Sunday, September 30, 2018

D&C 24:8-9 -- On Afflictions, Strengths, and Dreams

"Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.
And in temporal labors thou shalt not have strength, for this is not thy calling. Attend to thy calling and thou shalt have wherewith to magnify thine office, and to expound all scriptures, and continue in laying on of the hands and confirming the churches."
Doctrine and Covenants 24:8-9


This is part of a revelation given to Joseph Smith the prophet.  I think it is good for us to see that prophets have problems too, because sometimes when we read about them or listen to them in conference they can seem bulletproof, like superhero aliens that we could never aspire to be. :)  The fact that God promises them afflictions, and asks them to be patient as well, helps us to understand that we are all in this together.  God wants us to know the truth just as much as he does them, and we can have a close relationship with God just like they have, if we work at it.

It is interesting in the second verse of the selection where God tells Joseph specifically one area where he isn't going to have strength because it isn't his calling.  I think that helps us to understand that we are all unique... we aren't little cookie-cutter saints, all expected to be the same or to do the same work for God.  He grants us the strengths and the weakness and the trials and the blessings that we each need to fulfil our callings as individuals.  Sometimes that means (as perhaps it did for Joseph Smith) that we can't have everything or be strong in every area, at least in this life.  Maybe some of the things that we wanted to do or a direction we wanted to go gets closed off.  When that happens, instead of blaming God for destroying our dreams, maybe we should look a little closer and see that God is always preparing us for something better.  Let's learn to stick with God and dream a little larger, to listen a little more, and to follow wherever God leads us.  As we do, he will light our way and bless our efforts.  In the end, following God will never be a disappointment or feel like settling for less.  God's conclusion will end up being gloriously better than any happy ending we could ever have imagined for ourselves.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Luke 14:16-20 -- On Supper Invitations

"Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many:
And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.
And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come."
Luke 14:16-20


This is the first part of the parable of the great supper.  In the parable, a man plans an event including a great banquet, and invites many guests, but when it is time for the meal to start, no one comes.  They all have various excuses, some perhaps better than others, but the fact remains that the man has this huge meal and no one to eat it.  He sends his servant out to invite the poor and the disadvantaged instead, and those people come, but there is still plenty of room at the dinner.  So, the man has his servant go out to the roads to grab anyone he can find to fill the remaining space, determined to not leave even one spot for those who had turned him down.

If we look at the story as just a dinner, then we might get a little off track wondering why bailing on the event is such a big deal.  I mean, it is sort of mean and thoughtless, especially if they agreed to go ahead of time, and if it was a super important event, but we all have things come up.  The fact that every single person that was invited declined is scary, and I can understand the man being upset by what was happening for sure.  I think the real story here is the symbolic one of God inviting us to partake of the gifts that he has given us such as the gospel, the scriptures, the church, and especially the atonement.

A lot changes in our understanding of the story if we know it is God asking us.  Firstly, there are certain people that we probably wouldn't refuse an invitation from, no matter how inconvenient.  We would bend over backwards to plan around it, and make sure we were there.  Maybe the person would have to be one of our heroes, or super famous, or someone that we just like a lot.  Thinking about the story abstractly, we might think that the man is just some random guy and we distance ourselves from the idea that it matters, but in this symbolic story the man inviting us is *the* most important man in our lives, and one minute in his company is worth anything else we have to give up.

Another thing that is clarified is the event itself.  This isn't just some random dinner that someone invited us to 15 minutes ago.  The food isn't some TV dinner that was microwaved inadequately in anticipation of our arrival.  What we are being offered is the best food anyone has ever eaten.  The bread of life, the living water, the fruit desirable above all other fruit (1 Nephi 8:10-12).

The story is basically God offering us everything, and to gain it, we just have to attend the dinner.  Now, attending might take some preparation.  We need to be clean and well-dressed and show up in the right place.  We need to be able to get along with the other guests.  Symbolically, this means we need to repent of our sins, and make sure that we are putting God first and loving and serving others.  We need to be willing to attend, meaning to be willing to read the scriptures and attend church and do the things that it takes to welcome God into our lives and learn the gospel.... things that invite the spirit into our lives (the spirit could be the oil in the parable of the 10 virgins, which is another feast story).  Compared to what we are getting though, the preparations we need to make are relatively small, and things that are within our power.

Today, let's determine to accept God's invitation and sit at his table, enjoying the generous gifts that he offers us.  Wandering off to do something else or prioritizing anything over God only hurts us, and prevents us from partaking of joy and perfection.  Let's realize how important it is to come to God's table, and not think that we can refuse and then show up later for dessert.  The time to come to the supper is now, and God invites us all.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Psalms 47:6-7 -- On Singing with Understanding

"Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding."
Psalms 47:6-7


The first verse of this selection is pretty clear, telling us to sing praises not just once, but four times.  The second verse clarifies a little bit, telling us to sing with understanding.

The object of our praise is clear: God, our king and the king of all the earth.  The more we understand who he is, the better we are able to praise him, through song and I am sure other ways.

I think that our understanding of God can enhance not just our songs in praise of him, but all aspects of our lives.  The more we know God, the better able we are to understand and cope with the rest of life too.  Prioritizing God helps everything else make sense.

