Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Deuteronomy 1:29-31 -- On Dread

"Then I said unto you, Dread not, neither be afraid of them.
The Lord your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you, according to all that he did for you in Egypt before your eyes;
And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the Lord thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place."
Deuteronomy 1:29-31


This is Moses talking to the children of Israel, explaining what happened before they wandered forty years in the wilderness.  I think it fits really will with Isaiah 8:13: "Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread."  ... If we're going to fear something, it should be the Lord, who is much more powerful than the people and things that we dread, and who can help us overcome our fears.

Today, let's look to the Lord for help with our fears, and not let other dread creep into our hearts to disturb our hearts and our lives.  God is the answer to the problem before us, no matter what it is.  It might be more complicated than just praying, of course, but prayer is always the first step.  Let's take it.  It will make the rest of the steps easier.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

2 Corinthians 7:4 -- On Comfort, Joy, and Tribulation

"Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation."
2 Corinthians 7:4


I like this idea of feeling comfort and joy in the middle of  tribulation.  I think some of that is clearly because of shared experience, feeling like he has friends that support him in his trials, but ultimately even this friendship is attributed to God.  As it says two verses after this, "God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus" (verse 6).

As we learn in John 14:18, God will not leave us comfortless.  He works in many ways to help us, sometimes through other people, and sometimes just by helping us adjust and change our hearts so that we can bear up our burdens with ease.

Today, let's go to God in our distress and let him teach us joy and comfort in the midst of our tribulation.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Isaiah 57:1 -- On Death and Life

"The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come."
Isaiah 57:1


The idea of dying in order to be spared evil is an interesting one, and I think a powerful one as well, as long as we truly have faith in God's promises of eternal life.  If we do, then death is still of course sad, but it loses its ability to overwhelm and destroy our peace, because we know that it isn't the end--it is only a transition period before the resurrection.

Today, let's remember that God's purposes and his plan include even death, and that all things are working together for our good and are aimed at the goal of our eternal happiness.  Let's work on not focusing on the sadness or limitations of today, but instead on the happiness and potential of the eternal lives before us.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Proverbs 3:25-26 -- On Confidence

"Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.
For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken."
Proverbs 3:25-26


I really like this idea of the Lord being our confidence.  I think that works on many levels, because it is hard to have confidence in ourselves sometimes, and we're not supposed to trust in the arm of flesh, meaning other people but also possibly ourselves, so it all comes back to our reliance on God.  Other people and other things are going to fail us, and sometimes we are going to fail ourselves.  But God will never fail us.

Today, let's focus on God and not allow the cares of the world to drag us down.  Let's trust in the Lord to help us and teach and take care of us.  This doesn't guarantee no trials of course, but sticking with God means knowing that the Lord will provide, even in the midst of trial.  Let's work on trusting God and gaining confidence in him.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Matthew 21:21-22 -- On Faith

"Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
Matthew 21:21-22


This is a really powerful idea to which we add caveats all the time, and we add caveats because we don't want people to think of God as a genie.  Perhaps also we don't really grasp what faith is.  Sometimes we interpret it as wishing or wanting something really hard.  We feel like if we want it enough that we can kind of wish it into being, and we work to have faith in that thing that we want rather than in God, and in his will.

James 4:3 and 2 Nephi 4:35 mention that we will get what we ask for, if we don't ask amiss, and I think that is part of the focus on God thing.  Like Christ, we need to be willing to do things God's way.   In 1 Nephi 7:17-18 for instance we read about Nephi asking for deliverance, and then asking for a specific thing--for the power to break out of the ropes that were binding him.  His faith worked, but God didn't answer his prayer in exactly the way that he had asked.  Instead, his bands were loosed.  Perhaps not quite as impressive, but it still solved the problem, in the way that God desired it to be solved.  Nephi's faith in God paid off, but not his faith in being able to break the ropes.  In this case, perhaps he asked amiss... and so do we sometimes.  We get answers, but when they aren't exactly what we wanted, and we have to keep working with God to make sure we are on the same page.

As we pray and learn more about God, we learn to recognize the spirit that teaches us how to pray, and helps us to understand God's perspective.  As long as we are in tune with that spirit, then we can have faith that what we are asking is God's will, and if it is God's will, then if we ask for it, it will happen.  Faith is powerful, but we have to remember that it has to be faith in God, not something like faith in unicorns, right?

I don't mean to diminish the miraculous nature of this promise, by the way.  I know that this promise works because I have seen it happen.  God helps us overcome obstacles and even solves problems for us when we can't solve them ourselves.  Today, let's believe in miracles and put our faith in God.  Let's ask God for what we need, and let's be humble and willing to accept it when he sometimes turns our lives in a different way than we expected.  The path that God asks us to follow is always the right one, even if it doesn't match our desires.

