Thursday, December 29, 2011

Giving and Receiving Gifts

Some time ago our bishop challenged us to read the Book of Mormon by Christmas. I was well on my way by then, so I didn't think there would be a problem. However, as the days wore on I realized that I couldn't write in my study journal and finish the book before Christmas. I did finish on time, but as I read Moroni 7, I realized that I had gone through the chapter too perfunctorily, so after Christmas, I went back to it several times in order to understand it more deeply. It is not the first time I have meditated on this chapter. It and chapter 10 are among my favorites because of the meaning of hope and perfection they offer. They contain lessons of a deeply spiritual nature for those who are seeking to truly know Christ and accept the atonement much more deeply.

This chapter is primarily a lecture on faith, hope and charity and is similar in many ways to the teachings of Paul in the New Testament (1Cor. 13). Moroni teaches that these virtues are a gift. I have wondered at this concept as it is found throughout the scriptures. It is obvious that you have to work at receiving the gift for it to be given to you, which seemed to me to be closer to wages than to a gift. I have come to appreciate that it is truly a gift, however.

In my law practice, I have many times heard the childless aunt complain about, and in some cases disinherit the niece or nephew who showed no gratitude for the gifts she had given. Almost no one wants their gift to be transferred to their loved ones at too young an age, because they are not prepared enough to appreciate the gift if they have not experienced enough of life. In the teachings of Paul we learn that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord." (Romans 6:23. Emphasis added).

I believe we are given these gifts, but that we become less aware of them as we yield to the natural man tendencies. On the other hand, as we become more prepared, the gifts are more freely bestowed. "What good", asks the Lord, "is a gift if we refuse the gift, or if it is squandered on our 'lusts'?" Neither the giver nor the receiver are prospered (D&C 88:32-33; 46:9).

In Moroni 7: 6-8, Moroni offers some insight on the giving of gifts. As I read these verses, it becomes obvious that the gift he is referring to is the gift of ourselves to Christ. He observes that we are not expected to just give !0% of our increase or one day a week or even an hour each day and Monday evening. We are expected to give our whole selves, or as Elder Neil L. Maxwell observed, we must place our will on the alter. "Brethren, as you submit your wills to God, you are giving Him the only thing you can actually give Him that is really yours to give. Don’t wait too long to find the altar or to begin to place the gift of your wills upon it! " (April 2004 General Conference, Priesthood Session. Emphasis in original.)

Once again, using the current law as an example, a gift must be given with no strings attached or it is not a completed gift. If, for instance, you desire to make a gift of appreciating assets out of your estate in order to not have them counted for estate tax purposes and to have them grow in your child's estate instead, there cannot be a way for you to pull back the gift if your child subsequently disappoints you. If you have retained that authority, the asset is still considered part of your estate because it was not freely given. It will be taxed as part of your estate as if you had never bestowed the gift at all.

The same is true of the only gift we can give to God or to Christ. If we offer the gift of tithing, we are only offering a tenth of our increase. If we offer it grudgingly by seeking for loopholes, for instance, only that part that was given freely will be counted to us for righteousness. If we accept a calling, but only show up when necessary; if we never read the manual; if we never get to know the people we are to serve and find a way that our calling will benefit them, then, as I read Moroni, nothing is profited. It is as if we had retained the gift.

He equates gifts with prayer and says whether we are offering a gift or a prayer to the Lord it must be done with real intent. Why? Because all things that are good come from God and all that is evil comes from the devil. (Verse 12) To that degree that we hold back some of ourselves because we don't want to give all to God, or we fear the consequences, or we love a little badness, or we have a better idea, we are yielding that much to Satan and, while we are not keeping anything from God (He has everything), we are keeping ourselves from receiving all that God can give to us. We are only going to receive what we are prepared to receive.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Power Given To the Righteous

The beginning chapters of Heleman finds the people in the depths of wickedness and seeing no way out. The few who were righteous are intimidated by the fact that there is no support or protection for them. Not only are the people more interested in the lusts of worldly pleasures, but the government is corrupt, as well. With a corrupt government there can be no justice because those in favor or those who are wealthy enough to provide bribes are free to place all others under subjection.

In the midst of all this, a righteous prophet named after the first prophet following the division of the people, Nephi, boldly calls the people to repentance and prophesies of the coming of Christ. He condemns the corruption of the day, so many are drawn to him. Some are just curious to see a man with such courage; others are anxious to follow his teachings; still others are anxious to see him stopped even if it means that he is destroyed. In the attempt to silence him and cause him to be "tried" for treason, he first preaches unto them about the fact that Christ is prophesied of by all prophets and he condemns them for their iniquities. As they attempt to take him, he tells them that the chief judge is murdered and he tells them who committed the crime.

There are other details to the story that are very interesting, but the point I wish to make here is that the complete righteous nature of Nephi led him to accept the will of God, no matter what the circumstances might be for him. The result of that could have been the same as that of Jeremiah where no relief ever came and he died an ignominious death. To him it did not matter so long as he was doing the will of God. What happened to Nephi is not entirely unique as we see something similar with Elijah, but something for which we could all strive. In the midst of his pondering on the wickedness of the people and wondering if what he was doing made any difference, a voice came to him telling him that because of his faithfulness, the Lord would make him mighty in faith, word, deed and works. In fact, he was told, anything he asked would be done. A lesser man would have asked for a safe place away from all the trials, abundance to avoid the negative consequences of the wicked society and peace for the rest of his life. The Lord knew, however, that Nephi would ask only for those things that would further his ministry to the people.

Rather than ask for ease, he asked the Lord to bring famine to replace war. The famine brought the desired result, at least until it was relieved, in that the people began to listen to this prophet who predicted the destruction of the people if they did not repent. They laid down their weapons of war and paid heed to his teachings, but as soon as they were relieved of the famine, they turned back to their former ways.

There is a lesson for each of us here, I believe. The will of God is always superior to the will of man. There is no security in our own attempts at self-security, especially if they are made without the promptings of the Spirit. Even worse, there is never security in evil. When we come to a place in our lives where it seems we could acquire wealth or prestige through deceit, theft, or by corrupt means, we will find that it is temporary at best. If it is not lost during our lifetimes, it will destroy our children and leave them destitute of material, spiritual, emotional or social well being. Sin in all its manifestations is selfishness at its core.

The only security is in following the words of God. As it says in D&C 84:43-44, we must give diligent heed to the words of eternal life and live by every word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God. If we do so today, we find that there is a reason to procure a good education, establish ourselves in a business or profession and set aside money, food, water and fuel against a day of disaster, but we never rely solely on those things. Rather, we rely on God by putting His will above ours to a point that we completely substitute His will for our own. When we do that, we find, at least in a small degree, that we, like Nephi, can call upon him to receive the blessings we desire for ourselves, our loved ones and those for whom we have responsibility in our callings.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Character of Men in War Time

My personal experience in war is that it tends to bring out the extremes in a person's character. There are those who use it as an excuse for the worst behavior; they kill for defense of self and others but, having killed once, kill for the thrill, for revenge, for almost any excuse. These men would be involved in whoredom and even rape. They would also be first in line for alcohol and drugs. Others would become like a particular captain who, for one reason or another decided to befriend me. I think he had met me in our church services as I had been called to be a counselor to the LDS unit president, so I conducted our meetings from time to time. There was little structure to our meetings and I had very little to do other than at the meetings themselves as there was no opportunity for home teaching or making visits to other areas of the base, fire bases or out in the bush.

