Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Isaiah 45:7-10 -- On Good and Evil and Choice

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it.
Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?"
Isaiah 45:7-10


Other verses in the scripture clarify God's statement about creating evil.  For instance, Moroni explains "all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil." Perhaps both verses are accurate to an extent. Although God doesn't specifically create all the individual evil things and events in the world, in a very real sense he still bears the responsibility for them as the creator of *everything.*  Evil wouldn't exist without God; it exists because God set up circumstances where it could exist, and allowed it.  And we're happy about this for several reasons, but two of them are that evil came to be because God allowed free agency, and gave us a choice.  And since God set up the circumstances that allowed evil, he can also banish it when the time is right. :)

God's creations were the ingredients required to bring forth salvation.  When we fight against God and his plan, we are fighting against the very system that allows us to grow and exist and choose.  As noted in these verses, it is very similar to a pot complaining about the work of the potter, or a child accusing his or her parents of creating a monster.  We can blame everything on God, but it's basically the same as criticizing him for our own existence.

Today, let's remember that God created everything around us, and it all works together for our good (Romans 8:28; D&C 98:3).  Instead of blaming God for the bad things in the world, let's use the beautiful world and our miraculous free agency to do as God asks, and make choices to set good examples and make things better.  As we do, God will work with us and help everyone move towards the inevitable happy ending that he has already written. :)

Monday, July 30, 2018

2 Nephi 4:17-20 -- On Trusting God and the Path to Salvation

"Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.
My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep."
2 Nephi 4:17-20


I think all of us feel this way sometimes, often legitimately because we are sinful creatures and we have an awful lot to learn before we reach that "perfect day" that God asks us to strive for.

I really like the phrase "nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted."  Part of what I like is that he clearly places trust in God over trust in himself, which I think is an essential part of the gospel.  We are working on our trustworthiness, both towards others and toward ourselves, and we get better at that and learn to do the right thing both for others and for ourselves, but right now we don't always have the capacity to get there on our own.  With God we can do all things, but he is the absolutely essential ingredient to any miracle of transformation in our lives. 

When we groan because of sin it's often because we don't know the way out or the way around an impediment in our lives--but God does.  If we trust him, he will help us accomplish anything that he asks, which is anything right and good.  This *includes* perfection.  It is definitely not something that will come right away, but with God, even we can attain that goal somewhere in eternity.

Today, like Nephi, let's remember the times when God has been our support, and all the miraculous things that he does for us in our lives.  And then let's stop wallowing in self-pity, and get in there and work to change, with God's help.  He will help us turn our weaknesses into strengths, and our despair into joy, if we trust in him and follow his directions on the path to salvation.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

2 Chronicles 20-21 -- On Faith and Praise

"And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever."
2 Chronicles 20-21


This is part of a great story where Jehoshaphat is helping his people return to the Lord.  He stops the idol worship that his grandfather instituted, he sends out teachers to teach people the scriptures, and he sets a righteous example as the leader of the Kingdom of Judah, which they haven't had for a couple of generations leading up to this.

In this part of the story, three other kingdoms have declared war against his, and his people aren't even close to strong enough to face them.  Making an amazingly good choice, he and his people fast and pray for God's help.  God tells them through his prophet Jahaziel that the battle is his, not theirs (verse 15) and that they won't need to fight (verse 17), but to still go out against them.

What I find the very most amazing about all of this is not necessarily the miraculous answer to the prayer and fasting, although that is truly amazing.  I find it more amazing that Jehoshaphat and all of his people not only believed the Lord, but had enough faith to walk out in front of the armies anyway, with no plan other than God saving them, and that they stood forth to sing and to praise rather than to battle.

I think that something similar happens in our lives sometimes.  The Lord answers our prayers and tells us to take a course of action, and when we get the answer it seems clear and we know what we need to do... but then, instead of sticking with and trusting the Lord and following through on what he asked us to do, we start to get scared and doubt, and think maybe we should, err, try something else, or at least maybe hedge our bets.