Understanding God really well I think leads to obedience and living the gospel, because the more we understand him and the gospel the more we see that it matters and is the way to hope, peace, happiness, etc.  It is also the way to remove doubt and fear, for the more we understand, the more those things are banished, and the more we understand that God stands for confidence and surety... the exact opposite of those emotions.

Today, let's sing praises, and let's do it with understanding and feeling.  When we truly realize all that God has done for us, and will yet do, there will be no question of our sincerity. We will learn to love him as he loves us.  Without reservation. :) 

Amos 5:14 -- On Seeking Good

"Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken."
Amos 5:14


This seems fairly straightforward.  Sometimes though I think we overcomplicate the gospel in our minds, and even confuse good and evil as we try to justify the things that we want.  To get back on track, we need the spirit.  Listening to God through prayer, reading the scriptures, taking time to meditate and ponder about God's word... those are things that can get us closer to clarity.

Today, let's make sure that we are seeking good and not evil.  Let's work on life, and making sure we are close to God.  If we put that endeavor first, the rest of our lives will make a lot more sense.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Psalms 66:8-10 -- On Being Tried as Silver

"O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard:
Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.
For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried."
Psalms 66:8-10


I love the idea of God holding our souls, and helping us stand.  I think the interesting thing here is the way that he does it, and perhaps also the fact that we would praise him for it.

As indicated here, God tries us as silver is tried.  To purify silver, it is melted, which requires very high heat.  I took a jewelry class once and witnessed the process on a small scale, and it was somewhat enlightening.  Those of us in the class had donated some of our own old jewelry to be remade and poured into the molds we had made.  You could definitely tell when someone's old jewelry contained something other than silver by the way it caught fire and burned off when it was added to the mixture.

God does that to us, and sometimes it is painful because of the high heat.  It is not done, however, to cause pain, but instead to help us get rid of all of the impurities, so that we can be remade into something worthy.

Today, let's bless God and remember that all that he does is for our good.  Let's trust him to hold our souls and keep our feet, and purify us.  Let's listen to and take counsel from the Lord, and be willing to be remade and become so much more than we could become on our own.

John 11:35 -- On Grief

"Jesus wept."
John 11:35


This verse is from the story of the death of Lazarus.  At times when we weep in life, it might be sometimes valuable to know that Christ weeps as well.  Although he was perfect, he felt and mourned as we do.

Even though Christ had the ultimate perspective, and knew not only that Lazarus would live again someday, but that he would raise him up himself shortly.  He understood that this all was just a temporary setback, and yet, he still wept.  He emphasized with Mary, and he emphasizes with us.

Today, let's understand that Christ knows what we are going through, and commune with him about our troubles.  And let's make the effort to mourn with other people, and support them in their troubles and grief, as Christ does for us.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Jacob 6:5-6 -- On Cleaving Unto God

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts.
Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for why will ye die?"
Jacob 6:5-6


A couple of things stand out about these verses to me.  First, the idea that God cleaves to us, or is loyal and unwavering in his devotion to us, and that we should return that feeling.  I really like that, and I think it is really true.  One of the biggest mistakes in life that we often make is thinking that God hates us, or won't forgive us.  One of the very coolest things about the atonement though is that it gave Christ, who was sinless, a taste of the pain of being a sinful person so that he could really understand how to help us.  Not cool in that he had to suffer of course, but cool in the "with his stripes we are healed" sense (Isaiah 53:5; Mosiah 14:5).  He cared enough about us to go through that pain and understand the sufferings of every person throughout the history of the world.  There is no pain that he can't understand, and he went through that for us.  So that we could still have a chance to join him in heaven--a place that he deserves and we do not, except through his grace which gives us the time we need to repent and change.  If that isn't love and loyalty, what is really?  He does cleave to us, and he does everything he can (short of forcing us) to help us succeed.

These verses mention hardening our hearts against his mercy, and also against hearing his voice.  I find that sort of crazy.  I mean, I know that we do it, but I think we are crazy when we do.  Who doesn't need mercy, and who doesn't want to hear God's voice?  And yet we get distracted and focus on other things... our own guilt or some other, lesser goal... and we often miss out on what is really important.  The end of the selection asks "why will ye die?" and unfortunately the answer often is just that we got distracted.

Today, let's accept his mercy and listen to his voice.  Let's not harden our hearts, and go before him with full purpose of heart.  Let's cleave unto God, and love him the way that he loves us... with all that we are.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

D&C 112:10-11 -- On Loving Impartially

"Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.
I know thy heart, and have heard thy prayers concerning thy brethren. Be not partial towards them in love above many others, but let thy love be for them as for thyself; and let thy love abound unto all men, and unto all who love my name."
Doctrine and Covenants 112:10-11



The commandment not to be partial in the second verse seems to me to be an extension of humility.  Partiality can be looked at as an injection of pride, in terms of assuming that the people we value are inherently more valuable than others.  God asks us to love everyone, not just the people that are close to us, or the people that are similar to us.

