrote it down so that others could benefit.  I think that is an excellent lesson for us as well.  Not just learning to weather the storms and stand firm in life, but *sharing* that knowledge with others... spreading it around, and giving everyone a little bit more stability. That's really what spreading the gospel is about... not pressuring people or making them uncomfortable, but helping them to gain the blessings... the knowledge, happiness, power, and stability that everyone can have when they embrace Christ and his plan of happiness and salvation.

Today, let's build on the sure foundation of Christ, and let's share our experiences with others, so that they can gain that same confidence and solidity in the midst of the storms of life.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

D&C 59:13-16 -- On Cheerfulness and Appreciation

"And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.
And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;"
Doctrine and Covenants 59:13-16

I love that fasting and prayer equals rejoicing and prayer.  Sometimes we get confused and we think that fasting = starving.  Totally not the case, as we see here. :)  Fasting, instead, is equated with joy and rejoicing.  I love that.  And all of the Sabbath Day things are supposed to be done with cheerful hearts.  We aren't always cheerful about it in the moment though, so how do we change our perspective on that?

These verses are part of a discussion of the Sabbath Day, and I think part of that perspective changing is just actually trying that idea of setting aside time for the Lord.  In verses previous to this selection, it talks about specific things to do on the Sabbath, but that statement about "none other thing" is interesting because it suggests that we really focus and spend time on the few things that he has asked us to do.  Part of making fasting and the Sabbath a joy is that focus--that communication with God and constant prayer and intent spirituality that we can't get on a normal day full of distractions.

Sometimes if we limit our activities on the Sabbath to what God asks, we are tempted to say "I'm bored."  This is probably because we aren't focused, and we keep thinking about the things that we want to do with *our* time.  However, just like a little kid who says he is bored can become engaged with a new activity if he gives it a chance, we can become engaged in the activities that God has chosen for us, if we give them a chance.  Prayer doesn't have to be just a 5-second, or even 5-minute, activity.  When we practice talking to the Lord more and more, we can discover so much more, and really learn more about God.  The same goes with scripture study, which can be awesome as a group, and talking with each other about the gospel.  There are gospel stories that can engage even the most reluctant child if they are told well.

Today, let's let go of the idea that church is boring and that there isn't anything to do on Sundays that is approved by God.  There is so much to do, including taking the time to rest and to think about our lives.  God and his gospel aren't boring at all.  In fact, they are endlessly fascinating, and pretty much encompass all of life.  If we need more excitement, get some scriptural trivia going on, or act out some of the stories.  Witty banter is A-OK, as long as it is really witty and not mean or mocking.  Let's talk to each other about the gospel, and learn all we can. Certainly none of us have mastered it all.

Let's talk to God.  He's serious about the gospel, of course, but he also has a sense of humor, and wants us to be happy.  Let's listen to his suggestions, and live the gospel more cheerfully. :)  I think part of God promising us that the fulness of the Earth is ours is just that if we learn to appreciate the gospel, then we learn to appreciate everything in it... and we'll know how to use it well.  Let's get started. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Helaman 13:37-38 -- On Our Days of Probation

"Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls. Behold, our iniquities are great. O Lord, canst thou not turn away thine anger from us? And this shall be your language in those days.
But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head."
Helaman 13:37-38

Not really a feel-good scripture, but some really good reminders here.  This is Samuel the Lamanite preaching to the Nephites.  Kind of a role reversal in the Book of Mormon, which is another aspect that we should keep in mind. Sometimes we get into the mindset that we are the good ones and other people are the bad ones... and that isn't true.  We can't afford to be complacent and assume that membership or position is going to save us.  We need to actually do the right things. :)

We get used to having time in this life (the days of our probation)... prioritizing and deciding what we should do now, and what we will do later.  And often we choose what seem to us to be minor evils, thinking that we can enjoy them for a while and then later we can repent.  But the words "everlastingly too late" are pretty scary, are they not?  Let's not get ourselves into a position where these verses come true.  Let's stop looking for happiness in sin.  The probation imagery is appropriate, because we have a time limit in which we need to clean up our acts.  Let's not delay.  Let's make things right.

Overcoming ourselves, and experiencing shame and guilt and regret is hard. Learning to be new people, and change our hearts and minds seems impossible sometimes.  But it isn't, with God.  ... What *is* impossible is living a whole life of mostly bad, and then thinking that we can suddenly transform into perfectly good at the last minute, on our deathbeds, or that God will give us good in place of evil after we die.  Now is the time, and we risk everything by waiting.  Let's start learning our lessons now, while we have time to change.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Revelation 22:11-13 -- On Restoration

"He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last."
Revelation 22:11-13

Sometimes I think we expect God to be merciful at the expense of justice... to love and understand us in the same way the mother of a serial killer might--without judgment or restraint.  And perhaps we over-emphasize the loving and forgiving side of God sometimes, in trying to show everyone, and to remember ourselves, that there is always a way back to God, and that he doesn't hate us or cast us away when we make mistakes.  ... And that is all true.  He doesn't cut us off.  As long as we are alive we have that opportunity to change and to repent.  To become a better person.  We have mercy on our side.  However, justice will catch up eventually if we don't take advantage of that offer of mercy.

