Thursday, July 27, 2017

1 Nephi 21:9 -- On Learning to Live in the Light

"That thou mayest say to the prisoners: Go forth; to them that sit in darkness: Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places."
1 Nephi 21:9


This is Nephi quoting Isaiah.  I really liked this today because of the "them that sit in darkness" part.  I think sometimes we sit in darkness because we don't really know a lot about the light, and it hurts at first, when our eyes have to adjust, so we kind of shy away, thinking that it will always hurt, or that we just have an affinity for the dark, when actually we would love the light if we were willing to walk in it for a way.  And whether we are in darkness through our own choices, or have been thrown into a prison of darkness, Christ frees us, and asks us to walk with him in the light.

We have a chance to be different... to be better, to walk in the high places rather than the low.  God gives us the ability, through the atonement, to escape even from the darkness within ourselves.

Today, let's take his offer.  Let's learn to love and live in the light, and let go of the dark parts of ourselves.  We can be anything.  We don't have to be tied to the parts of ourselves that are dragging us down.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ruth 2:10 -- On Strangers and Love

"Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?"
Ruth 2:10


This is from the story of Ruth and Boaz, when Ruth was gleaning leftovers in his field in order to support herself and her mother in law.  The fact that she is so grateful here and asks him why he is treating her so well is interesting, and seems to indicate that then, as now, people weren't always welcoming of immigrants and strangers.

I think that we all feel, at times, as Ruth did.  We are lost in an unfamiliar context and desperately grateful when people take mercy on us and welcome us in.  New places, new schools, new jobs, and even new health situations or new ideas are really hard sometimes to adjust to.  People who welcome us and help us through our adjustment seem like life preservers thrown to us just as we were starting to realize we were in over our heads.  Timely, and needed.

Luckily, we also all have the opportunity to be like Boaz as well, and help and comfort and lift people who are struggling--welcoming them and sharing our experience and kindness.

Today, let's remember that we are all strangers sometimes, and let's welcome and care for each other, as we strive to love as God does.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Psalms 35:19-20 -- On Learning the Language of Peace

"Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.
For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land."
Psalms 35:19-20


When I read this today, the "they speak not peace" struck me as a foreign language problem rather than a "saying mean things" choice.  ... And, you know, maybe it's both.  This verse is from a chapter where David is very preoccupied with what his enemies think about him and asking God to not let them talk about him behind his back so much.

We're not kings like David was, and we (hopefully) don't have as big of a problem with people talking bad about us, but I think we can all relate to what David is feeling here.  It's frustrating to be mocked, especially when people don't know the whole story or seem to not have a reason.

Learning to speak the language of peace is something that we all need to learn... when we are tempted to mock others, imagining ourselves in their place sometimes sparks some empathy and might help us keep our mouths shut and avoid later embarrassment.  But even when we're on the other side, and we are the one *being* mocked, we can work on learning the language of peace, and remember that we've all been on both sides.  Treating people with kindness, respect, and love when they don't offer the same to us isn't easy... at all.  But it's the only way to stop the reciprocal mockery and dehumanization once it has begun.  Otherwise we just spiral towards a place where we treat each other like inhuman slimebuckets, and we have also become the same.

Today, let's work on learning, and living, the language of Peace, and translating for others when needed. :)

Monday, July 24, 2017

1 Nephi 21: 23-25 -- On Waiting and Building

"And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.
For shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captives delivered?
But thus saith the Lord, even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children."
1 Nephi 21: 23-25


This is Nephi quoting Isaiah, who was quoting God about the house of Israel in the last days.  Nephi was part of that, and so are we, if we are part of God's church.

The part I love in the first verse is "they shall not be ashamed that wait for me."  It makes me think of Lehi's dream of going to the tree of life, and people in the Great and Spacious building mocking people who had make that excellent choice.  Some people fell away because of that mockery, suddenly allowing themselves to doubt.  Here, God assures us that mockery can't touch us.  He seems to both command and assure us that shame has no place in faith.  We should not doubt, and also, there is zero reason to doubt as we wait, because God *is* coming.

I also love in the next verse where God tells us that he will fight our battles for us at this point in our future history.  He will deliver us, and save our children, against foes that seem insurmountable.  But to God, they obviously are not.

It is a message of triumph and happy endings, but there are also some hints about what we might face.  Mockery, impatience because there will be a lot of waiting, possible discouragement because our foes will seem unbeatable.  Then, as now, things won't always be easy to endure.  And yet, he tells us here that he will take of thing, and of us.  Today, let's believe him.  Let's cast aside our doubts and have the patience and faith necessary to move forward in God's path, waiting for the Lord, but also building up his kingdom while we wait. :)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

James 5:7 -- On Patience and Faith

"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain."
James 5:7


We often give deadlines to the Lord.  We need help *now* ... or we need proof within a certain time period, or we're not married by a certain age, or we want a child, or we need healing, or someone else does, or why isn't he fixing what's wrong with the world?  And we say to ourselves, well, if he's not going to help (on our timetable), then we're done, or he doesn't love us, or he's playing games with the human race, or he doesn't exist... whatever it is.