I don't think this means neglecting our families of course, but that goes back to Matthew 5:46.  If we only love the people that love us, we aren't going far enough.  Mark 3:35 also I think makes the point that we can't neglect doing God's will, even for those closest to us, because we're *all* family.

Loving ourselves has to be part of this as well.  Part of humility is not loving ourselves way more than we love others, but I think it is also making sure that we aren't getting down on ourselves and learning self-hatred either.  If we love others as we love ourselves, that presupposes that we love ourselves enough to want to improve, and to petition God for his help to do so.  Self-hatred is, ironically, also a form of selfishness.  Just like hating other people, we are placing our own will before God's.  No one is worthless--not other people, and not ourselves.  If we prioritize self-doubt and despair before the Lord's message that we are valuable, and worthy of saving, then we're choosing ourselves rather than God.  With God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37), and when we give up on ourselves, we are giving up on God's grace in our lives.

Today, let's work on loving impartially.  Of course we should love the people close to us, but let's go out of our way to extend that same love to everyone.  Let's become more inclusive and invite more and more into the circle of our affection, until, with God's help, we really learn to love everyone as Christ does, seeing their inherent worth and their potential.  Let's also trust God that *we* have worth and potential as well, and work with God on improving our self-confidence as part of our work on impartiality. :)

Psalms 71:12 -- On Pleading

"O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for my help."
Psalms 71:12


This is a portion of a prayer, and the pleading nature of this prayer struck me today.  I think sometimes we are afraid of pleading in our lives because it shows weakness.  We want to be big and strong and handle everything, and yet, we are always weak in comparison with the Lord.  He doesn't see our weakness as a bad thing, but as a good thing that helps us to be open to help and to instruction.

I think pleading can help keep us humble.  It helps us realize that we need help in our lives--that we can't do everything alone.  That is an important thing for us to remember, not only because it helps us avoid pride, but also because it helps to protect us from ourselves--from taking on too much and isolating ourselves from the help of God and others.

Today, let's remember that we need some pleading in our lives.  We need God and we need other people.  Let's remember to be humble and to seek help when necessary.  Let's plead for help in learning to be better than we are, and in knowing how to help those around us.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Psalms 119:75 -- On Faithful Affliction

"I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me."
Psalms 119:75


This is an awesome attitude, and I think a difficult realization to come to.  Faithful affliction isn't something we usually attribute to God, I think because we imagine that, unlike earthly parents, there is something that God could do to teach us the lessons without the associated hardships.  We understand when mortal parents refuse to give in to a child's whining or unreasonable demands, but when those demands are our own, with God, it is harder for us to accept.  God has all power, right?  So why doesn't he just give us whatever we want and save us from the pain?

I think the answer is that if he did so, we wouldn't learn anything.  When we take a step back and remember God's goals, it is easier to understand why he wouldn't violate our free agency like that.  Satan's plan was to limit our potential in order to make sure that everyone was saved.  God's plan, which Christ brought to life, was to allow us unlimited potential through his atonement, allowing us free agency and the associated ability to choose life *or* death, good *or* evil.  Our potential is tied to that freedom, and God won't violate it by breaking his own laws of action and consequence.  Our choices have to matter and to affect what happens to us--that is how we learn to improve ourselves, and eventually, with his help, to approach perfection.

With God's help (including trials and afflictions), and feedback through consequences and opportunities for repentance, we have a life of practically unlimited chances to restart and continue to try to reach our goals and our potential.  God is committed to giving us as many opportunities as we need in order to reach that eventual perfection.  He won't stop helping us if we continue to strive for it.  It is when we give up on that lofty goal and stop progressing that we choose our own failure and stagnation.

Today, although our trials can be difficult to bear, let's remember that God loves us and always has our best interests in mind.  He doesn't allow our afflictions lightly, but uses them to help us and build us into better and more capable people, more able to change the world for the better.  Let's go to him and ask him to consecrate our afflictions for our gain (2 Nephi 2:2).  He will help us in all things and build us up so that we can be stronger and better.  And in the end, whether in this life or the next, our sufferings will be turned to joy, for no hardship, sorrow, or pain is permanent in the Lord.

Deuteronomy 30:15 -- On Choice

"See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;"
Deuteronomy 30:15


I really like the idea that our destiny in in our hands.  I mean, it is also kind of scary, since we so often make mistakes, but learning to choose is so much of life, and who we become... it shapes us into who we are.  A few verses later, we read "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life" (verse 19).  When God lays it out like this, I think there is little likelihood that we would choose death or evil.  The trick, perhaps, is to remember those basic choices as we live our daily lives.  Although of course many choices in life are between good and better, the fundamental ones that are between good and evil / life and death are probably the ones we should master immediately. 

God encourages us to choose life.  Today, let's listen to him and choose wisely.  Let's make sure that our path leads us somewhere we actually want to end up.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Psalms 106:12-15 -- On Leanness of Soul

"Then believed they his words; they sang his praise.
They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel:
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.
And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul."
Psalms 106:12-15


This is an interesting and sort of sad progression, but perhaps a familiar one.  We believe, sing God's praise, and then we forget and go astray.  An interesting thing here is that it says that God "gave them their request" by granting them leanness of soul  I'm sure that we don't *intentionally* ask for that, but by the context of our lives we probably are unconsciously asking for some leanness.  God offers us richness of soul and glittering facets of truth and beauty, and we toss them aside because they require effort or they aren't paying off immediately, or whatever else makes us go astray.  And when we make those kinds of choices, letting go of all that God has to offer us, we are always choosing less.  If we don't accept perfection from God, there is nothing else that can come even close for us.