This particular captain had led units of men out in combat, but took the time to succor soldiers who were injured, frightened or who suffered from mental wounds. In one case he took a prisoner who would have been killed by the type of soldier who was less inclined toward mercy. In another case, there was a soldier from Utah who served in a nearby unit and who fell victim to his own inappropriate habits. He took drugs following a period of time in the bush where he had seen action. The drugs, combined with the fear, bloodshed and extreme emotional circumstances caused him to lose control. He took his weapon and begin firing randomly inside the NCO and officers' clubs. I don't believe he killed anyone, but he seriously injured several.

This soldier was lucky enough to have become acquainted with the righteous captain. The captain took the risk of convincing the powers that be to let him take charge of the young soldier. He brought the soldier to church services where I could clearly see that the young man was unstable. The captain worked with him, was kind to, but firm with him and stayed with him until he was sent away. If my memory serves me, the soldier was given a court martial, but sent to Japan to receive treatment for battle fatigue.

Alma, in describing Captain Moroni, describes a man who saw the world from 10,000 feet above the rest of mankind. He fought for principle and never allowed himself to believe that his current circumstances were the only reality. He is described as strong and mighty, which he would have to be to survive and lead. He is also described as a man of perfect understanding who did not delight in bloodshed. He loved freedom and the joy of liberty and could see that the results of losing the war would be captivity and slavery. He was capable of deeply felt thanksgiving, even in the horrors of wartime. He had taken an oath to defend the liberty and welfare of his people, even at the risk of losing his own life.

Alma states, in describing this mighty man, "...If all unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men." While these traits may be seen as gifts from God, the fact is that everyone has the Spirit of Christ and, like Moroni, could have developed their characters to the point that they, like he, could receive such gifts. Instead, most of us tend to think of our current circumstances as reality and don't think in the long term. We suffer disappointment and use that as the excuse for abandoning our faith. We find an opportunity to act on a lustful impulse and take advantage without thinking of the eternal consequence.

Men like Moroni keep an eternal perspective, not only for themselves, but for those in their sphere of influence.

Similarly, the 2000 stripling warriors maintained an eternal perspective. Much credit is given their mothers who taught them, as is proper, but the fact is that many young person who has had the proper teaching and example in the home abandon those teachings when they leave home. A spirit of rebellion can negate the teaching of a righteous parent until circumstances seemingly force them back to the teaching of the home through repentance, usually after they have raised children without the benefit of their faith. Unlike the typical rebellious youth, these men applied their faith by following every command with exactness. They applied the principles of righteousness they learned in the home to their commander. Knowing that Heleman was a righteous leader who would never lead them astray, they were protected by following his directions to the letter. Heleman credits the success of the young soldiers to the fact that they had faith, that their minds were firm and that they put their trust in God.

The war chapters of the Book of Mormon are often used as a metaphor for the battles we face in our lives everyday. That is an appropriate use of these chapters. War, however, like other extreme circumstances we may face reveals our true character. C. S. Lewis says that we must not use extreme circumstances as an excuse for bad behavior. "Dropping the hammer on my toe caused me to swear," for instance. Rather, the extreme circumstance reveals the aspects of our character we have not yet corrected. The rats in the cellar, for instance, are more likely to be revealed when we enter the door abruptly than if we rattle the door handle and enter as usual.

Our focus, then, must be to make of ourselves the men and women whose hearts a pure because we are the children of Christ; his sons and daughters. We do this by constantly reflecting on the blessings of the atonement and calling on God's holy power to change our hearts.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Purpose of Guilt

It is interesting that when Alma is giving counsel to his missionary children, he spends a chapter or two on the ones who are doing well, but the bulk of his preaching is for the one who has strayed from the path. It is Corianton who gets four lengthy chapters in the book of Alma. These chapters are not only about his need to repent and the blessings of the Atonement to those who humble themselves, but also some deep doctrine about the events of the resurrection, the role of justice and mercy, the purpose of mortality as a probationary state, spiritual and temporal death and the like. He did not save the deepest doctrine for the righteous sons, but found it appropriate to declare it to the one son who had committed the most egregious sins.

Why was that the case? I suspect that if Corianton had continued to show a rebellious heart, he would never have received this counsel. The more likely scenario is that the depth of his humility led Alma and the Spirit to give him greater depth because he was truly ready to receive it.

In the final chapter of his counsel to Corianton, Alma sees that there is a need to caution the repentant person against allowing guilt to rule their life, never accepting the full blessings of the Atonement. It seems that people either give too little attention to their sins and failings, or they give too much attention to them.

In the Pearl of Great Price, Moses sees God face to face and is given the vision (shared by a very few prophets such as John, Nephi and Abraham) of the world from its beginning to its conclusion. In Moses 1:10 he makes the observation, " is nothing, which thing I had never supposed." Then a few verses later Satan attempts to tempt him and his response is, "Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?" You are left to wonder at Moses' conclusion. Are we nothing or are we children of God with an expectation of an eternal, celestial inheritance? As Moses correctly observed, we are both.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed this paradox in his most recent General Conference address to the Church. "The great deceiver knows that one of his most effective tools in leading the children of God astray is to appeal to the extremes of the paradox of man." In other words, Satan uses the truth to appeal to our negative natures. In some instances, we find that he appeals to our pride. We are amazing creatures with the abilities of reason, thought, strength, wealth, and experience. We may begin to think that we exceed in some or many of these things over others and become defensive when our abilities or gifts are challenged. President Uchtdorf observes, "To some, he appeals to their prideful tendencies, puffing them up and encouraging them to believe in the fantasy of their own self-importance and invincibility. He tells them they have transcended the ordinary and that because of ability, birthright, or social status, they are set apart from the common measure of all that surrounds them." Falling into that trap we become unaware of, or ignore (sometimes even fear to recognize) the evidences around us that, "man is nothing."

On the other hand, we are aware, sometimes to the extreme, that we are all sinners and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) So short, that we become convinced that we will never measure up to the scorecard of God, so in our depression, we conclude that we might as well continue in our mediocrity, sin and short comings and need not go to the effort and pain of attempting success. In this case, Satan appeals to the opposite extreme. Man is nothing, I am way below other people in my spirituality, physical state, mental abilities, or whatever, so I am less than nothing.

The message of the Savior is that he has descended below all things and has made the redemption applicable to the least of us. That is where we start. He is our foundation. It is necessary to be humble; in fact, in my experience, eventually we are led to be either humbled or humiliated. The choice is ours. The difference is that when we choose to be humiliated, there is no one there to see us through the pain and depression; Satan only takes us lower - we are his. When we choose to be humble, we seek repentance and there is almost immediate assistance from the Spirit. There is also, in my experience, a great battle. The force of Satan's persuasion tries to convince us that we are not worth it, that we are too sinful and that the effort is not worth the price. The Spirit of God, on the other hand, is available to bolster and sustain us as long as we are willing to stick to the basics. Eventually, you win and the effort is worth it. The Celestial Kingdom is not unattainable; it is yours.