It's very true that we don't always understand why God does the things he does, or why he hasn't done certain things.  That can feel frustrating, and we don't always want to wait, or to do things on God's timetable.

The thing is, though... He's still God.  We can't rush him.  All we can do is frustrate ourselves.  If we have a difference of opinion with God, guess what? *We're* the ones that are wrong.  God can see the end from the beginning, and he isn't just daydreaming somewhere and then walking in late and saying "oops."  That's human frailty, which God doesn't have.  His timing is perfect.  It just doesn't always mesh with what we want. :)

James explains here that we need to have patience "unto the coming of the Lord."  Since this advice was offered after Christ's crucifixion, that date was unknown, and is still unknown, and it's been quite a while.  It's another way of saying that we need to endure to the end, or have faith unto death... or be truly converted.  A relationship with God is never, ever going to work if we think that he has to meet our deadlines, or if we are committed only until we get frustrated.  God asks for patience, not because he is trying to gain our approval, but because *we* need to take a step back and gain some faith.  We learn over time to realize that God is faithful.  He always keeps his promises.  He always holds up his end of a covenant, but we have to stick with him.

Today, let's work on trusting God, letting go of our impatience, and finding the peace that comes through faith.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Daniel 4:28-32 -- On Learning Humility

"All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.
At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.
The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?
While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.
And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will."
Daniel 4:28-32


This is a good warning against pride.  We might not be as powerful as king Nebuchadnezzar was, but we all get similarly prideful, thinking that we are just that amazing. :)  And it doesn't mean that we aren't cool, just like the verse doesn't mean that Nebuchadnezzar was a bad king.  It just means that sometimes we think that we're the reason that everything is great, and we forget God.  Thus, the lesson.

It's okay to work hard for things, and to try to do the best we can with what we're given.  It's great to succeed.  But today, let's remember God's mercy and grace, and stop and thank Him for all that he does for us, and for the opportunities we have to be here and be able to work for things in the first place.  Let's try to find our way to humility before we end up learning it in a more difficult way.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Acts 11:5-9 -- On Opening our Hearts and Minds to Others

"I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common."
Acts 11:5-9


This is an interesting story.  Peter had lived his whole life by a specific religious code in the Law of Moses that restricted what he could eat, and then he dreams this same thing 3 times.  His dream turns out not to be about food, but about people, but the principle carried over.  The gospel, just like Peter's diet in the dream, needed to expand.  Peter and the early church had been expanding, but only to a specific group of people, because they had been chosen by God in the past.  Here, God expresses his wish to also choose others.

I think sometimes we are like Peter in this.  We are kind of blind to people outside the groups that we belong to, not willing, or at least not usually *as* willing to reach out and help and lift and share with people that don't "fit" the gospel in our minds.  And yet, God is the God of the whole earth, and everyone in it.  And he loves all of us.

Today, let's be willing to follow God's promptings, even when they lead us outside our groups and comfort zones.  Let's do as Peter did, and open our hearts and minds to others, and be instruments in God's hands to bring kindness, compassion, love, and the joy of the gospel to everyone, everywhere... not just the people that are like us. :)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Leviticus 20:9 -- On Honor and Curses

"For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him."
Leviticus 20:9


Sometimes the commandment to honor our parents doesn't really get the respect it deserves.  This version specifically forbids cursing, and has the penalty as death.  Why so harsh, we ask.  Parents can be mean, and they are definitely not perfect, and sometimes they curse *us,* right?  So what's the deal?

I think, above and beyond the learn to love people part of it, which is amazingly important by itself, there is also the aspect of symbolism and the fact that God is our Heavenly Father.  If we can't respect the role of an Earthly parent, we're not going to be able to build on that and understand the role of a Heavenly Parent.

Parents represent a lot of selflessness and sacrifice.  And if we blow that off and think that it doesn't matter, then we're not on the same page with God.  Its such an important commandment because it is teaching us the basics of understanding love, sacrifice, selflessness, and obedience.  I would submit that, in a lot of cases the respect and honor that we show our parents mirrors the respect and honor that we show to God.  That's a scary, but also hopeful thought.  Scary because we *need* to do better, but also hopeful because we have someplace to practice, and to check to see how we're doing with the whole honor and respect (and not curse) idea.

For those of us who have lost parents, I think we can also learn from this... not just in a "kids these days..." way, but perhaps in comparing what we do for our own children to what God does for us, or remembering things that we wish we would have said or done... and still having a place to work out those desires.