Today, let's remember that walking away from God essentially means that we are asking to be less than we could be, and consider that choice carefully.  Let's instead stick with God and not forget or be too busy and hasty to listen to God's wise counsel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Psalms 34:4 -- On Seeking and Hearing

"I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears."
Psalms 34:4


 I read this little verse about the results of seeking the Lord and thought it was perfect, since that has been something I have been thinking about lately.  Being delivered from all of our fears seems like a huge blessing.  We know that being prepared can help us with fear (D&C 38:30), and that perfect love helps as well (Moroni 8:16), but this advice seems even more basic and accessible.  If we seek God, he will deliver us from our fear.

Today, let's seek God.  We can do this through prayer, scripture study, church and temple attendance, fasting, and service, but I think we can put a little bit into other things we do, just by including God in our thoughts throughout the day, and thinking about how to be better people.  God always hears us. Let's do those things that give *us* a chance to hear God and seek inspiration from him.


Monday, September 17, 2018

Mormon 9:25 -- On Doubt and Confirmation

"And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth."
Mormon 9:25


I really like this verse where God promises to confirm his words.  There is an interesting juxtaposition here between doubting and wanting confirmation.  I think it shows us the line between questioning and doubting.

God doesn't promise to confirm his words to those who doubt.  On the contrary... he promises to confirm his words to those who do not doubt.  However, this clearly shows us that there is a state where we absolutely believe and have faith, but we still have questions... and it is to people in that state that God promises the answers.

I like this promise, because it shows that God "is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).  We don't get that reward for just wondering.  Instead, we get it when we do the work of getting to know and trust God, experimenting on the word (Alma 32:27), and acting on our beliefs.

I think this also shows us the way forward when we have questions.  If something comes up that we don't understand, instead of letting that one thing undermine all else that we do know, we should trust God and look to him for answers, believing that he will explain it to us as we are able to understand.  I know this works because I have tried it many times.  He is there.  He loves us.  It is a great joy to him when we ask questions, because there is nothing he wants to do more than to teach us.

Today, let's go forward in belief and talk to God about our questions, knowing that he will answer.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Psalms 146:5 -- On Hope, Happiness, and Standing in the Light

"Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God:"
Psalms 146:5


The ideas of hope and happiness here I think go together really well.  We learn in Mormon 9:14 that after the judgment, "he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still," which means that learning to be happy now, in this life, is super important.  Unfortunately, life isn't always happy, and no matter how well we live, we are all subject to the cloud or mist of darkness that it speaks of in many places in the scriptures.  Sometimes it is a palpable darkness, as it was for the people in the Americas after all of the vast destructions that preceded Christ's visit (3 Nephi 8:22), or a huge impediment to progress, as it was in Lehi's dream (1 Nephi 8:23).

This mist can also affect us mentally, impacting our lives with a "brain cloud" of depression or despair that, by definition, we can't see our way out of.  It is in times like these when we are blinded to the good that God asks us to rely on our other senses.  He calls to us out of the darkness; he urges us to hold to the rod; he asks us to trust our spiritual senses above our mental and physical ones and trust in him even when everything else is telling us there is no way out.  With God, there is always, always a way forward, and hope for the future.  God can see what we can't, and he can lead us to the happy ending that is on the other side of that thick darkness.

We have God for our help, and he can lead us to happiness.  He doesn't just help us to see the good and the hope in the world--he IS the good and the hope in the world.  Everything that we need, he is.  I'm certainly not saying that it is easy.  Trying to find our way when we are blind is rarely easy, or fun.  However, the more we trust in the Lord and follow him, the easier *and* happier it gets, as we learn to trust our spiritual senses and get to know the Lord, whose love for us surpasses comprehension, and who can help us become our best and most joyful selves.  And if we keep at it, the mist will clear, as it did for the people in the scriptures, and we will be able to stand in the light in *every* sense.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

D&C 71:5-6 -- On Reading and Receiving

"Now, behold this is wisdom; whoso readeth, let him understand and receive also;
For unto him that receiveth it shall be given more abundantly, even power."
Doctrine and Covenants 71:5-6


I like the idea here that the more we receive God's word, the more he will give us.  2 Nephi 28:30 goes even farther, so that we know that it works both ways: "unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have."

I think we sometimes think that the first step is all there is... which goes for almost anything in the gospel.  For whatever principle God teaches us, we make a small effort, and we start to understand the principle, and it is enough to try it, and see that it works.  It blesses us with that little bit of extra spirit in our lives, and helps build our testimony.

