Friday, February 28, 2014

Jacob 5:73-74

"And there began to be the natural fruit again in the vineyard; and the natural branches began to grow and thrive exceedingly; and the wild branches began to be plucked off and to be cast away; and they did keep the root and the top thereof equal, according to the strength thereof.
And thus they labored, with all diligence, according to the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard, even until the bad had been cast away out of the vineyard, and the Lord had preserved unto himself that the trees had become again the natural fruit; and they became like unto one body; and the fruits were equal; and the Lord of the vineyard had preserved unto himself the natural fruit, which was most precious unto him from the beginning."
Jacob 5:73-74

This is part of Zenos' allegory of the tame and wild olive trees, which is really interesting if you haven't read it yet.  In the beginning of the allegory, the master of the vineyard is sad because his tame olive tree is dying, even though he has done everything he can.  So, he and his servant decide to save whatever they can, and they start grafting branches from the tame tree into other wild trees.  For a while it works, and they get the good fruit again, but then the wild parts start to overwhelm the tame again, and they are worried that none of the trees are salvageable.  Some of the  tree branches have even withered and died when they were in the best spot of ground that he had.  The servant encourages him to try again, and so they start grafting the tame branches back into the tame tree, and balancing out other trees that he had planted in different places.   But they are careful to not cut off all of the bad branches at once, in case it weakens the tree and the whole thing dies.  They work slowly, and this is the triumph near the end of the allegory... where they have worked hard at the balance for a long time, and eventually all the bad is gone, and the trees are all producing good fruit.
Now, of course, this is an allegory, so we know there is more to it than a happy olive grower.  The ideas here are about our world... the Master of the Vineyard and his son represent God and Christ.  The original tame olive trees are the house of Israel, and the wild the gentiles.  At the very end of the entire allegory it says that when evil fruit returns to the vineyard, that will be the season and the end, and the vineyard will be burned with fire.  In this part though, prior to the theoretical "end"/cleansing of the world, isn't this a Zion community?  Where everyone is "one" and equal? :)  And I kind of like the idea that it happens slowly.  Keeping balance so that the roots and the branches don't overbalance each other... slowly, the bad is removed, and the good remains.  We know that destruction will precede the Second Coming, and that there will be turmoil in the world.  As much as we can, though, I think we should change our focus from fear of future calamity to focusing on the small but significant changes that are happening in our world.  Yes, there is a lot of wickedness... but aren't things also getting a lot better in some ways?  Perhaps the good and the bad are balanced, and as we add more good, more evil can be removed.  Let's take some hope with us today, and be part of tipping the balance always towards the good.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Philippians 2:3-4

"Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
Philippians 2:3-4

This is interesting advice.  It kind of reminds me of what we say to children, telling them to share, or not to fight.  Good things to remember, and probably lessons that we need to relearn throughout our lives.
I think that the advice to think of other people as better than ourselves is especially interesting.  If we took that to heart, we would really be trying to learn from the people around us.  We would see where they excel, and respect them for who they are a lot more.  I definitely don't think that God wants us to hate ourselves here ... we all have inherent and unmistakable worth.  I think he just means, let's see others as people who have learned lessons that we have not, and who are better at things than we are.  Let's acknowledge that and learn from it instead of power struggling with them, or assuming we are somehow far superior.
The second verse in the selection is interesting as well.  I think that it is a good reminder that we should be watching out for everyone, and not just ourselves.  As we take care of each other instead of struggling with them, we make the world a better place.  It might seem like a slow progression to a Zion society, but as we all contribute, it succeeds.  Reminds me of Jacob 5.  Maybe we'll talk about that tomorrow.  Today, let's see the good in others.  Let's see what we can learn from them, instead of participating in strife.  And let's take care of and value each other.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Isaiah 54:10

"For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee."
Isaiah 54:10

 There is a lot of good stuff in this chapter, but this one verse stood out to me today.  I like the juxtaposition of the cataclysmic loss of geologic features of the Earth being compared to God's covenant with us of kindness, peace, and mercy.  I think it reflects what things are like for us in our lives in general.  Hopefully our daily cataclysms are smaller... and not quite cataclysms.  But they feel so sometimes.  The upheaval of our lives is sometimes as emotionally and physically devastating as it would be physically to be in a serious earthquake... we're left alive, but shocked at the destruction, and it takes us a long time to process and to pick up the pieces.  Even worse when we caused it ourselves,  burning our bridges as it were, and setting fire to our own houses in the process.  At first it is fun to watch it all burn, but then we begin to realize what we've lost. 
No matter the cataclysms though, God's kindness will not depart from us.  His covenant of peace is still offered to us, and he will still be merciful.  He loves us.  He is our father.  ... Now, of course this doesn't give us a free pass to rob and murder and destroy and just present our get out of jail free card at the pearly gates.  Our side of the covenant/agreement with God is repentance and obedience.  We still have to learn to love peace and do the things that lead to it before we can have it in our lives... but God will never withdraw the agreement, no matter how many times we break it, as long as we are alive and there is even a tiny chance that we will turn around and realize that it really is what we want.  Today, let's embrace God's great mercy and kindness, and despite the cataclysms of the day, look to him for stability and peace.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Doctrine and Covenants 93:36