In President Uchtdorf's words: "The Lord doesn’t care at all if we spend our days working in marble halls or stable stalls. He knows where we are, no matter how humble our circumstances. He will use—in His own way and for His holy purposes—those who incline their hearts to Him."

Once again, we are invited to place our will on the alter and bend our will to the will of God.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gratitude or Golden Book and the Three Boys

Many years ago the boys and I started the YES program which stands for Youth Excellence Strategy or something like that. Tavan was already out of the house, so he did not participate, but the other three and I would rise early, exercise, read a chapter in the Book of Mormon and memorize a scripture a month. We each had to have our own prayers twice each day, as well. We did this for a year. The reward was that we went to General Conference in Salt Lake City. We stayed in the Little America Hotel, swam in the pool and ate very well. We arose and went to Temple Square at 5:00AM to get into line so we could get into the tabernacle. The boys had our stake presidency sign their YES certificates and took them with us to show Grandma and Grandpa Anderson in Utah. When we attended conference they got the idea to have general authorities sign them, as well. One or two of them had a member of the Tabernacle Choir sign them, but they were especially proud to get Steve Young's autograph. There was a great feeling of love, camaraderie and gratitude as we accomplished something truly worthwhile.

One of the scriptures we memorized was D&C 59:16-21. It was one of the longest and they were proud to have memorized it and recited it for our Thanksgiving celebration that year. It still has a place in my heart when I read it for that reason. In Alma 38, Alma recalls the experience that was the beginning of turning his heart from evil and dedicating his life to serving Christ. In his counsel to his son Shiblon, he cautions that we should recognize that Christ is the only means to light and life. He advises that we should never confuse our successes as being solely from our own efforts, strength or wisdom as all we have and are comes as a gift from God. Pride and gratitude cannot dwell in the same mind and spirit.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, it is always good to reflect on the virtue of gratitude. In the 59th Section of the Doctrine & Covenants we learn that we need not embrace poverty, unless that is our lot in life for the moment. We should remember that the fullness of the earth is ours. We have at our disposal the beasts, the plants of our gardens, the trees and fruits and all things in and under the earth. It is not just to survive, but also to please the eye, gladden the heart and enliven the soul. When we prosper in those things, it pleases God that he has made them available to us so long as we use them with good judgment and not out of greed, or obtain them by dishonest means.

Then he states that " nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things and obey not his commandments." (verse 21) Cicero is quoted as saying, "Gratitude is the mother of virtues." I believe that is completely true. I also believe that pride is the mother of all unrighteousness. Sometimes gratitude and pride are bed fellows. How? When we are thankful for the blessings we have, but don't acknowledge God as the source of those blessings. How many times have you heard a singer, actor or other person who has received fame or notoriety exclaim how very luck they are? Some acknowledge God, but most just chalk it up to luck.

I do not. Based on the understanding of the Atonement I have received over the years, I know from whence my blessings come and the blessings given to my children and their families. I realize I have gifts and that those gifts are magnified when they are used in the context of what God would have me do with them. When my will is subjected to His will, my blessings increase. When I allow my ego to dictate my activity, I fail to acknowledge God or to find His will and I am left to myself. I find it a pitiful state in comparison.

I have deep gratitude for my life, my work, my wife, my children and my children's families, my health, my opportunities to serve in the Church and elsewhere. I am grateful for the scriptures and the men who have suffered to bring them to us. I thank God for the opportunity of living at a time when the inspired words of prophets, seers, revelators and others are so easily and readily available. Most of all I am grateful for my relationship with God and my Savior. I know I need to improve it in many ways, but I truly love them and am filled with awe to know even the particle I am blessed to know. To any who may sometime read this, I am grateful for you and pray that these posts may be some source of motivation and/or inspiration to you.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Learn In Thy Youth

In the 37th Chapter of Alma the message of the atonement is once again emphasized. Heleman is apparently still quite young, though old enough to be serving a mission of some sort. Age and youth, I have discovered, are relative. As I was preparing to take the bar exam in Washington, I rented a motel room near the testing center as we were advised not to take the chance of an accident or, as was more likely in my case, that the car would break down. Watching TV that evening, I saw an interview with John Wayne wherein he said that as a young man of 50, he did his best work. At the time, I was surprised that he thought of 50 as being young. A similar thing happened some years later when my father-in-law stated that 50 - 60 was the best time to be alive because you could get so much done.

So when Heleman is advised to remember and learn wisdom in his youth and to learn in his youth to keep the commandments of God, the counsel applies to everyone who still has breath, and who has felt the promptings to stop procrastinating for whatever reason, in my opinion. I am well beyond youth and still have need to heed his counsel.

Once again, we are told to cry unto the Lord for our sustenance, but this time we are counseled to rely on the Lord for direction wherever we may go. Apparently, we are to rely on the promptings of the Spirit in everything including what we do from day to day. We are often counseled to follow our passions in order to become successful. In this scripture, we are counseled to let our thoughts be directed unto the Lord and to "...let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever." (v. 36) Follow our passions, but allow for the Spirit to direct them. You will likely find passions you didn't know were in you.

In other words, verses 36-37 counsel us not to compartmentalize our lives. We work or study or do whatever we need and want to during the day, then get religious at prayer time and when we read our scriptures. Here we are counseled to pray with the intent to ask for and follow direction, then we can expect the Lord to direct us. At night he will protect us.

In all things we are to be grateful and constantly give thanks to God.

In my experience, we do not sit and wait for God to tell us what to do or where to go, but we are constantly open to opportunities to serve, to change direction or to improve. We must be prepared to follow the promptings when moved even if it is seemingly illogical. A life filled with the experiences this brings is a life truly explored and lived. This kind of fullness in life is not only possible, it is promised. We must, however, be prepared for it. The chapter goes on to compare the scriptures to the Liahona. They will be our guide, only if we pick them up and read them with the intent to follow their direction. Imagine looking at the pointers in the Liahona and thinking, "that's interesting," then going a different direction. In Alma's words, "...take care of sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live." It is the only fulfilling life in the end.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Surprising Atonement

In Alma 34, Amulek, the newly converted disciple of Christ and companion to his mentor, Alma, teaches about the Atonement with surprising insight. As a side note, we must never consider someone who is new in the faith to be less able to receive spiritual insight than ourselves. Listen to their insight and learn from their freshness.

In speaking of the Atonement, Amulek states that Christ's purpose is to take upon Him the transgressions and sins of mankind without which all mankind must inevitably perish. In so doing, the sacrifice must be infinite and eternal. Perhaps it is inaccurate to imagine that the sin we just committed caused an ounce more pain in the Garden of Gethsemane or on the cross, because the sacrifice had to be infinite. Just as infinite is impossible to conceive, so is a sacrifice that is infinite. He then states that the whole law and the teachings of all the prophets points to that infinite and eternal sacrifice.

The question then becomes, what do we have to do to take advantage of this great, last, infinite and eternal sacrifice?

According to verse 15, we first have to believe on his name. We take upon us his name. It is the name by which we make sacred covenants and receive sacred ordinances. Thus, when we believe on His name, we accept the promises associated with receiving those ordinances and keeping the associated covenants. It is the name by which we pray to the Father, thus we accept the promptings and act accordingly. This is how we receive the mercy of Christ.