If we waste our lives and never repent, and never change, then after this life, we get the same thing everyone else gets: restoration.  We are restored to what we chose and who we decided to be.  Yes, God loves us, and yes he fully understands why we chose what we chose, but he isn't going to take our evil choices and make us good in return.  That would take away our choice.  We will be what we have learned to be, and chosen to be.  Natural consequences for everyone.

No, if we just stole a candy bar, we aren't going to burn forever.  But if we stole a candy bar and didn't repent, and we still believed in and embraced stealing as we got older, then we are going to be significantly different from people who recognized that stealing was wrong and repented, and changed, and chose to become honest people.  And so there will be a difference in who we are, and where we are comfortable in the afterlife.

Today, let's stop trying to rationalize or justify our questionable choices.  Let's look at who we are choosing to become, and where we are headed.  If it isn't a good place, it isn't going to miraculously become good later.  Let's turn around now, and start heading for a better place, and be better people.  Let's remember that we get back whatever we choose, and make sure that restoration is going to bring us back some good things.

Monday, August 22, 2016

1 John 3:14-15 -- On Love, Life, Hate, and Death

"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him."
1 John 3:14-15

There are some interesting and cool ideas here.  First, the way that we know that we are born of God (passed from death unto life) is that we love others.  If we don't love, we don't live.  That's fascinating, and seems really true.  Doesn't hate feel like death in a lot of ways?  We are withering inside, and we aren't at peace... it eats us alive.

The next verse makes a really strong statement, but again one that seems inherently true.  It equates hate with murder.  Even if we aren't actually killing people, teaching hate *is* teaching murder.  Symbolically, and often literally.  Feuds and disagreements turn into wars and hate crimes.  We see this this with the Nephites and the Lamanites in the scriptures, and there are an abundance of examples in our society as well.  No matter how justified we think it is, hate is a cancer, and it grows and spreads and kills everything in its path.

Today, let's take these verses to heart.  Let's remember that love equals life, and hate equals death.  Let's spread life and love, and let go of our hate so that we don't risk spreading that kind of terminal disease to others.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Alma 12:13 -- On Tearing Down the Walls Around Our Hearts

"Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned."
Alma 12:13

I like this idea, of needing to keep our hearts open and malleable.  If we harden them, we lose the ability to feel the spirit, and to have a relationship with God, which isn't a good thing.  We make a big deal about being open in other contexts.  At work, we need to be open to other people's ideas.  In relationships, we need to be open to sincerely listening and sometimes agreeing on a compromise (not a compromise of standards, but something that you both enjoy, rather than something only one of you enjoys).  In school, we need to have open minds, at least as far as considering and learning new ideas.

Sometimes when it comes to religion, we think that being open means being in danger of some evil influence... and I suppose it is indeed dangerous if we feed our doubts rather than our faith, or if we start opening ourselves up to sin.  On the other hand, if we close ourselves off entirely, we risk becoming desensitized, not being able to learn, and not being able to consider new ideas and spiritual feelings.

I'm not sure what the answer is globally, or if there is one.  Maybe we all have different openness tolerances, and different ways that we need to protect ourselves from certain sins.  What I am sure of though, and what is clear in this verse, is that we need to keep ourselves open specifically to God.  We can't become so enamored of proof through our other senses that lose access to our spiritual senses.  We can't shut down because of our personal pain and never let God in again.  We need to be open and able to learn... able to feel.  If we're not, then of course we are going to think that our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, because we have shut off our ability to hear God's answering voice.

I know, it is hard to feel vulnerable.  We build walls to protect ourselves.  But when it comes to God and the gospel, those walls need to come down.  Today, let's work on doing some demolition on the walls around our hearts, and making room for God.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jacob 5:74-75 -- On Growing Our Goodness

"And thus they labored, with all diligence, according to the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard, even until the bad had been cast away out of the vineyard, and the Lord had preserved unto himself that the trees had become again the natural fruit; and they became like unto one body; and the fruits were equal; and the Lord of the vineyard had preserved unto himself the natural fruit, which was most precious unto him from the beginning.
And it came to pass that when the Lord of the vineyard saw that his fruit was good, and that his vineyard was no more corrupt, he called up his servants, and said unto them: Behold, for this last time have we nourished my vineyard; and thou beholdest that I have done according to my will; and I have preserved the natural fruit, that it is good, even like as it was in the beginning. And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard."
Jacob 5:74-75

I love this allegory.  Jacob is quoting Zenos, who in this allegory is talking about the world.  The world is a vineyard.  He goes through and talks about how the Lord of the vineyard takes care of the olive trees, and how some of the fruit was corrupt and some was good, and what happens in different parts of the vineyard corresponds to the history of the world.  At one point none of the fruit was good, which we presume was the apostasy, but the Lord of the vineyard's servant (Christ) convinces him to spare it a little longer.  So they go on a mission to graft the branches that they had moved back into the mother tree, and they determine to prune the bad branches according as the good will grow.  In these verses, they have succeeded.  There is no more bad fruit in the vineyard.

This part of the allegory hasn't happened yet in our history, which means that we are in the middle before the vineyard has become uncorrupted.  God and his servants are grafting the branches and nourishing the trees, and we are the fruit.  As more good fruit grows, the bad branches are pruned away to make room for the good to grow.