"The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth."
Doctrine and Covenants 93:36

Sometimes I think we don't see how cool this is.  We think, oh, yeah... IQs are all well and good, but they aren't everything.  But when God says intelligence he doesn't mean our mundane and very fallible way of measuring intellectual power or knowledge, and although he probably includes what we're measuring in the definition (D&C 130:19 tells us that the more knowledge and intelligence we gain in this life, the better off we will be after this life), he doesn't mean only that, or even mostly, since we only measure one kind of intelligence.  In Abraham 3:22-23 it tells us that we were intelligences before we were born... that intelligence is another word for the soul or spirit... for consciousness.  And light and truth are complex topics as well.  In Alma 32:35 we learn that "whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible."  Earlier in this same section we read "And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come."  So, just from those few examples, we see that this idea is bigger than the idea of whoever is smarter or who gets more education wins.  We've now introduced the ideas of openness, discernibility, things that are well lit and not hidden, and we've added in *all* truth.  Not just getting a degree or things we pass off as knowledge but then learn later were big mistakes. :)  Truth... discernible truth.  Shining a light on everything.  Things that have happened, are happening, and WILL happen.  That's a lot... and pretty incredible to think about.  We're definitely beyond Stanford-Binet here.  D&C 50:23-25 tells us "that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness," "he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light," and that truth chases away darkness.
I think all of this kind of illustrates how huge this idea is... that what we are gaining in this life and  seeking after isn't just a high IQ or a degree.  It isn't just a well-lit room, or a hard-earned truth.  The glory of God is all of it together combined into a gloriously bright perfect ball of everything true and real and alive.  God knows all of it, everywhere.  Nothing is hid from him... he sees the truth of everything, and of all time.  Truth is shiny and never dark, and God's is so shiny we can't even look at him. :)  Today, let's really look at our lives and what we're encountering.  Let's embrace the truth, wherever we find it.  Let's celebrate intelligence and life.  And let's shine, and outdo the darkness.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Isaiah 48:18 -- On Giving Peace a Chance

"O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:"
Isaiah 48:18

Peace is something that I think we all seek.  Maybe not in every moment... we like some excitement now and then, but overall, we need to be able to rest, to not always feel uncertain or troubled.  And peace in general, between people, would be nice so that we didn't have so much contention and war.  And I think that the peace that God offers goes well beyond this, to that inner peace that allows personal stillness and a feeling of being okay, even when the whole world is turmoil around us.

How do we get that peace?  This verse clearly tells us that it is available through obedience to the commandments.  And just so that we don't get the wrong idea... it isn't a reward for obedience, like you do what I say and I'll give you an ice cream cone.  If it was just that, we could walk away and get our own ice cream.  Peace is a natural result of obedience.  God's laws are designed to help us find peace, by their very nature.  And if we obey them, we will find peace waiting for us as something that is a result of those obedient actions.  Peace doesn't come any other way. 

Verse 22 of this same chapter tells us that there is no peace to the wicked.  This isn't because the wicked got put on the naughty list, so God turned off their access.  This is because we turn off our own access when we do wicked things.  Wicked things are not conducive to peace.  Righteous and obedient things are.

I think we get the wrong idea about God sometimes, thinking that because he loves us so much that surely he will understand our personal circumstances, and allow us to be exceptions... he will grant us happiness and peace even when we stray, or even when we break commandments, because surely we can't be blamed, or punished, for whatever it is.   And we don't realize that it is more like learning to play the piano.  We're asking God to grant us the talent to play at Carnegie Hall when we have refused, over and over and over again to practice, or even learn the notes.  He's told us how to get there, and he's offered to help... to sit with us, to help us remember, to work with us one on one as an expert teacher so that we can master the piece.  ... And even though we refuse his help, we expect that we'll be able to walk up on that stage and play perfectly because God will magically grant us what we have refused to learn.  He does love us, incredibly, but learning doesn't work that way.