Second, we have faith (which seems to be inherent in taking upon us his name) to repent.

Amulek then advises that we exercise faith unto repentance by calling upon his holy name:
18. for mercy, for he is mighty to save;
20. in your fields, over all your flocks;
21. in your houses over all your household throughout the day;
22. against the power of your enemies
23. against the devil;
24. over your crops, that ye may prosper in them;
25. over your flocks that they may increase
27. continually for your welfare and for the welfare of those around you.

He then advises that we never neglect the poor, the sick, the needy who stand in need of our substance. He states that not doing so will make our prayers and faith vain or worthless. We need to soften our hearts and repent in order to have the advantage of the plan of redemption in our lives.

It seems that when we read these verses, we often assume that chapter 34 is all about the atonement except for the little part about prayer. In fact, Amulek never stopped talking about the atonement. Prayer is part of the atonement; the atonement covers all aspects of our lives including our work, our fight against sin and sloth, our spouses and children. In other chapters, it is clear that the atonement covers all sicknesses and sorrow.

If Christ overcame the effects of the Fall of Adam, the great sacrifice covers all aspects of the Fall, not just the sins and transgression of man. Before the Fall, there was no sin, no pressure to work, no families to worry us and no sickness, sorrow, death, aging, insecurity, or poverty.

What do we have to do to take advantage of having the blessings of Christ's great atonement? Constantly repent, keep the covenants we have made in conjunction with the ordinances, and not put off our efforts. Life is short and we must not procrastinate the day of our repentance. (v. 32) We must put off the old person and become new creatures who desire more to serve God and put His will above our own so we have no disposition to do evil. It is that spirit that will possess our bodies in the eternities. We damn our spirits when we give in to temptation and grow them when, in a spirit of love for God and all his creations, we are humbly obedient (v. 33-36). Finally, be patient no matter what afflictions we are called upon to bear. The end is worth the wait. (v. 41)

Monday, October 24, 2011


In listening to the Jim Rohn materials, I gleaned some insight that at first seemed at odds with Alma 32. In further examining it, i find it is in perfect harmony. Rohn suggests that we are not given what we need, we are given what we deserve. I believe I may have used his analogy elsewhere, but it applies here, especially. You can't go out to a barren field and say to it, "I'm hungry, I need food," and expect that the field will deliver food to you. There must be planting, nourishing, weeding cultivating and harvesting before we can enjoy the fruits of our field. That is why we call it "fruits of our labor."

Yet it seems, sometimes, that we petition God for fruit that we have not planted or cultivated. We get frustrated when we don't get immediate answers to prayers and assume he has not heard us, He does not care, or He does not exist. We fail to see our role in all this.

It doesn't take much to realize our desires, really, though it may seem like it while we are in the process. It always, however, takes faith. If we want any blessing from God or from the earth, for that matter, faith is always required. Alma 32, unlike the scriptures (such as Hebrews 11) that describe faith, describes how to acquire faith. Like everything else in life, it begins with a desire. It must be a sincere desire and not just a wish to have some supernatural experience.

While it begins with a desire, it does not end with the desire. We don't get what we need, we get what we deserve. Therefore, we must let the desire work in us and nourish it. Like a seed, the initial care has to be constant and intense. Once the plant matures, it still must be nourished, but with a modicum of care. The mature plant cannot be taken for granted or neglected, but fed and nourished with prayer, study, teaching, writing, bearing testimony, service, magnifying callings and being constantly mindful of the need to subject our will to the will of God.

The other aspect of desire that is not often expressed is that God desires to bless us. He desires for us to believe (v. 22) and is merciful to those who do. He amply supplies His word through various means including angels (v. 23). Of course, Satan also desires to have us that he may sift us as wheat.

Thus, we have agency. We choose between them whose agent (worker) we will be. Both desire us. Only one loves us enough to support, sustain and love us through the difficulties of growth. The other only entices us (very successfully at times) with empty promises and insatiable appetites, eventually leaving us having accomplished little of eternal significance. Logically, it should be easy to follow the only One who truly desires to bless us, but we do little by logic, unfortunately.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Elements of Success

The previous chapters have Alma and Amulek preaching with great success - many were baptized, Zeezrom repents and Ammonihah is destroyed with all its inhabitants who followed the order of Nehor.

Alma now travels from Gideon towards Manti when he meets the sons of Mosiah who are travelling to Zarahemla. He is not only pleased to see his friends, but especially pleased to see that they have remained faithful to the covenants - the were "...his brethren in the Lord." In reviewing the miracles the sons of Mosiah experienced, Alma summarizes what caused them to experience the success they enjoyed. I have previously counted 6 elements of success. In re-reading this account, I find that i missed the 7th. The 7th is assumed by many, but over the years I find that it is perhaps the most important.

When Alma expressed his joy at seeing that they were still faithful, he discovered a pattern the he had followed in his ministry, as well.

1.They had waxed strong in a knowledge of the truth and had a sound understanding because they had searched the scriptures. They searched the scriptures. They did not just search to make a point, but to see what the Lord would have them do and be. It seems that the question often asked is "What do I have to do in order to succeed?" But the result of the "doing" is manifest in what the person becomes. Thus, they searched the scriptures, "diligently". They read with the intent to change, obey, teach and help others "live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God." D&C 84: 44

2. They gave themselves over to much prayer and fasting. While we are counseled not fast in the extreme, we know prayer and fasting combined create an opportunity for deeper humility. To some it is a way to say to God, "See what pain and torture I am willing to bear? Now you have to give me what I want." They are like the spoiled child I knew as a boy who held her breath until she fainted knowing that going to such extremes got the attention of her parents. She always got her way because the parents were concerned for her safety and wanted to avoid a recurrence.

These men took the opposite attitude. They fasted and prayed with the intent to know what God wanted of them. Fasting was a way of putting all worldly cares aside so they could humbly receive God's word. The result was that they had the spirit of prophecy and the spirit of revelation. Do we suppose that they would have been given prophecy and revelation if they were not willing to act on it? Experience teaches that when we receive promptings upon which we fail to act, the promptings become fewer until we either repent and show we are willing to take action or we are left on our own, D&C 121:38 Thus, we pray with intent to obey and take action. See principle 7, below. We fast to know how to conform our will to the will of God. Then we can expect an abundance of revelation and even prophesy (this principle is the only one emphasized by repetition in this chapter). Thus, fasting and prayer lead to revelation that we may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring others to a knowledge of the truth and allow them to abandon traditions and habits that keep them from progress.

3. When they taught, they taught with power and authority of God. Apollos, in Acts 19 and 20, taught with power convincing many of Christ and baptized many. Paul had to follow behind him, straighten skewed doctrine and re-baptize, for Apollos had no authority. Both power and authority required. Once the people had been convinced by the power of their teaching, they could follow their teaching with the saving ordinances and with ordinations to establish the church in various parts of the land. This allowed Alma and the sons of Mosiah freedom to travel about spreading the word knowing that they were not stuck in one place, being the only ones with power and authority. See principle 5, below.

