Friday, November 30, 2018

Omni 1:12-13 -- On Writing and Making a Difference

"Behold, I am Amaleki, the son of Abinadom. Behold, I will speak unto you somewhat concerning Mosiah, who was made king over the land of Zarahemla; for behold, he being warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness—
And it came to pass that he did according as the Lord had commanded him. And they departed out of the land into the wilderness, as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord; and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla."
Omni 1:12-13

I love Amaleki.  He's writing in this book that was passed down through several generations, and the people before him saw that there wasn't much room left in the book and so they said little.  Amaleki is dying and childless and his brother is missing, so he plans to pass the plates on to the king (King Benjamin) instead of through the family line as they were in the past.  But instead of just doing that, and writing a single paragraph as some of the others had done, he takes the opportunity to tell us the story of Mosiah, which if you've read the beginning of the Book of Mormon, sounds remarkably familiar.  A man is warned to flee and go into the wilderness, which happened to both Lehi and Nephi in different circumstances. 

This instance is no less impactful, as Mosiah and his people find another group that was led similarly, who they join with.  And that other group had encountered a man that stayed with them for nine months who was the last of his people (another familiar story if we've read the end of the Book of Mormon), and they obtain the records of that ancient people as well.  Mosiah's journey changes everything up, and I wish we knew more than we do about it.

Another thing that I think Amaleki teaches us is the lesson that we should be hearing a lot from the scriptures: one person CAN make a difference.  Amaleki did, and he did it by being willing to use the space he was given, and being willing to do as he was asked.  All it took was telling us what happened that he found important.  We can make a difference too... by writing down the important things in our lives and passing them on... keeping a journal as we have been asked, or just writing down our spiritual impressions so that we can look back on them as they were rather than through our often-fogged memories.  Just the act of writing helps us solidify things in our minds sometimes.

Today, let's be more like Amaleki.  Let's be in tune with the spirit as we observe the world around us, and then let's share our impressions with others.  Let's make a positive difference in the world, no matter how small it seems at the time.  Every drop counts. :)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ether 12:6 -- On Faith and Sight

"And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."
Ether 12:6

For me, this scripture is largely about humility.  Humility to understand that there are things that really are beyond our understanding, no matter how brilliant we are.  Humility to accept the possibility that God exists, and be willing to find out for ourselves.  Humility to realize that he does, and that we are basically kindergartners before him (or dust, as in Helaman 12:7).  Humility as we slowly learn that we need to trust him more than we trust ourselves.  Humility to have patience in waiting for some answers, and trusting that God's timing is infinitely better than our own.  ... Humility to realize how desperately we need him in our lives.

I love how faith and hope are wrapped together, and how God teaches us so effectively, by encouraging us to imagine a little more, hope a little more, reach a little farther, and then always being there when we do reach out... helping us learn to trust and to keep reaching.  The witnesses do come, if we can manage that sustained effort and just a touch of faith. :)

I think the world around us is a lot more glorious than we realize.  It is filled with possibilities and goodness and hope, if we can only tap into it.  It isn't always there to be seen easily, but like Elisha's servant (2 Kings 6:15-17), if we turn to God, he will show us the reality.  There is a lot of good, and we are part of it, and we can help spread it.  Today, let's be the good that we hope for, and be instruments in God's hands to help open the eyes of the blind.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Alma 32:27-28 -- On Hope, Faith, and Experiments

"But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me."
Alma 32:27-28

Was talking to a friend about God the other day and he was laughing at religious people, finding the idea of belief ridiculous.  He wasn't trying to be mean, but (as many do) compared religion to science, saying that one can be proven and the other can't.  It made me think of this scripture.  Here, Alma explains that we can learn about the gospel experimentally as well.  We have to be open to really finding out and accepting truth, just as in any scientific study, and if we are, then we can start to feel and understand the spirit. 

One of the challenges of the gospel is the idea expressed here that we can cast out the seed with our unbelief.  Doubts and fears are the enemy of faith and prevent us from building on the solid foundation of God.  It is easy to be like Laman and Lemuel and just assume that God isn't willing to help us or talk to us, without even asking him or trying to find out.  It is easy to think that we understand the world quite well and that God is a fable invented for weak-minded people that can't face the bleakness of reality.  ... And that is part of why hope and faith are so linked together.  Hope in a better world, in a better life with more possibilities--that is what drives us all to finding new places and inventing new things.  And that is God too, helping us to grasp those things that we've never seen or tasted or known, but have only imagined and believed, and then made true.  That's exactly what faith is--the reality of things that we can't push or prod, but we are certain of.  Hopes, dreams, and the reality of things that are beyond us, but that we are reaching for anyway.

Today, let's not settle for things that we can prove by measuring them.  Let's invent new things, and reach out for the things that we can currently only imagine.  Let's be open to accepting evidence beyond our own limited grasp, and hope in God, and trust in his truth.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Moroni 7:6 -- On Sincerity Checks

"For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing."
Moroni 7:6

Before this in the chapter they are referring to the idea that "by their works [or fruits] ye shall know them," which appears in several places in the scriptures, including Matthew 7:20 and 3rd Nephi 14:20. This verse takes that idea further, not only making it clear that good people do good things, but that evil people can't do good things... if they try, it doesn't count, because if they aren't being sincere it is just mockery, and if they *are* sincere, then there must be some actual goodness in there. :)

This all made me think that this verse is a pretty good judge of character for ourselves.  Can we be generous and compassionate without grumbling or wondering what's in it for us?  Can we get on our knees and pray to God without resentment, bitterness, or demands?  It seems like if we can pass a basic sincerity check, that we know that we're doing/being good.  Of course it doesn't mean we've accomplished all there is to accomplish in life, but it helps us know that we're at least on the right track, and if we keep doing those good things, then the Lord will be able to lead us to more and more good.