Luckily, cursing our parents doesn't carry the death penalty these days, and so we have the chance to repent and do better.  ... But let's remember that some of this is symbolic.  Cursing God might not bring insta-death either, but if we don't repent for it, spiritual death (of our own choosing) is not far behind.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Ether 6:11-12 -- On God's Guidance

"And thus they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water.
And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them."
Ether 6:11-12


I like this.  It shows the relief of the Jaredites when they got to the Promised Land after almost a year at sea, and that they were grateful to the Lord.  Perhaps they had worried during that time that it was never going to end.  This was before modern shipbuilding, and (at least as far as we know) they didn't have any way to steer except trusting God that he was taking them someplace good.  Perhaps they didn't worry because they were that faithful.  I really don't know.

I do know, however, that we all have times in our lives that are like this.  We think that our lives are headed someplace good and we enter the barge, trusting God to get it where it needs to go, but during the journey we can sometimes start to worry and doubt whether we made the right choice.  We get sort of paranoid. Maybe we're going to drown.  Maybe we're never going to get anyplace, and just float around till we die.

So, a good reminder.  God is faithful.  He will always do what he promises... and he promises to lead us to the promised land, to help us do the right things, and to bless us with joy and eternal (awesome) lives.  Today, let's work on letting go of our doubts, and trusting that as we follow God, even in the uncertain times when we aren't sure what direction we're headed, he will always be leading us towards good.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Isaiah 53:5 -- On the Chastisement of Peace

"For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah 53:2-6


These verses are about Christ, and at first glance, like much of Isaiah, it reminds me of my freshman English class in college.  We were in a large lecture hall, and she pulled up an E. E. Cummings poem to show us (here if you want to see it), and, staring at it, I just kind of shrugged my shoulders, ready to move on to something else.  Not something I would ever have paid attention to if it hadn't been for the class.  But as she talked and asked some questions about what was happening, and giving us some things to look for, and it suddenly all fell into place for me, and I learned to love poetry in that moment.

It isn't just Isaiah, but even just the idea of the atonement that is sometimes confusing.  We don't really get it, and aren't really sure if it is even gettable. :)  And the two together... Isaiah explaining the atonement.  Wow.  Let's move on, right? But we're going to jump in anyway. :)

The first verse seems to be talking about Christ's coming.  He grew up, the heir of a politically defunct line of kings, and he wasn't politically powerful or movie-star beautiful.  He wasn't dramatic or flashy, coming down and announcing to everyone that he had come to save the day.

He didn't escape hatred or persecution or sorrow or pain in his life.  He didn't seem especially or uncommonly favored over all other people if you only looked on the surface.  He wasn't one of the rich and famous that we follow just so that some of the same fortune will rub off on us.

He endured our sadness, but maybe we just thought of him as another luckless guy, picked on by the government, or even someone who deserved the suffering that God sent him.

The truth was though, that he only suffered for us.  He was wounded and bruised in our place.  We have peace are are healed *because* he was beaten and whipped.

If we're talking about what we *deserve,* we would all be lost, because we've all left God's fold and tried to live our own way.  But instead of asking us to pay the price, God allowed Christ to suffer in our stead.

Isaiah's words help us to remember that we are who we are, and have the opportunities and blessings we have through the grace of Christ, and by no other way.  Sometimes we look around at what other people have and we (at least figuratively) shake our fist at the sky, thinking "why not me?" or "I deserve more than this!"

And then God, kindly, reminds us that we really don't.  Christ paid the price that we couldn't pay, and he is actually the one that "deserves" something.  We're "less than the dust of the earth" (Helaman 12:7; Mosiah 4:2), but still "the worth of souls is great in the sight of God" (D&C 18:10), and that's why he did it.  Because he loves us, and knew we would screw it up, and he wanted us to have the chance to repent and change and make it anyway.

Today, let's not stress out if we don't have as much as someone else, or if this chapter of life doesn't seem as equitable as we would have liked.  Let's remember Psalms 84:10: "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."

When we get the (figurative) choice between doorkeeper for God or a million dollar mansion with the bad guys, let's remember that Christ died to give us the ability to make that choice, and let's let go of our greed and our comparisons, and let's choose the right -- the good thing over the easy or selfish thing.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Micah 6:6-8 -- On Walking with God

"Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"
Micah 6:6-8


This is a good reminder that the gospel is a lot simpler than we sometimes make it.  We get overwhelmed and frustrated by our inability to be perfect, but sometimes we need to stop calculating the dramatic sacrifices that we need to make, and just get back to living the gospel.

God has showed us what is good, and we can focus on some basic things: being honest and fair in our dealings with others, loving mercy and offering forgiveness and kindness to others, and walking with God, in a humble way rather than like we are better than others. :)

I especially like the walking with God part.  Walking with God is something that the scriptures tell us that many prophets had a chance to do, and these verses basically say that we can do... if we focus on simplicity in our worship: staying in tune with God's spirit, and making sure we are always treating others as he asks.  That feeling of walking wherever we go, and having God with us, guiding and helping us through it all... that's something I think we all want.  Today, let's focus in, and work for it.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Deuteronomy 13:3-4 -- On Proving Ourselves

"Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him."
Deuteronomy 13:3-4


We're tempted often, as were many groups in the scriptures, to follow people who tell us what we want to hear.  When someone comes along who tells us that we need to shape up, it's way easier to be skeptical rather than doing something about it.