4. Implied in all the other elements is that they were led by the Holy Ghost. Just as important, they were comforted by the Holy Ghost. Success in any endeavor requires a good deal of self confidence, especially during times of trial, but self confidence is inadequate unless bolstered by the promptings and encouragement of the Spirit. The scripture (v.5) says they did suffer much in body, mind and spirit. They suffered fatigue, hunger, thirst and hard labor while they poured all their effort into preaching and bringing souls unto Christ. It reminds me of a passage from a woman's pioneer journal. It was in the early spring; the rain and snow had created thick mud which caused the wagons to be mired and move at a snail's pace as the men moved from one to another with shovels and poles to free them from being stuck in the bog. She looked out to see Brother Brigham up to the top of his boots in mud and "as happy as a prince." (I heard this quoted in a religion class and never saw the reference)

When we are assured by the Spirit that the path we have chosen is what God would have us do, then our confidence will wax strong. (D&C 121:45) The Holy Ghost will provide comfort during times of trial when the natural man would give up.

5. They established the word among the people. This they did as commanded by the Lord. To establish His word implies that they did more than hold a big meeting where they roused people to respond to the Word, baptized them and then moved on. To establish the Word would imply that they remained long enough to ordain and set apart officers and teachers, employ scribes to copy the scriptures and monitor progress to a point that they could then leave and do the same in the next city.

It also implies that they, like Paul, Philip, John and Peter, would send letters of instruction and encouragement and return from time to time. Otherwise, what once seemed firmly established would be lost to discouragement, apostasy, false doctrine, sloth and transgression.

6. The Lord told them to be good examples of patience in long suffering and afflictions. They were not expected to just "tough it out" on their own, however. The Lord said to be good examples unto them " me..." Once again we see that we are never left alone no matter how difficult or dangerous the work might be. When we try to "go it alone" we exhibit pride and our success is limited. When we humbly put ourselves in the Lord's hands our success is potentially unlimited. The Lord promised them "I will make an instrument of the thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls." (v. 11) And so he did. The Lord keeps covenants.

7. What I had missed before in reading this chapter is implied in all the other steps, but without it none of them are of any effect. That is, they had to "...take courage to go forth." Without courageously taking action, everything else would just have been academic. They had to have an inspired pan and then act on that plan. The action coupled with courage and humility brought the amazing results.

So, summarizing the steps that led to their success we find the following:

1. Obtain a deep knowledge and understanding of the mission and its tasks. Deeply search the scriptures.

2. Use fasting and prayer to discover the Lord's will for you, your calling and your mission in life.

3. Do not take authority upon yourself. Do your work with power and authority.

4. Be led and comforted by the Holy Ghost.

5. Establish an organization that will multiply your work and properly supervise it, but give authority as well as responsibility.

6. Be patient in the process. Nothing gets planted in the spring and harvested in the fall unless it is cultivated with much effort through the heat of the summer.

7. Take courageous action. All the planning and praying is of no value until you take action.

Are these steps to success limited to missionary work or work in church callings? Review them carefully. Would a great lawyer, mother, musician, chiropractor, computer programmer, employee of any kind, delivery driver, father or scout master be even greater if he or she knew they were doing the will of Heavenly father, were following the promptings of the Spirit, were patient in their summers and were building a system that would make their organization not just function, but flourish? These are good steps for success in any aspect of life.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Long Suffering Before Blessing

In previous chapters, Alma has preached without success in Ammonihah, but is impressed to return where he meets and converts Amulek. The two of them preach and convert many, including Zeezrom who is a lawyer hired to contend with them. Those chapters contain brilliant essays on the purpose of the atonement, the need for priesthood and priesthood ordinances and the need for repentance.

The people are followers of the order of Nehor who preached that because God is loving and powerful all people will be saved. Therefore, there is no need for repentance, because there is no sin. The chief judge, who has prospered under this false order is angry and, accepting the testimony of false witnesses, orders them to prison. First, however, they must watch as a fire is built and the believers with their children are cast in along with the holy scriptures.

Observing this unimaginable cruelty, Amulek says to Alma that they should put forth their hands, put an end to this cruelty and destroy the wicked people who were perpetrating it. This, reasoned Amulek, they could do by the power of God, which was in them. Alma stated that the Spirit constrained him from doing so and that there was a purpose in allowing the persecution to run its course. The martyrs were destined for eternal glory and their blood would be a testimony against the wicked.

Amulek assumes that the power of God is some kind of super power that he can wield at will; that it is in him. Alma knows that the power is with God and can only be wielded in faith when prompted by the Spirit. The two of them are then subjected to intense persecution, cast into prison where they are stripped, beaten and taunted. Finally, after many days (as the scripture emphasizes) the power of God was upon them, they rose to their feet and cried unto the Lord for strength and deliverance. They broke the cords that bound them and even though the persecutors attempted an escape, they did not get to the door before the walls caved in upon them killing everyone except Alma and Amulek.

The scripture again emphasizes that the power was granted unto them by the Lord. It was exercised according to their faith in Christ.

Too often we want to give God our deadlines and dictate to him what the timing should be. "I've suffered enough," or "I've waited ling enough," or "these people are in need," etc. If we are patient in long suffering, however, the outcome is always greater than if we had received the miracle we requested on our timing.

It takes patience in waiting on the Lord, faith that his is aware of us, and faith to act on the promptings when the time arrives to act. "Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path." Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gifts and Stewardship

This entry occurred just after having been called to serve in the bishopric of the YSA ward in our stake.

As I have been thinking, teaching and speaking to our ward, lately, I have been developing the theme of life being a gift. King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:22-24 shows us that life itself is a gift and that when we realize that and try to repay God by our obedience, he immediately blesses us, so we can never repay Him. Thus, we are always unprofitable servants. D & C 46:8 instructs us to seek the best gifts. The section goes on to say that the desire (v.9) for these gifts is not to consume them upon our lusts or for a sign, but to benefit all. It continues to say that all are not given every gift, but to some one gift and others to another. Still the gifts are of the Spirit and given that all may prosper (v. 10-12). The natural man, it seems, when he receives a gift, thinks only of himself. How often do estate lawyers see the estate squandered when it passes to the next generation? The heirs can think of all kinds of things of which they have been deprived and immediately begin to consume the estate upon their lusts.

In the law, a gift is given with no strings attached. It is not a completed gift if the giver can pull it back for any reason. If a person gives another a gift and sees that the gift is squandered rather than invested, the giver is reluctant to continue giving such gifts. If the giver continues and the recipient does the same, a very unhealthy relationship results. The recipient, usually a child, never learns to depend upon his own efforts and when the parent or giver no longer has the wherewithal or dies, the child is desperate, angry and turns to the court and when that fails, to the state for their life of ease. It is not unusual that they turn to crime and/or to substance abuse.

Similarly, God is reluctant to provide continual spiritual gifts if they will be squandered.

The expectation, then, is that when we receive a gift from God, we are to invest and grow it, that it may benefit all. Interestingly, Mosiah 2:5 goes on to say, "...can ye say ought of yourselves?" It points out that we are dust and that it all belongs to the Creator. If that is true, there was never any gift. We are caretakers of all that the earth can bestow upon us. We are stewards. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein." Psalm 24:1

In the parable of the talents the lord of the servants did not make a gift of the money, but entrusted the servants with it. It is implied that he expected an accounting upon his return, as the servants took steps to preserve and grow their "gifts". The lord is obviously pleased with those who make something of the gift each has been given, but it is also clear that the money and all it gains are his. He is not pleased with the servant who hid up the money in anticipation of the accounting for fear of losing it. He was risk averse and did nothing to put the gift at risk. The "gift" was taken away and given to one who had magnified the gift he had been given.