After these verses it talks about the Millennium, which starts when all the fruit is good.  And then, when the bad fruit once again appears in the garden, at the end of the Millennium, that's the end, when the Vineyard is burned.  Of course there is more after that, since we have eternity in front of us, but that is where the allegory ends.

I think where we are in the allegory offers a lot of hope.  It means that we aren't just in a world where things are getting worse and worse, and eventually everything blows up.  Instead, the more good grows, the more evil will be removed in order to make room for the good.  Good has unlimited potential, and evil's time is numbered.  We just have to expand, and reach, and become better and stronger and help the people around us to be as well.  The better we get, the closer we get to the perfect day when the vineyard isn't corrupt anymore.  Where we've learned to be Zion people, to have no poor among us, to truly love and lift and serve the people around us, and follow Christ's path.

Today, let's remember that the future is bright... that God is making room for us.  Let's determine to be part of the wave of good that will purify the vineyard, and not to be part of the evil that needs to be purged.  We have a choice: let's use it to help the Lord in his work.  Let's make the world better, and be our absolute best selves.  Let's promote good in everything we do and say and are.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Romans 13:10 -- On Love

"Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
Romans 13:10

I think we get confused sometimes about what love is.  We write songs about it and we claim to have experienced it, but so much of what we talk about is physical or superficial.  Even if we were only talking about romantic love, we range from believing in the teen vampire novel ideal of a love that drives us to suicide if we don't have it, and prevents us from making our own choices, or the popular song ideal of being willing to do anything just to sleep with someone, and having that somehow be a good and fulfilling way to live.  We think that love is just some obsessive crush that somehow lasts forever, always at that same height of emotion.  Except it isn't that... or if that is a part of it, it is a microscopic part of the whole that is true love.  Perhaps a brief crush gets us interested in someone, but after that there is a lot more involved.

When God talks about love, he isn't talking about something that is limited to romantic love, and he isn't talking about something that has "obsession" listed as a synonym.  He's talking about something deeper and more complex... something that takes time, and commitment, and energy.  The love that God advocates would never tempt us to sin, or encourage us to harm others.  It isn't what drives fornication and adultery.  Love and lust are not the same emotion.

When God asks us to love our neighbors as ourselves, he's talking about that sort of love that we have for ourselves, where we're willing to see our faults as temporary, notice our improvements, and keep trying.  The sort of love where we never write ourselves off as worthless, but we know that we are good down deep... we just need to keep working at it.  The sort of love that allows us to see reality, to know that we have a lot to improve, but still know that we matter to God, and that there is hope.  When we have that sort of love for others, we aren't blind to their faults, but we choose to live with them.  We focus on the good, and we see the positive and the beauty that is within us all.  We would never want to harm that person by tempting them to sin, or by pulling them down so that we can be higher.  We rejoice in their triumphs because we want to see them succeed and grow and flourish.  That's why love is the fulfilling of the law, because if we really, truly loved other people in God's way, we would probably never even argue with them... we'd love them so much that we would bend over backwards to see their point of view, and tell them our point of view so they could consider it... but we would always assume that they were doing the best they could, and still learning.

Let's remember that love fulfills all of God's laws, and stop and sort it from other emotions if we think that we are motivated to do something bad based on love.  Today, let's try to really love the people around us, whether they are romantic interests or not.  Let's work on really getting to know others and assume good intentions rather than getting defensive.  Let's also learn to love God, and get to know him as well.  He is what love is all about, and the more we get to know him, the more we will understand.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

D&C 88:123 -- On Imparting to One Another in Love

"See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:123

This is one of several verses in this section that give some awesome advice.  I chose this one today because I think this is one that is really hard for us.  It's hard not to want what someone else has.  It's often hard to give what we have to others.  And it is definitely difficult to love people sometimes.  We often do fairly well with our favorites, but what about all the rest?  How are we ever going to become a Zion people if we can't start living this principle for everyone, and not just our best friends?  We either have to make everyone our best friends, which might also be a good option, or we have to start loving our enemies, as Christ asked.

It's a tough one, because what about those people?... yeah *those* ones. :) If we have a group of people that we think of in this context, we probably need to work on this principle.  God asks us to love everyone, regardless of political stance, religion, or sexual preference.  He asks it regardless of race or immigration status.  He asks it regardless of sin or disability or wealth or laziness.  Even lawyers and telemarketers, and our superiors at work.

Today, let's work on loving more and coveting less.  Let's work on being generous to others, not just in financial ways, though that is important, but in giving our time, attention, and help to others in whatever ways that we can assist them.  Let's work on learning to be happy for others rather than jealous of their success.  As we do, God will bless us with more capacity to love than we now have, and we'll find happiness in relationships we never knew were possible, as we slowly become closer to the Zion people that God asks us to be.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

3 Nephi 21:23-25 -- On Meeting God in Person

"And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem.
And then shall they assist my people that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem.
And then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in the midst."
3 Nephi 21:23-25

What struck me today about these verses is the last part: "and I also will be in the midst."  I love that idea that God himself will come and join us, not only in the way that he is always a part of our lives, but his actual physical presence.  It reminds me of the story of his appearance earlier in 3 Nephi, and how people spent all night trying to get to where he would return the next day.  And really, who wouldn't, for an opportunity like that?

