Friday, June 30, 2017

Psalms 41:1-2 -- On Considering the Poor

"Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.
The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies."
Psalms 41:1-2

Another good reminder that God blesses us as we bless others.  When we work to make the world a better place and love other people, we are doing his work and building Zion... and that's the whole point, right?  To keep the good increasing so that God clear away the bad, like in the allegory of the olive trees.

Sometimes it seems like a chore to go out of our way for others.  It's time and effort and money and so many other things that we could be using for things that we might need just as much, or that perhaps we would appreciate more, or use more wisely.  And I guess that those things could be true sometimes... maybe if we tracked that good deed, it would come to nothing in the end.  But, as with all of God's commandments, the point isn't necessarily the obvious one, which might be to make someone less poor.  There are many points, and one of them is to teach *us* some generosity and compassion without expectation of return.  Exactly as God is generous and compassionate to us.

God has told us that inasmuch as we do things (or don't do them) to other people, we have effectively done those things (or not done those things) to God.  That's a pretty dramatic statement, and considering the atonement that Christ suffered, perhaps a very literal one.  God has felt the pains and the suffering of his people, including us, but also including those that we harm in any way.  If we help instead of harm, God takes that personally as well.  Reducing the suffering in the world, and improving our own behavior in the process... that's a win-win-win, for us, the person we help, and for God, who loves both of us and wants to see us all succeed.

Today, let's consider the poor.  Let's help wherever we can, and build each other up with love and hope and kindness.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Isaiah 58:8-10 -- On Answers from God and Brightening our Darkness

"Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
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:"
Isaiah 58:8-10

These verses (and a lot of the chapter) are talking about doing good to others, and how the Lord rewards people who are sincerely good to others.

Light, health, righteousness, God watching our backs... this all sounds amazing, doesn't it?  I think the next part teaches us something about prayer as well.  It says that if we do these things, then if we call or cry, the Lord will answer, and comfort us.  That's a super important principle, because it can sometimes feel like our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling.  One thing that can help us get through is sincerely helping others who are hungry or otherwise afflicted.  If we help his children, then God is way more willing to listen to and help us in return... not because he suddenly likes us more, but because of the whole law of restoration thing that we have read about before.  Whatever we give to others, and whatever choices we make in life, those are the same things that we will get back.

I really like the part about our lights rising in obscurity and our darkness being as the noonday.  We all have darkness in our lives sometimes, but if noon is as dark as it gets... wow.  That would be amazing.  Something to work for.

Today, let's draw out our souls and share with others.  Let's help the hungry and the afflicted.  By helping others, we brighten ourselves.  Let's remember that as we give to others, God will give to us, and let's continue to learn to love and give more and more as we learn to be Zion people.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Luke 7:33-35 -- On Being Wise and Open-Minded

"For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
But wisdom is justified of all her children."
Luke 7:33-35

I don't think that I ever really registered the third verse of this selection before.  I always read it as a commentary on how people were going to criticize you no matter what you did, but with verse 35 included in my thinking today, it seems to be more than that.

Maybe the point here is that, whatever our choices, we need to be wise... and of course, living the gospel is being wise, but the gospel doesn't force us to all be the same.  It requires obedience to God's commandments, yes, but we can be extremely different people and still wisely live the gospel.  We don't all have to be on the same diet or have the same friends, or listen to the same music, or wear the same clothes, or have the same hairstyle, etc.  We just need to avoid things that are harmful to us, serve the Lord, and love other people.

Maybe we too often think that people need to be more like we are in order to be wise, and approved of God, when actually wisdom is justified of all her children, meaning that there is some vast variety in being wise, and that is okay.  Today, let's of course make sure we are keeping the commandments, and not compromise in that regard, but let's also try to remember the differences between Christ and John the Baptist, and be a little bit more open-minded about the different ways that we all choose to serve.  All are welcome, and needed, in the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

2 Nephi 29:11-12 -- On God's Word and Writing It

" For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it."
2 Nephi 29:11-12

This is a good reminder that we should be open to revelation and truth from many geographic sources, since the Lord speaks to people in "all nations of the earth," but it seems to also be a very strong encouragement to us to write down our spiritual experiences.  I've been writing a lot about Nephi over on my other blog lately, and it keeps striking me how much his voice is like a time traveler: an encouraging voice from the past, coming to us and warning us about the future and helping us prepare.  We've never met, but it feels like we know each other and have talked over the distances of time and space.  And he wrote because God commanded him to write down the things of the spirit.

What would it be like if we all did as Nephi did, and wrote down the things of the spirit in our lives?  The miracles, the ways that God helped us learn faith and obedience, and overcome discouragement and seemingly insurmountable obstacles?  It would make us time travelers in a sense, like Nephi, able to visit the future and talk to our descendants and perhaps even encourage strangers to greater faith and devotion.  Wow, right?

Today, let's be open to God's word wherever it may be found, and let's write it.  Let's listen to God and start writing the things that he asks us to.  Let's keep journals, and record the amazing events in our lives, especially the spiritual things, and how our testimonies have been built.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Psalms 121:2 -- On the Way to Powerful Help

"My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth."
Psalms 121:2

I love this.  When we go to the Lord for help, sometimes we don't really believe that he can deliver--that maybe we're in too deep and there is no way out of our mistakes or our suffering.  But God made the heavens and the earth.  He is the source of all truth and light.  No matter how complicated our problems are, they are easy, to him.  He can, and will, help us as we pray to him with patience and faith for deliverance.

Today, let's do as the Lord asks and trust that he knows what's what. :)  He wants to save us and to heal us, and to lead us into all joy.  But he won't force us--we have to choose to do as he asks in order to receive all the blessings that he has waiting.  Let's not underestimate the Lord's power to deliver.  Instead, let's believe and choose his way.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Judges 17:1-4 -- On Making Things Right

"And there was a man of amount Ephraim, whose name was Micah.
And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it. And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the Lord, my son.
And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the Lord from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee.
Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah."
Judges 17:1-4

This is an interesting story.  Micah is introduced here to explain a couple of things that he does later, but his mother seems to be introduced only for this story.  Micah comes to his mother and tells her that he was the one that took the very significant amount of money that was stolen from her.  He gives it back, and she tells him that she was saving it for him anyway, giving him permission to keep it, but he gives it back anyway, and she takes part of it and has a gift made for him anyway.