So, today, let's do some good, and sincerity check ourselves.  Then we'll know if we're on track, or if maybe we need some course adjustments. :)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Jeremiah 36:32 -- On Permanence and Perfection

"Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words."
Jeremiah 36:32

Part of the lesson here is definitely that we can't undo or delete the word of God or the truth of his gospel just because we don't like it.  Even if we are royalty or in a similarly high position of power.  God's word can't be erased.  I think it also applies to other things that we try to do with God... like try to change his mind. :)  This is God we are talking about.  Remember that all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect part?  I think we forget sometimes that God is *always, always* right.  That's part of being God.  He didn't make a mistake, and he never will, and when we run into something that we don't understand, it NEVER means that it is something wrong with God or his gospel.  Only that we need to learn more.

I think that remembering all that is a fundamental part of faith.  When we remember that God is infallible, then we begin to approach the correct attitude and are able to figure out a lot more things because we have that rock solid foundation.  When we take that as a given we don't have to be wishy-washy about things.  If God said it, it is true.  We just have to figure out why, in what context, or how it applies to our situation.  If we don't have that part, then we get tossed around a lot as things change and we keep doubting.  We never get past our first lessons because we never learn enough to build on.

Today, let's remember that we can't burn or destroy God's word or his gospel, literally or figuratively.  God is permanent while most everything else we know, including ourselves and the world we live on, are temporary.  We all are going to have to change a lot before we can also become perfect and permanent, someday.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Jacob 3:2 -- On Firmness of Mind

"O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever."
Jacob 3:2

This idea of firmness of mind is what struck me today.  Another place it is found in the scriptures is referring to the stripling warriors in Alma 57:27: "their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually."

I imagine that this mental firmness is probably the opposite of what it talks about in James 1:6: "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed."

I think we waver a lot.  We get a message from God and the first thing that we do is doubt it, wanting more and more signs that God is really there.  Or we start out doing what God asks in confidence and then when it doesn't seem to work out, we start wondering if we should follow God at all.  We're very fickle that way, which is probably why the very first commandment is about sticking with God, not haring off after whatever else we imagine will serve us better at the time.

One thing that I know that helps mental firmness is practice.  It is that determination to just keep doing what we need to do, no matter what.  For instance, praying every day.  Reading our scriptures every day.  Going to church every week.  Taking the time to communicate with and follow God consistently.  Those things teach us what God is, what he is like, how he talks to us.  That helps us recognize his voice and his spirit when he communicates with us... and it can help quell our doubts and shore up our confidence.

Today, let's work on firmness of mind.  Let's stop flapping in the wind and stick with God.  As we do, we'll be able to lay hold on this promise and lift up our heads, unashamed of following God and being good people.  I love the phrase "feast upon his love" because we try to fill so many holes in our lives with other things, and it never works.  God is what will fill us.  Let's stop trying other things that just make everything worse and stay with God, who makes everything better.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Judges 2:10-12 -- On Progression and Regression

"And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim:
And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger."
Judges 2:10-12

The new generation that "knew not the Lord" reminds me of Exodus 1:8 when "there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph."  Also, in Fourth Nephi we read that they made it over 100 years after Christ appeared to them without contention, and it seems like it doesn't start going really bad until after 200 years (see 4 Nephi 1:18-26).  It seems like a serious problem throughout history, that we don't learn the lessons that our ancestors learned, no matter how painful or memorable those lessons were.

I don't think that there is any one thing to blame for all of this.  We as parents probably need to tell better stories to our children (read: bear testimony), and help them understand spiritual experiences that we have had and how important they are to us.  We need to do better on setting an example and on strengthening our own testimonies so that we don't pass on doubts, fears, reluctance, and resistance to our children rather than confidence, love, and faith in God.  On the other hand, we as children could probably do a *lot* better about listening and trying to understand other perspectives besides our own, and on learning to develop our own relationships with God rather than seeing God as just another absent authority figure.

I don't know if all of that would solve things permanently... the only very righteous / perfect society that I know of that did NOT fall apart was the City of Enoch (also known as Zion), and it was taken up into heaven (see Moses 7:18-21), but it couldn't hurt, right? :)  That kind of generational progress is basically what we are working for, because the city of Enoch is supposed to come back one day, and since God lived there with the people, it is the closest idea we have of what heaven will be like.  So our task is to retain our lessons longer than the Israelites and the Nephites were able to do, and relearn whatever lessons we can from God and his gospel, and move the work (and ourselves, our society, etc.) forward so we can be ready to live in a better society... not necessarily more advanced technologically, but surpassing us vastly in the spirituality department.  And on the technology, who knows.  I mean, with that kind of faith the Brother of Jared had stones as light sources and Lehi was given the Liahona, so they might be beyond us in that way as well.

Today, let's try to learn the lessons that our parents and other ancestors learned so that we don't have to live through them again.  Let's ask the questions about why people believe what they believe, and really listen and think.  And when we get questions like that, let's be ready with a real answer (1 Peter 3:15).  Let's also study our scriptural *and* world history and talk with God about the lessons that we should learn.  Let's do everything we can to not regress--to not force God to teach us an old lesson the hardest way.  Let's move forward, learning new lessons, and writing in our journals or recording them another way so that our experiences can also help others.  Let's try to help each other towards some real progress, in all ways, but especially spiritually.

Friday, November 23, 2018

2 Nephi 2:4 -- On Tuition and Salvation

"And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free."
2 Nephi 2:4

The last line here strikes me today.  "Salvation is free."  Salvation, of course, cost Christ a lot of pain, but in overcoming sin and death, he offers salvation to *us* for free... but again, it depends on how you look at it.  Salvation in terms of being resurrected and living again is utterly non-dependent on our actions.  It will happen for all of us that have lived mortal lives on earth.  However, where we live eternally is dependent on our actions and desires: both who we want to become and who we do become. 