It isn't exactly the same as learning the piano, of course, but I do think that similar to love, the highest forms of happiness and peace are skills that we learn over time, not just the emotions we feel in a moment.  Today, let's practice those skills through obedience and righteousness.  God is trying to teach us something that will make our lives much better... happier, and more contented.  Let's give obedience a chance to work in our lives.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

1 Peter 3:15-16

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ."
1 Peter 3:15-16

The idea of always being ready to give an answer about your personal hope is a powerful one.  I think sometimes we don't know why we hope.  Sometimes we forget.  Sometimes we're ashamed or we doubt or we see ourselves as bad examples, and so when people ask we kind of blow it off or give a joke answer.  But this readiness that God advises can not only be a powerful tool within our own lives, to help us to remember who we are, and to help us stay close to the spirit... I think it is also one of the most powerful things that we can do in our lives and relationships: to tell people why we hope, and what we hope for.
In Moroni 6:5 we read "And the church did meet together oft, to . . . speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls."  ... And isn't that what church is for, and what this life is *for* ... to speak with each other, to be real with each other, on the deepest level... all the way down to our souls?  We are missing so much of that in the modern world, where "how are you" has come to mean "I acknowledge your existence."  We talk about TMI and oversharing, and those things aren't imaginary.  We don't want to get caught in an uncomfortably real conversation in the elevator.  There are places to bare your soul and places not to.  God isn't advocating that we go around dumping all of our problems on other people or forcing depth into every conversation... but sometimes we get into a mind-place where it is never okay, and we go through life talking on the surface and even thinking there, and never even getting near the soul.  I think God is saying that we should take advantage of those opportunities when they happen, and that we need to be ready.  And to be ready, *we* need to know what we hope for.  We need to know the reality underneath our own surface, and what we truly believe in and why.  And if we do, then it doesn't matter if the person asking has good or bad intentions.  If they are trying to shoot us down, then we still have that confidence that we know where we are coming from, and where we base our hope.  And if they have good intentions, then maybe we'll hear about their hope as well, and build a friendship and help each other become better.
Today, let's all ask ourselves why we hope... and next time someone asks, let's be ready.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

1 Nephi 3:5-7

"And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.

Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."
1 Nephi 3:5-7

I think that we often get into the same attitude as Nephi's brothers about the gospel.  It reminds me of work.  If you ask people to do certain tasks that they enjoy, they might jump into them and get the project done really quickly... but if they are different tasks that they don't enjoy, even though it is the same amount of work, they do the project really slowly, wander off task a lot, and require a lot more encouragement.  And we all have things in the gospel that we like or don't like.  Some people get really into the Word of Wisdom or Tithing, watching their diet or their income scrupulously and doing as much as they can.  Others are into Missionary Work or Genealogy.  Hopefully we all have areas where we shine.  But other things are hard.  Maybe we don't have a testimony of that aspect of the gospel... or maybe we do, but it remains hard for us, or we don't enjoy it as much.  At work, I still have to get the parts of my job that I don't really enjoy done, so that they don't hang over my head and last for months.  And as we grow in the gospel, sometimes God is going to ask us to do the things that are hard for us as well.  Either because they need to get done, or because we need to learn it, or both, or more.
Nephi's brothers knew that the task would be difficult, and they weren't sure that it could even be done.  Lehi knew it would be hard as well... but God was the one asking.  That's a good thing to remember in our lives as well.  God is the one asking.  Yes, it might be a hard thing to face, but God always makes it possible for us to accomplish what he asks.  Today, instead of murmuring, let's jump in and get the hard parts done, so we can move on to something else. :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

1 Nephi 2:19-20 -- On Going to God About It

"And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.
And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands."
1 Nephi 2:19-20

Nephi's father was a prophet, and he predicted that Jerusalem would be destroyed.  After God was finished having him warn the inhabitants of the city, he warned him to flee.  Some of Nephi's older brothers thought that their father was crazy.  They had to leave their friends and all of their wealth, and go into the wilderness and live in tents?  We'd probably think that *our* parents were crazy if they made us do that too. :)  ... But instead of telling his father he was crazy, Nephi stopped to consider that he might know what he was talking about, and he went to God about it.  And just that difference changed his life.  God told him that his father was right, and that Nephi could have a relationship with God too.  That he could prosper and be led to a promised land.

I think that the same things can change our lives, and we can also have a relationship with God, and be led to our own personal promised land, whatever that is.  But first, we have to do as Nephi did and stop and consider that God's message is true.  That God really does communicate with people regularly.