Today, let's work on being more like Jehoshaphat and his people.  Let's turn to the Lord when we need help (and always), and let's trust him and follow through with what he asks us to do.  He loves us and he wants to help, but we need to have enough faith to follow him. Let's praise rather than battle. :)

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Alma 3:27 -- On God's Wages

"For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey, and this according to the words of the spirit of prophecy; therefore let it be according to the truth. And thus endeth the fifth year of the reign of the judges."
Alma 3:27


I like the analogy here of receiving wages from God or Satan (whoever we obey).  It is a good reminder that this life, by design, presents us with opposition.  Both sides are going to be enticing, and the choices that we make are the people that we become. 

Whoever we choose will reward us with wages, but obviously some wages are better than others.  God's wages are transformation, salvation, hope, and everything else that leads us to good and helps us become good.  Satan's are disappointment, bondage, and tragedy, among other slimier things. I imagine Satan's wages look quite shiny on the surface, but underneath they are unappetizing sludge.  And no one wants that.

Today, let's remember that we work for God.  Let's be obedient to him so that we can become the awesome people that we can be with his help, and avoid slipping into working for Satan, even part time.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Deuteronomy 12:8 -- On Not Doing Whatever We Want

"Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes."
Deuteronomy 12:8


Something that we have to confront a lot in our lives is our tendency to do whatever the crap we want to do rather than what is good, or right, or best for the world or for the people around us... and usually we even ignore what would be the best for ourselves, choosing instead whatever is easiest or most pleasing to the senses in that moment.  Here, God tells us (we already knew, but he wants to get it out in the open) that the way that we typically make choices is a bad idea.  Instead of doing whatever we want, we need to learn to make good decisions.

We somehow get it into our heads that free agency means that we should do whatever we feel like doing in the moment, or that freedom equals impetuousness.  Instead, God teaches us that we need to take the consequences of our actions into account when we make choices.  He warns us about them, providing guidelines to follow to avoid a lot of pain.  Seriously, I think that encompasses a lot of the plan of salvation... God teaching us how to make good choices, helping to ameliorate the consequences when we screw up, and showing us how to overcome those mistakes and get back on track.

Today, let's take God's advice and avoid just doing whatever we want.  Let's accept God's help and follow his guidelines so that we can avoid painful consequences and find our way.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Psalms 127:1 -- On Including the Lord

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


This is an interesting idea... basically, if the Lord is not involved, whatever we are trying to preserve or protect, or I'm guessing, accomplish, will be in vain.  This might not always seem true in the short term, but it is definitely true long term.  We can spend our whole lives on goals that are incompatible with the Lord's will, but in the end those goals will come to nothing.  And on the other hand, our smallest efforts will be multiplied and blessed as we include the Lord and do his will.

Today, let's evaluate our priorities.  Let's make sure that we are putting God not only first, but including him in everything that matters.  As we do, our efforts will be blessed and none of it will be in vain.  We'll be able to labor, and wake, and all else that we are working at, WITH God.  That seems like a huge blessing and reward all by itself. :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Hebrews 11:8 -- On Being Lost

"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."
Hebrews 11:8


That "not knowing whither he went" part is huge I think.  Abraham was in a bad situation, and he didn't really know how to get out, but God helped him, and he followed God faithfully, trusting him in some ways "blindly."  We often mock that sort of trust, but honestly, if you are lost, there is no other kind.  The only way that we can judge in circumstances like that is that instinctive spiritual sense that God has granted, which is the light of Christ or the influence of the Holy Ghost, and by *that* measure, our trust is rooted safely in a sure foundation even when, as it was with Abraham, we have no idea where we are being led.

One of the big impediments to trusting God is not being aware or humble enough to realize that we are lost.  We struggle and search and don't want to ask for directions, thinking that we can make it on our own.  I'm not saying that independent thought and initiative are bad things, but pride is.  And when we are too prideful to admit that we need help, then we spend more time lost in a bad space than we need to.  God will lead us to safety, and even to a promised land, if we trust in him.

Today, let's work on not being too prideful to ask for help.  Let's not insist on only going someplace we are certain of.  Let's trust God and allow him to help us and lead us to new lands and discoveries.  He will help us make more of our lives than we ever could alone.  It won't always be comfortable or familiar, and it will often be a lot of hard work... but the promised land is worth it, as is the person that we will become through having those experiences.  Today, let's get help, obey God's directions, and travel someplace new and glorious.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

1 Thessalonians 5:17 -- On Non-Stop Prayer

"Pray without ceasing."
 1 Thessalonians 5:17


This isn't the only place in the scriptures that asks us to pray always, but it is an interesting way of putting it, and something that can perhaps help us understand what God is asking.  I think the idea here is that we are never alone because we are always communicating with God as things happen.