It is still free, really.  Christ paid a cost that we could never pay, and we could never attain any of it without him, and even if we do really badly in life but we don't actively fight against God, we will make it to some sort of good place... at least better than here.  But we can do better if we learn more and become more.

Christ helps us grow into our goals... sort of like a college.  He offers us free tuition, but if we went to college hoping to be a teacher but just kept taking racquetball classes, there would be a problem.  Christ isn't going to let us graduate with a teaching degree without learning some teaching skills... and if we really want to play racquetball as a career, he might suggest some classes that would help us earn a degree in Racquetball Performance, but eventually if we are just mucking about not progressing towards SOME sort of degree, our scholarship funds are going to run out.

It is similar in life.  We don't all have to be the same, but there are some basic general education things that we have to learn as we move forward and progress.  Some of it is getting along with other people, learning some faith and some love, etc.  Other parts are specific to us, learning to develop our talents and how we can serve and help others in our unique ways.

Salvation *is* free, but if we put some effort into it and do more than nothing, then it becomes more like "salvation is freedom."  Christ gives us that foundation of not having to worry about death and eternal darkness, and then we can build on that if we want more life and more light.  Today, let's live more like who we want to be, and who we want to be around, eternally.  Let's build on the Salvation and freedom that Christ has blessed us with and do more, help more, and become more.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Psalms 95:1-2 -- On Thankfulness and Happiness

"O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms."
Psalms 95:1-2

Thankfulness is an important idea.  It isn't just about showing gratitude to other people, though that is a nice thing and usually very appreciated.  It is largely about attitude.  If we live our lives with a thankful heart, grateful for the things that we are given and the opportunities that we have, our lives will be *vastly* happier than if we live our lives thinking that we were robbed being born without money and mansions and a nice private island of our own, or whatever else that we feel sort of resentful about.

Instead of feeling that society/our parents/God owes us something, if we are thankful for what we have, we have a foundation to build on rather than a yawning hole of expectation to fill... and no matter what kind of a raw deal we have been handed in life, this is something that we can *choose* to change.  We can focus on the good, and as we do, our lives will start looking better and better, and I believe actually *get* better and better, partly because we will be putting in more effort on the things that we are focusing on, but also because God will reward us for our patience and faith. 

Attitude absolutely does matter, spiritually as well as in so many other ways.  Our relationships will get better if we have an attitude of thankfulness.  Our jobs will get better.  Our children will feel more appreciated, and perhaps respond in kind.  Everything we do, think, and believe can be altered for the good with a little bit of thankfulness.  It's kind of like that old commercial about Blue Bonnet in that way--everything's better with Thankfulness on it. ;)

Today, let's work on being thankful and aware of our blessings.  Let's find better ways to focus on the good.  Not only will it improve our relationships with the Lord and other people, it can change our perspective, and help us get closer to true happiness.  And hey... who doesn't want a little of that? :)

Romans 14:4-8 -- On Perspective and Thanks

"Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s."
Romans 14:4-8

I like the idea here that we shouldn't be judging people because they are God's servants, not ours.  The idea of not judging isn't a new message--we find it many places in the scriptures, but the explanation here is cool.

People respect different holidays and people eat different things.  We could go farther with a lot of other ways that we judge others (clothing, music, television, occupation...), but these are plenty for the Lord's examples.  Differences aren't reasons to judge others.  Even our own favorite personal preferences are not inherently better than another person's personal preferences.  We should leave those judgements to God.  Why?  The great answer here is that "we are the Lord's."

Many things are between ourselves and God, and need to be worked out with him.  If there is a commandment about it (like stealing, coveting, or honoring our parents) then of course we should teach God's words to each other, kindly and in the proper context, but in general when it comes to evaluating righteousness, I think we are much better served avoiding judgement, and looking to ourselves--being determined to set a good example and avoid putting "a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in [our] brother’s way" (verse 13).

Today, whatever we eat and whatever day we respect, or what music, clothing, or occupation we choose, let's give thanks to the Lord for his guidance, and perhaps also for the amazing opportunity we have to know different people and to learn to appreciate other perspectives, which can do wonders for our own.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Luke 12:34 -- On Treasures and Hearts

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Luke 12:34

The verses prior to this offer advice about selling the things that we own and giving to the poor, explaining that if our treasure is in heaven that it can't be stolen, and also reminding us that God will provide for us the things that we need if we have faith in him and put the interests of God first.

This verse I was particularly struck by because I think it is foundational in considering some of these issues.  What are the things that we value the most?  Although I think all of us would like to say that God and the gospel are the most important, it might be closer to the truth if we said that an individual person, or our job, or our car, or the internet, or sliced bread, or flushing toilets, or toys, or music, or a favorite hobby... whatever it is that is closest to our hearts, it very often isn't God.

I think that is why God suggests giving things up and trading them in, and letting go of worldly possessions... not because we don't need them sometimes, but because that shouldn't be where our focus is.  If our treasure is a truck, then all Satan has to do to get us is to distract us for a moment so that it gets in a wreck.  If our true treasure is with God, then even when the truck gets totaled, we can be okay and happy, and focused on moving forward.

Now of course, especially with people, prioritizing God can work along with serving and taking care of others.  When there is a conflict though, that is when we have to examine our priorities... similarly with anything else.  Things don't *have* to get in the way of our relationship with God.  Unfortunately, they very often do because we aren't getting our priorities straight... and if we put our trust in earthly things, then that can seriously mess up our peace, because anything that isn't eternal is eventually going to be lost.