If we get to that point, then we have to do something about it, and seek God out and build a relationship with him.  If we do, then we can also be led to the promised land that we've always wanted.  Dreams do come true. :)  But it takes consideration and commitment and consistency.  We (at least currently) can't just teleport to the promised land.  The journey is part of our preparation for arrival.  Today, let's humble ourselves as Nephi did, and instead of mocking, let's pray and find out for ourselves.  And then let's commit, or re-commit, to doing something about it.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Exodus 17:11-12

"And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.
But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun."
Exodus 17:11-12

I like this for a couple of reasons.  First, it is a good example of God's hand in our lives.  God is in charge of everything... even battles.  If we do as he asks, our lives will go better, just like when Moses raised his hands the Israelites prevailed, and when he lowered them, the Amalekites prevailed.  The more we succeed in doing as he asks, the more we will triumph in our personal challenges.  I am not saying that God will take away obstacles and tests.  We need those to learn and progress.  I am just saying that the more we do as he asks, the more we win against them. :)
The other thing I like here is the clear lesson that sometimes we need help in order to do as God asks.  We need the support of the people around us.  Just like Moses needed people to lift his hands, sometimes our hands are also heavy, and our challenges get to be too much to handle alone.  God always provides a way for us to succeed, but it isn't always just by our own strength.  We need each other.  It is okay to ask for help, and to seek support.  Moses couldn't do it alone... and it was better to ask for help than to lose the battle.  So it is with us.  When we are weak and overwhelmed, let's remember to reach out and get the assistance that we need, rather than giving up.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Doctrine and Covenants 121:39-41

"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;"
Doctrine and Covenants 121:39-41

I think that this is an interesting insight into how we behave.  Not really something we didn't know, but definitely something we need to be reminded of sometimes.  It is easy to abuse our power.  With children, with students, with employees, and in so many other situation... whenever we have any kind of authority, we need to bend over backwards to be kind.  We need to explain our decisions, and listen to alternate perspectives.  We need to truly love those that we lead, and to be gentle and patient.  And, before we start looking at our overall leaders and saying "yeah!  you should be nicer to us!," let's remember that we are all leaders sometimes.  We need to successfully suppress our own power hunger (mote) before we go after someone else's unrighteous dominion (beam).  Today, let's be part of the solution, and when we are called, let's also do everything we can to also be chosen... by working on our tendency to abuse or fight over power, and instead cultivate kindness.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

John 19:25-27

"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."
John 19:25-27

 I think that it is incredible that, while suffering on the cross, Christ took the time to think of and take care of his loved ones.  Perhaps this is a lesson in selflessness for all of us.  We often get preoccupied with our own troubles and our own sufferings, worried about things that are natural and understandable to worry about.  Sometimes though, the best way to find happiness... to relieve the stress and the worry of our lives... is to forget it as we focus on helping and serving other people.  It gives us a feeling of accomplishment to feel that we've really helped someone... a shot of optimism, and it is a little easier to believe that the world can become better, and that we ourselves can become better.  On the other hand, if we focus on our troubles, usually they just feel deeper and more overwhelming.  Today, let's get some perspective.  Let's find a way to look beyond our own pain and the tragedy of the moment, and maybe use our experiences and our empathy to help others.  Let's focus on the positive things, even if they are small.  Let's find the joy, and give to others, and make the world happier instead of staying in the sadness.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Psalms 146:2

"While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being."
Psalms 146:2

This is great, and sometimes exactly how it feels... when we have the spirit, when God feels near.  Nothing can hold us back from rejoicing, because that closeness with God *is* happiness, and joy.  And although it doesn't feel that way all the time, because we get off track, or we forget that God will deliver us, or whatever it is... maybe feeling that way all the time is a good goal to have.  To keep the spirit with us more consistently, to learn more about God so that we can stay on the same page with him... to keep injecting happiness into our lives by making our relationship with God our top priority.  And if that is our goal, then the verse reads not just as incurably optimistic, but as a dedicated seeker of happiness. :)  It's powerful: While I live I will praise the Lord.  I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.  It isn't that I ate sunshine for breakfast... it is because I know that as I praise God and serve him and love him, my whole life, and the lives of everyone around me get better.
Today, let's praise God.  Let's sing to him, let's serve him, and let's love him.  Let's listen to his advice, follow his commandments, and watch our lives get better. :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Doctrine and Covenants 46:10-26

"And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.
For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.
And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.
And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.
To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.
And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;
And to others it is given to have faith to heal.
And again, to some is given the working of miracles;
And to others it is given to prophesy;
And to others the discerning of spirits.
And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;
And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.
And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God."
Doctrine and Covenants 46:10-26