Friday, October 26, 2018

2 Corinthians 7:9-10 -- On Sorrow and Salvation

"Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."
2 Corinthians 7:9-10


Since we know from 2 Nephi 2:25 that at least a large part of the purpose of life is joy, sorrow seems to be something that just doesn't fit into our lives, or God's plan.  And yet, as explained in today's selection, sometimes the godly type of sorrow turns us to repentance and salvation.  Worldly sorrow, apparently, turns us to death.

I'm guessing that distinguishing between two types of sorrow is about our focus and our faith.  Jesus wept with Mary and Martha when Lazarus died, and mourning and sadness is going to happen, but if we keep our focus on God, then we can trust that he will help us through even the worst sorrows and disappointments, and that the sorrow is temporary.  When we are feeling "the sorrow of the world" we seem to dramatically assume that today's sorrow will never pass and sometimes even draw our suffering out, forgetting to look around us at anything else because we are so wrapped up in that one part of life.

Today, let's work on seeing through even sorrow to the promises of God that underlie all things.  Let's be sorry for and change the things that we regret about our past actions, repenting and becoming better people.  Let's make sure we don't get trapped in the death of self-imposed eternal sorrow because we can't see past it to all the joy that God is offering us.  Instead, let's choose salvation by focusing on God and doing what we can to get back on his path of happiness.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Matthew 18:11 -- On the Lost

"For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost."
Matthew 18:11


I like the idea of Christ saving that which was lost.  I wonder though who we think that is.  We call Christ our Savior, but I don't think we always feel the impact of what that means, or what we would be without him.  Not that we need to be depressed about it of course, but I think it affects our thankfulness and awe and humility a little bit when we take time to recognize that we *were* lost, and could never have been found and returned to God without his sacrifice.

When we read some of the parables about the workers in the field, the lost sheep, the prodigal son, the wise and foolish virgins, and many others, I think we very often place ourselves into the stories in the awesome parts with the best lines--as the ones who stayed close to God.  We shake our heads at those foolish ones or the lucky ones who didn't work much.  However, I think it is much more accurate to picture ourselves as the ones who have gone astray in those stories.  We are the ones who need that extra oil and don't have it.  We are the ones who wasted our inheritance with riotous living.  We are the ones who only worked an hour in the vineyard.   And God finds us and helps us all anyway.  He tells us, like the woman taken in adultery, to go and sin no more, and he saves us from the worst part of ourselves.

That's what this life is... the second and third and nine hundredth chances that we desperately need in order to make good.  It is Christ, reaching down and setting us back on our feet and brushing us off... helping us to find a better way.  Today, let's remember that *we* are the lost.  Let's apply the scriptures to ourselves rather than to someone else.  Let's improve ourselves rather than worrying about how someone else needs to improve.  Let's heed Christ's call and reach out so that he can lift us up and save us, because we definitely need it. :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ruth 1:15-17 -- On Commitment

"And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me."
Ruth 1:15-17


What I notice about these verses today is Ruth's commitment level.  Her mother in law tells her that she is free to follow her sister in law's example and return to her old life, and Ruth makes it *super* clear that she has no intention of doing so.  She is completely committed, all in on her new life, even without her husband, including her commitment to her mother in law and to God and the religion that she married into.  It would have been really easy to go back to what she had known before, and Naomi even encourages her to do so, but Ruth isn't swayed in the least.  She has embraced what she has chosen fully and still chooses it.

I wonder sometimes if we lack that same kind of commitment and determination in our lives.  So often I think we kind of half-choose, trying to hedge our bets or only commit partially.  It reminds me of James 1:8: "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways."  When we work so hard to not choose, or to hang on to incompatible choices too hard, we stop progressing, because we are kind of dancing around the crossroads hoping to see far enough ahead to make a decision, and even walking a few steps down one, then coming back and trying the other... and we aren't actually getting anywhere.

I am not a poster girl for decisiveness or commitment, but Ruth inspires me to work on that.  She knows what she wants, what she believes in, and she says so, and acts on it, and builds her life around her faith in that belief.  I would like to be more like Ruth in that way.  Today, let's work on emulating that--choosing God and sticking with that choice, never backing down or out when things get hard or allowing doubt to send us back to look down another path.  Let's have faith that God's path leads us everyplace good, and will help us become our best selves... because it will.  Let's go all in with God.  As we do, he will be able to go all in with us, supporting us in our faithful decisions and leading us into perfect happiness because he can trust us to commit to the opportunities that he gives us.

Helaman 14:30 -- On Choosing Life

"And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free."
Helaman 14:30


Not that I am the hugest fan of responsibility scriptures, but it has seemed to be sort of a theme lately.  This one struck me with the audacious (and true) idea that when we do iniquity / sin, we are doing it to ourselves.  Not something I usually think about, but an important concept.  Every time we hurt someone else, we are hurting ourselves.  Every time we act in defiance of God, we are also harming ourselves by harming that relationship.  When we choose bad things, we are by definition inviting bad things into ourselves and our lives, and if we want to be good and to have good lives, we have to do good.