Today, let's examine our priorities and our hearts, being honest with ourselves and with God about what is important to us in our lives, and what we are putting first.  Let's work on making sure our real treasure is with God, safe where it can't be lost or taken.  If it isn't God that is coming first right now, let's work on that.  Life is always going to be better if we get that one priority right, for as God explains in verse 31, if we do, then all the other things that we need "shall be added unto [us]." 

Monday, November 19, 2018

2 Nephi 29:7 -- On Love First

"Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?"
2 Nephi 29:7

I think this is a good thing to remember, as nations and individuals.  We sometimes put cultural blinders on and only see things from our own perspective or the perspective of people who are very similar to us.  Here, talking about the scriptures, and many places elsewhere in God's word we hear him asking us to consider other perspectives, including people who sin differently than we do as well as all kinds of other differences in race, gender, country of origin, class, level of wealth, outward appearance, etc.  God asks us to "Think of [our] brethren like unto [ourselves]" (Jacob 2:17).

God's first step always seems to be love.  He didn't wait for the woman taken in adultery to repent *before* he showed her love.  He moved first.  The same for so many people that he encountered and blessed.  He loved them and served them, and then they changed or were converted, and sometimes as far as we know they just walked away, but he still loved them and gave them that opportunity to follow him.

I think one of our challenges in life is to do the same... to love people first, before they change, even if they are very different than we are, and we can't understand their perspective.  Like God, if we stop worrying about where they are from, how they sin, then we can love them without letting cultural barriers get between us.  Let's remove those impediments between us, and start loving people better, because love is the first step to *everything* else.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Proverbs 23:12 -- On Lifetime Learning

"Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge."
Proverbs 23:12

This is a good reminder.  Sometimes we think that we already know it all... that we don't need to read the scriptures over again, that we know all the Sunday School answers by heart, that we've made improvements to ourselves already, and now we're done.

It's tempting to think all of those things because change is hard, and we want there to be a finish line somewhere.  The truth is though, that there is no finish line until the perfect day, and although that sounds like a lot of effort, it's a great thing because we will just keep getting better and better all the time.  Being stuck exactly as we are right now would get in our way as we continue to walk God's path and progress.

Today, let's apply our hearts and continue to learn and grow.  Let's not assume that we're done, or that we know it all, but instead keep soaking it all up and learning more and more. :)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

D&C 88:21-24 -- On Behavior Matching in Heaven

"And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory."
Doctrine and Covenants 88:21-24

This is an interesting passage, and I think what it is saying is basically that if we can't handle God's law now, we won't be able to handle it later, and that is what heaven is built around.  The better we get at learning how to be good people, the closer we get to living the law, and also the more we are preparing ourselves for Heaven.

This makes sense to me, because when we move on from this life it doesn't make sense that if we were cruel and mean all our lives that we would just instantly learn how to treat people kindly ... but obviously in heaven, that is what people would do, and so, as an example, the more we learn to treat people kindly, the closer we will be to heaven.  If we can't learn that, then we will have to go someplace where that isn't a rule (or the rule about it is less strict, or whatever).  And so if we can be polite, but not kind, we might go to a different place than the people who have learned to be wholeheartedly kind and completely sincere about it.  And if we just can't not verbally abuse people, then maybe we go to a place that doesn't have much glory at all.

By the way, I am not mentioning the names of kingdoms/levels of heaven not because there isn't something to be learned there, but just because it doesn't matter to this particular idea.  The overall idea being that God is trying to teach us the way to be not just as an ethical exercise, but because we are going to be matched up with other people like us after this life, which is a great opportunity on one hand, and kind of scary on the other.

Today, let's try to be the kind of people that we want to be around... because eventually, that is what we are going to get. :)

Friday, November 16, 2018

Moroni 7:8-9 -- On Attitude and Honesty

"For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.
And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such."
Moroni 7:8-9

This is interesting and show us that obedience isn't everything... or rather, perhaps, that obedience includes attitude.  As we start out in the gospel, we can start out in a lot of ways.  We dont' have to have it all together at once.  Sometimes we start out with just wanting to believe, or with trying one part, obeying one commandment.  We don't understand everything at first, and so obeying and making the effort when we don't understand might be part of the process for us, and as long as we're moving in the right direction, that is okay temporarily.

Significantly though, we can't stay in those stages.  We have to grow up and understand ourselves and our desires and our goals.  Resentful obedience and empty prayers don't count unless they are part of a process of serious effort that leads to full-hearted and intentional obedience.  We have to keep moving forward, not just going through the motions.  We can't really find out about God unless we are serious about it, and unless our hearts and minds are open to it.

Today, let's stop faking it.  No matter where we are, let's be real.  Let's go before the Lord in total honesty and tell him where we are and what we feel, and where we want to go from here.  If we want to know more and learn more, he will help us.  If we have doubts, let's ask God to help us know the truth.  If we ask sincerely, and we really are open to it, God will help us there too.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Romans 5:4 -- On Experience and Hope

"And patience, experience; and experience, hope:"
Romans 5:4

The verses right before this talk about faith, grace, peace, and tribulations, so if you want the whole equation, you should read the surrounding verses.  I liked this little part though because it talks about how patience leads to experience, and experience leads to hope... and although all the rest of it is also important, this part struck me, because I think that hope is something that we really do learn over time, and probably in no other way is it quite as strong and enduring and natural as when we learn, through experience, to make it a foundational principle of our lives.

When we're young we often are more shocked by setbacks.  We run into an obstacle and it almost offends us because "hey, this is me walking here."  Tragedy is something that happens to other people.  We expect good, not really because we have that experiential hope and faith, but because we're a little sheltered and have little experience, and our expectations are high because we don't think that we can fail, and we expect the world to conform to our needs. 