Unfortunately that is where we often stop, thinking that we've learned that lesson or mastered that gospel topic.  Like so many other things in life though, the more we learn the more we realize there still is ahead. One of the coolest things about the gospel is its depth.  It is simple to understand on the surface, and God makes the gospel accessible to anyone who wants to learn more and draw closer to him, but it's also deep, and when we dive into the principles, there is always more to learn and there are ways to draw even closer to God.

Today, let's be willing to receive more.  Let's read and learn, and then dive in again and keep learning.  Let's do that with the scriptures by continuing to read and ponder, but let's also do it with everything else that God offers us, and keep growing and learning more and more from the Lord.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Jonah 1:1-3 -- On Rebellious Attitudes

"Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying,
Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.
But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord."
Jonah 1:1-3


I like Jonah I think because I can relate to him.  We read of other prophets who heard the call when the Lord asked them to step up, and they did.  Jonah however ran in the other direction.  He did repent when in the belly of the fish, but he still had a pretty rebellious attitude, even after finally doing as God asked.

I love that we have his example, because it tells us that God wants to work with all of us, even when we have failed repeatedly at doing things God's way or responding to his invitations.  It teaches us that God is willing to work with us and help us turn to him even when we have bad attitudes or we initially refuse his call.  That, of course, doesn't mean that we should intentionally rebel or act contrary to his will, but I am certainly glad of the space and time that God gives us as we learn who we are and more about God.

Today, let's work on listening to God and doing as he asks.  Tough, especially for the rebellious types like Jonah, but what we learn from God is worth the effort.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Genesis 7:9-12 -- On Pruning and Promoting Good

"There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.
And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights."
Genesis 7:9-12


This was interesting to me today, reading that, at least seemingly, all the animals went into the ark and then it was still a full week before the waters came.  Totally not saying that this was a bad thing... having a week adjustment so they could solve logistics problems before being confined long term sounds like an excellent idea, but when you were on dry ground and there was any doubt that the rains would come, it seems like just that much more of a test.

The whole idea of the flood is an interesting one as well.  Kind of a reset button for life on earth, which didn't seems to be going so well.  Similar starts and stops occur elsewhere in the scriptures (and other history) when one nation kills itself off to make space for another, or they are killed by the next group moving in, but this seems like the only time when it was a complete reset.

It's kind of hard to get inside God's head on things like this, since our perspective on death is very different. We typically haven't really internalized the concept of eternity, and death being temporary, so it is hard to think about what seems like a full stop of everything we are.  Thinking about the creation though, God was evaluating things as he went along, seeing that it was good... so what happens when it all starts going bad?  That possibility was necessary in order to give us free agency, but how do you manage evil without allowing it to overwhelm the good?  I think it is like the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees starting in Jacob 5.  Sometimes God has to do some pruning, but he is normally careful to "not clear away the bad thereof all at once" (Jacob 5:65).  In this case, maybe the trees were all withering and all he could do to save them was to purge everything and replant.

I'm not suggesting that all weather related phenomenon or natural disasters are God punishing the wicked.  There are many reasons God might call someone home.  All I'm saying is, hey... let's try to make our world better and better and help God save people rather than being the blight, hurting everything around us.  Let's be the reason God spares the city rather than the reason it needs to be destroyed.  Let's spread light and not darkness, gathering together and weathering whatever storms we are faced with, because we are determined to help good triumph over evil.

James 1:2-3 -- On Counting it All Joy

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience."
James 1:2-3


The Joseph Smith translation of this scripture clarifies that it is afflictions that help us rather than temptations.  Since there is crossover in definitions between those two things, I think the point here is probably that temptations/afflictions are things that help us when we face them and learn from them, not when we just give in to them, or give up because of them.  For instance, it isn't the experience of wanting something we shouldn't have that helps us learn patience, but the experience of wanting something that we can't have *and* choosing something that will be better for us long term than that short-term desire.

The idea of counting adversities as joy is an interesting one, but I think it makes sense when we look at all we learn from the adversity in our lives.  It is how we deal with adversities that makes us who we are in a lot of ways.  And if our faith was never tested, it would never grow, but might even fade.  The more we follow God by faith rather than by sight, the more we refine those spiritual senses that can help guide us, and help us recognize God's work in our lives.

Today, let's try to see the joy in the opposition that we run into, in whatever form it takes.  Let's see how it is building and forging us, and by the grace of God, turning us not into mindless automatons, but into our best selves.  Let's learn the patience that we need, and every other lesson that he offers as we grow better, stronger, and kinder in his service, seeing that everything that we experience counts towards our eternal joy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Jeremiah 22:10 -- On Weeping and Types of Death

"Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him: but weep sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country."
Jeremiah 22:10


This verse is in the context of abandoning the covenant of God, and worshipping other things, so it is an interesting symbolic statement, even though on the surface it seems to say that travel is worse than death. :)

In a very real way, God is our home and our native country.  Although the veil is drawn over our premortal memories, we often get a feeling from the spirit about things that we recognize or that we already know.  God is familiar to us on some level, so communicating with him and learning of him is sometimes more like remembering.