It seems so simple laid out like that, and maybe it is.  It doesn't always seem that simple when we're making the choices, but I think we are the ones complicating it, not God.  He gives us the choice between good and evil, and the ability to choose life and not death, in an eternal sense.  He wants us to choose, and be, good.  In order to become good though, we have to have the knowledge and ability to choose, so like any father he has to let us grow up--to go out the front door and face the world.

Today, let's work on not perishing.  Let's do good and be good and choose life, life, and more life.  Let's look unto God with every thought and every breath, and be the kind of people that are like him, loving and helping the people around us--the kind of people that we've always wanted to be.

Monday, October 22, 2018

D&C 59:9 -- On Choice and Obligation

"And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;"
Doctrine and Covenants 59:9


I like the idea here that rather than an obligation, church attendance is about keeping ourselves clean and on track.  I think we get things backwards a lot and think about life as being about external expectations, when it is really about who we want to be.  And church helps us to be who we want to be.  I think it helps my attitude a lot to think about it that way... and really isn't it that way with a lot of things in our lives?  It would probably change the way we feel about our lives in a lot of ways if we examined our own motivations a lot more, and remembered that we are free to act for ourselves and to choose to be who we want to be.

Instead of doing things because we are expected to, or feel some obligation,  maybe we could lift our perspective past the simple law and order level and do things that help us to be that better people.  We might not be there now, but if we want to become the kind of people that get a lot out of going to church, then let's work on choosing that.  As we do, with God's help, we will grow into our choice.

Now of course I don't want to encourage anyone to use that choice to walk away from God.  I think that would be a very poor choice.  God is the most important relationship that we have.  However, God gives us even that choice, and on some level that *is* what we are choosing every day... to get closer to or farther away from God and decide for ourselves what we want in that regard.  Today, let's choose everything that edifies us and helps us to be the good people that we want to be, hopefully including God and going to church. :)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

2 Kings 5:9-13 -- On Pride and Miracles

"So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.
And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.
But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?"
2 Kings 5:9-13


This reminds me of a passage in the Book of Mormon: "because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished" (1 Nephi 17:41).  Naaman's expectations were very high when he went to the prophet.  He expected attention and ritual and probably respect and honor.  After all, his king had sent thousands of pieces of gold to Israel's king to get him healed.  He was an important man. Instead, he was sent off to do something simple that didn't seem to justify the time and expense and effort of his journey.  He got mad and walked away.

And isn't that what we do, often, in our own lives?  We go to God, we ask him for help, and our expectations are high.  We want drama.  Perhaps a little lightning from heaven or instant healing or a big bag of money.  We wouldn't mind a little ritual and respect as well.  After all, we're important.  And then God asks us, instead, to do something simple.  Something that doesn't seem dramatic enough for our current effort or desperation.  And we, like Naaman, doubt.  Like Naaman, we are angry that the Lord isn't taking us seriously or meeting our needs.

The saving grace for Naaman were his servants, who humbly risked his wrath and asked him a good question that helped him to see his own pride.  If the prophet had asked him to complete some intensely difficult and complicated ritual, he would have been all over it, but washing was too much?  So, after this he tries it and is healed.  He goes back to the prophet and tries to pay him for the healing, but Elisha refuses.  The lesson for Syria perhaps being that there is a God of miracles, but he doesn't work for someone else's agenda or base his decisions on importance or wealth.

On an individual level though, there is another lesson for us here and perhaps that is that we need to kick our self-importance down a notch, and recognize that what God asks us to do is always worth doing.  Yes, we may have heard it a thousand times before, and perhaps we are already doing some of the things that he asks, but the simple things matter.  Church, prayer, scripture study, tithing, fasting, baptism, etc... all of these things and many others are things that we have heard about over and over, but they still matter to an incredible extent in each of our individual lives, and in a lot of ways either pre-solve or prepare us for the harder things (and perhaps the secret advanced levels of the easy things that we discover once we master beginner mode). :)

Today, let's humble ourselves as Naaman did, and do as God asks.  Whether we understand why or not, God's commandments are always for our good, and will always bring us closer to our better and more perfect selves.  Let's work on letting go of the pride that is holding us back from God and getting in the way of our own miracles.

1 Nephi 16:28-29 -- On Directions and Messages from God

"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.
And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things."
1 Nephi 16:28-29


This idea of faith-based technology is super cool, and I totally wish I had a Liahona like this one that Lehi found outside his tent door (verse 10).  It seems like things would be so much easier if we had a compass/communicator that pointed the way, and could clarify with direct messages.  Seems like a very tactile connection to God, which could relieve a lot of uncertainty. Interestingly, Alma compares this same compass/device with the general personal experience of following the words of Christ, which in large part means reading and heeding the scriptures (Alma 37:38-45), saying that our task is just as easy.