As we grow, we run into more things that make us rethink our lives, our choices, our priorities, and our beliefs... and it's tough, but those tribulations teach us a lot, and we become more experienced in how life works, and how God works with us.  And if we're working with God and paying attention, that leads us to hope, because we learn that good always follows bad, that God doesn't write tragedies, that no matter where we are, God is reaching out to us and offering to help us and lift us.  We learn that we get to choose our reactions and our emotions and our focus, and that we can infuse our lives with goodness just as easily as with badness.  Most of all, we learn that God is there, listening to us, loving us, and that if we reach out to him, he will help us.  And that, in our darkest times, is what can get us through.

Today, let's try to latch onto that connection between experience and hope.  Let's look back on our lives and really see it, and know that God will always help us out of the potholes and get us started again... just as he has in the past.  He loves us, and if we keep working at it with him, we'll get better and better--hope forever. :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Ether 2:23-25 -- On Creativity and Problem-Solving with God

"And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.
For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the drains and the floods have I sent forth.
And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?"
Ether 2:23-25

This is the Lord's answer to the Brother of Jared's question about whether they could have light in their barges, after he asked more than once.  I think it is interesting, because the Lord explains the problem he is being asked to solve well, and then turns it back to the Brother of Jared, saying that he will do what he asks.  He's willing to solve the problem, but the Brother of Jared has to come up with the means. 

In our day, we could probably just get some battery powered lights, but Ether 6:11 tells us that they were on the water for 644 days, so even now it would require some long-term planning, but at least we have an idea of what we would need.  For them, God was really asking for some creativity and invention.  Presumably, nothing that these people had known before would satisfy the constraints that Lord gave him for having light.  No windows, no fire.  What else was there?  Fireflies maybe?

I think this is something that happens to us in our lives too.  We have problems.  We don't know how to solve them, and we plead with God to solve them for us.  In some cases, God does, just as he solved the Brother of Jared's previous problem with there being no air circulation in the barges.  In that case, the Brother of Jared told God the problem and God told him the answer.  ... However, in our lives, as in the Brother of Jared's life, there are some things that God doesn't solve for us immediately.  Instead, he asks us to take a step back and really think about it.  Frame the problem, evaluate solutions. 

Sometimes that helps us to come up with a solution right away... even if it is something we really didn't want to do, we realize, ah, yeah... that's what is needed.  Other times, as in this story, there is no obvious solution--in fact that's why we went to the Lord in the first place, right?  Because we couldn't figure out a way to solve the problem.  And God asks us to think again, and to get creative.  We are asked to invent a solution that didn't exist before, just as the Brother of Jared was.  And if, like the Brother of Jared, we actually think about it and work on it rather than despairing because it reeks of effort, God will do miracles for us.

I see this happen with my sister all the time.  She tells God what she needs and then she goes looking, and even when it is near impossible and vastly unlikely, she comes across something that will work.  In the Brother of Jared's case he came up with something that we still can't explain with all of our modern knowledge, but the Lord did it for the Brother of Jared because the Brother of Jared knew that he could, and his people had light for their journey.

Today, if we are in need of some light for our journeys, let's go to the Lord with patience and willingness and try to think outside the box, and work with him.  If we can overcome our doubts and our fears and trust in him, we will get our light, and maybe even learn something about faith and God's love for us in the process.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

1 John 1:4-5 -- On Joy and Darkness

"And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."
1 John 1:4-5

I really like the connection here between joy and light, and the idea that the more light we gain, the happier we will be.  ... I have to admit that I kind of enjoy darkness sometimes because it shuts out everything else and seems relaxing to me.  In college I used to take walks at night down to a local playground and sit on the swings in the dark and just think.  ... And although I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing to enjoy, perhaps it is still a touch symbolic, and as we move towards becoming like God, we will feel the need to shut things out less and less, and will be able to be more confident in handling all of the additional input that light brings.   

As we read in 1 Nephi, Lehi's dream starts out with a mist of darkness and Lehi has to pray to find his way out--to light and joy.  Even when people were on the path to the tree of life, they had to pass through darkness at times, and that's where the rod of iron would help them out, so they could still find their way.   This helps us to understand that light in the scriptures represents more than just physical brightness and the ability to see with our eyes, but a spiritual brightness and the ability to sense with our souls/hearts, as well as darkness just representing obstacles and adversity sometimes.  That spiritual kind of darkness in our lives isn't always a personal failing, but a challenge that we have to feel our way through by relying on God, who "is light" as this verse tells us.

Light also is often paired with knowledge, representing all of the things that we need to learn and understand and apply, making it seem kind of like the Spirit of Christ or the Holy Ghost, as the thing that guides us and helps us understand what we are learning, and shows us how it fits into the gospel and God's will.  God's light chases away the shadows and the secrets, until there is no more need to hide, and nothing can surprise and hurt us.  Eventually it will drive everything that is built on shadow and secrecy away, protecting us from people and groups that thrive on darkness and taking advantage of other people.  When everything is revealed, as God has promised, I wonder how different our lives will be.  Imagine a world without secrets.  Probably a good reason to start working on honesty. :)

Today, let's move towards joy by embracing the light--reaching out to God, learning from him, becoming more like him, and relying on him even when our lives are shrouded in darkness, for he is the source of light, and joy, and everything good.  With him we will become stronger and able to understand and be more than we could ever be alone, and the darkness will eventually be banished from our lives.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Psalms 124:2-4 -- On Streams and Souls

"If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us:
Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us:
Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul:"
Psalms 124:2-4

This is a good reminder that God is the one that can save us from drowning, both physically and spiritually.  We so often turn to other sources for help or try to find answers elsewhere, but the deepest and truest help and answers are always from God.  God of course can direct other people to assist us, and often does, but our faith is properly placed in the Lord who sent the help, not in the people who provided it. :)

It isn't always easy to turn to the Lord because we have to remove the distractions and the obstacles that stand between us.  However, doing so makes the entire rest of our lives easier and less overwhelming.  Being right with God leads to being okay in every other way.  Today, let's avoid having the stream go over our souls by trusting in the Lord and making the effort to always turn to him when we need help.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Isaiah 10:20 -- On Fear and Love

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth."
Isaiah 10:20

Reading this today, I made a connection for the first time between this verse and one in the preceding chapter: Isaiah 9:13, which reads "For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts."