These verses have a lot in here that sounds on the surface like God is demanding a lot of us just so he can feel powerful. ... proving us to see if we love him, and wanting service, love, and loyalty.  Sounds pretty taxing.  Why would God need so much reassurance of our devotion?  Is he an egomaniac?  ... But if we follow this line of thinking, of course, we are getting off track and forgetting that God doesn't do things for petty reasons.  God asks these things of us not because he needs an ego-boost, but because *we* need devotion and reminders in our lives in order to keep the spirit with us, and to be able to stay in tune with God.  *Everything* that he does is designed for our salvation--not our enslavement.

Let's not listen to false prophets or dreamers or people who tell us the nice things that we might want to hear, where life becomes a simple matter of doing whatever we want all the time and then getting everything we want in the afterlife too.  Just like we don't allow our children to remain in a state of selfishness and learned helplessness, God has to push us out of the nest at some point as well, so that we can learn to fly.  Let's accept that there are some rules, and that life requires some effort, and learn from God rather than trying to fight him or resist him.  Let's realize and *remember* that God is always helping us and doing what is best, even when things don't seem to be going our way.

Today, let's follow God, and prove to ourselves that we can really become all that we want to be, with God's help.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

3 Nephi 2:1 -- On Remembering

"And it came to pass that thus passed away the ninety and fifth year also, and the people began to forget those signs and wonders which they had heard, and began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven, insomuch that they began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen—"
3 Nephi 2:1


This is another good reminder to remember, and one of the reasons that God asks us to pray and read and attend church and remember him in so many other ways.  It's because we forget *so* easily.

Miracles happen in our lives.  We know this, and we remember and acknowledge it if we stop and take the time to think about God working in our lives.  But when we are just barreling through and not taking time out for God, we get ourselves into trouble because we don't stop to think or to remember.  We start getting insular and selfish, and forget the ideals of Zion--loving each other, building a world without hate or poverty, and becoming one in Christ.

Today, let's not let ourselves be desensitized to the things of God.  Let's pay attention to where our hearts are, and remind ourselves what we believe in and what we hope for every day.  Let's soften our hearts and open our minds, and invite God to walk with us, and remind us of what hope looks like, and the beauty and perfection and joy that he has waiting, if we remember and continue to strive for it.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Luke 11:1-4 -- On Learning to Pray

"And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.
And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."
Luke 11:1-4


This is a great lesson on prayer from Christ himself.  He first starts by asking them to address his Father in prayer, then to honor him and to pray for his will to be done.  We sometimes gloss over these parts of prayer, but they are important.  The one that strikes me as especially important today is the fact that we place God's will before our own, and before any requests.  Christ was a perfect example of this--living a life doing his Father's will, and even when there came a time in the Garden when the two things were not the same, he put his Father's will before his own (Matthew 26:39).

Asking for only a day's worth of bread is an interesting thing to ask for.  To me it suggests several things:
  • Not being too greedy or demanding of God, but instead being content with whatever he has to give us today.
  • Being faithful and believing that God will continue to help us tomorrow.
  • The whole idea of being sustained by God--remembering that he does, and will take care of us as we look to him.  Not that we shouldn't work to provide for ourselves and our families, but knowing that all of it is part of relying on God--knowing absolutely that we *need* him in our lives.
I also like how being forgiven is tied to forgiving others.  We often wonder why others can't just let things go and forgive us, and we plead for God to help us have another chance, but we rarely see it the other way around.  God, of course, sees both perspectives, and has asked us to forgive each other and leave judgment to him (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10).

The last part of the prayer acknowledges that we are going to have temptation, and asks God to help us with it and lead us away from it.  This reminds me personally that a lot of hard times in my life resulted from me walking in a direction that I knew God was warning me away from... he did his part, but I did not do mine.  Perhaps this has happened to many of us, so a really good reminder to ask for, and also to listen to, that guidance from God in our lives so that we know what to avoid.

Today, let's take some advice from the best source, and learn a little better how to pray.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

D&C 6:14 -- On Noticing the Answers in Our Lives

"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time."
Doctrine and Covenants 6:14


This is a verse where God was talking to Oliver Cowdery.  Oliver was looking for confirmation that what he was doing was right, and what God mostly told him (although there are many, many other things in this excellent section) is that he had already asked and gotten an answer to that question.  God kindly told him again, but it seemed like an instructive moment.

I think that this same thing happens to us, probably often.  We pray and pray and we want God to tell us something, or help us with something, when actually God has answered every one of our prayers and has been guiding us and nudging us in the right direction the whole time.  Sincerely, read the verse above and insert your name after the "thou" in the first sentence.  It applies, doesn't it?