Thinking about it, we are actually amazingly blessed to have the scriptures available to us in so many different forms, almost all of which can be easily carried with us, so Alma has a definite point in reminding us that reading the scriptures is easy.  D&C 84:54-57 also explains that our minds are darkened if we don't follow through with reading the scriptures.  So, perhaps my wishful thinking for a Liahona is just curiosity about something that I don't have, when the real issue is focusing on what I *do* have, and acting on it.  Don't misunderstand--the Liahona is an incredibly cool idea.  I still wish I had one, but I think that when we get our minds around the fact that our whole lives react according to our faith and diligence, then we realize that God works with us just as he worked with Lehi and his family, and we too need to heed his words carefully.

Today, let's take up the prophet's challenge to re-read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year, and if we have already started, let's continue and follow through.  Let's not stop there, either.  Prayer is in large part how we speak to God, and reading the scriptures is largely how he speaks to us.  There is so much to be gained from reading them over and over until they are a part of us--filling our minds with good and not bad, and knowing them so well that the spirit can jump the words into our minds at the proper moments, and we have that advice from God available whenever we need it.  Thus, instead of our minds being darkened, they are actually enlightened and we are incredibly blessed by following the words of Christ.

Friday, October 19, 2018

2 Nephi 29:8-9 -- On God's Words and Work

"Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever."
2 Nephi 29:8-9


I like this idea that God talks to all of his children and remembers all the nations.  There are only three specific records spoken of later in this chapter, which are the records of the Jews, the records of the Nephites, and the records of the lost tribes of Israel (verses 12-13).  However, in verse 12 it adds that the Lord will speak to all nations and they shall write it, so even though we don't have all of each other's records yet, we know that there is more.

In John 10:16 we learn that Christ had "other sheep" that needed to hear his voice.  We know that at least one of these other groups of sheep were the Nephites.  And then, to the Nephites he said that he had yet other sheep "not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem" (3 Nephi 16:1), and that he would go and also show himself to them.  I think it is extraordinarily cool to know that we have at least one other record out there somewhere that details Christ's visit to his people.  The accounts in the New Testament and in 3rd Nephi are already so rich, but it is the kind of amazing coolness that can only be enhanced by being added to. :)

I also love the idea here that God's work is not finished, and that he doesn't change.  He doesn't have to, because his perfect day has already come, and there is no improvement that he could make.  For us, that means solidity, consistency, reliability.  We doubt and fear and waver.  God does not.  His work continues because, though eternal, he never grows old or feeble, and it is a work that he has chosen and that he enjoys.  His work is to help us and his children everywhere to achieve eternal life and salvation, and he can be relied on to always be willing to help us because he loves us, and loves his work of lifting and strengthening us.

Today, let's remember that God doesn't change.  If something is going wrong between us, it means we are changing, not him.  Let's remember God in all that we do, and trust his reliability and love as he reaches out and invites us to come to him.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Titus 2:11-13 -- On Spiritual Senses

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;"
Titus 2:11-13


The first verse of the selection tells us that the grace of God has appeared to everyone, which is similar to several scriptures about the light of Christ or the Spirit of Christ that is given to everyone (D&C 93:2, John 1:9, Moroni 7:16).  I think the idea here is that God touches us all and helps us know right from wrong.  We sometimes call those feelings a conscience, but what it really seems to be is an inherent connection with the divine, connecting our souls to God and helping us know how to live.  (And to be alive, because we also learn in D&C 88:13 that it giveth life to all things--so not only a conscience, but the actual spark from God that gives us life.)  The word used for it here, grace, seems so true, because can you imagine trying to navigate this world without the fundamental guidance that God placed within us?  It makes the difference so often in our lives when we feel that inherent warning that we are going the wrong direction, or that we need to stop and think about things a little bit more, or a positive feeling when we are choosing something good.

That connection to God teaches us many things, if we listen.  It can be a reminder of our pre-mortal selves, granted to us by that connection, and it is the way that we can recognize the Holy Ghost, which uses that grace and light within us to bring us even stronger impressions and messages.  That part of us connected to God gives us spiritual senses that can grow stronger and help us more and more as we progress in the gospel and in our relationship with God.  Basically, the more we listen to and act on those impressions, the more we will recognize them and the more God can help us.

One challenge is that this "conscience" or divine connection that God gives us is not loud.  God wants us to have free agency.  We have his grace and light within us to help us recognize our inherent connection to divinity and our potential--as a guide, not a prod.  If we choose to, we can desensitize ourselves to our spiritual impressions, and mask that Godly sense with our own feelings for "worldly lusts" ... or simply refuse to listen, trying to block it out with more exciting and immediate physical feelings.  So, in order to use our spiritual senses, we have to take time and effort to listen, to tune in to that internal sensor and recognize what we are feeling from it.  As we practice, we'll become able to recognize it more easily and it can help us more.

The goal of that Godly grace or light in our lives--that conscience or our spiritual senses--is to recognize God in our lives, and to bring us closer to Christ, and the "blessed hope" that he offers us.  He offers us a better way and a more joyful life.  Today, let's nurture our spiritual connection to God, actively learn to recognize and listen to those impressions and feelings, and use them to guide our lives.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

James 2:22 -- On Perfecting our Faith

"Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?"
James 2:22


The idea that works make faith perfect is interesting, and can be carried into our individual lives.  Often we get an answer to a prayer through an impression or feeling, but immediately begin doubting it or wanting another confirmation rather than acting on it, and trusting God's answer.