So, of course the verses could be unrelated and the first one is talking about accepting God's correction, and the second is talking about turning from your abusers to the Lord in more of an all-world sense, since theses chapters are talking about countries and peoples rather than individuals, and are a look forward to the coming of Christ, both the first and second times.

Because of my mental connection between the verses though, this verse kind of transformed its meaning into something else.  Along with the verse from the previous chapter, perhaps this is still talking about the Lord, and so the interpretation would be that instead of following God because we are afraid of punishment, we learn to follow him for better, truer reasons, or because he offers us truth instead of falsehood.

I really like that idea, because although God is all-powerful and super strong, and he certainly can be scary... that isn't the point of any of this.  God corrects us because he loves us, but focusing on the correction and not the love throws us way out of line with who he really is.  *Everything* that he does is about saving us, making us better, helping us, and about our eventual joy.  His entire work is about us--helping us, loving us, supporting us, finding us and helping us find our back when we get lost, teaching us how to be better and happier people, and how to take care of each other.  Everything good we have is from him, and when we follow him he leads us to all good.

Today, let's work on transitioning from obeying God because he will correct us to seeing him as he really is... laboring always to teach us and help us to make better choices--wanting us to learn to grow up and choose the good freely because it leads to brighter and happier things, rather than because we are afraid of the consequences.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Genesis 45:27-28 -- On Transformations

"And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived:

And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die."
Genesis 45:27-28

The end of this story is cool because you can see, not only how God watched over Joseph, but how he watched over Jacob, and Benjamin, and even Joseph's other brothers. 

We often consider how hard Joseph's life was after his brothers sold him into slavery, but the impact on his father was deep, and I imagine that the guilt of the brothers was also a burden to them.  How merciful, then, for God to restore them all to each other before Jacob died, and to show them all that his plan was still working, and that he was still directing the universe, when things seemed so upside down for them in a lot of ways.

I think that God does, and will do, the same for us if we have faith and trust in him.  In his own time, he will show us all the reasons behind his choices, and we will see the goodness and the truth that is there, where we thought only sadness or shame or failure or guilt could be.  No matter how things look, all is never lost, and things can and will turn around for our good and be restored to joy.

Today, let's remember God's mercy, and work on trusting in his love and grace, which can transform our whole lives if we have faith.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Matthew 15:17-20 -- On Mouths and Hearts

"Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."
Matthew 15:17-20

These verses are Jesus's answer to Peter when he asked to have Christ's statement in Matthew 15:11 explained ("Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.")

Interestingly, the scribes and Pharisees had challenged him about his disciples not following a tradition of washing their hands when they eat bread... something that is probably not a bad idea at all, but it wasn't an innocent question.  It was also about all of the other traditions that were built up around the gospel, questioning whether Christ and his group were truly doing what they should, and judging them as being "less holy."

We do similar things today.  We judge others by our own standards rather than by the gospel.  Instead of worrying about keeping the Sabbath day holy ourselves, for instance, we often want others to keep it our way... whatever that tradition is for us, or our families.  Maybe it is not changing out of church clothes, or what we listen to, or the activities we are allowed to engage in at home.  Often we go farther than that with that commandment and also with others.  I remember in college hearing people say "the spirit goes to bed at midnight" or having roommates trying to enforce rules about listening to only instrumental music or hymns in the apartment, no matter what day it was.

My intention is not to challenge personal rules that help people feel the spirit or stay close to the gospel at all.  I only illustrate some of the similar things we do to try to set the stage for these verses a little bit.  When Christ was asked the question about handwashing, he understood that it was a challenge and a "righteousness level" comparison, and so he didn't sit down and talk about the relative merits of the practice from a physical cleanliness perspective.  Instead, he made it clear that this wasn't a rule that should be enforced by other people for his disciples, and also explained that within the gospel what was important wasn't the dirt or germs that we might take in, but it is *who we are* and our words and actions that are the way that we will be judged.

This is an important lesson I think, because we slip so easily into thinking or acting like the gospel is for evaluating the people around us, rather than for changing ourselves.  Perhaps these are some things that we can consider today, placing less emphasis on tradition and what we take in, and focus more on the gospel and what we are putting out... changing *ourselves* rather than judging others.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Alma 26:26-27 -- On Turning Back and Triumph

"But behold, my beloved brethren, we came into the wilderness not with the intent to destroy our brethren, but with the intent that perhaps we might save some few of their souls.
Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success."
Alma 26:26-27

These are some awesome verses, and I think they apply to our lives as well as to the missionary work referred to in this story.  We take on big projects, either from the Lord or with his approval, and we feel great about it and we have big hopes and dreams about the difference that we can make in the world.

Then things happen--obstacles, problems, issues, and we wonder why God led us this way, or let us choose this, and we feel like everything is failing and we aren't up to it, and that in fact it was impossible from the beginning and that we were just fooling ourselves.  We get to the "about to turn back" part.  We want to give up. 

As in the story though, if we persist, and trust, and go to God with our problems, he will comfort us.  He will reassure us, as he reassured the sons of Mosiah.  If we bear our afflictions with patience, then God will help us do as he asks.