The reason given in the verse for weeping is when we let go of that internal knowledge and that spirit which helps us know where we came from and also how to get where we are going, and thus never make it back home to God.  That is a much worse tragedy than physical death, because that kind of death is only a temporary state until we are all resurrected.  Spiritual death is separation from God, and although Christ gave us the opportunity to repent and return to God at any point in our lives, the more we choose to walk away, the harder it gets to make a different choice, until we become past feeling and choose to die with our sins rather than letting them go.

Today, let's plan on returning and seeing our native country rather than walking away from God permanently.  Whatever it is that is interfering with our relationship with God, let's go to God and work it out... solve it now, so that we don't get set in our ways and lose something that we will regret more than death.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Jeremiah 36:28 -- On Burning God's Word

"Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned."
Jeremiah 36:28


At the end of the chapter, Jeremiah dictates all the words over again, and the information is not lost.  Part of the lesson here is surely that God's word cannot be permanently destroyed, but on a larger scale I think it also means that God's intentions and purposes cannot be frustrated (D&C 3:1).  God's will always prevails.

Sometimes in life we try to block God out of our minds and thoughts, perhaps because it makes it easier to sin or to not feel guilty or overwhelmed.  This might be a good thing to remember at times when we are tempted to try something like that.  We are going to have to face God at some point.  It might be better to do so immediately, and talk out whatever we are concerned or frustrated about, rather than attempting to run away or claim that God hasn't touched our lives.  He cannot be dismissed in that way... only temporarily ignored, at great personal cost.

Today, let's try to reconcile ourselves to the will of God (2 Nephi 10:24) and remember that he is trying to help us and lift us to better things.  Let's try to trust him a little more, and our own selfish and stubborn ways a little less, as we attempt to learn to be better people.  Let's avoid burning God's word, except symbolically into our hearts and minds.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Mark 13:33-37 -- On Preparation and Watching

"Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch."
Mark 13:33-37


This is an interesting analogy, talking about how we are part of Christ's household (Ephesians 2:19), and have authority and responsibility to do work for him while he is away, and to watch for his return.

I think the idea here of being servants in God's household helps us to remember that we're doing something with meaning, for a larger purpose, and though we might have a humble job like a porter or a doorkeeper (Psalms 84:10), everything we do in God's service is part of building a better world and making a difference.  

In the last verse we discover that we all have the task of the porter: to watch in addition to our other duties.  Luckily, that helps us all, because if we are all watching, we can help spread the word, and assist each other in being ready.  Because we are part of so great a cause (D&C 128:22), let's remember not to sleep while on the Lord's errand, and dedicate ourselves to building ourselves and our world into something amazing, so that we will be ready when Christ returns.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

1 Peter 4:12-13 -- On Trials and Joy

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
1 Peter 4:12-13


I think maybe we all think that are trials are strange things that happen to us.  Believing as we often do that worlds revolve around us, it seems strange that anything should get in our way. :)  We vary between believing that life should be perfectly smooth and that we are cursed with bad luck.  In actuality though, our trials and temptations are "common to man" (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Trials are something that we all go through, and a lesson that we all have to learn.

Even the most challenging of our trials is known to God, and something that he can help us with through the atonement.  I think that is what the next verse is about.  We can rejoice, knowing that we are partakers of that atonement, and that all things (even trials and afflictions) work together for good, when we are working with God (Romans 8:28; D&C 98:3).  We can be happy knowing that we're part of God's plan, and his plan leads to a happy ending. :)

2 Nephi 15:20 -- On Knowing the Truth

"Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"
2 Nephi 15:20


I think this whole idea of getting things mixed up as to what is right and what is wrong is really pervasive in the society that we live in.  For example, things like adultery and excessive alcohol use are often seen as normal or fun while things like chastity and religion are often ridiculed, portrayed as unnatural or evil, and adherents of these beliefs believed to be unintelligent or illogical.

Because society's view of what is right and wrong is so far off sometimes, we have to work really hard to listen to the spirit and to be able to tell where the right path is.  Some things that can help us get in tune and stay in tune with the spirit are the basics: prayer, scripture study, attending church, but also temple attendance, fasting, and including God much more in our everyday lives.  Sometimes we avoid thinking or talking about God, dividing our lives into religious time (often only on Sunday) and real-life time.  However, the more we include God in everything that we do, everything that we think, and every decision we make, the more we will have his spirit in our lives to help us navigate the sometimes-muddy waters of what is right and what is wrong, and what direction we should be heading.

Today, let's remember that God can help us see through the deceptions around us, and help us see the truth clearly for ourselves.  With God's help, we don't have to lean on questionable sources around us, but can have a personal testimony of the good and the evil in our own lives.  Let's call on him and rely on his help to know the sweet from the bitter when so many things portray them in the opposite way.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

D&C 64:31-32 -- On Things Coming to Pass In Their Time

"And behold, I, the Lord, declare unto you, and my words are sure and shall not fail, that they shall obtain it.
But all things must come to pass in their time."
Doctrine and Covenants 64:31-32


Earlier in this chapter God tells us that "it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man" (verse 23), which I think gives us some necessary context to this later verse.  God promises and assures us that his saints will receive an inheritance in Zion (verse 30), but that it will basically happen when it happens.  God's perspective and timescale are different, and he isn't trying to stress us out with delays, but is both teaching us patience, which we desperately need, but also helping us understand that things are going to be okay... always, all the time, and that there is *never* a time when they are not working out.  Faith and perspective make the difference.