We want God to answer us; we want to feel more holy; we want better answers to prayers, or more sensitivity to the spirit, or to feel God's love in our lives, but we frequently fail to realize that all of these things come through *practice.*  The more we listen to the spirit and are willing to act on those impressions, the more we can feel and tell the difference between a prompting from God and our own inclinations and desires.  And the more we recognize God's voice in our lives, the more he can work with us and help us.

God is trying to help us grow closer to him, but he needs us to act on our faith before we can build more faith, which slowly becomes perfect the more we exercise it.  Today, let's use our works to improve our faith.  Let's talk to God about things, and if we get a positive impression or feeling, let's begin to act on it.  God will correct us if we start down the wrong path, but, kind of like a GPS, we have to move in order to get to the next turn, and we can't achieve our destination without some action.

Isaiah 28:10 -- On Learning our Lines and Progressing in the Gospel

"For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:"
Isaiah 28:10


I like this idea of learning a little at a time, building upon what we know, and growing in the gospel and in truth.  D&C 93:12-14 explains that this is also the way that Christ learned, although I am certain that he learned much more quickly than we do, since he resisted all of the distractions of sin that get in our way.

D&C 50:24 also talks about this process, explaining that as we receive light from God, and continue learning, we get more light, and that our light increases and grows "brighter and brighter until the perfect day."

Christ's perfect day already came, but he continues to work with us, and in D&C 93:20 he lets us know that it can happen for us as well, if we keep the commandments.  Again, though, the idea is still receiving grace for grace.  The more we obey, the more we learn.  The more we learn, the more we are given.

What I take away from all of this is that the gospel doesn't have to be overwhelming or done all at once.  That isn't the intent or the expectation.  God knows that we are going to progress a little at a time.  That doesn't mean that he encourages or allows sin--but it does mean that he gives us time to solve our issues without condemning us.  He consistently asks us to keep working on it.  To "go, and sin no more," as he asked the woman taken in adultery to do (John 8:11).

Today, let's keep going, learning our lines and our precepts, and never stopping and thinking that we are good enough as is, but continuing to work on self-improvement in the gospel, until we someday reach that perfect day.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Isaiah 41:6 -- On Helping in a Better Way

"They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage."
Isaiah 41:6


I like this little slice of people helping each other... out of context it seems ideal.  In this particular case though, many of the commentaries mention that these people were supporting each other in idolatry.  The verse is contrasted later in the chapter with another verse: "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" (verse 10).  Together with the other verse the idea becomes that God can help us a lot better than people can, especially if those people are encouraging us to do evil.

Although God encourages us to love and help each other, and that is a totally good thing in general, it doesn't work really well when we are supporting each other in sin.  In order to get quality help, we have to be rooted in the Lord... similar to the idea in Psalms 121:1-2, emphasizing that help comes from the Lord, or 2 Nephi 4:34 / D&C 1:19 with the idea of trusting God instead of trusting in "the arm of flesh."

This doesn't mean of course that people aren't cool, or that we shouldn't support each other.  We totally should.  We can take this verse and move forward with the idea, as long as we keep our priorities straight and the things that we are encouraging and supporting are of God.  Let's examine our actions and our advice, making sure we never encourage sin and being very careful, today and always, that we are rooted in the Lord.  Let's not lead each other astray or make things worse for our neighbors when we should be supporting them.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

1 Nephi 8:10-12 -- On Dramatic Goodness

"And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.
And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.
And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit."
1 Nephi 8:10-12


This is part of the story of Lehi's Dream.  I like that in the dream he could tell that the fruit would make him happy, and the first thing that Lehi does after tasting the fruit is look for his family in order to share this experience with them. 

We learn in 1 Nephi 15 that the tree here is representative of the tree of life.  Whether that is the same tree of life that it speaks of in the Garden of Eden is unknown, but I am guessing that it is different.  This fruit is spoken of as being sweet, whereas in 2 Nephi 2:15 tells us that the fruit of the tree of life from the garden is bitter (or if the wording is out of order, one of the trees was bitter, but Eve perceives the other tree as "good for food" in Moses, and elsewhere as delicious, so it still seems likely that the tree of knowledge was sweet and the tree of life bitter). 

The tree here is representative of the love of God (1 Nephi 11:21-22), and the tree in the Garden of Eden is representative of eternal life (Alma 42:3).  There is a lot of crossover between those two concepts, but we also know that Adam and Eve couldn't have eaten of the tree of life, or they would have lived forever in their sins, which isn't the case in this dream... the tree of life here is something that everyone should go to and partake of now. :)  The idea of being anxious to share the love of God with others is exactly the way the gospel should be, right?  It isn't about changing people's minds, but about helping them to also have the chance to experience something amazing.  It reminds me of 3rd Nephi when people spent all night traveling so that they could be where Christ was going to appear.