Some prayers are more formal, which is appropriate, but this kind of constant, always-on, background prayer doesn't need to be as much.  Obviously respect is always appropriate when talking to God, but we don't have to spend every day constantly on our knees.  God will hear us if we talk to him through a constant internal dialogue, as we go about our day, wherever we are.  I know that some people mock when people express their thanks to God for something very small like help finding their car keys, but that does happen.  Not because God has "nothing better to do," but because  we include him in our everyday lives and even the smallest troubles, and he is not offended when we pray for even the smallest things that we care about.  He is all powerful.  He can do the bigger things and the smaller things, and he's still got time left over to help everyone else too. :)

Now of course this needs to be contrasted with the ideal of being anxiously engaged in a good cause (D&C 58:26-27).  We shouldn't need to be commanded in all things, or use prayer as a delaying tactic, thinking that we don't need to take action until we get a sign, but God absolutely wants us to look unto him "in every thought" (D&C 6:36).  He wants to be part of our lives.  Just like we sometimes wish that a loved one were with us, God can be and wants to be with us always.  And if we live worthy of that, it will happen.

Today, let's work toward that day by including God in our lives.  Let's pray without ceasing, looking unto him in all that we do and think, and then listening and accepting his guidance.

Monday, July 23, 2018

D&C 40:1-2 -- On Temptations and Fear

"Behold, verily I say unto you, that the heart of my servant James Covel was right before me, for he covenanted with me that he would obey my word.
And he received the word with gladness, but straightway Satan tempted him; and the fear of persecution and the cares of the world caused him to reject the word."
Doctrine and Covenants 40:1-2


This seems like something that happens not just to James Covel.  We often approach God and feel his spirit and know that he is there.  We feel his love and understand the answers to our prayers.  And yet, as we are asked in Alma 5:26, "can ye feel so now?"  For whatever reason, including fear and the cares of the world as mentioned, we shrink back from that happiness that God offers and walk away.

The last verse in this section says that God will do with James "as seemeth [him] good" (verse 3).  I have no idea what happened with him in later life, but I sure hope that he had a chance to repent and he took it, because God doesn't want a poor outcome for our lives any more than we do... and because we probably all have done this same thing to one extent or another, and we need second chances (and many more than that as well sometimes).

Today, let's learn the lesson of James, and let's stick with God.  Let's keep our covenants, hear his word, and embrace the chance to repent and change.  If we're scared or distracted, then let's feel that and let it go, remembering that life with God is always, always better than life without.

Moroni 7:47-48 -- On the Pure Love of Christ

"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen."
Moroni 7:47-48

The part in here about praying "with all the energy of heart" struck me today, maybe because it is such a good idea.  Unfortunately, it is one that I don't think we often take seriously.  That kind of fervency and dedication could be a really good thing in many areas of the gospel.

I love the idea of being like God, and being purified as well.  The fact that God's love is something that you can pray for and that it is more pure than other love... those both make the idea even more attractive on some level.  Love is something that we often think that we understand, but if we step back and consider, there are many additional layers and complexities.  Unfortunately, love isn't always as pure and good as it seems like it should be.  We use the word to justify abhorrent things sometimes, or claim that some specific love supplants the love of God.  It never does though, and these verses are part of why.  God's love is different and better, perhaps in exactly the way that God is better than we are at this stage in our progression.  It is stronger, purer, and more all-encompassing.  It applies to *every* person out there, with all of our bias and prejudice and labels and categories all stripped away.

Today, let's pray with everything we have to taste of God's love in our lives... to feel it from God and to feel it for others.  God's love is life-changing, and well worth the effort.  And when God answers our prayers and we start to feel it, let's keep it up.  Keep praying; keep loving.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Isaiah 56:7-8 -- On Gathering the Outcasts

"Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him."
Isaiah 56:7-8


This chapter starts out by talking about "the son of the stranger" and "the eunuch" (verse 3) and how God accepts *all* who come unto him and follow his commandments, and will reward them abundantly, and make up for anything they missed out on in their lives.