I think that we get really focused on immediacy sometimes, and we are thinking "now, now, now" -- impatient to figure out what is going on or to have God tell us what comes next, when sometimes our impatience is exactly what is getting in our way or causing our peace to be disturbed.  The time interval between now and whenever the situation is resolved will remain the same whether we are upset about it or not.  We basically have the choice to stress out about it or to have faith.

This choice doesn't depend on the outcome.  Sometimes we base our faith in what *we* want to happen, and are thus disappointed.  Our faith should be in God, and in whatever he deems to be right for the situation.  Admittedly, that kind of faith is much harder.  God sometimes answers our prayers in exactly the way we really didn't want to see... but that's part of faith, right?  It is trusting in *God's* plan rather than in what we personally want, and knowing that his way is best, and will work out in the end, even if we don't necessarily enjoy the current phase of the plan. :)

Today, let's remember that God's timing is different than ours, and that focusing on our microscale time will only cause anxiety.  Let's learn to adapt and grow and move forward, no matter what we find before us.  As we do, we'll be able to take advantage of opportunities when God sends them to us.  We'll have a lot more internal peace as we trust God to take care of the things that we can't plan for, instead of worrying about those things ourselves.  Let's trust and listen, and be ready for the miracle. :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Mosiah 2:40-41 -- On Never-Ending Happiness

"O, all ye old men, and also ye young men, and you little children who can understand my words, for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression.
And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it."
Mosiah 2:40-41


Bad things are going to happen to everyone because we need to learn and grow.  However, it is good to remember that getting trapped in our sins has negative results, and living God's commandments have positive results.  These verses don't mean that we as sinners will have lives of unrelenting pain, or that we as God's disciples will lead charmed lives and be showered with wealth, but it does mean in general, that things will go better if we do good, and things will go worse if we do evil.  And, in the end, once we've committed to good (or evil), there will be a vast difference.  Things aren't always just now, but they will be in the end.

I always feel the need to put in warnings about this, because it can harm us if we expect everything to go perfectly, and we all definitely face challenges.  However, this whole idea is also super important.  We *should* consider the state of being blessed and happy.  It's an amazing idea, and who doesn't want that?  God asks us to think about it because it matters to us... we need to have that hope, and to remember that what we do really does make a difference in the end.  Despite disclaimers, it can also harm us if we expect everything to go badly, because we might forget that God *does* shower the righteous with blessings.  All things *do* work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28).  Things really WILL get better and better as we become better people.

This idea is very real, but sometimes it doesn't *seem* real when we look around and see bad people seemingly blessed.  Part of it is attitude.  When we are trusting in God and doing things his way, we see more of the good around us.  We notice the good in people, we see the blessings.  When we are walking away from God it is hard to see the bigger picture, and we tend to get snagged on whatever stumbling block is right in front of us.  It is hard to have enough perspective to see around it, or to see that we can surmount it, and that things are actually going to be okay.  Good doesn't equal rich, although sometimes it does lead to temporal blessings.  The results at first are purely spiritual, but they do get better and better as we get better... especially that whole heaven part.  "Never-ending happiness" sounds amazing, right? :)

Today let's remember the general lesson that good leads to good and evil leads to evil.  If we do good, good will be done to us.  If we do evil, we can expect evil.  Unfortunately, most of us haven't gotten to the point where it is all one or the other, so we get some of both, along with the essential lessons of life.  Despite temporary road-blocks, let's work on making our lives full of never-ending good, and God will in turn make them into never-ending happiness. :)

Ether 12:2-5 -- On A Better World

"And Ether was a prophet of the Lord; wherefore Ether came forth in the days of Coriantumr, and began to prophesy unto the people, for he could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him.
For he did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed, saying unto them that by faith all things are fulfilled—
Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not."
Ether 12:2-5


There are some great ideas here.  The first verse tells us that Ether could not be constrained because of the Spirit of the Lord.  This makes me think that the Spirit offers and ensures our freedom, which is kind of cool, since we know how important free agency is to God.

I think the diligence of Ether is also pretty cool, working to teach and help the people, wanting them to be able to avoid destruction and teaching them about hope and faith.

I love the idea of hoping in a better world.  In the Doctrine and Covenants, God says "thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better" (D&C 25:10), so sounds like we should go beyond hope and actually seek as well. :)  Not saying that this life and what we do in it aren't important... they are.  But I think that we are often shortsighted and get mentally trapped in the present, thinking that the rules that apply here are the ones that we are going to live by for eternity, or perhaps we get so focused on now that we are unable to muster enough imagination to grasp  that where we are going is a much, much better place. 

Keeping that focus on eternal goals helps us to see our lives in the proper perspective--important of course, but more as a preparation and preparation for the future.  We *should* be happy and learn to enjoy our lives, for instance, but not just this moment... we want to focus on sustained joy that we can take with us into eternity, not on fleeting thrills.