I like that the fruit is so dramatically good.  Sweeter and whiter than anything else--something that fills the soul with joy.  Today, like Lehi, let's find our way to the tree and partake of the love of God in our lives.  Let's experience for ourselves the dramatic goodness and joy that can fill our souls and lives.  And when we have tasted, let's not forget and wander off, or be ashamed when others mock.  Instead, let's do as Lehi did and encourage others to also experience the dramatic deliciousness of love and joy and goodness. :)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

1 Nephi 6:4 -- On Coming to God

"For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved."
1 Nephi 6:4


Nephi takes a step back in this chapter and talks to his audience, telling us that he isn't really concerned with telling all the history, or the genealogy of his fathers, and in this verse he states why.  His whole purpose is to persuade people to grow closer to God.

That's a really strong idea in this book, probably strongest in Third Nephi, but really throughout... the idea and tactile emotion of being able to know God, to reach out to Christ, to experience that matchless love in our lives.

We get so caught up with other things in our lives that we so often forget the main, top thing... God, and his love for us, which is the only thing that can fill that emptiness that we sometimes feel inside us.

Today, let's come unto Christ, embrace God, and be saved.  Yes, sometimes it is hard, and it requires us to make choices that put God first, but nothing else is more worth it.  Let's put first things first, and not forget the most important thing of all.

Friday, October 12, 2018

D&C 58:27 -- On Action and Answers

"Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;"
Doctrine and Covenants 58:27


Sometimes we get stuck trying to make a decision, waiting for God to weigh in and tell us what to do.  And in some ways that makes sense.  God does ask us to look unto him in every thought (D&C 6:36), to ask God about all things (D&C 46:7), and that the words of Christ and the Holy Ghost will tell us all things that we should do (2 Nephi 32:3, 5).

I think where we sometimes get off track is the way that we expect an answer.  We *should* counsel with the Lord in all things.  However, sometimes the answer is that we need to go forth and make a decision ourselves.  God will help us know if we are going in the wrong direction, but often many choices can be good... and God usually course corrects *while* we walk rather than (as we often prefer) before we start.

Today, let's counsel with the Lord and include him in all of our decisions, but let's not become frozen if we don't get an immediate answer.  Let's instead take action and choose, and move forward, doing all the good we can.  If there is more good to do or something that we need to avoid, God will be able to let us know and lead us to opportunities in part *because* we are moving.  If Nephi had just waited for the Lord to tell them how to get the plates, it may not have happened.  But because he moved forward and kept trying, God led him to the answer.  Let us also move forward, bringing to pass as much righteousness as possible.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Daniel 6:18 -- On Fasting

"Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him."
Daniel 6:18


The king in this verse was tricked into condemning Daniel and throwing him in the lions' den.  He did his best to get out of it, but in the end, legally, he felt he had to allow them to enforce the law he had signed.

The idea of fasting as this king did is an interesting one.  It seems kind of strange that giving up something in our own lives could result in gaining something external, and I think that when we consider fasting a transaction in that way, we might be missing the mark.

The king here gave up food and music and sleep, which is a sacrifice, but I think that his actions were more about focus.  He gave those things up not as a transaction with God, but because his whole focus was on Daniel.  Similarly, I think that God asks us to fast as an exercise in focus and dedication--giving up distractions to think and ponder and work out that one thing with God.

Today, let's think about fasting as a dedication to an idea, and talk about it with God.  I think it likely that we will get farther with that kind of focus on petitioning God for his help than we will if our focus is on the food we are not eating. :)

(Oh, and in case anyone hasn't read the story, the king went early in the morning to the lions' den, and Daniel was safe. No worries. :)  He had been spared by the Lord.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

1 Nephi 2:12 -- On Rebellion

"And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them."
1 Nephi 2:12


This idea of murmuring / rebelling because we don't understand is what struck me today.  That seems true.  I don't think that we rebel against God unless there is a significant gap in our knowledge, and it is likely often the reason for other rebellions as well, though of course not all.  I have a marked tendency towards rebellion myself, but I can see even there that very little rebellion is done in a measured, purposeful, enlightened way. :)  It seems often to be a gut reaction to feeling out of control.

Today, let's remember that God can help us to understand, and let's not react blindly to our own discomfort by lashing out at God, who is truly trying to help us, and never to harm.  Let's work on our patience and our faith, rather than on our rebellion. :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

1 Nephi 1:15 -- On Filling Our Hearts

"And after this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God; for his soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled, because of the things which he had seen, yea, which the Lord had shown unto him."
1 Nephi 1:15


Every time I restart the Book of Mormon it strikes me that there are things to notice that I haven't noticed before.  I like that kind of depth, and I wonder sometimes if that kind of depth isn't all around us, and we just don't notice it because we *assume* that we know these things already.

I like the idea here that Lehi's "whole heart was filled" because of what God showed him.  And then I consider that God can show all of us things that would fill our hearts many times over, and if we stick with him and really observe and listen, that he will do so.  ... And honestly, who wouldn't want that?  Perhaps one of the biggest things that our society suffers from is unfull hearts.