Those examples even now are representatives of groups that are often shunned: foreigners, refugees, immigrants, and those who have sexual differences, impediments, or proclivities that are different from our own.  Here, God makes it clear that everyone is welcome in his house.  And it is way beyond just those example groups as well.  I love how it says that he gathers the outcasts, and will keep gathering more... it seems like God wants to gather everyone, everywhere, that is left out.

I think this is an important message to all of us whether we currently feel left out or not.  God isn't about these divisions and biases and intolerances that we see in our society.  He isn't teaching hate or standing behind it.  He teaches love and acceptance and unity.  Today, let's work on being the best people that we can possibly be and reaching towards God, and let's bend over backwards to be kind and good to others who are on the same journey.  And, you know, let's still do that even if they aren't.  Loving our neighbors isn't limited to only the ones we think are golden. :)

Friday, July 20, 2018

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 -- On the Race of Life

"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
1 Corinthians 9:24-27


On the surface, the first verse here can seem like it is encouraging competition against each other for salvation.  However, in context it becomes a much better message. :)  it is clearly a message telling us that we need to believe in our own success and not give up halfway through and decide that we aren't going to make it to heaven, so might as well not try.  If we start, we need to be consistent, make the extra effort, and see it through... that is the only way to succeed, or win the race of life.  I think in that context, we are likely just competing in the sense that the good and bad parts of our nature are fighting for supremacy.

Paul makes clear here that part of the idea is to bring the body into subjection to the spirit... that letting our carnal natures rule our spiritual natures is actually losing the race.  That doesn't mean that we should ignore the needs of the body of course--only that God's laws should govern the limitations of our physical actions.

Today, let's avoid becoming castaways.  Let's work on our temperance, and make sure that we are striving for that incorruptible crown by consistent spiritual exercise and working towards what God has in store for us, if we will stay the course and let his influence win in our lives, rather than our own wills or other evil influences.

D&C 50:45-46 -- On Meeting God in Person

"And the day cometh that you shall hear my voice and see me, and know that I am.
Watch, therefore, that ye may be ready. Even so. Amen."
D&C 50:45-46


The idea of physically being able to meet God is really overwhelmingly cool, and we learn here (and elsewhere in the gospel) that someday that time is coming.  These verses encourage us to get ready for that time.

I think the idea here is one of hopeful expectation rather than dread, although I suppose that we could feel differently about the event depending on how we feel about God and about ourselves... but if we do fear the idea at all, getting ready for it is an even better idea.  I think part of that preparation would be the spiritual basics: prayer and scripture study.  Prayer because that is the staple of learning to communicate with God, and how even in the beginning we speak to God, and scripture study is how we learn about him and the way that he can speak to us, even before we are able to discern answers to our prayers.

Today, let's remember that someday we are going to be back in the presence of God.  Let's make sure that for us that will be a great day.  Let's prepare by learning more about God, and also doing more to learn to be the kind of people that we want to be for eternity.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Micah 7:5-7 -- On Being Heard

"Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.
For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.
Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me."
Micah 7:5-7


This message isn't always easy to hear, because we want to be able to trust the people closest to us, and to be able to rely on other people to guide us when it is needed.  And, really, I don't think that God is completely outlawing doing either one.  The point here is that trusting in God is the only thing that is guaranteed.  Even those closest to us can lead us astray or influence us for evil, just as we are able to with the people around us. 

We likely don't mean to lead anyone astray, but sometimes we make mistakes and other people see them.  And sometimes when we comfort our friends, we condone their bad choices.  We don't always know how to love without agreeing with.  Thankfully, God is great at that (as with everything else), and he can help.

God always hears us, and keeping him at the center of our lives ensures that we will always have the help that we need. Today, let's remember that God is trustworthy above all others.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Isaiah 45:20-22 -- On Choosing to Be Saved

"Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.
Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."
Isaiah 45:20-22


The idea that struck me as I was reading these verses today is God commanding people "be ye saved."  I think we usually think of the action of saving being something that the Lord does for us, rather than something that we are commanded to do.  And, of course, God *does* save us, but the way that he does that is to set up his plan of salvation, with all of the rules and consequences and blessings set, and then he allows us to choose within that context... salvation or damnation.  So in that sense, his asking us to choose to be saved makes a lot of sense.