What would have happened to the servant if he had squandered the money in living only for the day and did not worry about the day when the lord would return? No doubt the lord of the servants would have been even more displeased. Inasmuch as the "gift" was really a bestowal of a stewardship, prison would have resulted.

To many in this world, it seems, the purpose of life is to do what is necessary to simply survive and avoid pain or adversity. To others the purpose of life is to achieve modestly, but when they get to a point of financial independence they go no further in their retirement. To others the purpose seems to be to accumulate to themselves and in their quest for more, they forget who really owns the fullness of the earth and are no more prepared for the accounting than those who did little with this gift of life.

To others, life itself is a gift for which we should be ever grateful. Yet, even knowing that there will be an accounting, they risk their gifts and build upon them. In the mean time they share the abundance with the poor "...that they might be rich like unto [them]." Jacob 2:17. They constantly seek first the Kingdom of God and second riches. They seek riches for the purpose of doing good (vs. 18-19).

If the poor are to be made rich like the person who has magnified his gifts, what is shared has to be the method for obtaining wealth (in the broadest sense) and the encouragement to seek it. Otherwise, the receiver could never be anything but poor and reliant on others.

If we seek first the kingdom of God, the promise is that we we may obtain riches, "...if ye seek them." (v. 19) Nowhere are we promised that they will fall into our laps. To me the implication is that everything requires effort on our part and, at the same time, setting proper priorities. It includes a good deal of gratitude and of stretching ourselves to grow and build. We must never forget who is the true owner of what we obtain, so when confronted with a challenge to share, we cannot give into the temptation to hoard instead. All these decisions must be based upon the principles of righteousness and of obedience.

In my experience the results are beyond our dreams in almost all aspects of our lives - spiritually, materially, emotionally, socially and even physically. We must, however, never rest beyond the need. In the Kingdom of God there is no retirement. We are to live to the Lord's expectations and only then we will live the fullest of life.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Repentance, Pride and Humility

Just prior to Abinadi's entry, the kingdom passed to wicked Noah who corrupted the church as well as the government. Idolatry, prostitution, alcohol, unauthorized polygamy and riotous living were promoted among the people, but especially among the ruling class. Despite this, the army was kept in readiness and had just won a decisive battle. Due to that victory there was an abundance of confidence and pride in the land.

It was in this setting that Abinadi began prophesying their bondage if they did not repent. Noah and his officers were concerned that he would negatively affect the morale of the soldiers, which could make the difference between defeat and success on the battle field.

Beyond that, however, Noah and the "priests" were offended by his preaching of the need for repentance and intended to hold a sham hearing in order to slay him.

I believe I may have referred to this before, but it is applicable in this instance, so I will refer to it again. Elder Rex D. Pinegar once explained the meaning of "enmity" in the context of Moses 4:21 where God placed enmity between the children of men and Satan. Enmity is hatred and because it is between us and Satan, it is mutual hatred. The further we keep ourselves from the influences of Satan, the more we hate his ways. The closer we get, the more tolerant we become. When we cross the line, we then begin to hate righteousness and become offended by someone who points out to us the need to repent.

So it is with king Noah and especially with his hand-picked priests. Noah is touched by Abinidai's warnings and fears the consequences. The priests, however, stiffen Noah's courage and urge Abinadi's death claiming he committed treason by prophesying the destruction of Noah's kingdom.

Alma, like the other priests, came to the recognition of his guilt. Like the others, he was faced with a choice; be offended and justify his corrupt behavior, or repent and accept forgiveness through the mediation of Christ who was to come; redemption through the atonement. Taking the first step, he attempted to plead for Abinadi's release, but the king and the priests dismissed him. Knowing the nature of those who are offended by the Word of God, he fled for his life. Later, we find that it is one of these wicked priests who, given a position of authority over Alma's people, has as his primary mission to make life as miserable as possible for Alma and his followers.

It is interesting to me, as an aside, that both Abinadi and Alma (the younger) when calling wicked priesthood men to repentance do not just stick with the basics, but instead preach deeper doctrine such as how Christ is Father and Son or the intricacies of the resurrection. As readers of the Book of Mormon, we receive a depth of understanding, as Mormon intended; to the recipient at the time the Spirit bears witness and gives them a choice - repent or be offended.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Covenants and the Consequences of Good & Evil

In the first chapter of Mosiah, King Benjamen states that because Lehi could read Egyptian he could teach his children what was on the brass plates. He does the same for his children.We sometimes wonder why it was a big deal that a person who desired to learn was excluded from the "synagogues", but the likelihood that they could read is slim and access to anything to read is also unlikely. Our access to education and to having books to read, especially the scriptures, is something we take entirely too much for granted.

King Benjamin gave his sons an education primarily for the purpose of allowing them to read the scriptures. He then taught them to ponder and to "search them diligently" and then to keep the commandments.

Just reading, searching and keeping the commandments is apparently not enough. He then introduces the concept of covenants. He prepares them to take upon them a "name" in Mosiah 1:11. We don't discover what name that is until chapter 5, but it is obvious that the sons knew they were taking upon them the name of Jesus Christ.

Having erected a tower and providing scribes to write and distribute the words of his teaching, King Benjamin taught the people the blessings of giving service and of sacrifice and of being obedient to the commandments of God. He taught about the bondage of sin and the power of Satan. He then taught about the redemptive power of the atonement and invited them to humble themselves, pray and rely in faith on Christ. He instructed them to teach their children to love and give succor to the poor and sick.

He then invited them to take the next step and enter into a covenant of obedience to Christ. The covenant was administered with an oath and all those who accepted the covenant had their names recorded in writing. The recording of the names was a permanent record of the outward symbol (the oath) of the covenant. The covenant was a deep and public commitment of each person to be obedient and to live a Christ-like life. Such a commitment must be preceded by an inner conviction to live in accordance with the will of God. If the outward expression - the covenant and oath - is taken with out the inward conviction, it will not last. A person would feel justified in disobedience and/or half-hearted service. If the inner conviction is not followed by the covenant, a person may cave in a moment of weakness.

Thus, the pattern is clear and the purposes of God are made manifest in all sacraments and ordinances. It makes me grateful for the wisdom and grace of Christ in establishing this process. A process that is repeated in our day with such ordinances as baptism, confirmation and the ordinances of the temple. I am transcribing this on the day after our 39th wedding anniversary, so I am especially grateful for the new and everlasting covenant which includes the sealing ordinance of marriage.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prosperity, Sacrifice, Service, Consecration

In these chapters, the prophets and writers are aware of the prophecies that with righteous living comes prosperity and with unrighteousness comes destruction. While Mormon has the advantage of hindsight, the the early prophets emphasize that by diligent efforts the people were kept from destruction spiritually and from defeat by the Lamanites.

Were there none in their society who failed to acquire wealth, but who were righteous? Did none obtain riches through deceit or while living a life without devotion? If that were the case, there would be no place for faith in their lives. Faith would have been replaced by fear - the antithesis of agency.