It's okay to be uncertain sometimes, as Oliver was, but here God is helping us learn how to be certain.  One way is to look back at all the times that we've inquired of the Lord, and what he has done for us.  Moroni 10:3 states this principle exceptionally well, and the two steps there are "remember how merciful the Lord hath been" and "ponder it in your hearts."  Often, just a mental review will help us realize how much we already know, how much God has been working in our lives, and how he has led us right here, to where we are now.

Today, let's do the mental review and see how God is working in our lives.  And let's also keep praying and keep working at recognizing God's hand daily.  It's always there.  We just might have to pay a little more attention. :)  As we do, we'll learn better how to trust God and to exercise our faith, knowing that God will help us, just as he has in the past.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

John 15:9-11 -- On Love, Obedience, and Joy

"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
John 15:9-11


I like the combination here of love and obedience and joy.  I think sometimes we have a gut reaction against people telling us what to do, and so "obedience" is almost like a bad word.  It doesn't seem to equate with love or joy... but here, God is telling us that it does, or at least that, with him, it can.

We're really just toddlers sometimes, aren't we?  We often have massive tantrums when we're told to do crazy things like... wear clothes, or eat food.  God, here, is just telling us that if we listen to him, and do as he asks, that he can help us more... we'll be able to have the spirit with us and feel his love, and we'll also be a lot happier.

Not saying that it isn't hard to overcome ourselves and listen to God, but what he asks makes sense, and will make our lives (and eternities) so much better.  Let's not let the screaming toddler part of our brains steal that from us.  Let's do the things that will bring us joy, and help us abide in his love.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

2 Corinthians 2:14 -- On Triumph in Christ

"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place."
2 Corinthians 2:14

I love the wording here that God causes us to "triumph in Christ."  And isn't that so true?  We're often, in this world, tempted to see the negative around us and even encouraged by society to "face reality" and see the truth of evil, and pain, and death.

Those things are true, and perhaps they can help encourage us to make a better world.  However, if we think that they are the only truth, or focus on them without seeing the beauty and love and goodness in the world as well, then they just lead to discouragement and hopelessness.  The much, much greater truth is that Christ has overcome *all* of those things, and God (and good) wins in the end.  We all triumph, and there is a happy ending waiting for anyone who chooses to keep trying and keep seeking Christ.

I talk about a happy ending a lot, of course, and sometimes it is frustrating *now* to think that we have to wait that long.  And to help us with that, there is another overwhelmingly cool word in this verse: "always."  God doesn't just promise us a happy ending later.  He is in our lives now.  Mormon 9:14 tells us that if we're happy now, we'll be happy after the judgment day... which means it's possible *now* and God is will us *now* helping us to find ways to triumph every day.

This doesn't mean of course that there aren't times to mourn in our lives or that we have to be always laughing, or that clinical depression doesn't happen.  We all have different challenges, and I am not trying to diminish them... but God always is.  He is helping us to bear up our burdens with ease, so that we can't feel them on our backs.  He is saving us from the darkness, even of our own minds.  He is there with us as we mourn.  Through him, every moment of our lives, we triumph.

Today, let's work on focusing on the good things around us.  Let's open our minds and hearts to Christ and the good and joyful things around us, even as we acknowledge that there are sad and evil things as well.  Let's choose wisely, and embrace our opportunities to triumph in Christ.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Alma 17:1-3 -- On Staying Converted and Unified in the Lord

"And now it came to pass that as Alma was journeying from the land of Gideon southward, away to the land of Manti, behold, to his astonishment, he met with the sons of Mosiah journeying towards the land of Zarahemla.
Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God."
Alma 17:1-3


Alma and the sons of Mosiah are all great missionaries in this verse, but when we first meet them in Mosiah 27:8, they are unbelievers who secretly go about trying to subvert the church.  One day, as they are going about being bad guys, an angel appears to them (Mosiah 27:8-18), and that changes everything.  And here, years later, they meet back up and they are still converted.

Seeing an angel is a big deal, no question, but we should give these men some credit as well.  Remember, Laman and Lemuel who also witnessed an angel and kept on being bad.  And, personally I think we all know how hard it is to change and how easy it is to fall back into old habits.  Alma's angel definitely didn't force him to be good.  In fact, he said "Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off."  That's a pretty strong statement when God sends an angel to stop you from harming others, but says you can go ahead and harm yourself if you so choose.  Kind of makes you rethink your priorities.

Alma, and the sons of Mosiah who had all been there when the angel first came to stop them, all stayed true to God.  They turned their lives around in a remarkable and permanent way.  They studied the scriptures, they prayed, they fasted... they became true men of God, as their fathers had been.

We all have conversion experiences in our lives, and experience remarkable blessings from God.  They aren't always as universally dramatic as the angel seems to be in this story, but I think that they are powerful in their own way in our individual lives... and we have the opportunity to make powerful, permanent changes in our lives as well.  They didn't start out being good guys, but they changed. They made it.  We can too.