God offers us some clues on how to choose to be saved, and one big one here is to avoid idolatry.  Applying that to the modern day, it seems unlikely that very many people are praying to a wooden statue, but anything that we set up or trust in the place of God can endanger our souls in the same way--by drawing us away from him.  Some of those things could be money, cars, computers, hand-held devices, gambling, relationships, sex, success, fame, power, our internet connection, etc. :)  So many things that we rely on or trust in, sometimes more than God.  Something to be careful of.

Today, let's remember that there is no other place to look for salvation besides God.  Christ suffered and died for us that we might be saved, and he asks us to accept that gift and choose to apply it to our lives through prayer, repentance, and obedience.  Today, let's do as God asks and has provided for, and choose to be saved.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Psalms 25:8-9 -- On the Gift of Guidance

"Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way."
Psalms 25:8-9


I like the idea of God as a teacher and a guide.  Here he is willing to teach sinners and the meek, which presumably are two separate groups.  There is overlap, since sin often shows us our weaknesses and provides us an opportunity to be humble and to learn meekness, but we definitely don't always take advantage of that.

I think sometimes we imagine that God spends most of his time with non-sinners, but just as he discusses in Matthew 9:11-13 and Moroni 8:8, the whole need no physician, and God seeks out the people who need his lessons the most.  Also, presumably, we at least *think* we don't need teaching or guidance when we are prideful.  We need that broken heart/contrite spirit and some meekness to even turn to the Lord for help in the first place.

I also love the idea that instruction and guidance are gifts rather than burdensome obligations.  Today, let's be meek and open to the instruction of the Lord.  Let's allow the Lord to guide us in judgment, and remember the gift that we are being given by having the chance to come to Earth and to learn, and grow, and change for the better. :)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

2 Corinthians 12:9 -- On Weakness and Meekness

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
2 Corinthians 12:9


This can be a hard verse to understand.  Today I was listening to an old Neal A. Maxwell talk that gave me some insight though, so I wanted to talk about it.  In the talk I was listening to ("Meek and Lowly" 1996), he quoted Lorenzo Snow as saying this: "Every one of us who has not already had the experience must yet meet it of being tested in every place where we are weak."  ... That's a huge statement, but it goes along with so many things that we see in the scriptures, and really I think we can see this in our own lives too.  God promises us that if we come unto him, he will make weak things strong unto us (Ether 12:27), and this is the way that he does it.  He gives us trials in our weak areas, and helps us to make those parts of ourselves better.  It isn't the way we would probably choose to become stronger.  It would be nice if we could just be zapped with a competence ray or something instead, but our trials are important, because they turn us into the people that we truly want to be.

Paul, I think, really understood this, which is why he could say that he gloried in his infirmities.  They were a way for him to experience the power of God in his life, and also a path to self-improvement (with God's help, of course).  In the same talk I mentioned above, Neal A. Maxwell quotes Moroni 7:44 (“For none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart”) and asks "can we ever truly and fully accept ourselves until we become more like them?"  It isn't a one way thing with God not finding us acceptable, but also that we are unacceptable to ourselves.  We see our weaknesses, and we know that we need to change, and honestly, in many many cases we can't see the problem well enough to work on it.  Weaknesses after all.  And so we have to go to God, and we understand that we aren't perfect.  We learn humility and strength, and how to love ourselves more as we learn.

That might be the key to Paul's joy in infirmities right there.  He asked God to take away a specific challenge three times (2 Corinthians 12:8), and maybe he wanted a lightning bolt from heaven and some instant perfection, as we probably all do sometimes.  Instead, the Lord left him with his problem... but something changed anyway.  Paul realized that his weakness was actually helping him learn... that God *was* answering his prayer--just in a different way than he expected.  It was helping him learn humility, and helping him learn to turn to God for help.  Instead of being strong and perhaps prideful, he could be meek, and feel the hand of God in his life.  Which is something we can all have.

Today, let's work on appreciating our challenges, and recognize that they bring us closer to God.  As we plead with him for help, and do as he asks, he will grant us strength and hope and improvement, so that we can truly be strong and at peace with God, others, and ourselves. :)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Genesis 3:22-24 -- On Curses and Opposition

"And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."
Genesis 3:22-24


These are some interesting verses, and I think it is easy to get the wrong idea here when God says "the man is become as one of us" to think that God is angry and upset that Adam and Eve have gained knowledge.  I don't think that is the case though.  Adam and Eve, now "like" God because of their basic knowledge of good and evil now needed to gain more experience and learn to choose, and grow up into what they could be.  If they had stayed in the garden, they wouldn't have grown, or faced death, or had to make the hard choices that mortals with limited lifespans have to make.  God, with this as with all things, wasn't shocked or surprised by what happened.  It was all part of his plan from the beginning.