The moment that it talks about here--after setting out to do something and then hitting a low point and wanting to give up--I think is the point where we really learn to exercise faith.  If it was smooth sailing, there would be no reason to learn it, and if everything just failed quickly, then we'd know to take a different road.  It's like a book and we get to chapter 5 where the hero faces overwhelming odds and there doesn't seem to be a way out.  Luckily, in this case, we know the author doesn't write tragedies, and that the hero will eventually triumph.  We just have to figure out how. 

God is the author of our lives, and we are the heroes.  None of us is meant to be the redshirt extra (in the televised version) that dies early on just to show how dangerous the environment is.  We're the ones that face the brutal challenges, but find a way out and through, and triumph in the end.  And we can, and will, because God, the author, writes it that way.  If we don't go off script, we're going to be fine. :)

Today, let's trust God and remember that he doesn't write tragedies.  Resurrection triumphs over death, and Heaven trumps even Armageddon.  Let's try to focus on the good and not the bad, and have faith that God will help us through the hard times, if we have patience and stick with his plan.  We're the heroes.  We will make it. :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Alma 13:27-29 -- On Anxiety and Love

"And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance;
But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;
Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest."
Alma 13:27-29

I'm guessing that most of us have felt some "anxiety even unto pain" in our own lives.  As it is here, it is typically an indication that we care a whole awful lot about something. :)  I find it really cool that Alma cared enough about his people to write this, and taking it to another level, that God feels this way about us. 

I mean, I don't think that God gets all stressed out like we do... after all he is the source of our peace.  But still, the idea of caring that much is also true for God.  We are his children, and he *does* care about how we are doing, and wants to do everything that he can to help us succeed.  Part of that, of course, is allowing us to face trials, but that doesn't take away from his love for us at all.  I would even say that it proves it, because he wants us to grow up to be strong and powerful and good like him, not just minions. :)

Today, let's take this loving message from Alma, and God, to heart.  Let's cast off our sins and repent now.  Let's be humble and go to the Lord in prayer.  Let's follow the spirit, and learn what God is trying to teach us.  Let's have faith, and hope, and be willing to share God's love with others.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Psalms 94:16-17 -- On God, Evildoers, and Silence

"Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?
Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence."
Psalms 94:16-17

We probably all feel like this sometimes--like no one is on our side, we don't have any help, and we can't do it all ourselves.  Our souls are calling out for comfort, but who is going to hear that silent plea?

In John 14:18, God tells us that he will not leave us comfortless.  He is the one that stands up for us, that hears us in the silence, that ensures that we have a voice, and someone to help us.  We never have to be alone or without help, because he will always come to us if we are willing to let him in.

God will also make things right and rise up against the evildoers and stand up against the workers of iniquity.  He will, in his own time, solve every single problem.  Let's make sure that we stick with him through the process, because often the delay is so that he can help us, who are sometimes evildoers and workers of iniquity, to learn to change before that day comes.

Today, let's remember that our souls never have to dwell in silence, because God is always there to communicate with, and let's work on improving our lives and not being part of the problem.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Isaiah 51:6 -- On Heaven, Earth, and God

"Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax cold like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished."
Isaiah 51:6

This verse has some extreme comparisons.  It asks us to look at the heavens and the earth, and to us those things are consistent and trustworthy.  We expect them there, and it would be difficult to imagine them gone... certainly if we did imagine that we would likely also imagine our own demise along with it.

So God, through Isaiah, has us consider some of the most reliable things in our lives, and then tells us that they will be gone.  That's huge, and adding that "they that dwell therein" are going to die, that's somewhat disheartening since that's us.  However, then he comes back with the fact that his salvation will be forever.  That's us too, so even in this disaster scenario with heaven and earth gone, somehow we will be okay, because God is our solidity and our consistency.  His righteousness will never be gone like the other things.

I like this, not because I look forward to the heavens and the earth vanishing, or getting cold, but because I like the lesson here that hits even harder than normal.  We can *always* trust in the Lord.  We can compare him to the arm of flesh and he wins out every time, but when we are comparing him to planets and the heavens, which could include all of those stars out there that we see, that's jumping the comparison level up by a lot.  The lesson is the same though... God is where we can place our trust.  He will be there when no one else and nothing else will be, and with him we can have hope and peace and joy.  Today, let's trust in him, above all else.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

1 Nephi 20:9-10 -- On Afflictions

"Nevertheless, for my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain from thee, that I cut thee not off.
For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction."
1 Nephi 20:9-10

The idea that God chooses through affliction is an interesting one, and I think an important concept to consider.  God loves us 100% of the time, of course, so let's not get off track and think that God likes to see us suffer or something.  He doesn't.  It's more like coming of age, right?  I think my modern coming-of-age ritual was probably my mission.  For others, it is going off to college for the first time, or something else.  The idea is that when we do something new, away from the support system that we know, then we learn who we are more fully, and we start making choices of our own, independent of a lot of the influences of our youth.

The fact that these things are new, and that we are separated from our traditional support systems makes them *inherently* difficult.  We have to learn new things, and new social structures or norms because we are hanging out with people with different backgrounds and philosophies.  That's part of affliction.  Another part is when we're trying to do the regular life thing with our regular support system and something new happens anyway.  A death, the loss of a job, a car accident, a health crisis, etc.  And we've either never dealt with it before, or we have to continue to deal with it so long that it starts to wear us down.  Whether we caused it or someone else did, or whether it is a fairly typical life lesson or a personal watershed that we don't understand or didn't see coming, it's all part of the way that we grow up into our potential.

Afflictions don't ever mean that God hates us.  Regular parents wouldn't keep their children out of school to protect them from the world, but instead would encourage them to go and help them succeed at the new experience.  Likewise, God doesn't wrap us up in bubble wrap to keep us from the hard things in life, but he encourages us to confront them, to learn about ourselves and the world around us, and helps us succeed through the new experiences.