Rather, I gather that the righteous who applied themselves purposefully discovered that they were blessed in ways they could not have imagined. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof..." Psalm 24:1 "For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare..." D&C 104:17

In so doing we are not desperate even in difficult times because we have assurance of abundance and that God freely gives in accordance to our needs when coupled with our best efforts. Recognizing this we also know that God not only requires 10% of our increase, but everything we have, everything we gain from what we have, everything we are and everything we may become.

When we come unto Christ; (Omni 1:26) when we take upon us his name, (Mosiah 1:11) we enter into a covenant relationship consecrating our whole souls. The result, inevitably, is prosperity. It may not be an abundance of fabulous wealth, but it will be an abundance. We will recognize that we have become more and gained more than we ever thought possible for us. The only way we lose such prosperity in the end is by allowing Satan to convince us of scarcity and falling into transgression.

Our stewardship, it seems to me, is to build upon the portion of God's abundance with which we have been blessed and gratefully bless others in the Lord's way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Teaching Repentance

In his short book, Enos records his experience in the wilderness where he, knowing he was alone, spent the day and night in prayer. The experience he had there and his subsequent actions teach us at least four lessons. I am sure there are others, but here is what I found in my reading of this little book.

1. His father had taught him to pray in a way that he knew the Lord both nourished and admonished. He was anxious to receive the joy of the saints and eternal life.

2. When he received the understanding of his own redemption, he desired the welfare of the Nephites and then the Lamanites. He was informed that they would receive the visitation of the Lord according to their diligence in keeping his commandments.

3. He went among the Nephites and with those of the Nephites who would, he went among the Lamanites. To him it seemed the work among the Lamanites was in vain as they had deteriorated to such a degenerate nation that they were beyond hearing. Among the Nephites however, there arose many prophets, but the people were, for the most part, "stiffnecked".

4. The constant diligence in their teaching repentance was what kept the people from speedy destruction.

The purpose of constant reminders of the place of repentance and the promises of God have a significant place in our lives. Without our personal diligence, our families and the Church would fall into utter destruction. More importantly, we would miss the joy of the Lord.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pure In Heart

Of all the promises to the virtuous in the Sermon on the Mount, the promises to the pure in heart are by far the greatest. In Matthew the verse reads, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." 3Nephi goes a step further stating, "Blessed are all the pure in heart for they shall see God." Clearly, our highest goal is to be pure in heart.

Jacob expounds on this virtue by giving us the characteristics of the pure in heart. They look to God and pray with a firm heart and faith. They are promised consolation in afflictions, that justice will come to the destruction of those who seek to do harm.

The pure in heart receive the pleasing word of God and feast upon his love. They are promised this feast forever so long as their minds are firm. They do not judge by outward appearances, including skin color, hair length, body odor, etc.. They seek to repent and to nurture and protect and love their spouses and children.

Those who are not pure are described as filth. The opposite is promised to them. For them the land is cursed. The wealth of the land is temporary as it will be lost in the coming generation. These commit fornication, adultery and whoredoms. Their hearts are turned away from their families. I believe that is true because sin turns your focus inward to one's own appetites.

The choice is clear - repent and retain a pure heart and live with God's presence; or be filthy with insatiable appetites and lose everything of value. Why is making the choice so difficult? Because it takes effort and faith to turn away from the carnal and toward God. With each episode when we choose faith over appetite, faith grows. Yet, to some degree it always takes some effort. In my experience, it is always worth it. What if we slip and commit the sin again? Did Christ only die for the first time we sinned and we are on our own after that? No, nor the 116th time. He is always there it is up to us to get up the final time and continue the resolve to be pure.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Magnifying Callings

The question of how a person magnifies a calling often receives varied answers. Some believe that to magnify a calling means to make it bigger than even the handbooks require. President Uchtdorf addressed this in the October 2010 conference stating that some seem to believe that their salvation depends on the length of their "to do list."

Pres. Monson in the Priesthood Session of the same conference said that to magnify a priesthood calling (and all callings are priesthood callings) is simply to perform one's calling with full purpose of heart.

I found that these verses (Jacob 1:17-19) state it succinctly. Speaking of his and his brother Joseph's callings, Jacob said that:

1. They were consecrated priests. In other words, they did not take the honor upon themselves, but received authority from their brother Nephi, the prophet.

2. They next obtained their errand from the Lord. This would be accomplished today by studying the handbooks, the scriptures and by seeking inspiration and revelation from the Holy Ghost.

3. They magnified their office by teaching the word of God with all diligence. It seems that they taught at every opportunity.T hey went to the people and the people came to them. Their teaching was of Christ and how repentance takes advantage of the great atonement.

4. They could not be discouraged or their work would be drudgery. They felt that society was heading down, so their work was to teach against the downward trend and invite all to come to the light of Christ. Otherwise the sins (blood) of the people would be upon their heads.

I find that if my focus is upon the teachings of Christ and doing what I can to bring the light of Christ into the lives of those for whom I have responsibility, my "to do" list is plenty full. I do not need to find other projects to make my calling more fulfilling or meaningful. Teach, invite, give meaningful service all in the Lord's way.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Trust in the Lord

I was especially inspired, while listening again to the October 2010 Conference, by President Eyring's message. It had to do with hope. I have lately been studying some motivational literature. I had thought that the books were chosen randomly, but they all seem to have a common theme, i.e. God created the universe filled with vast resources. God's ultimate creation is Mankind. God loves Man and has provided him with the ability to communicate with God through prayer. he has also provided Man with the ability for God to communicate to Man through promptings of the Holy Ghost. That communication comes in two ways according to Elder Oaks: 1. Through the personal line, or 2. through the priesthood line. It matters little from which line it come, we must act upon it. Joe Vitale says, "...the universe likes speed..." In other words, act when prompted.

I have, for many years, wanted to set up a school where true principles are practiced and necessary subjects are deeply understood. As I was doing some homework for my coaching program, I wrote that intention. It had been working on my mind ever since that time. Some days later, after completing a session of temple baptisms, we gathered at the Arctic Circle for ice cream with the youth. While eating, several of the adults gathered and the conversation focused on education. Because Nevada is failing its youth in education, Bishop Stoddard said, "There needs to be a school that has an LDS focus and Brother Anderson needs to start it." I heard myself saying, "It is my dream."

Since that time I have had several mixed feelings and thoughts about who could be invited to teach and administer. I have thought about what the physical plant and campus would look like. I thought about how to determine the age and qualifications of the students, and many other thoughts. On the negative side I thought about obtaining the confidence of donors, the lack of knowledge of the laws and regulations and the enormity of the undertaking, not to mention the fact that I have no independent means to support myself, let alone something of this magnitude. The thought is still in the back of my head, but no action has been taken to turn it into reality.

This is just one example. Others would include becoming a true enterprise in the law firm where I act as a true CEO and not consult with clients; expanding the Las Vegas office; looking outside the traditional for other opportunities; etc. Positive ideas run through my mind and other thoughts that question and pour cold water on them precede and follow. Which of them do I follow and accept?

President Eyring's talk came just at the right time. I cannot count the number of times I had heard it before as Ii listen to the most recent conference every day either when exercising or when driving to work. But this time it struck home more deeply because I had also heard something similar from my personal business coach and from the recordings of some of the most recognized success authors and speakers. These "limiting beliefs" should not be ignored, instead, we should face them, express them, then determine where they come from and dismiss them with logic, faith and inspiration.