I think that goes for all the rest of the things that happen to Adam and Eve in this chapter.  Enmity is set up between humans and animals, people will experience pain in body, inequality is introduced, the ground is going to bring forth weeds instead of easily providing food, and taxing physical effort becomes necessary to survival.  They are all curses, and generally things that we aren't fond of, and that we work to ameliorate in our modern world, but the fact that all these things exist in our world is necessary in learning to make choices using that knowledge that Adam and Eve gained, and passed on to us.

This is opposition, which is the beginning of all the things that we learn.  Today, we don't necessarily have to welcome it, but let's accept it and work with God to overcome it and learn from it. :)

Friday, July 13, 2018

D&C 70:14 -- On Equality and Lifting

"Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld."
Doctrine and Covenants 70:14


Earlier in this section, God instructs that "inasmuch as they receive more than is needful for their necessities and their wants, it shall be given into my storehouse" (verse 7), and how no one is exempt from the law, and that it is true for temporal and spiritual stewardships.  Those are good clarifications, because when we are told to be equal, we come up with some very strong resistance sometimes... which I think God addresses here when he mentions "not grudgingly." :)

We live in a radically unequal world in so many ways, so how do we work on obeying this law, and the many others like it throughout the scriptures asking us to work on equality, and to be generous to everyone, both temporally and spiritually, and to not show more respect to any group or individual over another?

In verse 7 God makes it clear that we are free to take care of ourselves, our families, and any other stewardships that we have first, both spiritually and temporally.  I would say this includes tithing as first of all, since God's portion ensures the rest, and tithing is part of our personal obligations, not something we do if we feel that we have enough at the end of our budgets.  Spiritually as well, we need to make sure that we, our families, and our stewardships are on track. 

If we are, and temporally God does include some "wants" room beyond the bare bones of survival, then God expects us to share our abundance with others. He doesn't say exactly how, although there are multiple ways that the church offers to distribute money to others, and we likely have an abundance of opportunities around us to help people that we encounter as well. 

What the church does with our donations is exactly in line with what the Lord asks here.  They help send missionaries on missions, making sure that the burden on parents isn't different depending on where the missionaries go.  They build super nice buildings for people who are poor as well as those who are wealthy, in whatever country where people are found willing to attend.  They help people to gain an education, whatever their financial circumstances.  They lift people up, whoever they are, wherever they are. 

I think that is what God is asking of us individually as well, both as we participate in giving to those church programs, and as we help others around us.  God asks us not to be greedy with our largess, spiritually or temporally, but to offer whatever we have to others, sharing freely, caring about their lives and their success as much as we do our own.  Today, perhaps we should think about what we have to offer, both temporally and spiritually, and look for ways to give.  Maybe it is giving the money we would have spent on something frivolous to the church this week.  Maybe it is sharing our testimony with a friend.  As we serve people, God will bless us with his spirit and also temporally, lifting us as we lift others.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

2 Nephi 4:19 -- On Trust and Hope

"And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted."
2 Nephi 4:19


I like the idea here that we can trust in God even when we can't trust in ourselves.  And, along with that, if we really trust God, then we know that he can make us into better people, which can give us hope, even for ourselves. :)

Today, let's remember this even when we get down on ourselves.  We can always trust God, and we can trust him to help us *become* more trustworthy, and worthy in other ways too.  If we trust God, we can't give up on ourselves either. :)

Psalms 90:12 -- On Numbering Our Days

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
Psalms 90:12


This verse and the idea of numbering our days echoes an often-heard theme in literature, that of "seize the day" and realizing that our time is precious, and limited.  Obviously inside the gospel, this verse should not be read in some of the ways that the theme has been interpreted in literature that might encourage immorality or incorrect choices, making a false argument about needing to enjoy this moment without regard for the future.  Rather, the idea is straightforward about the value of our time on earth and the opportunity cost of wasting the time that we have.