Today, let's work on connecting with God and filling, or refilling, our hearts.  Let's trust God and reach for the amazing gifts that he is willing to offer us.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Proverbs 4:18-19 -- On Shining and Stumbling

"But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble."
Proverbs 4:18-19


There are some compelling ideas here.  Comparing just to wicked offers the idea that Justice and Wickedness are opposites, which is interesting to think about, and I think one of the reasons that mercy cannot rob justice (Alma 42:25).  The atonement works because it allows mercy to work with justice, not against it.  We still are subject to God's law, and we still have to work at perfection... which would be impossible without Christ, who gives us the time and the space to work on that and keep trying, as it says here "until the perfect day."

It's kind of like a video game in a way... not a bad way where God is playing with our lives, because he doesn't, but in a good way where we can keep trying, over and over, to solve the problems and work our way through the story.  Without the atonement, the game would be a permanent fail at the first mistake, and never replayable.  Christ gives us the ability to save our progress and try again, to keep playing despite failures and to still learn and appreciate the lessons inherent in the story.

Life, of course, is different than a video game, but a similar idea is here... we can keep trying and working at it.  As we do, our lives grow brighter and brighter.  The only way to fail is to give up and choose darkness rather than light.  I like this idea as well, that light=good and that we basically reach perfection when we reach the appropriate brightness level. :) 

Now, of course no analogy is perfect and we can't start our Life video games over again, and I honestly like clouds, shade, and sometimes even swingsets after dark... but the symbolism still works, and the idea of shining so much that we cast our own light is really interesting to think about, as well as the practically infinite second chances that Christ's atonement offers us.  Today, let's use our second chances to keep working on our brightness and shininess, and let us also determine never to give up and choose stumbling in spiritual darkness.

Matthew 24:42 -- On Watching for Christ

"Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."
Matthew 24:42


This verse is referring to the Second Coming, which is important specifically, but is probably also a good reminder that we need to be watching for Christ in our lives generally.  Too often we get caught up with other things and distracted by other priorities, putting other things between us and God.


This verse also implies that we should be ready for Christ to come in our lives, which requires some preparation.  Cleaning up our context is a good idea as well.  Not just ourselves, but where we live and who we run with.  If there are bad influences there, or something that we would be ashamed to show God, then we need to make some changes.


Keeping watch means constant vigilance--making sure that we are always aware of God in our lives, and looking for him in the world around us.  ... This doesn't have to be a burdensome thing at all.  It should be joyful watching--seeing God's hand everywhere, and his positive influence in the world around us.  It can be seeing with his eyes and knowing the infinite potential of all the people we interact with.

Today, let's remember that life is about becoming something, not just a report card of beliefs or attitudes.  Let's accept God all the way, into every part of ourselves, and allow him to change us on the deepest level, including our hearts and our minds.  Let's watch for him, and become more like him--becoming kinder, happier, better people, and looking for the same in the world around us.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Romans 9:33 -- On Hard Things

"As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."
Romans 9:33


This is a good reminder that we are all going to go through trials in our lives.  There will be many opportunities to stumble or to be offended, and we may do so... but all of these things will give us experience, and in the end be for our good (D&C 122:7).

It's hard to trust that it is all for our good, especially while we are going through it.  I think though that it is something we can learn to trust and have faith in.  As we go through hardship, we can learn to trust God and have faith that he will get us through it--and without those trials, we would never learn that sort of faith and reliance on the Lord.

Today, let's believe in God, and trust that he will make a way for us to do as he asks.  As we look to him, we will learn more and more, trust more and more, and develop our faith and patience.  Hard things aren't always fun, but they help us get us to where we do want to go... as better people, moving closer to God.

Friday, October 5, 2018

John 9:35-38 -- On Being Friends with God

"Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him."
John 9:35-38


This is after the story of Jesus healing the man born blind.  It is an interesting story for many reasons.  The healing part show us how Christ's healing is different from the world's healing.  When Christ heals, it doesn't require therapy, learning how to walk over again, or understanding sight when you have never had it.  It just works... it is not just physical healing, but healing on every level.

I think this follow up part of the story is also part of Christ's healing and his individual love.  Because the man who was healed of blindness praised Jesus for his healing instead of condemning him as a sinner, he was cast out of the synagogue--I imagine that would be like being excommunicated or disfellowshipped nowadays, but it might not have been quite that severe.  Either way, it sounds like he was unable to attend church meetings, which can be a pretty serious impediment when God asks us to meet together often and support each other.  Jesus heard about this happening, and so he went back to find him and support him personally.  I think that is amazing, just by itself.  He wasn't too busy to follow up with someone he had already healed, because it wasn't just about the healing, it was about the person, and the relationship.