I love that we have something like that to look forward to... that there is hope amidst all of the chaos of life that something that momentous is coming.  Just that idea reminds me not to give up, and that there is a lot to work and prepare for.  Something that it would be so amazing to be a part of.

I'm not saying that God is going to come down tomorrow and help us build the New Jerusalem.  But I am saying, that soon or far off, we are all going to meet him in person, and that is a thought that should fill us with hope and motivation and joy.  And if it also brings a little fear, then let's clean up our lives, and move towards the joy side instead. :)  Today, let's look forward to that hope of the future, and make ourselves and the world around us just a little bit more ready for that day. :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ecclesiastes 4:6 -- On Quietness and a Handful

"Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit."
Ecclesiastes 4:6

I like the idea here that quietness and peace is a virtue.  That it is better to be satisfied with less, and have peace, than to introduce struggle and anxiety into our lives in order to get more.  Often we inaccurately think that "endure to the end" means that we have to endure pain and stress all our lives for a final peace after this life, but that isn't the case.  Mormon 9:14 tells us clearly that "he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still."  We need to make those choices to find happiness now.

This isn't to say that God doesn't want us to work, and it isn't extolling the virtues of being lazy, or suggesting that we give up on important things and just party all the time.  God definitely wants us to work and to learn and to progress in our lives.  But all progression isn't about stuff.  It isn't about having more than someone else, or being in competition and conflict with each other for limited resources.

Clearly, God would rather than we be at peace than be anxious and stressed out.  So, maybe part of our goal as we reach in for our handful in life, is to make sure that we balance our stress levels and our accomplishments.  If our job is setting us up for a heart attack, maybe it is time to get out.  If we've got our hands full, but we aren't happy, perhaps it is time to rethink.  Not rethink in an abandonment of family or the gospel way, of course, because that will make things worse.  But let's talk to God and figure out how we can manage our responsibilities and our lives in a better way.  Sometimes, as in the scripture, trading half our stuff for more peace is the best choice.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mormon 9:27-28 -- On Asking Wisely

"O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.
Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God."
Mormon 9:27-28

We've heard in other scriptures that we should ask, and it will be given.  In verse 21 of this same chapter it tells us that "whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him."  So, why don't things always work out the way we want them to?

Part of it I think it what it points out in these verses.  We doubt.  We aren't clean. We ask for the wrong reasons.  And sometimes, we read a couple of verses out of context of the gospel as a whole and we think that asking is all it takes.  Like Pizza delivery, but without even having to pay.  We think God is just going to show up with a delicious box of whatever we wanted.

To be clear, God is absolutely serious about his ask and it shall be given promise.  He doesn't lie.  We just get it wrong pretty often.  We aren't sure what we want, and even when we are, we often want the impossible... we want it on our own impatient timetable, without consequences, or effort, or we want something that hurts someone else (which runs into what *they* are asking), etc.  And often, we get it and later regret it.  Other times God helps us understand how much we *don't* want the consequences in time for us to retract our request.  Just like little kids, to get what we want we sometimes have to grow up a little, and realize that we can't handle the new puppy or the Fire Truck, and that we have to re-think.

Hopefully, over time, we realize that there are a lot of things that are more important to us, and to our families, and to the world, than those things that we used to want.  We change.  We refine our desires.  And those things, the ones that help people, the ones that bless other people's lives... the ones that promote happiness and peace... those are the ones that God is encouraging us to ask for.  If we want to learn something good, or do something good, or create something good, and we are willing to put in the time and the effort, and trust God's timing, God will be there every step of the way helping us get there.

Today, let's let go of our doubts, and believe.  Let's get to know God, and as we do, we'll know better and better what to ask for, and how to accomplish his purposes.  We'll know how to make ourselves and the world better, including our families and our other individual missions in life.  Let's learn from God, and ask for good things and not bad.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

2 Kings 6:15 -- On Fear and Hope and Unseen Assurance

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

This is part of a great story with a happy ending.  But I was thinking today that in our life stories we often stop right here at this verse and don't go on to read the rest, because we are so scared at the darkness surrounding us.

We are like Elisha's servant, just seeing the overwhelming army and not having any idea how to deal with it... not seeing any hope.  And yet, for him, and definitely for us, there IS hope... always.  It is all around us, even though we might not be able to see or even feel it.  God is there, unseen, to balance out every force arrayed against us, and to help us find the way out of the darkness.

Today, when we're freaking out about all the things that are going on around us that we don't think that we can face, let's remember that God is there to face them with us.  Let's stop and talk to him and let him help us get back to calm, and hope, and assurance that things are going to be okay... because they are.  As long as we stick with God, the happy ending is always the truth, whether we can see it or not.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

John 11:46-47 -- On Fearing Man More Than God

"Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.
If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation."
John 11:46-47

This is about the point where they decide in the New Testament to kill Christ. They were afraid of the Romans, and from a non-spiritual standpoint, maybe that makes total sense, but from a spiritual standpoint, probably the worst choice in history.

This is a very, very touchy subject, but let's step back for a minute and think about this, because I think we might be much more like the men who made these decisions than we think we are.