This is a complicated situation for people that care about each other.  They both want to preserve the relationship, but there are difficult things to say on both sides.  I think that it is amazing that the first thing the mother says after he confesses is "blessed be thou of the Lord."  Perhaps she already knew that he did it, and is grateful that he finally admitted it, and that he is trying to be honest and change... but even so, it's a very kind way to respond to a confession about something so personal, and that likely had harmed her financial situation deeply.  It's also remarkable that Micah returns the money anyway, even after being given permission to keep it.  He had been affected by what he had done, and learned his lesson so well that he wasn't willing to leave his mother without her savings.  Seems like a sign of true repentance to me.

Interestingly, some men steal from Micah in the next chapter, and Micah chases them, but when they threaten his life and the lives of his household, he backs down and goes home (Judges 18:25-26).  We can't be certain, of course, but he may have learned from his mother that family is more important than property, and thus not been so obsessed with worldly possessions that he put his family in danger.

Today, let's think about the lesson of Micah and his mother.  Let's make things right in our relationships.  Let's remember that people are more important than things--not just at home.  Let's learn to love and forgive, and also learn to repent when we need to.  Maybe it won't always go as well as it did between Micah and his mother, but the repentance has to happen before the relationship has any chance of healing.  Let's work on making things right, with others and with the Lord.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Acts 18:24-26 -- On Talent and Humility

"And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly."
Acts 18:24-26

The man they are talking about here had part of the truth of the gospel, and they helped him to learn more of it, and he became a powerful missionary.  I love the way he is described here.  Eloquent is good, but "mighty in the scriptures" is amazing.

Sometimes we look at others who have talents like this and we think, wow.  I wish I was blessed with such a gift. :)  However, just like Nephi was able to inquire of the Lord to see what his father saw, we can seek gifts from God that will help us to be strong in the gospel.  Nephi sought revelation and understanding, and was granted both.  Being eloquent and mighty in the scriptures are things that we can seek as well.  It takes effort, of course, but we can all have those things in our lives if we seek them from God.

It's important to remember too, that even if we have cool talents like eloquence and extensive scriptural knowledge, we still have a lot to learn.  I love that this man, as talented as he already was, was still willing to listen and to be corrected.  He could have so easily allowed pride to get in his way, but instead he listened, and he learned, and he continued his good work in a better direction and with a better knowledge.  Nothing is so perfect that we can't learn it a little "more perfectly." :)

Today, let's seek the gifts that God offers us, and let's also work on our humility.  No matter how cool we are, we still have things to learn, and it is really difficult to learn them if we think that we're already ideal. :)  If we can't think of anything we need to change, then let's ask God.  It probably won't be a fun revelation, but I guarantee that God will help us to know something we need to work on if we ask. :)

Friday, June 23, 2017

1 Nephi 19:24 -- On Seeing Ourselves in the Scriptures

"Wherefore I spake unto them, saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off; hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off; for after this manner has the prophet written."
1 Nephi 19:24

I like the idea here of likening the scriptures unto us.  I think sometimes the stories in the scriptures seem distant or impossible because they are set in a very different setting than we are used to, and this idea can help bring the meaning and the impact that we need to really appreciate and learn from God's word.  When Jonah gets swallowed by the whale, it's like us, despairing because we made a wrong choice, and praying for another chance.  Lehi's dream is all of us, lost, trying to make our way to God, and all the distractions and the pleading and the hope of watching others make bad choices and wanting to help them.  And every story is like that.  The scriptures are for our lives now, not just for a few individuals a long time ago.

Today, let's take Nephi's advice and liken the scriptures to us.  Let's imagine how all these things work in our lives, and listen as though every verse was directed to us.  Let's work to hear not just what God had to say back then, but what God is sayng now, in our own lives.  It is there, in the scriptures, if we listen for it, and as we pray and study and learn to see ourselves in the scriptures, we'll understand more what God wants us to do in our lives.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Isaiah 55:8-9 -- On Higher Perspective and Seeing the Amazing

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9

This is always a good reminder... not in a "I'm better than you are" way, though God obviously is.  He's a parent, and we are the children.  We have the potential to be like him, but the important reminder is that we aren't there yet, and we really need his help to figure things out, and become the people that we want to be, not forgetting of course that, with his help, we can be anything.

We limit ourselves so much when we think of the possibilities of life.  Not just through cynicism or focusing on negative things, but also in our imagination of what is possible and what God can do--and what we can do with his help.  We read about miracles in the scriptures, but how many of us really believe that miracles can and will happen to *us*?  Can we imagine opening our doors and finding a Liahona?  Do we believe that the same God who helped the prophets is standing close, ready to help us as well?  Significantly, do we teach our own doubt to others?  I think we all do, sometimes.  And that's scary, isn't it?  Our society doesn't need more cynicism.  It needs more hope.

God's ways and thoughts aren't just higher because he's smarter and stronger in a way-better-than-superhero sort of a way, but also, God can see the light in everything... the goodness, the truth, the potential... the beauty.  He sees the amazing in everything, including us.  And because of that, he can teach us to see it too, in ourselves and in others.  He can teach us to walk on water, figuratively and also literally, right?  Peter started to learn that.  Maybe we need to get through Faith 101 first, but I am certain that if we keep at it, we'll get to take that class too. :)

Today, let's try to emulate God in our thoughts.  Let's hope.  Let's see the amazing.  Let's *be* amazing. :)  And when we're tempted to doubt and despair, let's look to God and ask him to remind us of the good.  He will.  Let's have faith and trust in God's higher perspective.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2 Nephi 2:11 -- On Opposition and Choosing Good

"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility."
2 Nephi 2:11

The idea of opposition in all things is sometimes hard to understand, I think because we're so used to the world the way it is that we can't really imagine what it would be like if opposition didn't exist.  I think the movie Shadowlands explains it a little bit.  In the movie, Joy says that the pain Jack will feel when she dies is part of the happiness that they have now--that's the deal.  I think we can all relate to that on some level.  We can't have joy, or even understand what joy is, without understanding sorrow, and the other way around too.  They are necessary to each other on a very basic level.