The selection is pretty long today, but I think it is important.  As I was reading this, I was thinking how cool it is that God gives us all gifts to help us in life... but then I realized how much more than that it is.  In the second verse of the selection it tells us that everyone gets a gift, which is awesome.  No one is left out.  But then, about why, it goes on to say that we're all given different ones, that all may be profited thereby.  It isn't just to help us out individually in life, but it is to help others... and the way the gifts are given is encouraging us to be interdependent.  I have this gift, so I can help with this, and you have that gift, so you can help with that.  We don't have all the gifts, and so we need to help each other.  It's a little bit similar to an educational theory put forward by Howard Gardner, who says that we are all intelligent and talented, but in different ways.  So, if you use the same measurement for everyone, you are only going to find people who are intelligent in one way, but there are so many other ways to be intelligent.  And I think that it is true, with intelligence, with spirituality, and with life in general... because God wants us to work together.  We have strengths and weaknesses so that we can help and be helped.  Today, let's recognize and develop our gifts, and thank God for helping us with life... but let's also take the time to look at the people around us differently.  To realize that every single one of them is brilliant, and blessed, and spiritually powerful... we all are.  Let's find the intelligence and the spirituality and the goodness in the people around us, and let's help each other.  Part of building Zion is seeing each other as valuable.  Let's work on that.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Psalms 147:1-5

"Praise ye the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.
The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel.
He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.
He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.
Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite."
Psalms 147:1-5

 We doubt sometimes that the Lord can help us, and guide us... that he knows us, or what we need.  We sometimes think that we know best, at least for ourselves.  I have thought that, sometimes.  And then I read things like this, and I remember who God is... he can number the stars.  He understands *everything.*  ... And I can't even figure myself out most days. :)  *Definitely* not wiser than he is. :)
And, you know, if God can number the stars... maybe he really does know what we're going through.  ... Maybe we should consider that he can heal our broken hearts, and bind our wounds.  God is great, and of great power.  Today, let's respect him and work on understanding him a little bit more.  He isn't fallible like we are.  He isn't untrustworthy or biased.  He can do anything at all, and he chooses to love and help us, his children.  Let's accept his help, and remember how much we need his guidance.

Friday, February 14, 2014

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

As we learn elsewhere in the scriptures, charity is everlasting, perfect love: the kind of love that God has for us.  And in looking at this chapter that talks about it a lot, and specifically these verses, we can see how different this kind of love is from the kind of love we see glorified in our society.  If we have this type of love, we will be patient with our troubles.  We will be kind.  We won't be upset because other people have cooler stuff than we do.  We won't boast or promote ourselves over others.  We'll behave appropriately.  We won't be selfish, and we won't let things upset us.  We won't think evil, and we won't rejoice in sin.  Instead, we'll love truth, and rejoice in that. :)  We'll go through what the Lord asks us to experience and learn from, and we'll continue hoping and believing in him, through it all.
Today, let's remember what perfect love is.  Not some love that we have no choice in, even though it is bad for us.  Not something where we fall in and are trapped forever.  Not some juvenile crush-lust that we abandon the instant that intense feeling is gone.  Love is so much more than the corrupt way it has been depicted.  It's bigger, and better, and truer.  So, let's look farther, and learn the truth from our Father, who will teach us and lead us to the true and real kind of love, as we look to him for help.  He loves us all so much more than we can currently imagine.  *That* is a truth to rejoice in. :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Doctrine and Covenants 45:55-58

"And Satan shall be bound, that he shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men.
And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.
For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.
And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation."
Doctrine and Covenants 45:55-58

The whole idea of Satan not having any power over us is interesting.  How would our world be different if we weren't tempted?  I'm not sure.  We might imagine up a lot of problems for ourselves by observing things in society and then wondering about them... but it obviously makes an immense difference because their children grow up *without sin.*  That's awesome.  Hard to imagine, here in our world where Satan is definitely not bound, and where we don't grow up without sin... but a really desirable future.  Something that we want to understand, and live.
The scripture mentions the parable of the ten virgins.  The parable is in Matthew 25:1-13 and it tells the story of ten women waiting for a marriage.  The bridegroom seems to be late, and they all fall asleep waiting.  Then, about midnight, the call comes... the bridegroom is coming.  They trim their lamps, and half of them have prepared and have enough oil.  The rest don't have enough.  They run to buy some, and while they are gone, the bridegroom comes, the five that are prepared go in, and the door is locked, so the other five can't get in.