This situation seems like the epitome of the idea that comes across in D&C 3:7: "you should not have feared man more than God."  That scripture was given to Joseph Smith when he lost the 116 pages from the beginning of the Book of Mormon.  Moses had a similar crisis when he worried more about what the Children of Israel thought than what God thought.  ... And maybe we all have that problem sometimes.  Maybe even a lot.  Martha, earlier in this same chapter, knew that Jesus was the Christ, and she even told Christ that she knew that even after her brother Lazarus was dead, that God would give Christ anything he asked for (Luke 11:22), and yet, when Jesus asked that the stone be removed, she was still worried about the stink (John 11:39).

We all have things that we worry about more than we worry about God, and because we do, those things interfere with our Faith and with our relationship with God.  Today, let's think about what those things are, and let's start getting them out of the way.  God will support us through any fears, through any challenges, if we will put our trust in him, and put him first in our lives.  If we put something else first, then the consequences will vary, but we can be absolutely certain that we're going to make some awful decisions, just as these men did because they feared the Romans more than God.  Let's try to get our priorities straight, and when we come to the same kind of decisions, let's try to dismiss our fears, and trust that God knows what he is doing... because he definitely does. :)

Friday, August 12, 2016

Psalms 127:1 -- On Including the Lord

"Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."
Psalms 127:1

This is an interesting idea, and I think just interpreting it as our actions being pointless would be inaccurate.  The next verse does say that lots of our actions are vain/pointless, but I think this verse is pointing out why... they are pointless without God, not pointless period.  God is the essential ingredient in all that we do.  Just like baking a cake is utterly pointless if you don't have access to an oven--we need God, or our efforts will indeed be wasted.

Today, as we put effort into whatever we are working on, let's include God in the process.  Let's pray, and ask for his help and guidance.  Let's make sure that we are both on board for whatever goal we are working toward.  If God is not on board, then it would be wise to choose a different goal.  And if he is, then our work and our efforts are not wasted... especially our efforts in gaining God's help.  Everything he does is golden. :)  And everything we work with him to accomplish is worth every effort. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Alma 41:15 -- On Restoration and Compassion

"For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all."
Alma 41:15

I woke up thinking about a vacation that I took about 4 years ago with my sister, and it reminded me of this principle of restoration.  The trip was awesome--so many good things, and opportunities to see God's hand.  One thing right at the end was really bad though.  Our taxi driver coming back from the cruise ship was the worst I have *ever* seen.  He didn't have any idea where he was going, and then after wasting about 40 minutes, even when we finally got near my house and we told him to stop, he drove on past and wandered even more... I think just trying to further inflate the fare.  When we finally, after untold frustration, got to my apartment with less than 2 minutes for my sister to grab her things and say goodbye before catching her cab to the airport, he actually held her bags hostage in the trunk until I not only paid him, but I gave him a *tip.*  Needless to say, a very frustrating experience.

Today, looking back on that experience, I was reminded of another thing that had happened earlier in the trip.  We were in a hotel and found out that the internet that we paid for with the room was only good for one device.  We were far from home, and both wanted to get on and be able to check in on our regular lives.  So, making a conscious decision to be a jerk, I called up the front desk, and proceeded to rip into them for not only their internet policy, but for everything else... how they had advertised the hotel as being close to our destination when it wasn't really, etc.  And I was definitely not polite about it, to be clear.  I was doing it specifically to get access to another internet code, which I figured I wouldn't have to pay for if I complained enough.  Sure enough, I got it.  And at the time, I felt justified, and thought that the hotel owed me that.  Thinking about it later, and especially today though, I know that nothing could have justified me treating an innocent desk clerk in that way.

Thinking about these two experiences in concert made me think about restoration, because in truth, after being such a jerk, I probably deserved someone to be such a jerk to me.  I have no idea if that is the way God was thinking of it at the time, but whether it was or not, it is a good illustration of the idea of the whole thing.  Too often we just think about what bad things other people have done to us, and we kind of shrug off the ones we do to others, hoping they will just blow over, or no one will bring them up, or even, like me, thinking that we are justified.  Today, let's remember that what we send out will return to us, and that we are never justified in committing sin.  Let's do good and repent of our evil, so that we can have good restored to us.  And let's try to treat each other with a little more compassion, so that God can show us some as well. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Deuteronomy 24:16 -- On Grudges and Hatred

"The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin."
Deuteronomy 24:16

This is in the middle of a list of laws that were given in the Old Testament, and it is a good law as it stands... no punishing the family of a person for something that they didn't do.  Also, in a more abstract sense, it applies to the fall: "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression" (Articles of Faith 1:2).  As I was reading it today though, I was thinking of grudges, and feuds, and lifetimes of resentment.

Just as with the Lamanites and the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, we have bitterness and disharmony in our world today that stems from the past.  Some of the grudges span the continents.  Some of them are in our own backyards.  Some of them we are starting ourselves, as we avoid and disown our own family members, or hate our neighbors.