Yes, some things in life are an awful lot harder than school, but then again, our potential is also much, much greater.  We are eternal beings, and God is trying to share with us what he knows and how life works, so that we can be successful both here and in the next world.  God will help us through it all.  He has told us that he will never leave us comfortless.  Today, let's work with God to face our afflictions, to learn from them, and to grow and be better people, closer to God and closer to our potential.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

1 Nephi 18:23-25 -- On Promised Lands and Promised People

"And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land.
And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance.
And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper."
1 Nephi 18:23-25

I think sometimes that our vision of a promised land and God's vision of a promised land come into conflict.  Nephi is totally on board here, and he talks about how blessed they were, but I wonder how many of us would have been on the Laman and Lemuel bandwagon instead if we had to do the same things. 

Let's review.  This family was fairly wealthy.  They lived comfortably in a nice place.  They had friends and lives.  Then dad starts preaching in the streets and people think he is sort of crazy and want him to stop... maybe we can see their point?  Then God tells him to move, but it is a camping-type move, not a caravan-type move.  We can't say goodbye to our friends, we can't take most of our stuff... we're headed for a permanent camping trip, and we're going along because, you know, it is our family, but maybe we mention a few times that this is a crazy idea, just hoping that someone will realize that we are right and let us go home?  And then, when we finally live through all of the hardship of years in the wilderness, and build an ocean-going vessel, and *all* of it... then we get there and yay.  More tents.  More wilderness.  More hard work.  Sure, there are animals and ore and some plants, but that sure doesn't sound like civilization to me.

Similar with Moses and the Children of Israel, right?  Sure, they were slaves, but there were good parts.  Free food, close to everything... comfortable.  And Moses comes and rips us out of there, totally alienating everyone and takes us into the wilderness to starve.  We go through the same boring meals every day and we have to do way more walking than we've ever done in our lives, and then, after all of the hardships and the traveling, we get to this land that God is giving to us, and there are Giants there, and mean people that are going to try to kill us, and is any of this worth it?  It's just more and more work, and weren't we better off in our free-food paradise?

Unfortunately, it is the same for us as well.  God has a promised land for each of us, and he consistently teaches us the things that we need to know to get there, and the skills we will need to have, and he leads us towards it.  Maybe it isn't a geographical promised land in every case, but there is always something there that God is helping us toward.  The bump in the road is that (at least in this life) the promised land is not going to feature a mansion or even a nice spa, unless we make those things for ourselves.  The promised land is opportunity and freedom and the ability to reach our potential, but part of that reaching our potential is building it into what is can be.  ... Promised lands are waiting for us to make them great, rather than being great already and just waiting for a population boom. :)

When God answers our prayers and we have new opportunities in our lives, sometimes we get to a point where we want to turn around and go home.  This doesn't seem like what we asked for, and maybe it is a mistake.  Instead of bailing too quickly though, let's remember Nephi and Moses and the Brother of Jared, and everyone else who started new things or went to new places as guided by God.  It isn't meant to be perfect at first.  It isn't supposed to be easy.  God gives us opportunities to reach out and grab that promised land and make it our own... to make it better, to give it shape, to prepare it for everyone else who is going to come there after us.  He wants us to have that pioneer spirit and to build and grow and multiply our talents... to build community and to make a place of goodness.  We are the light of the world, right?  He asks us all to take what we are given and make it shine... and that's how to make places into promised lands, and that's how you take land and use it to forge a promised people.

Today, let's be who God knows we can be, and make the world around us shine.  Let's be a light, and make the world better wherever we are, and make ourselves better, whoever we are.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Alma 24:17-18 -- On Powerful Goodness

"And now it came to pass that when the king had made an end of these sayings, and all the people were assembled together, they took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man’s blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth.
And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands."
Alma 24:17-18

I love the determination here to be good... to give rather than take, to work and contribute rather than just letting things slide.  Seems like something that we can all learn from. 

Sometimes when we read this story we might think that this oath was a mistake, since the Nephites have to protect them from being killed during a later war.  And certainly we aren't all sinners in exactly the way that these Lamanites were sinners.  However, we can probably all do better at recognizing the worth of others, giving rather than taking, being kind rather than hostile, and contributing to the welfare of those around us.

I also see value in the idea of being willing to die rather than harm others.  Our lives aren't worthless and I'm not advocating becoming doormats, but the idea of being that strongly against hurting others is powerful to me.  Perhaps considering this scripture can help us think a lot harder about the small cruelties that we so easily let fly at one another daily, and maybe even help us make better decisions when we seem to face a choice of hurting someone else or allowing ourselves to be hurt.  Hopefully many of those are false choices and God can show us another way, but when we are faced with that choice, accepting the blame and absorbing that emotional impact rather than directing it to another can often resolve the situation in a better way.

Today, let's give rather than take, and heal rather than harm.  Let's stand up for what is right with a firm determination to work for and to be good, through and through.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Psalms 100:3-5 -- On God's Enduring Truth

"Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."
Psalms 100:3-5

This is great stuff.  I really like the part here where it reminds us "it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves."  We forget things like that sometimes, and get big heads about our own accomplishments and abilities, and forget how much we need God.  Not saying at all that we shouldn't strive to do great things; only that we need to remember that without God we wouldn't be able to do any of it, and that he deserves the praise and thanks that this psalm encourages us to offer him.

God is good, and one of the most amazing things about him is his mercy.  He reaches out to us in our darkness of trouble and distress, even when we caused it, and he helps us to find our way out, and back to light and sanity. :)  Today, let's remember that God's truth never becomes outdated or obsolete.  What he has to say is always relevant, and prayer and scripture study are therefore consistently worthwhile.  Let's be joyful to be his and have him watching over us.  Let's be thankful and bless his name, and always remember him as we go throughout our days.

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