Let's wax strong in the knowledge of the truth.  Let's search the scriptures and pray, and learn to fast effectively.  As we work and study and do good, we will be blessed as these men were, and we will also rejoice greatly to see each other again, unified in the Lord, in the resurrection... if not sooner. :)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

D&C 121:24-25 -- On Time, Mercy, and Swift Judgment

"Behold, mine eyes see and know all their works, and I have in reserve a swift judgment in the season thereof, for them all;
For there is a time appointed for every man, according as his works shall be."
Doctrine and Covenants 121:24-25


This is a good reminder and warning for us all, that God is very aware of the things that we do.  Although it is kind of intimidating and scary on one hand, it is also loving and compassionate in a very real way.  God would not warn us if he didn't love us.  You don't give second chances to people unless you want them to take them, and learn to change.  Our appointed times are there for a reason.

God says here that there will be a swift judgment, and then says "in the season thereof."  Those two things seem contradictory, and perhaps they are in a way, since the very nature of life places opposed, but balanced, influences in our lives in order to give us free agency.  Since we sin, our souls are subject to justice, which we deserve, but God offers us mercy through the atonement to save us from justice if we will repent.  In that context, swift, but delayed, justice makes sense.  God grants us time during our lives to repent and to change and choose differently... to become whoever we want to become, no matter who we are now.  And during any part of our lives before God's final judgment we can turn around and repent and change... but when our lives are over, and the world is judged, it will be swift and final.  We'll be judged based on who we have become.

Today, let's get started on the becoming. :)  Let's take advantage of the time that God has given us to change.  Let's repent of our sins and make sure that the judgment will be "pleasing" to us, rather than fearful (Jacob 6:13).

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Omni 1:23-26 -- On a Whole Soul Offering

"Behold, I, Amaleki, was born in the days of Mosiah; and I have lived to see his death; and Benjamin, his son, reigneth in his stead.
And behold, I have seen, in the days of king Benjamin, a serious war and much bloodshed between the Nephites and the Lamanites. But behold, the Nephites did obtain much advantage over them; yea, insomuch that king Benjamin did drive them out of the land of Zarahemla.
And it came to pass that I began to be old; and, having no seed, and knowing king Benjamin to be a just man before the Lord, wherefore, I shall deliver up these plates unto him, exhorting all men to come unto God, the Holy One of Israel, and believe in prophesying, and in revelations, and in the ministering of angels, and in the gift of speaking with tongues, and in the gift of interpreting languages, and in all things which are good; for there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord: and that which is evil cometh from the devil.
And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved."
Omni 1:23-26


This is another selection from someone we don't know a lot about in the scriptures.  After this Amaleki adds that his brother is missing because he went with a group to go settle in some land controlled by the Lamanites, which is interesting later on when we learn about their history, but these verses are all we know about Amaleki himself.

I like the introduction to King Benjamin, who is one of my faves.  We get to know up front that he is trustworthy and righteous before we launch into his story.  I also love what we get to know about Amaleki himself, from only a few verses.  He cares about God, and he cares about us... the people he is writing to.  He gives us advice, and a way to tell what is from God and what is not.  He advises us to pray and endure. :)

My favorite part is "offer your whole souls as an offering."  It's a huge thing to say, symbolically, and yet it is also perfect for his short message to us, because it helps us to understand how serious and thorough our commitment to God needs to be.  It isn't enough to just glance up at the sky one day and say, okay, God, I admit that you exist.  If we want to learn and participate in all that God is offering us, it requires an all-in commitment.  We have to actually get to know God, and work at understanding why he does what he does, and how we are a part of it.

It's also scary, given.  Sometimes we think that committing to God means that we will lose ourselves, or that God wants us to become Stepford Wives.  And yet, as Matthew tells us, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:25).  It's exactly in that risk of full commitment and faith that we discover our true selves, and finally understand that God can make more of us than we could make of ourselves.  We find our that yes, we might lose part of ourselves, but that the good part always stays, and grows, once we are able to let go of the bad part.

Today, let's listen to Amaleki's words and offer our whole souls to God.  Let's take the scary step and fully commit to God, because as we draw nearer to him, he will draw nearer to us (D&C 88:63), and we'll feel more of the spirit and have more guidance in our daily lives than we've ever experienced before.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Alma 19:16-17 -- On Abish

"And it came to pass that they did call on the name of the Lord, in their might, even until they had all fallen to the earth, save it were one of the Lamanitish women, whose name was Abish, she having been converted unto the Lord for many years, on account of a remarkable vision of her father—
Thus, having been converted to the Lord, and never having made it known, therefore, when she saw that all the servants of Lamoni had fallen to the earth, and also her mistress, the queen, and the king, and Ammon lay prostrate upon the earth, she knew that it was the power of God; and supposing that this opportunity, by making known unto the people what had happened among them, that by beholding this scene it would cause them to believe in the power of God, therefore she ran forth from house to house, making it known unto the people."
Alma 19:16-17


I've always loved the story of Abish.  It's pretty short, and we don't get any more detail about her background, but it shows, I think, the miracle of everyday people.  We don't know the name of Abish's father, but we know he had a vision.  God was working, as always, with anyone willing to listen to him.  She lived in a society that was hostile to her faith, but she stayed true, and when this miracle and opportunity came along, she was in tune enough with the spirit to recognize what it was and act on it.