I don't think that the verse is meant as a guilt-trip.  I think, rather, it illustrates the importance of planning.  Leisure and down time are not bad things.  We need to control our stress and anxiety levels and not get overwhelmed, and we shouldn't be overdoing it so much that we can't relax and enjoy our lives sometimes.  Man is that he might have joy, after all.  But, as with everything, moderation is important, and I think we all sometimes have those days where we go off on a tangent and find that we used up all the time we had and maybe didn't accomplish anything that we feel is worthwhile, or even arguably essential things like prayer or scripture study.  So, the idea here is to make sure that we "number our days" or plan things that we can accomplish each day, and make sure that we (wisely) prioritize the things of God--the things that have eternal consequences.

Today, let's make sure we get the important things done first, and then enjoy the rest of the day, rather than doing things the other way around and often never getting around to God.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mosiah 4:9 -- On Knowing God

"Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend."
Mosiah 4:9


This seems like one of the very first stepping stones of the gospel.  If we get the idea of God and connect with him, then we begin on the right track, and we can gain so much more building on that solid foundation.  If we don't get this first idea though, then we can't progress beyond this and learn all of the things that God has promised.

Even after we have accepted the existence of God, there is a lot more to learn about him and his gospel, and his plan for us.  Today, maybe we can sit and think about God for a while.  If we don't yet accept his reality, perhaps we can read some Alma 32, and be willing to try the experiment and find out (Alma 32:26-27), and if we know, let's pray and learn to know him better.

Psalms 85:8 -- On Peace and Folly

"I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly."
Psalms 85:8


The first part of this verse reminded me of the times in our lives when we want the Lord to comfort us and help us get through something.  The last part reminded me of when we sometimes foolishly want him to say that something we did wrong is okay, and comfort us that way.  Comfort is a good thing in the first case, but it would be deceptive disservice in the second case, because (though we often want it to be) sin is never going to be okay, and convincing ourselves that it *is* okay just prolongs and exacerbates the problem.

It's kind of like a kid going to a parent for comfort, right?  If he fell off his bike, then treating the injury, getting the healing started, and comforting him that things are going to be okay is a healthy strategy.  But if that same kid is biting people and wants comfort because someone yelled at him for it or stopped him, maybe a different strategy is in order.  Comfort isn't necessarily a bad choice, but in this case it needs to come after some correction so that the child knows that things will be okay *if* he stops the behavior, and that if he needs help he can get it.

The Lord will speak peace to us, and he knows that we often need it as we sort of stumble through this life sometimes.  He loves us, and he asks us to hear his voice and allow the comforting presence of his spirit into our lives.  To have that though, we need to really be careful to not go back to our sins.  That risks our progress, our peace, and our connection to our Savior because the more we sin and distract ourselves with other things, the harder it is to hear him or feel his spirit.  Let's avoid folly today, and pray to find peace through God.

Monday, July 9, 2018

D&C 133:10-11 -- On Being Ready for Christ

"Yea, let the cry go forth among all people: Awake and arise and go forth to meet the Bridegroom; behold and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord.
Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour."
Doctrine and Covenants 133:10-11


Here, we're commanded to watch, and also to awake and arise to meet the Bridegroom (Christ) at the Second Coming.  Verses like this can be difficult to understand because of the whole timing thing.  It can be hard to watch when we aren't sure what we are watching for exactly, or to go out to meet Christ when we aren't sure when he is coming.

I think that the message here isn't really about timing though.  It is more about what we choose every day.  It's like being a security guard in a way.  On television we see caricatures of security guards where the emphasis is on what they miss because they are bored or inattentive, and the bad guys (or good guys) get past them.  Theoretically though, if they were doing their jobs correctly, they would notice when something was wrong, and would have a chance to stop it. Similarly, just like the parable of the ten virgins, if we make it our job to always be ready for Christ, then we will never be caught without oil, or bored, or inattentive.

God's lessons aren't lessons that we can cram for.  His instruction is always long-term, things that matter, and will matter, and that we need to integrate into our lives and our selves.  The Second Coming isn't something we can put on our calendars, but like good friends dropping by, it is something that we can still be prepared for.  Today, let's not worry about when exactly, but let's think about where we would be if Christ came today, and find out where we are lacking.  Let's determine now to become and to always remain ready.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

James 2:8-9 -- On a World Without Discrimination

"If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors."
James 2:8-9


Before these verses, the chapter specifically refers to rich and poor people and comparisons of clothing (verses 2-4), but of course there are so many other ways that we discriminate, thinking of one group of people as better than another.  It makes me wonder what a world without that sort of thinking would look like.  It seems like there would be an awful lot of changes, but also it kind of catches the imagination, right?  There would be some amazingly cool differences.