They say ignorance is bliss, but it really isn't, is it?  It only becomes bliss in retrospect, when you wish you could go back to not knowing, or envy someone who hasn't gone through what you have.  Before, you didn't really feel anything about it, because you didn't understand the good or the bad.  It's like Adam and Eve.  Until they fell, they couldn't really accomplish any good works or progress, because they didn't understand any of it.  The tree of knowledge of Good and Evil *couldn't* have been a tree of just the knowledge of either one.  It had to be both.  There is no good without bad.  If everything is good, then there is nothing to compare to, and the words have no meaning.

When I was a kid, I remember asking my mom what we were having to eat and she said "cabbage."  I had no idea what cabbage was.  All I had to go on was the word itself... and the word sounded bad to me, so I told her I didn't like it.  Turns out, I love cabbage, but without a knowledge of it, I couldn't know that it was good... or bad.

God takes a side.  He is Light, and Truth, and Goodness.  But he couldn't be those things if darkness, falsehood, and evil didn't exist, and to be like him, we have to understand what those bad things are, so we can move forward with becoming good. :)  That doesn't mean we should jump in and wallow in the bad, and it doesn't mean that Good doesn't triumph in the end.  We know it does.  But we have to have this Earthly experience partly to understand that concept, and to get a chance to choose for ourselves what we want to become.  Today, let's remember that what we choose is who we become, and choose the good.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Proverbs 5:21-23 -- On Escaping Ourselves and Seeking Instruction

"For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings.
His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.
He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray."
Proverbs 5:21-23

I think this is an interesting reminder of how God punishes us.  God sees and understands everything that we do, and the consequences of not listening to God is not a lightning bolt to the chest or something dramatic and earth-shattering, but instead being "without instruction," and suffering from our own poor choices.  It may not seem like a bad consequence when we're starting down the path of sin, but I think as we get farther in, we realize how very much we don't want to suffer the consequences that we have freely chosen.

Luckily, God wants us to turn around and repent, and he will do all that he can to help save us from our own folly, if we turn to him and do what it takes to clean up our lives.  Today, let's resolve to escape the cords of sin and our own folly, and turn to the Lord, who knows all our ways, and can see the way out, even in the worst of sins or the depths of addiction.  Let's not die without instruction, but instead pray for it will all our hearts.  As we do so, the Lord will teach us, and guide us, and help us to escape the traps that we have set for ourselves through obedience to the gospel.

Monday, June 19, 2017

1 Peter 1:3 -- On Lively Hope

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,"
1 Peter 1:3

I love the idea of a "lively hope."  When we try to live without God, life can get pretty bad.  We slog through and wonder why everything seems to go wrong all the time.  But God allows us to let that old, hopeless self die, and to be reborn through him... unto a lively hope, because we know that because Christ was resurrected, we can be too.  This life isn't even close to the end, and there is no reason to fear what this life can do to us, because we know that God has something better waiting.

Today, let's try to capture that lively hope in our lives, and not let life bog us down.  Let's give thanks to God and focus on the good and making things better.  Let's strive for the good, and no matter how bad things get, let's rise above it.  We can do anything with God's help.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Psalms 34:19 -- On Afflictions and Deliverance

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all."
Psalms 34:19

A short but very interesting verse.  The first part tells us that righteous people have many afflictions.  This is absolutely true, and perhaps obvious, but I think important to point out.  Sometimes we talk ourselves into believing that good people have perfect lives, and nothing bad happens to them, and that's a dangerous belief.  If an obstacle comes and we're going through a bad or uncertain phase, that can cause us to become discouraged or overwhelmed--to think that bad things are happening to us *because* we are bad, or that the challenges we face are punishments from God, and *he* thinks we're slimy, and we have no chance.  And if we're doing well, it can cause us to believe that something is broken because we did everything right and something bad still happened, and we start blaming God for our problems because it certainly wasn't us.  Dangerous thinking, either way.

The truth is, as the verse says, that afflictions happen to everyone.  In Lehi's dream the mist of darkness came to everyone.  Life is a test, and just like any test, we have to take it whether we've been studying or not. :)  The cool thing about God though is that he keeps letting us retake the hard parts until we get them right. :)  Repentance is a miracle.

It seems to me that the true difference, in the end, between the wicked and the righteous will be just that the righteous kept trying to get better, and were persistent and patient enough to reach the point where they could be delivered, instead of giving up.  The Lord will deliver us and answer our prayers, and strengthen us, and eventually get us to that happy ending that awaits us all, if we keep learning and progressing.  Today, let's remember not to give up in the middle of the book thinking there is no hope.  There is *always* hope.  Afflictions will definitely come, but if we stick with it, and keep doing as God asks, we'll he will help us find the path to hope, and joy, and deliverance.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ether 2:8-9 -- Progressing Post-Promised Land

"And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.
And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity."
Ether 2:8-9

We talk sometimes about the Lord guiding people to the promised land, but these verses are about already being in the promised land.  Both symbolically and literally, our journey doesn't end when we reach the promised land.  It's certainly a milestone and an amazing accomplishment, but just like baptism or marriage or graduation... great achievements are also lead-ins to new beginnings.  It isn't the end of the story yet--only the beginning of a new chapter.  It reminds me of the scripture "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" (Luke 12:48).  We can accomplish much and be blessed abundantly, but there is more to do.

In a literal sense, this scripture is about the physical land where the Jaredites lived, which was somewhere in the Americas.  This scripture could also be literal or figurative in our own lives concerning what the Lord has given us or sent us to do.  The journey to those destinations is tough, but once we are there, like Nephi reaching his promised land, it might be sort of a wilderness that we have to tame and build up ourselves.  All that effort to get there, and then more hard work.  ... This shouldn't discourage us though.  God isn't just throwing more and more at us until we get overwhelmed.  He gives us more only when he sees that we can handle it--when we're ready for the next lesson.  Some people might not get past every hurdle in life, but for the ones that do, God has more to teach.  Maybe we'll never learn to play the trombone, or speak German, or write a book, but if we start, we have a basis upon which to build, so that we can learn more and get better.  It's the same with the gospel.  The more we learn, the more we are able to learn, little by little.  Not to discourage us, but to teach us in stages that we can grasp.