Whatever the issues between us, let's remember today to not start something that can get out of control.  Let's *never* indulge in hatred based on labels, or teach our children to hate certain kinds of people.  Let's instead try to heal and calm and unite.  Let's get to know each other as individuals, and let's resolve individual concerns and not participate in global discriminatory ones.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Luke 6:30-32 -- On Giving and Loving and Retaining the Spirit

"Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them."
Luke 6:30-32

These are some teachings of Christ.  I think some of them are somewhat less known probably because they are more difficult to do, and we don't tend to quote things that we are failing at. :)

The first thing here is to give to everyone who asks.  That's a pretty big one.  And then, if someone takes your stuff, don't ask for it back.  And then, treat people the way that we would want to be treated... clearly applied to people who are not treating us well.  And then to sum up, the emphasis on the need to love people who do not love us.  We tend to not like commandments like this, because we think that following them makes us gullible chumps that anyone can take advantage of.  But this is Christ himself asking this, right?  I don't think that his goal was to make us into the laughingstock of the scammer world, or to encourage us to bankrupt ourselves.  So, what is he asking?

Mosiah 4:24 tells us what to do when we don't have enough to give, so God isn't asking us to give more than we have, and I think that it also implies that we should be giving to people who have a need, not that we have to give to people who do not have a need, or invest in every scam that we hear about.  This doesn't mean that rich people don't have needs, or that Christ wants us to pass up a beggar on the street because we assume that he or she is a charlatan, or refuse to give because we have a mortgage and it could technically be argued that we don't "have" extra, even though we spend extra on ourselves.  But it probably does mean that we don't have to donate to every telemarketer or direct-mail charity, or Nigerian prince, that asks for our money.

On not asking to get our stuff back when it is taken... I think this is a hard but wise commandment and that it is all about our own peace.  If someone does scam us or wrong us in some way, the injustice of the whole thing can eat away at us, and all we think about is making it right.  And if we're prompted by the spirit, sometimes taking legal action might be the right thing to do, in order to prevent other people from suffering as well.  But often "making it right" isn't going to happen, and the effort and stress isn't going to help anyone.  So God asks us in general to accept the loss and move on.  God will make things right, and he will bless us abundantly.  No matter what goods we lost, it can be okay as we let go of our bitterness and trust in God.

Treating people well and loving them even when they do not love us or treat us well is perhaps the most difficult.  Sometimes we can muster up the action, but the sincerity part is hard to get.  ... Perhaps that is true of all of these commandments, in fact.  Doing as Christ asks, sincerely and with Faith and Love is challenging if we feel torn by giving, or being stolen from, or treated badly, or disrespected.  But let's remember how much Christ suffered at the hands of others, and was still generous, still kept his temper, still showed love, still behaved himself perfectly.  He showed us the example that our peace and our love and our well-being aren't based in what happens to us externally, but it is based on who we *are* internally, and that in turn is based on our relationship with God, and him teaching us to be better and better people.

Today, let's work on that internal peace that it takes to obey these less-popular commandments.  Let's give, and love, and refuse to allow other people or external events to destroy our ability to feel the spirit... which is exactly why Christ gave us these commandments in the first place. :)

Monday, August 8, 2016

2 Nephi 21:3 -- On Learning God's Perspective

"And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears."
2 Nephi 21:3

This is Jacob quoting Isaiah, a prophecy about Christ.  I like the ideas here about the fear of the Lord, and not judging by eyes and ears.  I think fear largely means respect here, not being afraid of, but respecting, honoring, and building a relationship with Heavenly Father.  This is definitely something that is important in all of our lives, and partly for the reasons that are stated later... we deceive ourselves sometimes by trusting our eyes and ears more than we trust God.  We believe too much in despair and in sadness and in corruption and inequity already.  We don't need to believe in it more because we see it every day.  Instead, we need to trust God who can teach us to see the goodness, happiness, love, and hope in the world.  He can teach us to *be* that hope, and through him we can see light and miracles.

Today, let's walk in the footsteps of Christ, and place our trust not in our own senses and emotions, but in God, who grants us a greater perspective.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Psalms 89:14 -- On Justice and Mercy

"Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face."
Psalms 89:14

I find it interesting that God is the symbol and epitome of both justice and mercy. We have big fights over those things in our society.  We take sides, thinking that we have to choose one or the other... enforce justice, or show mercy.  Often political issues and even political parties become divided over these ideals, *both* of which are important and eternal.

God can embody both of these virtues because of the Atonement.  Christ fulfills every demand of justice, so that he can offer us another chance, and give us the gift of repentance: the opportunity to overcome our sins and change our lives rather than having to face justice for what we've done.  We can choose whether or not to accept Christ as our new creditor and apply his atonement to our lives. His terms are generous and gentle.  He only wants us to improve ourselves, and change from our sinful ways.

As in our spiritual lives, perhaps some of our individual and societal problems need approaches that blend justice and mercy.  We desperately need both in our lives, and in our world.  Today, let's take a step back and think about our decisions in terms of the application of both justice and mercy.  Let's show kindness and teach responsibility.  Let's be generous as well as encouraging self-reliance.  Let's be just and merciful to others, and let's also be just and merciful to ourselves by repenting and taking the gift that Christ has offered us and use it to repent and become our best selves.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

2 Corinthians 11:30 -- On Awesome Infirmities

"If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities."
2 Corinthians 11:30

Paul must be crazy, right?  Why would anyone glory in infirmity... in weaknesses and limitations and inabilities?  Aren't those the things that are the hardest to bear in life?  And yet, in thinking about it, and reading more about what Paul means in the next chapter, specifically verses 7-10, I think I am starting to understand.  Maybe that makes me crazy too. :)

Some things that Paul likes about infirmities are that they help us to be humble, and our weaknesses give us a chance to rely on God's strength.  In my life, I think those things are very true.  I know that I have learned the very most about relying on God at times in my life when I was completely out of my depth and had no idea how to handle things alone.  And although it is sometimes painful and embarrassing, when my weaknesses are clear to others, I learn a lot about love, and mercy, and trust, and unity.