Today, maybe a good thing to do is to just imagine what the world could be without any sort of discrimination.  And when we imagine that, then let's go to work and help it to happen. :)

Friday, July 6, 2018

Proverbs 28:8-9 -- On Working with God

"He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.
He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination."
Proverbs 28:8-9


The first verse here seems to be telling us that if we gain our wealth in inappropriate ways, then we are just gathering it together for someone else, implying I think that God will redistribute that wealth to others. 

The second verse seems to be saying one of two things.  If we don't listen to God, either we will be really bad at praying (perhaps because we didn't learn anything from God's law, so we will be praying for inappropriate things?), or our prayers will be abominable to God (presumably because we are just asking for things, and aren't willing to listen to or or work towards our own perfection).  Unfortunately, different footnotes support different interpretations (Moroni 7:6-7 and Psalms 109:7).  And perhaps it isn't either-or, but both.

I like the overall idea here that God is going to make things right (for the poor and just overall), whether or not our individual choices are in line with his will.   He will just redistribute our wealth, or skip over inappropriate prayers as needed.  If God can't work with us to accomplish his goals, then he will find someone else that is doing things right, and that person will get resources and answered prayers appropriate to his or her needs.  This is not to imply that God will ignore us or give up on us.  He won't.  He will work with us in whatever way he can, but he won't support us in iniquity.

I think our challenge here is to listen to and live God's law... to seek wealth only with the intent to help others (and follow through on that intention), and to pray well, with love and service in mind, making sure to put God's will before our own.  Then we won't end up on the wrong end of these verses, and we'll be (with God) making the world better rather than worse, which I think is a good overall goal. :)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Alma 1:30 -- On Liberality and Prosperity

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


This is a cool idea.  In the verses before and after this it suggests that part of the reason for their prosperity was actually that they were being generous and consistent in following God's commandments (verses 27-29, 31).  In this verse it mentions that they didn't set their hearts on riches, and that is also one of the reasons that they could be liberal to all.  It's an awesome thought that being generous and helping others actually leads to prosperity rather than the worldly view that you need to hoard or do unscrupulous things in order to get ahead.

I think this is part of a larger idea... the idea that doing as God asks actually makes the world better, us happier, etc.  It is the whole test of the gospel and perhaps religion in general.  The trick to that test though is that patience is part of the package.  It isn't just a test of God's word, but of our faith.  God's word is always good, but his way doesn't always pay off in the short term.  It is the long term where the proof is, and because of the long-term nature of fulfilling promises, our faith, obedience, and consistency are tested, just as the church was tested here.  We need to see that blessings come through real faith and commitment to God even through the hard times, not just by being fair-weather worshippers.

Today, let's work on being liberal to everyone who is in need, showing our faith to God and doing as he asks in helping others, whether it seems to be leading to prosperity or not. :)  Let's also take that lesson and apply it to bigger things in our lives, showing our obedience and patience through whatever hardships we encounter and learning to truly trust God and act on that trust, even when there is no immediately apparent benefit.




[Apologies for my recent absence.  I will try to pop in some extra scriptures over the next week to make up the deficit for when I was traveling and help out anyone who is experiencing withdrawal. :) ]

Monday, July 2, 2018

Psalms 48:12-14 -- On Passing the Good

"Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.
Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.
For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death."
Psalms 48:12-14


I like this reminder that God is God forever.  God isn't in a comic book universe where even the greatest powers get taken down.  He's more lasting than that... the very idea of God is an eternal idea, something that will always be there and that we can always rely on, even after death.  Like these verses tell us, we can (and should) teach our our children of him because the covenants that we make with him last beyond the grave, and are things that God will remember when dealing with our children, just as he remembered the covenants of our fathers when dealing with us.

Today, let's take note of God's works and let's pass the information on.  Unlike many of the things that we currently worry about, the cause and the works of God will still be here in 5, 10, or 15 years, and much longer.  Let's tell others the reason that we hope, and of the lives and the selves that God has helped us to build.

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