I think this is reflected in how Christ works in our lives as well.  He loves us.  It isn't just about answering a prayer, like being a genie-figure and granting a wish and then disappearing.  Christ loves us, and he works with us throughout our lives if we allow him in and listen to him.  It's actually the reason that sometimes the answer to our prayers is no.  Because God loves us, he doesn't want to answer our prayers when he knows that we are praying for something that will hurt us.  He waits, which is basically a message to us that we need to ponder what we're asking and make sure that we're leaving room for God's will, rather than being unwilling to accept anything but our one favored answer.

Today, let's remember that God works with us out of love, and he isn't just a prayer vending machine.  Let's take the time to ponder his words and listen to his prophets.  Let's listen rather than just asking for things.  As we do, we will feel his love and know that God is there to help us always, not just in the more dramatic moments.  He wants to be good friends with us, not just brief acquaintances.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Mark 15:33 -- On Brightening the Darkness

"And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour."
Mark 15:33


This verse is in the midst of a description of several other things that preceded Christ's death, and I find it interesting that there isn't anything more written about it, since three hours of darkness seems like kind of a big deal.  It made me think about the way that we often let the darkness in our own lives go unremarked (Isaiah 59:8-10).

When things get stressful and our minds and hearts darken, it can be helpful to consider Christ's life and his patience and faith in the midst of tragedy.  He personally in that moment didn't want to suffer, and asked for the cup to pass from him (Matthew 26:39), but it didn't.  His father's will was for him to complete the atonement, which he willingly did, being willing to put God's will first, even in that most difficult of circumstances.

Because he suffered more than any of us could ever suffer, he knows how to help us when we suffer, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  He knows how to comfort us in our tragedies, and will help us even when our pain is a result of our own bad choices.  He doesn't want us to be in pain... he wants us to be able to go, and sin no more (John 8:11).

Today, when we are going through our own hours of darkness, let's turn to Christ for hope and comfort.  Let's pray for help from God when there is no other help to be had, because God always hears, and will send help.  Let's not bury the darkness within ourselves.  It doesn't need to be there.  Instead, let's ask God to help us clear it out by replacing it with  brightness (2 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Nephi 31:20).

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Romans 12:17-18 -- On Doing Good and Only Good

"Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
Romans 12:17-18


This is worth repeating.  The idea that we should never return evil for evil is an important one that can make a vast difference in our lives.  We should never let the bad behavior of others influence the way that we approach a situation.  ... And assuredly, I am not saying that it is easy to do so, but there is good reason to try.  God is trying to stop the cycle of bad behavior in the world, and we are his means.  If it doesn't stop with us, then it doesn't stop at all.

Living kinder and revenge-free lives isn't about becoming doormats, although certainly it might mean that someone wrongs us and temporarily "gets away" with it.  Those things are (and should be) in God's hands.  If we want God to forgive our offenses, then we need to be willing to forgive others--not to necessarily trust them or let them back into our lives in cases of abuse or ongoing poor behavior, but to not harm them or treat them cruelly.  Letting go of anger and resentment is also important, because those things drive the spirit from our lives and get in the way of our communication with God.

This one idea can change our lives and change the world.  Today, let's be careful to not return evil for evil.  Let's take up our cross, as God asks, and do good, and only good, to others, no matter what situation we are in or how others are acting.  (Yes, including traffic.)  This is the way to make a difference.  Let's get out there and do it. :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

John 1:37-39 -- On the Invitation to Come and See

"And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour."
John 1:37-39


I like this introduction to the apostles.  The two it talks about here were formerly disciples of John the Baptist, and when he testified of Christ, they followed Christ.  I love his invitation to them, "Come and see."  This is used later in the chapter as well.  As the disciples discuss having found the Messiah, and how wondrous that is, Nathanael doubts, and Philip just tells him "Come and see."  Both are invitations... to join Christ, to find out more, to learn the truth through seeing it and living it.

Today God invites us as well to come and see.  He wants us to learn and discover for ourselves his truth... to try his way and learn for ourselves that it is better than our own way.  Let's take him up on the offer.  Let's learn to pray, and learn what it is like to feel the spirit.  Let's learn to listen to and learn from God, so we too can "come and see" what Christ has to offer all of us.

Monday, October 1, 2018

1 Corinthians 14:20 -- On Understanding and Malice

"Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men."
1 Corinthians 14:20


This verse provides an interesting contrast with the advice that we get elsewhere in the scriptures to become like little children (Matthew 18:3, 3 Nephi 9:22), and maybe clarifies in which ways we should become children.

I like the idea of being children in malice. :)  Kids seem to love so much more easily than adults.  They are still loving and trusting, as opposed to us.  We seem to learn hatred and malice better as we age.

In understanding, we are asked to be adults and to go a little bit deeper with our comprehension, studying things out and working with God to understand.

Today, let's be sure to study and to understand the things that God provides for us.  Let's work at it, and become well-versed in understanding.  At the same time, let's try not to let the world harden us too much.  Let's work on retaining some of the love and wonder and purity of youth, so that we can see the world with hope and optimism and love, while still understanding it as well as we can. :)  It's a difficult balance, but we can get some help from prayer, because God will help us to do anything that he asks. :)

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