When we are in the promised land, we have to keep progressing by remaining faithful and diligent.  We can't stop practicing or learning or we'll regress. In order to keep moving forward, we have to keep doing as God asks and growing in our understanding of the principles of the gospel.  Otherwise, we get booted out of the promised land, and lose the opportunities that we had from getting that far.  Today, let's keep traveling--to the promised land if that is where we are in our journey--and if we're already there, let's keep reaching for all that God offers us, and never stop improving. :)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Abraham 1:15-16 -- On Strange and Wonderful Lands

"And as they lifted up their hands upon me, that they might offer me up and take away my life, behold, I lifted up my voice unto the Lord my God, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and he filled me with the vision of the Almighty, and the angel of his presence stood by me, and immediately unloosed my bands;
And his voice was unto me: Abraham, Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee away from thy father’s house, and from all thy kinsfolk, into a strange land which thou knowest not of;"
Abraham 1:15-16

Reading this today, I was struck by the fact that God introduces himself to Abraham.  This is something we see elsewhere in the scriptures as well, but not something that I had really thought of before.  He also delivers Abraham from death, and tells him that he is going to take him away from everything he knows and send him to a "strange land."

This sounds pretty similar to other things that we read in the scriptures as well, if we switch out strange for promised.  ... And really, even though God is willing to lead us all to a promised land, it almost always is *also* strange, at least to us, or we would have gone there on our own.  We usually have to learn a lot before we can go, and before we can understand why it is better than where we were before.

Today, let's remember that God is willing to introduce himself to all of us.  He wants to build that friendship.  He is also willing to save us all, as he did Abraham, and to lead us all to strange and wonderful places where we can find more joy and happiness.  Let's work for that today, and be willing to take God up on his offer and follow where he leads. :)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mark 11:22-24 -- On Faith and Doubt and Prayer

"And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
Mark 11:22-24

This is an interesting lesson that Christ is teaching Peter about Faith requiring doubtless belief.  It's insanely cool, but can also be sort of discouraging, because we are often filled with doubt, and even as we learn to trust God and have faith, it difficult to get to a point where there is no doubt, because it isn't just the God of all perfection involved here, but we are too, and we rarely have perfect faith in what we are asking, because we don't know if it is what God wants or not, or whether we should be solving our problems a different way, or whether that mountain really would look better in the other place.  ... Okay, that last one was a joke.  It *obviously* would look better. :)

So, how do we get to that point, where we could actually move a mountain... symbolically if not figuratively?  (Oh yeah, this is my blog so I have to answer my own question.  Darn.)  Okay... let's see... :)

I think the way is practice.  We probably would rather just be blessed with perfect faith, but unfortunately it is something we have to work on over time.  We start small, maybe with the car keys or finding our kids who have run off in the supermarket.  Not small to us in the moment though, because we're stressed and worried and we really need the blessing.  And so we ask, and because we can't solve the problem ourselves, we have that sincere heart and real intent that it talks about in Moroni 10:4.  Even in our small hour of need, we've discovered the pattern, and God answers our prayers, and we know he did, and our tiny little faith starts to grow stronger.  Faith doesn't have to be used on something mountainous to become stronger.  We just have to learn that God really will help us when we ask him to.

Sometimes we distract ourselves trying to make deals with God, or trying to get him to prove himself to us.  And I'm not saying that talking to God is ever a bad thing.  Even when we do it for the wrong reasons, I think God can teach us something... if only because we are there, listening in that moment.  The real trick, though, is to learn to rely on the Lord--to trust him to be there for us, always.  Sometimes that is hard to learn when we have so much else to rely on, and so, at least for me personally, it has been important to have times in my life where I was unmoored from my support system, and I had to learn to rely on God.  And he *has* been there for me, and I know that he always will be.

That doesn't mean, of course, that my life is always going to go the way that I want it to, or that I'm throwing mountains around.  Only, I know that it works, and so, little by little, my faith grows.  And we can all learn, tiny bit by tiny bit, to trust in God, and to build our faith.  Today, let's work on that.  Let's pray to the Lord for help in our lives.  Let's ask with sincerity and real intent for help with our problems, and then let's pay careful attention to how things work out.  Answers don't always come in the way that we expect, or even a way that we want, but they do come.  Let's let go of our doubts that are dragging us down.  Let's trust and believe God and move forward with faith.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mosiah 18:10 -- On Baptism and Receiving the Spirit

"Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?"
Mosiah 18:10

The part that stuck out to me about this verse today is the "that he may pour out his spirit more abundantly" part.  It emphasizes that the whole reason God wants us to join his church and live his gospel is so that he can *help* us more.  We get it so backwards sometimes, don't we?  We start thinking that God is being demanding and trying to restrict us, when the absolute opposite is true.  He is offering us hope and freedom and joy.

Everything that God does is ordered... it makes sense.  If we follow the rules, we get the blessings. God's laws are like learning to walk.  We get the built-in blessing of extra mobility, and it is a stepping stone to being able to run and ride a bike.  Those are the "shalt" rules.  There are also the "shalt not" rules.  Those ones are like learning not to eat the moldy stuff in the refrigerator.  We can either listen and avoid the natural consequences there, or we can try it ourselves.  Yuck.  And sometimes we have to overcome the shalt nots in a certain area before we can get to the shalts. That's how baptism works as well.  It is a shalt rule, but we have to overcome some shalt nots to be able to do it.  If we can get to that point though, then God washes us clean, and it opens the door to an abundance of amazing blessings that we didn't even know were there beforehand.  We become part of God's kingdom.

Today, let's remember that everything God does is for us, to help us to learn and grow and become the people that we need to be to be happy and at peace now, and with a glorious future ahead of us.  If we're willing to help each other, and to stand up for God and learn the things that he is teaching us, then let's also be willing to do as God asks--to live his gospel, to enter into his covenant, to be baptized, to build righteous families and communities, and eventually be a Zion people.  Let's help God be able to pour out his spirit more abundantly on us. :)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Jonah 3:8-10 -- On Turning From Our Evil Ways

"But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not."
Jonah 3:8-10

This is a really cool example in the scriptures of repentance.  God sent Jonah to preach to Nineveh, and although we know that Jonah got distracted on the way, he eventually arrived, and gave God's warning to the people: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown" (Jonah 3:4). And, in one of the coolest surprises in the Bible, "the people of Nineveh believed God" (Jonah 3:5).