Abish comes back into the narrative very briefly again in verse 28 as she gets back from gathering everyone, and sees that they are fighting.  She cries, and we understand her tears, because she was just trying to do good and help people, and she worries that she has made things worse.  She then helps to restore sanity to the situation, not by giving a speech or bearing her own testimony, but by awaking the queen from whatever vision or paralyzing joy had overtaken her.  (The queen is amazing too, but that is a different topic.)

Today, let's remember that we don't have to be in the spotlight to make a difference.  Living our lives in a good way, and setting a good example matters.  We don't have to be better, stronger, faster, or any other superlatives in order to matter to God and to be important in the world.  We can all make an impact.  Let's remember Abish and live our lives doing good and staying close to the spirit--not demanding attention or high position, but always ready to do as God asks when opportunities arise.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Abraham 3:19-21 -- On Superiority, Potential, and Infinite Love

"And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.
The Lord thy God sent his angel to deliver thee from the hands of the priest of Elkenah.
I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen."
Abraham 3:19-21


So, going along with the idea that we have always existed, these verses add some interesting perspective, and give us insight into why God is God, or at least one of the reasons.  He's smarter and wiser than everyone else. :)  I really like the idea of us learning to love and follow the person who was the best of us, and that his goal was to help us become like he is.

Some people see the idea that we could ever become like God as blaspemy.  I think it is one of the coolest ideas that ever was.  Not only that potential within us, which is basically like learning you are really a superhero, but the idea that the person at the top *wants* that... wants to share everything he has, and to have us join him in the joy that he has found.  That's not only amazing, it is the way that things *should* be, for us all.  We have some very human ideas about blame and pride and superiority sometimes, and they get in the way of our relationships with others, and they get in the way of our relationship with God.  God doesn't have to step on us to feel superior.  He *is* superior, and he is lifting us up so we can learn to be better than we are, and so he can enjoy the eternities with us.

He loves us.  He wants us to join him.  We ask him to cut corners for us or let us slide on things... but those things need to be learned in order for us to learn and grow enough to join him in Heaven, so he loves us enough to keep encouraging us to do better.

Today, let's remember that the Lord is more intelligent and amazing, than any human we have ever met or heard of.  Let's not assume he is petty, insecure, and competitive just because we are, or other powerful people seem to be. :)  Instead, let's learn from his example.  Let's love the people around us, and work on helping and serving, and being the kind of people who could be comfortable in God's presence, ready to learn and progress throughout the eternities, and grateful for his infinite love.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Alma 5:27-28 -- On Serious Questions

"Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life."
Alma 5:27-28


These are some pretty serious questions.  The whole chapter, really, asks some great questions that can teach us a lot about ourselves and about God if we take the time to consider them.  I think the "sufficiently humble" might be the scariest one for me here.  Sometimes when I am actively trying to be humble, I let some backhanded indication of irritation through, which does *not* make things better... only worse.  ... I hope that's just me, and the rest of you have it under control, but I fear that my experience is all too common.

The answer here, I think, is that in order to be humble sometimes the best thing to work on is not humility, but love.  If we aren't sincere about caring about others or treating them kindly, then of course we're going to come off badly.  We care more about getting in our little dig or feeling justified rather than truly helping someone or letting things go to clear the air.

It's amazingly sobering to think about being "called to die at this time," isn't it?  And it probably should be.  We waste so much time comparing ourselves to others and trying to be right, or better, or at least not being wrong, that we waste some amazing opportunities to love, and learn, and prepare.  When we are called to die, what will be our regrets, and what will we want just a little bit more time to do?  Definitely not pursue an argument, or prove we're right.  We'll likely want to have a good relationship with God, and with others, and to know that we lived a good life and repented of the things we did wrong so that we can leave the world confident and at peace.

Today, let's get started on that, okay?  Let's ask ourselves the serious questions, and not wait until it is too late to improve the answers.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

D&C 93:29-30 -- On Light and Truth and Independence

"Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence."
D&C 93:29-30


I think it is so interesting and cool to think that we, or at least some part of ourselves, even if not exactly the way we think of ourselves now, were in the beginning with God, and that in some way we have always existed.  To me, it seems to make so much more sense than if we just appeared out of nowhere.  God, of course, is still truly our creator in so many senses, because he took that intelligence or spirit of ours and he made a spirit body for us, and then a physical body for us when he sent us to earth, but there is that core that has been around for a very long time.

Not only does this mean that we have a deep history waiting for us when the veil is drawn, but it seems to mean that freedom / agency isn't just an earthy thing, but an eternal one--an immutable law.  That is especially interesting if you consider Satan;s proposal in the War in Heaven.  Did he know what he was proposing was so contrary to the nature of... everything?