Today, let's take a step back and recognize that God has given us weaknesses and infirmities truly as gifts.  If we were good at everything, we'd likely just all become smug idiots.  But instead, we all need each other.  Not just to make up for other people's mistakes, but to have compassion, to give us another chance, to help us learn about love and trust and service and being truly good.  We are often our best selves when we need to ask for help, and those times help us to learn to have compassion on others when they are in similar situations.  Let's thank God for our infirmities, and that they often bring us to have a better relationship with other people, and especially with God.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Proverbs 18:6-8 -- On Foolishness and Self-Destruction

"A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.
A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly."
Proverbs 18:6-8

This struck me this morning, just because it seems like we do these things so often.  We argue, we say that someone deserves a punch in the eye (or is that just me?), and we tell stories about people and negatively influence how other people perceive them.  These verses tell us that when we do things like this, we are destroying ourselves, and laying snares for our own souls.  Which, translated, means... not good. :)

Today, perhaps we can watch our lips and mouths a little bit more closely, and perhaps even work a little bit on our attitudes so that not only are we saying those things less, but maybe even thinking them less.  Let's try not to be foolish. Let's work on respecting and loving people more, and talking about and arguing with them less.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

3 Nephi 6:12-14 -- On Unity and Equality

"And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.
Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God.
And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up; yea, insomuch that in the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith; and they would not depart from it, for they were firm, and steadfast, and immovable, willing with all diligence to keep the commandments of the Lord."
3 Nephi 6:12-14

This is not long after the entirety of the Nephite people had gathered together to outlast the Gadianton robbers.  Miraculously, they prevailed, and survived the huge threat to their society, way of life, and their religion.  And then, here, only a few years later, they start destroying themselves.

We're similar, aren't we?  If we face an overwhelming battle with something obviously evil, we tend to find like-minded people and band together, and we usually find the strength and the conviction to step up and work at overcoming it together.  But when Satan is more subtle, and he starts pitting us against one another with wealth and status, we fall for it.

It is interesting to me not just that inequality ate away at the core of their society, but that it also broke up the church itself.  Inequality and division aren't external problems for other people to worry about.  They are things that affect us all, and that we have to learn to overcome if we ever want to learn to be Zion-type people and be worthy of a Zion-type society, with no poor among us.

The big question is how to combat inequality, isn't it?  That's one thing that I love about the temple.  When you go there, everyone wears the same things, and you can't tell who is rich and poor.  You can't tell who has a PhD and who doesn't.  And maybe it should be a little bit more that way in our own lives.  There are obviously times when we need to use our education or wealth to do good in the world, or fulfill our responsibilities.  But we often go much, much further, using both as trophies or status symbols, showing other people how cool we are, and we illustrate, by what we wear and how we live, our supposed superiority.  We even go further sometimes, and actually believe that all the people who do not have what we do just didn't bother to earn it, rather than realizing that many are separated from a similar level of success by lack of opportunity.

On the other end of the spectrum, many of us see inequality as pure chance, and don't feel like we should have to work in order to have something... that the world, or the government, or our parents, owe us a living.  Sometimes we even thing God should take care of us rather than us having to work to take care of ourselves.  We think that success often comes along through a lottery ticket or a good guess at the casino, so why not us?  Or maybe we'll just marry into it... no reason to work for it if it is just random.  And those people who are earning most of the money by oppressing all of us working stiffs... they are the real problem.

The problem with inequality is that we often really, really believe in it.  We think that it really does make one person better and another worse.  On some level we believe that that is how this game of life is scored.  And yet God tells us a different story.  In his parable of the talents for instance, people were given different amounts.  To some, many talents are given, and to others almost nothing.  What mattered in the parable, and what matters in our lives, is not who has the most, but what we do with what we have.

Today, let's be thankful to God for the blessings that we have and do everything we can with them to make ourselves better and to build a better world.  Let's not covet the gifts of others, or claim superiority over any other person.  Let's fight inequality with generosity and love.  We all have different things, but we are all children of God with potential and possibility.  Even if we only have one talent, let's get out there and use it for good.  Let's work at unity and equality, and try to avoid the same breakdown that the Nephites suffered.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

3 Nephi 12:22-24 -- On Overcoming Anger

"But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—
Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you."
3 Nephi 12:22-24

These verses are part of a lesson that Christ taught the Nephites which is very similar to the Sermon on the Mount (See Matthew 5:22-24).  Reading both versions this morning, different things jumped out at me.  One of them is that being angry is never something that we should embrace or pursue.  It happens, yes, and sometimes we might not be able to prevent it because we're not in control of our emotions enough... but wherever we can stop it, we should.  Escalating the situation and harming relationships is never the right choice, no matter what we have tied up in it.