They proclaim a fast, and they ask each other to turn away away from evil and violence, in case God might have mercy on them, and save them.  And God does. :)

Now, of course we can say this was an imaginary threat, and was never going to happen, or we can get mad, as Jonah did, to think that God would go back on something that he said he would do.  It seems to me though, from so much evidence elsewhere in the gospel, the scriptural accounts, and really our own lives, that God's statements and his commandments are always conditional.  More like if-then statements.  Kind of like D&C 88:63: "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you." If you do this, I will do that... almost always, if you obey, I will bless, but I think set up either way.  If we do good, good will come, and if we do evil, evil will come.  Luckily, when God sees us veering off into the dark, he warns us.  He sends a message, through a thought or feeling, or through a friend or a scripture or a prophet.  And he wouldn't even bother to warn if there weren't a chance.  When God says that he will destroy a place, he's still listening to the prophet who wants to find a way to save it... are there 40 righteous people?  30? 10? 5?  And he's always willing to let us have another chance if we truly repent.

True repentance, of course, doesn't mean just saying you're sorry and then going off to do it again because you got away with it once.  It has to be sincere, and we actually have to change ourselves so that we don't just slip back into old patterns.  The people of Nineveh were going all out to save themselves, and to repent.  I think that is amazing.  More often it is a Lehi preaching in Jerusalem experience where you tell them that destruction is coming and they eventually try to kill you.  Unfortunately, I think we are that way more often on an individual level as well.  We don't want to hear the warning because it's hard to take criticism and it's really hard to change.  It would be so much easier if the thought or the feeling, or the friend... or the scripture, or the prophet... were wrong, and we could keep doing whatever we want.  Today, though, let's be like the exceptional, amazing people of Nineveh.  Let's hear God's warning, and believe him, and change.  Let's turn from our evil ways, and follow God's way instead.

Monday, June 12, 2017

1 Nephi 17:3 -- On Strength to Reach the Promised Land

"And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness."
1 Nephi 17:3

We usually gloss over the hardships of Lehi and his group as they traveled in the wilderness, but as I was reading this today, I was kind of imagining if I had to do it... and it seemed much, much harder than it ever had before.  In the chapter before this, Nephi breaks his bow and the group is in real danger of starvation.  They went from living in a city to having to provide for themselves in every way.  It makes me wonder if I, too, wouldn't have been grumbling and wanting to go back, like Laman and Lemuel.  I hope I wouldn't have been as quick to suggest murder, of course, but the grumbling and the doubt I think I can unfortunately relate to, especially in circumstances of such discomfort over the length of many years.  In the verse previous to this Nephi mentions that they are living on raw meat, and that the women are bearing children in the wilderness.  Not for me, thank you very much.

Except that is the whole point, right?  We don't know what God is going to ask of us.  Maybe we too will have to leave home and go through the wilderness... literally or figuratively. :)  And if we do, are we just going to say "um, nope" and refuse?  Or are we going to listen to the Lord, even then in the most difficult circumstances, and follow God with faith?  Lehi and all his family left everything familiar behind and trusted in the promised land.  And their trust had to be a living, lasting thing, not just a one time leap.  They had to keep it up, every day, for the rest of their lives.  The promised land didn't come with pre-built mansions and robotic servants.  They had to start from scratch and build up a nation, and, amazingly, God strengthened them so they could do it.

This family knew that God would provide for them.  They had doubts sometimes, but God showed again and again and again that he would be there for them, and strengthen them, and help them to do everything he asked them to do.  God will show us the same thing, if we trust in him and do as he asks.  Today, let's work on letting go of our grumbly and reluctant natures, and fully commit to going forward in doing the Lord's will... wherever that takes us, no matter how scary or hard.  As we do, God will be with us to nourish and strengthen us, and we, too, will be able to bear our burdens with ease, and find our own promised lands.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Psalms 139:1-4 -- On Knowledge and Becoming

"O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether."
Psalms 139:1-4

I love this reminder that God knows us inside and out.  I think that this idea can offer us a lot of comfort.  We sometimes worry about other people, that if they knew the bad parts of us they might not accept us or love us.  With God that is never a consideration.  He knows us already, inside and out, and he loves us anyway.

Of course that doesn't mean that he doesn't want us to improve, or that he won't work to help us change.  The best kind of love is love the kind that sharpens us (Proverbs 27:17) and makes us better. It does mean though that we never have to worry about disappointing God or driving him away.  He already knows, so we can go to him and talk about anything, and ask for help.

Today, let's remember that God loves us, despite everything.  Let's trust in his love, and believe that we can do better.  Let's go to God for help, and start becoming the people that we really want to be.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ecclesiastes 1:3 -- On What's in it For Us

"What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?"
Ecclesiastes 1:3

The whole book of Ecclesiastes is kind of a lesson about life, but this verse almost at the beginning struck me today because it is basically asking "what's in it for me?"  It's not really the most humble question to ask, but it gets the search started for the meaning in life in this book, and perhaps for us as well sometimes.  We want to know what good it will do us to work and invest our time and what the point off all of it is.  I think it is a question we ask especially when we are disillusioned with something in our lives and start seeing the pointlessness of all of it.  Why am I doing this job, or why am I working for this degree, or what am I actually accomplishing in life?  Spoiler for most of the rest of the Book of Ecclesiastes: it's mostly all vanity and vexation of spirit. :)

So why?  Ecclesiastes concludes with reminding us that we will return to God after this life, and that "the whole duty of man" is to fear God and keep his commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  And that is a good answer... but perhaps there is also more to it.  Let's remember that Alma calls God's plan the "great plan of happiness" (Alma 42:8), and Moroni reminds us that "he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still" (Mormon 9:14), so at least one big reason we are here is to learn to be happy.  God gave us bodies and free agency so that we could learn all of this stuff, good and bad, and learn to choose the good and the positive and the happy rather than the other side.  Not in a "let's ignore the suffering of others" way, but in a "let's help others to find happiness too" kind of a way.