It is interesting to say that truth and intelligence act for themselves.  And that intelligence *is* the light of truth.  Some truth doesn't seem very "light" or hopeful, so I wonder if the light of truth refers to the good part of it, or if all truth is good because it is truth/it is real, and it has light because of its inherent goodness and shininess.  Or, you know, option 3 where it is neither or both in some way, since God's thoughts are way, way above mine. :)

Today, let's remember that light and truth are an eternal part of us, and things that we have an internal affinity for.  Let's stay tuned in to that, and not deaden it with sin, darkness, or lies.  Let's rejoice in our independence, and act for ourselves, in good ways that lead us and others to God.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Moses 7:48 -- On Rest through Righteousness

"And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I crest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?"
Moses 7:48


I really like the idea here of the earth having a voice.  On one hand, it is sad to think of the earth mourning because of us.  But on the other hand, the idea that the earth is alive, and that it "will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory" (Articles of Faith 1:10) is also amazingly cool, because God will make things right in that way as well.

Now, of course I don't know how much of this is literal and how much is figurative, but either way, it is a cool idea, and also helps us to understand that when we choose to make bad choices, we are never just harming ourselves.  What we do affects others, and affects the world around us.

Earlier in this chapter, God also shows Enoch humanity: "the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept" (verse 41).  So, there is more than just the earth that we can help with our determination to make good choices.  We can also help ourselves, and the people around us.  We can all benefit from better choices, and a greater dedication to God and to righteousness.  Those are the things that will eventually allow the earth to rest, and they can bring great peace to our lives as well.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Numbers 24:10-14 -- On Trusting and Accepting God's Answers

"And Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.
Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the Lord hath kept thee back from honour.
And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying,
If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the Lord, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the Lord saith, that will I speak?
And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days."
Numbers 24:10-14


In the story of Balak and Balaam (chapters 22-24), Balak, who is the king of the Moabites, wants Balaam the prophet to curse Israel, so that he can prevail against them.  And despite several trips, the prophet continues to bless them rather than cursing them.  And here, when he talks about promoting Balaam to great honor it seems that he blames this failure on Balaam himself.

It's an interesting conflict of perspective that we sometimes see in our lives as well.  We, like Balak, expect the prophet or other leaders to tell us what we want to hear, and bless us in overcoming our enemies or our challenges, and helping us prosper.  And if that doesn't work out, then we act like it is their fault, when, like Balaam, they are just trying to do as the Lord asks.  We actually do this sometimes directly with God.  We go to him and tell him what we want, and expect it to be delivered... treating God like some magical Genie who is bound and forced to grant wishes.

The truth is, even if Balaam had given in to Balak's temptation to curse the people in return for power and riches, all Balaam could have accomplished in promising Balak success was to lose his gift of prophecy.  As soon as he contradicted God, it would have been gone, and his promises would have been the promises of a man, no longer speaking for God.

God cannot be manipulated, coerced, or guilted into doing anything.  If the answer is no, we have to accept that, and even better, trust that it is for the best.  God can see farther than we can.  He knows what is best... always.  Now, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't ask for what we want, or explain how we feel to God.  God encourages us to ask, and he is willing to teach us the "why" as well, but it takes patience and faith to listen for and to accept his answers, especially when they aren't what we expected or wanted.  If we stick with God, he will help us understand and see past our present discouragements to the future hope that is in store.  And if we don't stick with God... then we are only harming ourselves.

One primary slip up for Balak, and sometimes for us, is that he was seeking his own will rather than the truth.  Would we rather have God lie to us and promise us that our lives will be perfect, or can we accept the truth, even if it differs from what we expected?

Today, let's be as diligent as Balaam was in sticking to the word of the Lord over the temptation of riches or power.  And let's also seek truth and righteousness rather than our own will.  Let's be willing to listen to God, and trust him and accept what he has to say, even when it doesn't match up with what we had in mind.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Mark 9:2-3 -- On Transfiguration and Light

"And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.
And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them."
Mark 9:2-3


I love this idea of transfiguration.  The whole idea of turning what we already have into a much more pure and holy form is pretty awesome.

Based on other transfigurations in the scriptures, this change that happened to Christ was probably a temporary change to his body so that he could endure the presence of his Father and the other exalted beings that he talked to that day.  A more advanced (and permanent) transfiguration happened to him when he was resurrected.

Maybe the coolest part of transfiguration happens when we are all resurrected, because our bodies then undergo a change that makes us immortal, and no longer subject to physical pain or sickness. The shininess is also cool--the idea of being light, or having light be a part of us so much that we give it off.  Wow, right?

Today, let's work on preparing ourselves and being worthy to undergo that kind of transfiguration and personal witness, as Peter, James, and John were able to.  Let's invite the light of Christ into our lives so much that we can start being at least figuratively shiny ahead of time. :)

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