As this verse indicates, the symbolism of the oil here is accepting the truth and having the spirit with us, which includes keeping the commandments so that we have that constant guidance.  Too often, we choose to only keep some of the commandments or delay cleaning up our lives, thinking that we have plenty of time... and that is the point.  We don't know when we are going to run out of time, and we should make sure we are ready. :)  Today, let's make sure that we have the oil of the spirit in our lamps.  Let's be wise, and prepare to meet God while we still have time. :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Jeremiah 18:3-6

"Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel."
Jeremiah 18:3-6

In this chapter God explains that if he says he will destroy a city, and they repent, he will stop and not destroy it.  And if he says that he will build up a city and help them prosper and then they turn away, refusing to listen to him, he will stop helping them as well... that we make choices that matter to the Lord, and that what we choose to do can change things.  Remaking ourselves isn't pointless or hopeless, even though it is hard to see sometimes how we can affect society, or even change something about ourselves that has become ingrained or is a habit.  ... But God says to us, yes, it is hard.  But remember that you have me, and I am the potter.  I can remake you.  And I can help you remake yourselves, if you want it... if you ask for it.  None of us are past saving, or beyond his reach.  If we can bend our knees and pray for his help in our lives, to change and become better people, to overcome our habits or addictions, to triumph over our personality flaws... whatever it is that we desire to change about ourselves in a good way, God will help us.  And that doesn't mean that it will become easy.  If it were easy we probably wouldn't take it seriously and it wouldn't stick... we'd just think, "oh, how easy... not that big of a deal, so I won't worry about screwing my life up again." :)  ... But with God, even though it doesn't become easy, it becomes always possible.  Even on our worst days, he will help us stand, and help us make the effort to change.  Today, let's turn to him for help, and become who we want to be rather than who we feel trapped into being.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

1 John 2:25

"And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life."
1 John 2:25

Eternal life.  Let's think about that for a minute.  ... Forever.  Never dying.  No, don't slip into thinking that we'll be vampires. :)  Better eternal life than that.  We still get souls, we don't have to prey on other beings, we'll have perfect health, and we might even get to learn how to walk on water.  (I'm hoping for that.)  Compared to the things that we tend to claw over in our everyday lives,  eternal life has everything else beat.  And God has promised it to us.  ... Isn't that amazingly cool?
Today, let's focus on the things that God has promised us, and worry less about things that are temporary.  Let's let God help us out with our priorities, so that in the end we won't have been living for and fighting over things that don't matter... but lifting and supporting and loving, and building things that can last: relationships, education, a Zion community.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Moroni 7:5-6

"For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.
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 7:5-6

This is a good reminder that our actions matter.  It is definitely good to believe in generosity and kindness, etc, but it is something else entirely to actually learn to act kindly, to be generous.  To turn our internal ideals into external realities.  Before we can become truly good, we have to get the intention out of our heads and into our daily lives... incorporated into what we do each day.  And, as the second verse shows us as well, the internal matters too.  If we just pray to go through the motions, or give to look good, and none of it is sincere, then it doesn't help us become good people either.  Eventually, we have to get the internal and the external on the same page.  We have to love people *and* treat them well.  We have to believe in and honor God, *and* go to church, pray, and show him our honor through our actions in other ways.  Not that we can't start with the internal or the external as we are learning... we can.  But until we get our internal and our external working together, we aren't doing as God asks.  We're just practicing, and we can't expect the same results.  For instance, if we pray to know whether the Book of Mormon is true, but we aren't sincere and we believe that God is a fable, then can we really expect an answer?  Or if we believe really strongly that the Book of Mormon is true, but we only read the first couple of chapters, can we really expect to get the spirit and the lessons of the book incorporated into our lives?  Today, let's work on doing good and being sincere at the same time.  Let's get our internal and external switches both set on GOOD, and start the process of becoming whole.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Psalms 107:28-31

"Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"
Psalms 107:28-31

We don't give God enough credit.  He does so much for us, and most of the time we just blame him or expect him to make our lives immediately perfect, even when we caused the imperfections.
Certainly, when we pray and plead with God, he answers us.  He delivers us, he calms the literal in figurative storms.  He leads us all to our own personal promised lands.
Today, let's stop blaming God for all of our problems, and patting ourselves on the back for all of our successes.  Let's thank him for his infinite mercy, and saving us even from our own mistakes and intentional evil.  Let's praise him for his goodness. :)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Psalms 130:5-6

"I await for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning."
Psalms 130:5-6

I like this... sometimes things in this world seem hard, and we start to lose hope.  We start out doing really well, and then we stop... get tired, and aren't sure if we can make it.  But God is still there, and he never stops doing all he can for us.  If we can wait, and endure, we will always triumph with God.  The idea of those who watch for the morning... great imagery.  We wait in the dark, praying that the sun will rise.  And it does... it always does.  Even more so, God will keep his promises.  Always.  And even more than the relief after waiting through a dark night for the morning sun, God will make everything better and brighter... and *right*er.  No matter how dark the night.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Alma 36:6-9