Although at the moment it feels important and even paramount, when we lose our tempers, it doesn't matter whether we're right, partially right, or dead wrong.  What matters is that we couldn't control our emotions, and we feel like lashing out rather than remaining calm.  Instead, figuring out what triggered the incident and working to dial ourselves back, taking the time and the space to breathe and get ourselves under control again is priority number one.  These verses make it clear that not only does anger mess us up, but it gets in the way of our relationship with God.  Conflict and hatred have to be out of our hearts and minds if we want to make wise decisions and be able to commune with and confer with God.

Today, let's work to remove any anger that is lingering in our hearts and minds towards anyone else.  Let's be strong enough and humble enough to let it go, and resolve any contention we have with others.  Life without anger and hatred is a dream worth working for.  Let's find a way to remove the painful distractions from our lives, learn to give and to love, and most of all, learn how to approach God with nothing weighing on our souls or consciences.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

D&C 9:8-11 -- On Effort and Opportunity

"But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.
Now, if you had known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now.
Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now;"
Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-11

This is God speaking to Oliver Cowdery, explaining why he was having trouble translating, and why he didn't need to anymore.  I am sure that there are some things in here that Oliver wasn't very happy to hear, and as we apply these ideas to our own lives, some that we don't really want to hear either.  But I also think that God offers us a lot of wisdom and perspective here that might help us avoid pitfalls in our lives.

One thing that we often don't want to hear is how much things depend on us--on our efforts and our choices.  It is very tempting to feel like all we have to do is lay all of our troubles on the Lord, and he will take care of everything.  And certainly, with faith, the Lord can fight battles for us.  However, God also wants us to learn, and so he isn't going to just do things for us that we can do for ourselves.  He steps in when we have no power to go on and we need to recharge, not just because we'd rather sit on the couch.  Life and faith and the gospel take real effort.  We have to study, research, and work to do the right things, and to become better than we are.  If God just did everything for us, what would be the point of this life at all?  We would learn nothing, and become nothing.

Another thing that we rarely want to hear is that "the time is past" and we've missed an opportunity.  We rage against this idea, thinking somehow that the idea is unfair in light of the idea of repentance.  And yet, the ideas are compatible.  There are permanent consequences to our actions, associated with lost opportunities.  That doesn't mean that we can't be bright and new and completely forgiven, but it does mean that maybe we can't go back and re-make a choice, or un-break a trust, or take advantage of an opportunity that we used to have.  It's a hard thing to hear when God tells us that the time is past and whatever we really wanted to do or learn is no longer expedient.  But in this, as in all else, the Lord knows best, and he also prepares ahead of time, knowing what will happen.  There will be other opportunities, and other potential and possibilities to learn and grow and become who we need to be. We can't go back, but we can, and should, go forward, at peace with the past potential that is no more, and trusting that the Lord will bless us abundantly.

Today, let's remember to let go of the past, and invest in and work for the future.  Let's do everything we can to be ready the next time that God grants us an opportunity, and let's jump in and do everything we can to keep it and to make it grow.  Let's listen to God and trust him, knowing that he will never leave us without comfort, or hope, or at the end of a tragedy.  The happy ending is coming, even if it isn't what we expected at first.  It will still be better than we can imagine, guaranteed.

Monday, August 1, 2016

D&C 38:24-25 -- On Esteem and Potential

"And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me.
And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself."
Doctrine and Covenants 38:24-25

When God says things twice in a row, it seems like he is trying to emphasize a lesson.  So, I was thinking about this "esteem his brother as himself" thing, and two things kind of struck me.  One, that we don't really give other people the same kind of leeway that we give ourselves, and also that, in some cases, we are harder on ourselves than other people.

The esteem thing seems to go both ways, right?  We need to have esteem for others, and we need to have esteem for ourselves.  Esteem doesn't equal arrogance or pridefulness or selfishness, but a healthy realization that we are children of God with real potential.  On the other side, esteeming others means realizing that they are as well... children of God with amazing potential.  People who have value, and are worth loving and saving, just like we are.

Just like self-esteem can be confused with pride, I think that we can confuse humility with low self-esteem, and think that being down on ourselves is somehow a good, righteous thing, when it is nothing of the sort.  It's excellent to realize that we have faults, and things to work on, but as Ezra Taft Benson advised: "Realize your personal self-worth. Never demean yourself."  It's not okay to keep putting ourselves down.  It is an offense to God, in fact, to claim that we are not worth the time and effort that he has put into our lives.

Yes, indeed, you might bring up the fact that we are also told in scripture that we are "less than the dust of the earth" to justify some self-defeating behaviors.  However, unfortunately, totally not what that scripture is going for.  We have some massive obedience problems (dust is better at it than we are).  We need to work on that, but God doesn't want us to think of ourselves as sluggish pond scum.  He wants us to stand up and prove that we aren't.  He wants us to be humble and counsel with him in all that we do.  He doesn't want us to curl up into a ball and believe that we can't accomplish anything.

Today, let's realize that God wants us to love ourselves and other people.  Not one more than the other, but both equally.  He wants us to take care of ourselves and learn how to come to him, and he wants us to love other people enough to help them to do the same.  He doesn't want *any* potential wasted or lost, and he isn't condemning any of us to hell ahead of time and saying that life is hopeless.  It *isn't* ... and he will show us how to regain hope and find our way to him even now, if we go to him in sincere prayer.  Please, please don't give up.  Don't give up on yourself.  Don't give up on others.  Let's trust God, and believe that he can help us all find our way to him.

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