It's a little scary to think that if we're not happy we're doing the whole life thing wrong, and I don't want anyone to get more disillusioned about this rather than less.  Sorrow and suffering are not evil, and we are all going to have some sorrow in our lives.  Christ wept in his life, and suffered.  I'm not saying that we have to paste smiles on our faces and be fake.  I'm only saying that this *is* the answer to the "what's in it for me" question.  Happiness is in it, for all of us... it's why God sent us here, and what he wants us to learn.  That's what honoring God and keeping his commandments leads to as well, and loving God and loving our neighbor.  All of our stories have a happy ending waiting, as well as a happy now, as we do the work and learn to find it all around us.  We should always take serious things seriously, but it's also okay, and even good, to have fun and to enjoy our lives, as long as we are not breaking any commandments of course. :)

The job or the school might not get better, but there is a way to find happiness even there.  There is still going to be fear and uncertainty in life, but as we trust God, we can learn to be happy anyway and trust that things will work out okay.  Maybe the work we are doing or the thing we were trying to accomplish will turn out to be vanity and vexation of spirit.  It happens.  But we don't have to choose to dwell on that part of life.  We can try something new, or find a way to love and enjoy the people around us while we're doing the excessively boring thing. (I once had a summer job where we pulled staples out of things for 40 hours a week.  It *is* possible.) :)

Today, let's try to be less disillusioned with life, and to find some good in the world around us.  Let's get in there and seek happiness for ourselves and others.  God has lots of ideas about how to get there, and he really wants us to succeed.  It is what he is all about.  Let's follow his path and trust that he is leading us to something that is worth *every* second of all of it.  As we learn to trust the happy ending, the in between chapters will get happier too.  I promise. :)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Colossians 3:9-11 -- On Becoming New and United

"Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all."
Colossians 3:9-11

I love this idea of what it means to become new through Christ.  Paul asks the Colossians not to lie to each other because they have let go of their old, sinful selves, and have learned to be better, following the example of Jesus: now equal to one another, all having the spirit guiding them, and putting God before all else.

This message is just as important now as it was hundreds of years ago when Paul wrote it.  When we commit to God's gospel, we are changed, and we have to let it change us, and learn to be more than we were.  We have to learn to love and accept and unite with each other, working for a better world, as one through Christ.

Today, let's put off our old selves.  Let's remember that we are all equal in God's eyes--not anonymous or without individuality or difference, but all important, worthwhile, and loved.  Let's treat each other with respect and kindness, and learn to be unified in God's work, his gospel, and his love.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

2 Corinthians 5:10 -- On Preparing for Judgment

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
2 Corinthians 5:10

What I noticed in this verse today is that it specifically mentions things that were done in our bodies.  And that we have to receive that.  I wonder what that will be like.  With repentance factored in, assuming we take advantage of that, it might not be as bad as suffering all the pain that we caused others, but it still seems kind of scary.  Although, perhaps it will actually be cool and interesting, if we truly repent and are prepared for it.  On the one hand, facing God and having to receive all the things we did to others?  On the other hand, watching the movie of our lives with God as our best friend, telling us what we could have done better and helping us learn from it?  If we think of it that way, it sounds like something I would want to do.  I mean... I think I will still be ashamed of a lot of choices that I made.  But God knows all about that already, and maybe he can help me ... and all of us, remember the good things too, and focus on the right choices and how far we've come.

Today, let's take a minute to review our life choices, and if it is something that we don't really want to watch and talk about with God, maybe make some tweaks and do the work that it takes to repent.  Let's make sure that some of those things we receive at the judgment are good things, and let's work to fix the things that aren't.  No matter where we are now, we *can* all get back on track with God's help, so that the afterlife doesn't seem scary. :)

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

2 Samuel 20:16-21 -- On Communication, Compassion, and Compromise

"Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you, unto Joab, Come near hither, that I may speak with thee.
And when he was come near unto her, the woman said, Art thou Joab? And he answered, I am he. Then she said unto him, Hear the words of thine handmaid. And he answered, I do hear.
Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter.
I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel: thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the Lord?
And Joab answered and said, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy.
The matter is not so: but a man of mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, hath lifted up his hand against the king, even against David: deliver him only, and I will depart from the city. And the woman said unto Joab, Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee over the wall."
2 Samuel 20:16-21

In this story, a guy names Sheba rebelled against King David, and led most of the tribes of Israel away from him.  So, David's people gather an army to go after him, and Joab is one of the leaders chasing after him.  They fight through and chase him to this city, called Abel, and they start battering the wall to break it down.  And that's where these verses come in.  Instead of letting it play out with mass destruction, this wise woman talks to Joab, and negotiates peace by giving up the person who rebelled against the king.  It sounds sort of simple in the story, but I am sure that it was difficult on both sides, both to effectively pardon the people who had been following Sheba by only asking for him, and to control the army that probably would have gotten some loot by sacking the city anywa.  On the wise woman's side it similarly would have been difficult to convince Sheba's followers to give him up, and thus the rebellion, in order to protect the innocent.

I think the lessons for us here are somewhat complex, but also very important.

First, we need to be willing to talk through disagreements.  I don't mean that we have to feel obligated to engage with people who are obviously hostile and only interested in attacking, especially online. Although it is sometimes possible to break through hostility with kindness, it definitely isn't something we are obligated to do.  We can, though, make sure that *we* are taking it down several notches and not *being* hostile to others, but showing our openness and willingness to listen and consider.  To be willing to really talk takes some serious listening and compassionate response, rather than just hurling our obviously superior arguments at one another, and mocking people who disagree with us. Kind communication is a key to solving most differences, and if either the wise woman or Joab hadn't been willing to let go of their hostility and talk, and also to listen, there would have been a lot of bloodshed on both sides.

Another lesson is that we should treat even our apparent enemies with respect and remember that they are people like us, and they don't deserve harm or death, but they do deserve compassion.  Joab didn't have to destroy a city or a mother in Israel in order to meet the demands of justice.  He asked for the minimum he needed, and didn't add anything for his time or try to set an example of the city or anything else.  He did what was needed and no more.  And the wise woman appealed to Joab's good side because she believed that he *had* one.  Let's not buy into the popular media idea where the bad guys all deserve to die, and the good guys can get away, literally, with murder.  There are different rules in the real world--God's rules--and if we start buying into hatred, then we're always in the wrong.

The final lesson I will mention is that we have to be willing to make compromises in dealing with other people.  We can't have everything we want all the time, and although on a personal level that is often frustrating, it is an excellent way to learn to see that other people have needs too.  I am certain that the wise woman didn't want to take someone's life, but she talked the rest of the city into it because it was best for the city, and perhaps the kingdom.  Joab probably didn't want to leave armed rebels in the city to build up and possibly return to war with the King, but he took the success he knew he could get, and saved the lives of many, who then had a choice whether to change or not rather than dying as rebels on that day.