"For I went about with the sons of Mosiah, seeking to destroy the church of God; but behold, God sent his holy angel to stop us by the way.
And behold, he spake unto us, as it were the voice of thunder, and the whole earth did tremble beneath our feet; and we all fell to the earth, for the fear of the Lord came upon us.
But behold, the voice said unto me: Arise. And I arose and stood up, and beheld the angel.
And he said unto me: If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God."
Alma 36:6-9

This is Alma talking to his son Helaman, and telling him how he came to believe in God.  He had rebelled against his father and fought against the church, and now here he is, talking to his own son, not wanting him to do the same, and he tells him, listen to me... I've tried the rebellious path.  I was in a bad group, and I've done some really bad things... and one day I realized, in a very dramatic way, that what I was doing was wrong, and that it wasn't going to lead me to happiness.
I think a similar realization happens to many of us.  It might not be quite as dramatic as Alma's experience, and it might not be about the exact same thing, but I think God reminds us in ways that are dramatic to us that we need to change.  ... That we're setting ourselves up for destruction, or pain, or suffering.  God wants to spare us that, and he asks us to turn around.
Alma changed everything because of this.  He did turn around.  He worked the rest of his life to support and build up the church rather than destroying it.  It wasn't easy for him, I'm certain.  Can you imagine going back into the same places and talking to the same people after you had just made such a turnaround in your life?  It was tough.  It is tough for us... we dig the pit and carve away at the cliff for years, and then carefully and laboriously set up all the thorns and spikes at exactly the right angle for maximum damage, and then finally, right as we are about to jump in, God says... hey, wake up.  That is going to really hurt you, no matter how exciting the fall.  And we look down, realize he is right, and still consider it.  It might be the roller skates, the bungee cord that is only mostly frayed, or the confidence of the half-broken hang gliding equipment on our backs, but something makes us still want to take the plunge... the thrill is worth the pain, right?
... But, no, it isn't.  Whatever the thrill or the supposed goal that we have in mind, God is trying to save us from self-destruction.  Today, let's please listen to him, and turn around, and find something better to do, far away from the cliff.  He loves us.  Let's try to love ourselves, and be safe... and listen as God talks us down, and then offers us some better alternatives. :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

1 Peter 3:16-17

"Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing."
1 Peter 3:16-17

I like this... as we go about our lives we are going to be judged unjustly.  We do it too.  We too often base our judgements on appearance or one or two examples, and we don't get to know people before we jump to conclusions.  We do it to others, and it is going to happen to us.  Whether it is something that can affect our lives a lot, or just a little, it still feels unjust either way, and sometimes we want to react and prove them wrong, or demand a retrial, or whatever it is.  But God's way seems calmer than that.  If our consciences are clean, then there is no problem.  If we're going to suffer in life (and we all are: it is something we have to learn), it is much better to suffer for being good than being bad.
Today, even though it is hard, if our consciences are clear, let's accept some injustice in our lives.  When we're on the just side, let's let it go.  And if we suffer a little, and it is hard to accept, okay.  Good lessons.  ... And then let's hope beyond hope that when the same things happen and we're on the unjust side, that someone else can do the same for us.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Romans 12:15-17

"Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men."
Romans 12:15-17

I think that Paul gives us some excellent, inspired advice here about how God would like us to behave.  God's suggestions for us here will lead us to being kinder and making the world a better place.  They will also help us learn to be happier and more satisfied with life and ourselves. :)  ... You don't get better advice than that.
The first verse seems to be basically asking us to have empathy for other people... to understand their emotion and to feel with them.  I think that is an important lesson in life: to understand how to step outside ourselves and to see from other people's perspectives.  It is *so* easy to be selfish and only look at how things affect us.  But if we take the step, and try to see how other people experience life, and how it feels to be in their shoes, it gives us a chance to learn to be more compassionate, more caring... to understand other people and know how to help them and get along with them.
The second verse goes further and asks us to think of each other as equals... of those other perspectives as important and as in need of expression as our own.  We're asked not to base our judgements on income, social status, title, or power... or anything else that makes us feel above each other.  As we learn to see from the perspective of the poor and other "low" places as seen by society, and if we avoid assuming that people are in a certain position because of being less wise or less intelligent... or less anything, we'll learn a lot more about them, and ourselves, and how we can get along and help each other.
The last verse asks us not to perpetuate evil... not to get "revenge" for being treated badly, and not to lash out even when someone else started it.  We're also asked to be honest... not just in our estimation, kind of skirting around the edge of the lie and being vague... but to be completely honest, from the perspective of everyone.
Today, let's take this advice to heart.  Let's work on understanding other people, and on thinking of them as equals.  Let's promote goodness and honesty even when we encounter otherwise.  Let's make the world brighter. :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Proverbs 14:22-23

"Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.
In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury."
Proverbs 14:22-23

I really like this.  It seems to me like a call to action.  We've watched the movies where the thieves plan the heist for weeks, sometimes months.  This person will be the distraction, this person will cut the alarm, the timing has to be perfect to get past the guards, etc.  And we love stuff like that because it seems like they are achieving the impossible.  Putting the intricate plan into action and somehow (at least in hollywood) it works, and they accomplish whatever ethically questionable goal they were trying to achieve, and also get rich.  Obviously we aren't going to follow in their footsteps because God has asked us to obey and honor the law... but imagine for a second if we devised and accomplished such astounding plans in the pursuit of something good. :)  And God is offering us mercy and truth if we devise good.  So, awesome, let's make a plan.
Then the second verse of the selection... to paraphrase, in all labor there is profit, but just talking usually ends up leading to poverty. :)  So, yes... devise good, but then we have to do something about it.  We have to labor, and put that plan that we devised into action.  Today... let's go for it.  Let's make plans to achieve the impossible (in a good way), and then let's work to make it happen. :)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Helaman 14:28-31

"And the angel said unto me that many shall see greater things than these, to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men—
And this to the intent that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment might come upon them; and also if they are condemned they bring upon themselves their own condemnation.
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.
He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you."
Helaman 14:28-31

This is Samuel the Lamanite speaking to the Nephites from the top of the wall, since they kicked him out of the city.  He tells them of the signs of Christ's birth, and the signs of his death, and what is interesting is that he tells them at least partially why.  So that they will believe... so that there will be no cause for doubt.  The massive destruction that was coming would kill a lot of people, and God wanted to prepare them for it... giving them a chance to save themselves, spiritually, even if they were among the people that would die physically.  Samuel also presents a poignant reminder of the power of our own choice.
I think there is a lot of similarity to our day here.  Like the Nephites listening to a Lamanite, we reject the prophets sometimes because we assume that we are already righteous, or at least good enough... or we think we should wait to decide until God makes things obvious.  ... But, as in this example, things are made perfectly clear only before the destruction.  We know the difference between good and evil already... free gift from God.  We have the wisdom needed to make those basic choices, and to choose and progress... to become better than we are from whatever level of goodness we've already attained.  No reason to stop unless we're perfect. :)
We choose our own future.  We choose life or death, joy or guilt, good or evil.  Whatever we choose is restored to us... we choose now what we want for eternity.  Today, let's actually think about what we're choosing, and whether it is what we want for eternity.  If it isn't, let's think (and pray) a little bit harder about our choices.  Let's invite God's help in becoming kinder and gentler.  Let's turn away from the dark side and embrace the light. :)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Moses 7:13

"And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him."
Moses 7:13

That's some pretty incredible faith.  And I think sometimes that we forget how amazing that we are... that we can be.  And we settle.  We accept the limitations that society places on us.  We believe in our own brokenness... we forget that even when we are broken, we can be healed, and through Christ, we can be made whole.  With God, the enemy can *never* prevail.  Physical limitations cannot stop us.  Our language and every part of us can be infused with power.  Not so that we can go out and beat people up, but so that we can stand with assurance, knowing that our God will never forsake us.
Today, no matter what is going on with us, or how broken we feel, let's have enough faith to pray.  Let's have enough faith to look to God for the answers... and follow through.  With God, nothing can keep us from finding our way to who we are meant to be.  Nothing can stop us from making the world a better place, and helping others, and someday, like Enoch, finding our way to Zion.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Zechariah 4:5-6

"Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."
Zechariah 4:5-6

I like that God gives us explanations when we don't understand.  I think of Nephi, the disciples in Jerusalem, and so many other times when something happened that people didn't quite understand... and some people asked, and some people didn't... but always when they asked, God helped.  And how about Joseph Smith asking for more wisdom because of James 1:5? :)  God *wants* us to ask, and to understand.  Sometimes we have to work on learning some of the basics before we can launch right into the advanced stuff, but he always gives us lessons that lead to understanding, and direct answers if we're ready.
I also like the idea that God doesn't accomplish things in the way that we expect.  Sometimes the only solution we can see to change the world and make it better is some form of giant coercion or force... either making people behave, or wiping them out and starting over.  But in order to save as many people as he can, God doesn't use the heavy-handed approach.  He doesn't wipe everyone out, and he will never force us because free agency is his plan. :)  He is patient, and he works through his spirit to inspire the people who are listening to make a difference.  ... Today, let's BE those people, and let's listen to the spirit, and make the difference.

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