Today, let's allow our hope to anchor us, and to help us to focus on the amazing future that awaits us as we stick with God.  Let's not doubt because we cannot see.  God manifests himself to us in many additional ways.  We will be okay if we will pray and take the time to find his answers in our lives.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Psalms 46:10 -- On Stillness, Knowing, and Peace

"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalms 46:10


Something that we seem to miss more and more in our society is the art of being still.  There are so many distractions, challenges, responsibilities, hobbies, and other things to do that there never seems to be time to stop and think.  Some might even consider stopping to meditate or think to be a form of laziness.  And yet the same God who encourages us to be "anxiously engaged" (D&C 58:27) also encourages us to be still.

I think that these things work together because there is a time for everything.  Even God rested on the seventh day, and he's not lazy at all, right? :)  We forget sometimes in our busy lives that praying also requires listening.  We need a break from even the best distractions of life in order to tune in to God.

Today, let's take time to be still and to know God.  Instead of a quick prayer before rushing on to something else, let's set aside some quality time to talk to God and to think about the things of his gospel.  Let's find that stillness and calm in ourselves, and enjoy the time we have to step away from the craziness and to hang out with our Father in Heaven.  As we do, not only will we be more aware of what God wants us to know, we'll also be closer to the peace that he wants to grant us today.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

2 Nephi 13:10-11 -- On Cramming for Eternity

"Say unto the righteous that it is well with them; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
Wo unto the wicked, for they shall perish; for the reward of their hands shall be upon them!"
2 Nephi 13:10-11


I like the contrast of these two verses because it seems like the same thing happens to each group.  The righteous eat the fruit of their doings, and receive the reward of their own hands, and the same happens to the wicked.  In one case it's a sad thing and in the other a happy thing, but the difference here isn't about the way that God thinks about them, the way that others treat them, or about any external influence.  It is that they... we... are rewarded according to our own actions.

Of course external things influence us to one degree or another, and I'm not saying that God won't take those things into account.  Just that it is clear that the choices that we do have and make dictate our future state.  This makes a lot of sense as we look at our lives now.  They are the direct result of choices that we have made.

We sometimes get it into our head that we just have to push through this life, make a big one-time effort, and then God will shower us with everything good, and we can relax on clouds for eternity.  And hey, there could be some relaxing on clouds involved.  I don't know.  I think though that if we just treat life as though we were cramming for a test and assume that we won't need the information and skills that we gain later, we might be in for a shock--similar to the time in college when I found out that math was actually pertinent to real life. :)

God isn't just making us jump through hoops in life.  He's actually teaching us how to have a joyous eternity.  Everything that we encounter in life is designed to help that happen.  Today, let's make sure that our actions are things that we want rewarded to us in the future.  Let's make sure that we are understanding, retaining, and even learning to appreciate what God is teaching us rather than just cramming it into short-term memory.  It isn't just going to be on the test.  It will be a part of our existence for a very long time.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Titus 1:15 -- On Improving Perspective

"Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled."
Titus 1:15


This is a really interesting idea, and I think something that it is easy to see in our own lives when we look for it.  When we're on track and feeling the spirit in our lives, we don't have to worry about having a "dirty mind" or expecting the worst.  We don't dwell on lust and sin, but we instead gain some of God's perspective, and we look for the hope around us and the good in other people.  Although it can be thought of as naive, it is actually a better way to see.

It's easy to see the flaws and the mistakes and the problems around us, and I'm not saying that those things should necessarily be ignored.  All truth should be considered, but often we focus so much on the negative that we skew our own viewpoints away from reality.  Additionally, we let so many things distract us from what is truly important.  Even when things aren't inherently evil, they can be bad for us when we give them undue value in our priorities.  Today, as we look at the world, let's consider our perspectives, and work with God to improve them, working towards unity, hope, and love.

1 Timothy 6:17-18 -- On Being Rich in Better Ways

"Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;"
1 Timothy 6:17-18


Earlier in this chapter it tells us that "the love of money is the root of all evil" (verse 10), which presents money as a fairly dangerous thing, since we are surely tempted to love it.  I like that here we learn some of the things that help us avoid the associated evil, whether rich or not.  If we do good and are willing to use our money to help others and to reach out to others, then we're doing as God asks and sticking to the good.  To me it seems like the idea is to be other-focused rather than self-focused.  The more we are willing to share with and communicate with others, to be part of a community of good, the safer we are in making sure we are loving people rather than things.

There are many other things besides money that can be easily used for evil--television, the internet, and other technologies as one example.  Perhaps some of the same guidance can apply to other areas as well.  As we dedicate ourselves and our actions to God and prioritize his will, we are able to avoid the dangerous potential of so many things, and find ways to do good, similar to the idea of Romans 8:28 "All things work together for good to them that love God" or Titus 1:15: "Unto the pure all things are pure."

Today, let's make sure that we work on being pure and not highminded.  Let's make sure that we are using the resources that we have in life for God's purposes, and not loving anything more than we love him.  As we fix our priorities, a lot of the pitfalls in life will get safer or even become non-issues, because we are focused where we should be--on God.  As we work on that, we will become rich in better ways, like in good works, and in service to God and each other, rather than collecting the most toys or getting into mischief. :)

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