When I mention compromise, I of course don't mean going against what God says.  We can't compromise in that area.  But we certainly *can* compromise on a lot of things, and listen, and learn to love and not hate.  It takes time, and effort, and sometimes we have to pry open our minds a little bit so that we can consider new ideas about the world, about ourselves, and about others.  But as we work to accept and understand and love others, we'll also grow closer to God, because we're doing his will.  Today, let's be like the wise woman and Joab and be willing to communicate, show compassion, and compromise.  We might not save a city, but we'll probably save (and build) a lot of relationships, maybe a job or two, and avoid a lot of trouble as well.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Moroni 10:4 -- On Asking God

"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."
Moroni 10:4

This verse strikes me today because it seems so obvious, and I wonder why we don't see it most of the time.  The answer to all of our question, all of the time, is "Ask God."

The very act of asking teaches us.  As we articulate our desire, sometimes we understand ourselves better, and sometimes God answers us right in that moment, giving us an idea about what we can try, or (if we are open to it), helps us to understand where our thinking may have been wrong on a certain subject.

Now, of course, prayer doesn't mean that we will get our answers immediately, or even that we won't have to work for them.  When the Brother of Jared prayed about the barges, God solved one of his problems, and asked him to think about the other and come up with an idea himself (Ether 2:18-25).  Sometimes that is what we need to do as well, but still: the first step is to ask.  Then patience and faith and hard work often kick in.  We can't give the Lord deadlines or demand that he prove himself.  That comes *after* faith.  We have to learn before we can understand.

God might not respond to us when we know the answer already, but were begging for an exception.  And the answer could be no.  God isn't going to enable us in our bad habits.  But prayer can help us there too.  If we continue in prayer about any topic, God will teach us more about it, and help us understand the answers that we receive. He'll help us find peace and a new direction if we have to give something up, and restore us to wholeness, even when we feel like we can never be whole again. The more we go to him in prayer, the more he will draw closer to us, and the more we'll be able to feel his guidance and presence in our lives.

God knows the answers to our questions.  Today, and always, let's go to him for them.  Let's also study and learn and be open and receptive to what he says, but above all, let's be willing to ask. The faith and humility required for prayer is the first step along a path that leads to everything good and true.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Proverbs 23:1-5 -- On Deceitful Meat

"When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven."
Proverbs 23:1-5

This is a good warning to us about envy and greed, and desiring and working for things that aren't of worth or that we cannot have.  It reminds me of "Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy." (2 Nephi 9:51).

Sitting down with a ruler is dangerous in a few ways.  What is before us could be rich food, money, bribery, or other temptations, including power or envy of other things the ruler has and we do not.  God asks us to consider our choices diligently, so as to escape these temptations, because wanting them too much would be like putting a knife to our own throats.

The phrase "deceitful meat" is a fun one.  I think it probably means that it seems like a free meal, or the rich food whets our appetites, but that there are some real hidden costs to the whole situation that we need to be aware of.  This is followed up with "labour not to be rich," which is good advice, going along with the idea of not spending money or working for things that can't actually fill our needs.  I think that we do this a lot in life.  We feel an emptiness inside, and we throw many things at it to try to mask it or fill it... drugs, alcohol, inappropriate relationships, and many other greater or lesser forms of escapism or addiction.  But the thing that we all have to learn eventually is that we can't fill the hole.  That is the hole where God should be, and the *only* way to fill it is to repair our relationship with him.  All that time and money that we spend on so many other things is so often a complete waste, because we end up back in the same hole, wondering why we still feel empty.

This meal with a ruler I think is symbolic of a lot of that.  We can get ourselves into a lot of trouble if someone is willing to give us what we want, if we just compromise a few principles here and there.  And if we start down that road, we are selling our own souls, and getting emptiness in return.  Riches fly away as though they had wings, as do the benefits of all the rest of the things that we might try to put in the place of God... power, money, lust, fame, etc.  It's all temporary, and almost imaginary really, compared to God.  When we get some perspective and can see God and our other choices side by side, God wins, hands down.  The danger comes in that meal part, where we can be tempted by the things around us rather than thinking clearly about God, and all that he offers us.

Today, let's not be lulled by free food, or power, or money, or any of the other things that other people have that we don't.  Let's not work for things that don't matter, or invest in emptiness.  Let's focus on God, who can fill our emptiness and provide anything that we truly need.  Let's aim for the long term happy ending rather than the short-term flavor of deceitful meat. :)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

D&C 63:20 -- On Overcoming and Transfiguration

"Nevertheless, he that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome, and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguration shall come;"
Doctrine and Covenants 63:20

One of the interesting things in this verse is the idea of overcoming.  In our earth lives, we either overcome the world, as Christ did (John 16:33), or we are overcome by the world (D&C 50:8).  The inherent challenge of life is to see if the spirit part of ourselves, which existed before this world, can learn to merge with a body--the physical part of ourselves (modeled after the spiritual part, and still very much "us") that we get when we come to this world.  Getting a body is a challenging task, and something we often are learning to work with throughout our lives--part of which is controlling the desires that are inherent to the experience (the "natural man" of 1 Corinthians 2:14 and Mosiah 3:19), and learning to give our bodies what they need in the Lord's way, and still being able to choose, not just be controlled by our desires.  As we learn over time to train that physical part of ourselves, our spirits and our bodies become more and more in synch, and we stop having to fight ourselves so much, until the perfect day when both parts of ourselves are one... which effort is totally worth it, of course, because in the coming resurrection, we will get our bodies back and be able to live with them forever.

The other part I really like about this verse is the transfiguration part.  Other scriptures talk about the transfiguration of people, but this particular one is talking about the transfiguration of the earth (see verse 21).  Both are interesting.  The idea of being physically changed into a higher form is part of the idea, although we can't be sure exactly what the transfiguring change is, or what all is involved, but whatever it is, it is a huge change that has allowed people to see God in person before, which isn't something that our bodies as they are now could bear.  In this verse, the fact that the earth is going to be similarly transfigured is utterly cool, and you have to wonder if the earth also has a spirit part... and if so, if *everything* does.  In Articles of Faith 1:10 we learn that "that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory," meaning that the new, transfigured earth will be a paradise--finally safe from all of our often-detrimental meddling, and that Christ will actually live here when "here" is perfected. :)  Hopefully our own changes as we learn to be better people will enable us to be worthy of living here again as well.

Today, let's learn to overcome the world, to unite ourselves body and spirit, and to work on preparing ourselves and anyone else we can help for the transfiguration of ourselves and our planet.  And, of course, the best way to do that is through learning about and communicating with God.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Acts 7:33 -- On Holy Places

"Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground."
Acts 7:33

The idea of holy ground is an interesting one.  What makes one place holy and another unholy?  It seems strange on one level to say  that one place is good and another place is bad... they are just places.  But when we start thinking about it, there are probably places that we can think of, either in history or our own lives, or both, that we consider good, or bad, or even holy and unholy.  Why is that?  It's because we associate that place with something that happened, or an emotion or spiritual experience.  There is a power in places, through the way we feel about them.  One place might feel safe to us, while another makes us feel uncomfortable.  If we've ever said to ourselves "I'll never go back there," we understand on another level why place isn't always just geography.

Here, Stephen is referring to the story of Moses and the burning bush, and God is starting to teach Moses about reverence for holy things.  One way that we respect God is by respecting his presence, and our communication with him.  We try to show reverence in church and especially in the temple, not just because we are respecting his stuff, because really the whole Earth is God's stuff, but because these are places set aside for the sole purpose of communicating with and worshipping God, and God wants us to have good associations with them rather than bad ones.  He also wants us to understand that he isn't just another being.  He's God, the creator of the Universe, and more. :)  When we show our respect for him by dressing up and being on our best behavior, it's very polite and nice to God... which is of course, good.  The lesson isn't really for him though.  Like everything else in life, the lesson is for us.  We need these partitions in our lives so that we can remember and learn about God.  We need to see that he is different, and better, so that we can also learn to be different, and better--to go after the good and not the evil.

Psalms 24:3 asks us "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?" and many scriptures tell us to stand in holy places (2 Chronicles 35:5, Matthew 24:15, D&C 45:32, etc.)  Standing in holy places means choosing the good over the bad, choosing the holy over the profane--Choosing God over anything and everything else.  Today, let's learn, as Moses was learning, to recognize the good, and choose it over other choices, even if it is harder.  Let's (symbolically) take off our dirty shoes and be clean so that we are learning to become worthy of the holy places rather than tracking dirt into them.  And above all, let's learn to understand why God asks us to choose a different and a better path, and holy places over profane ones.  As we understand and choose that, we will be on the path to a better life, and better world.

Friday, June 2, 2017

1 Nephi 14:7 -- On A Marvelous Work

"For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken."
1 Nephi 14:7

I really like this... it is a statement from God about something he plans to do in the last days, presumably in the lead up to the second coming.  It doesn't say what it is that is going to be done, but the effects are pretty cool.  It is such an amazing thing that it either convinces you, or forces you to harden yourself against the truth.  I think that idea is both scary and super cool... scary because if we are being kind of wishy-washy about the gospel, it definitely isn't going to work anymore.  It is also cool though, because it kind of just pushes up where we were headed anyway.  There is no middle ground between God and Satan--no independent party to vote for, and no staying neutral.  We have to choose (Joshua 24:15, Moses 6:33, etc.).

That's the other amazing part of this verse--the choice itself.  God is going to do something miraculous, but which *still* allows us that free agency that he gave us so we could learn and grow and become so much more.  He could, of course, make us behave, as he could all along.  But he never will, because he loves us and knows that we need to do it ourselves for it to matter to us, and for us to learn something from it.

Today, let's examine our lives and see where we stand and really think about what direction we are going.  And when we have, let's choose God.  It might take some course corrections and some time. No need to wait for the marvelous work to be complete--let's prepare now, and make sure we're on the side that leads to peace and eternal life.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

D&C 76:86-89 -- On Moving to God's Country

"These are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial;
And the terrestrial through the ministration of the celestial.
And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.
And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding;"
Doctrine and Covenants 76:86-89

This always blows me away.  This is a revelation talking about the resurrection and judgment after this life, and explaining the afterlife by comparing the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial kingdoms to the Sun, Moon, and Stars (as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15:40-41).

It seems cool that there is ministering going on from one kingdom to another, so the whole idea of love and service continues on after this life, which seems pretty cool and appropriate. :)  The idea of the differences of the kingdoms is of course not something where God arbitrarily assigns people based on power or prestige, but is something that we choose by our actions and desires in this life.

God assigns us all to a place where we can be happy and comfortable, presumably with people that are like we are.  Perhaps like foreign language classes, right?  In this life we have the opportunity to learn the language, and some of us are going to learn it really well, and some only so-so, and others not really at all.  A couple of words that are also names of food. :) And then at the end of this life, we all move to the country where they speak the language all the time.  If we learned the language really, really well, we could speak it and go anywhere and do anything like a native speaker.  We could also help people who learned it less well.  If we learned the language only so-so, we'll be limited as to the places we can go, or the things we can do, because we just don't know the language well enough to read in it, or to really understand the movies at the theater except on the most basic level.  We do have more mobility and understanding than some of the other tourists though, so we can probably go to the market and buy things as well as learn to navigate the public transportation, etc.  And we can help the really lost travelers find their way back to the hotel and steer them back to the more touristy shops where there is always someone who speaks English.  And if we didn't learn the language except for a few words, we're probably going to need a tourist guide and a lot of help from the patient native speakers, but we can still have a good time in the country, enjoying the food and admiring the scenery. :)

In our analogy, the country is the afterlife, and the language is the gospel.  The more we learn here, the better off we are going to be there... not because God loves one group more, but because we have this life to choose whether or not to prepare, and learn, and become citizens of God's country.

Maybe the coolest thing of all about these verses is that even the tourist-guide level of the afterlife is referred to as surpassing all understanding.  Even if we don't learn a drop of language, we are *still* going to be wowed by the country and the people and never want to leave.  Even the most limited part of heaven is still gloriously heaven, and so much better than this world that we will still know that it is our happy ending.  Not that we shouldn't strive for more, of course... but it is a very merciful thing that even a few words will eventually help us to gain refuge there, and make us welcome.

Today, let's work on preparing to move to God's country.  Let's study our brochures and maps.  Let's prepare for those citizenship tests and help our fellow travelers as well, as we all do our best to learn the language and practice living in such a perfect place.

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