Having done that we can now trust in God fully and watch for opportunities to move forward. "Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he will direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Role of Jesus as Messiah or Christ

Following the first major set of Isaiah chapters, Nephi explains the role of Jesus. In chapter 25 he says it is revealed to him that the Messiah will come in 600 years and that his name will be Jesus Christ. (v. 19)

In Chapter 26 he expounds on that name by declaring that Jesus is the Christ; Jesus is the very Christ, the Eternal God. (v. 12) The Jews must come to know he is the very Christ; the gentiles that he is the Christ and the Eternal God.

It is these chapters that we first get the purposes of a Messiah (a Christ) started in the Book of Mormon. They are built upon throughout the book.

Nephi states that the words of Isaiah are clear to him in part because he is familiar with the references used as symbols. He is very close in time to Isaiah. Secondly, he finds Isaiah plain to understand because he has had similar spiritual experiences. The both saw the birth of the Savior in vision, as well as the various events of his life leading up to his suffering, death and resurrection.

In order to understand more deeply, the reader is invited to have similar experiences, or to at least read with the Spirit.

To be certain we are left without excuse, Nephi preaches, declares and prophesies with plainness, "For we labor diligently to write to persuade our children and also our brethren to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace we are saved after all we can do." 2N 25:23

We cannot work our way to reconcile ourselves to God. It is only by the grace of Christ that it is possible. I hear constantly that grace comes after all we can do. I know our good works are a necessary element to the process, but nobody I know has done all they could do. If that truly is the standard, we are all doomed. The emphasis is better placed on the atonement and the grace that is allowed because we are willing to submit ourselves to God's will and make the necessary changes in ourselves that will allow the grace to make up the difference, for His grace is sufficient for all.

In reflecting on those talks and the writings regarding faith in Christ, I have concluded that all we can do includes repentance. If we are solidly on the path, we will receive that reconciliation that we, in our deepest selves, so much desire.

These chapters also invite us to worship Christ in order to avoid condemnation. Worship in this case in not to be interpreted as "pray to". Rather, it is to show reverence for Christ.

Chapter 26 contains Nephi's vision of the build up and destruction of the people of Lehi. Pride being the primary cause of the fall. He sees, both at the time after the resurrection and at the dispensation of the restoration how the righteous will embrace Christ's gospel and keep the commandments. These are they to whom he will manifest himself and through whom miracles will be performed.

The final lesson seems to be about priorities. He condemns priestcraft. It is this that men preach and set themselves up as a light to get gain and reputation. A Zion society would have no such thing. "The laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion for if they labor for money they shall perish."

Obviously, this covers those involved in priestcraft, but I think we must be cautious in setting our own goals and ambitions. Is what I deeply desire for the purpose of getting gain and praise rather than to have Christ manifest through me and my works?

When we are in a desperate situation we must be especially concerned that we are clear. I pray for such clarity.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Lord Brings Joy/Rebellion Brings Sorrow

This chapter contains the famous Messianic words, "For unto us a child is born..." and the familiar subsequent verses. Prior to those verses, however, are some lines of great insight.

In the previous chapter it talks about those who are spiritualists and their followers - they seek after familiar spirits and wizards who peep and mutter. In the end for them there is no spiritual satisfaction - they continue to hunger. They look to the world and curse God. They receive dimness, anguish and every kind of darkness.

In this chapter we find that they who walked in darkness now have a light. The joy of one who enjoys a great harvest is theirs because the Lord has broken the yoke of their oppressors. "For unto us...a son is given and...of the increase of ...peace there is no end..." Even though it comes through the throne of David, this Prince of Peace reigns over and blesses all nations and tribes of Israel.

In verses 14-16 is some interesting insight regarding who leads the people astray. In order to accomplish His purposes, the Lord will cut off the head and the tail. The head is the "ancient" ones. In other words, the false traditions of the fathers. The tail is the prophet that teacheth lies. In other words those who give false hope and promises through false doctrine to those who are looking for those things. In my experience and observation, it is usually those who love their particular sins - usually sexual - and seek justification rather than forgiveness.

When the "head" and "tail" are removed, the Lord can work with those who humbly seek Him. Those who honestly open their hearts and whose spirits are contrite will receive his words with joy. They have found the source of their salvation.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nephi's Formula for Success

I have been reading various books on success lately. i have been a student of Stephen R. Covey for many years, but I have been led to authors who are more inclined to the internal attitudes that allow us to accept success an what God would think, support and encourage (or not) with respect to our achieving success, including great wealth. It has been an interesting introspective journey for me. i had thought that i had overcome my negative feelings about wealth and wealthy people, but I have much to get beyond.

With that on my mind and knowing that we are not on this earth just to get by or waste the great, godly potential with which we came to this planet, i read Nephi's prayer and lamentation with new eyes. I had been living in hotel rooms by myself for the entire week just prior to writing this in my study journal and upon reflection I discovered that in the past that would have been a giant waste of time at best. This time I spent almost no time watching TV, but instead read, and wrote goals and affirmations.

What I learned from Nephi are the following concepts:

1. We are to delight in the scriptures. His family was "goodly" so they had access to education and to the scriptures. Others regarded them lightly; he delighted in them. I don't remember when I started to do so; probably beginning with the New Testament while on my mission. I have been delighting in all the scriptures for many decades. It has been a source of joy in my life for which I am very grateful.

2. Ponder their messages in our hearts. The proud who are learned ponder in their heads; they know them well. The humble ponder in their hearts. They feel the joy that will come when they conform their lives to the teachings, even before they are in perfect compliance. They are deeply grateful and committed.

3. Write scripture. This was an entirely new concept for me. I believe what I am writing now is scripture. According to Nephi, we write scripture to achieve 1.) the learning of our children and 2.) for the profit of our children. Perhaps if our children read our study journals they will learn principles and gain insights they had not before known or appreciated. They may profit if they can stand on our shoulders and achieve greater heights than we. Perhaps that is one reason Preach My Gospel recommends keeping a study journal.

4. Recognize and repent from our iniquities. Each time we make that journey through these precious writings we gain new insights. Not that our former selves were evil, but that they were incomplete. The more we read the more we gain deeper appreciation of our areas of needed improvement and let God guide us to the wholeness he promises. Sister Camille Fronk in speaking about the Savior's injunction to be perfect used the analogy of the green tomato. It is not rotten and should not be tossed out, it is just not yet "complete" or "whole" which is another interpretation of the word "perfect" as it is translated from the Greek. I carry the analogy further. It will become its most complete if it sits in a sunny area and becomes fully ripe by the light of the sun. Likewise, we can only become whole or complete as we expose ourselves to the light of the SON.

5. Trust in God. Trust is the most basic element of faith. We act in faith not just hoping for the best, but trusting God and expecting the best. His promises will be fulfilled. Nephi then lists the blessings when we apply the lessons of the scriptures:

a. We will receive God's support. I noted in the talk I gave at Elsa's baptism that the atonement not only allowed for repentance from sins, but for all the negative results of the fall of Adam. It doesn't mean that our afflictions will go away if we are obedient (although in some cases, it will), but it does mean that God can take away any fear or sorrow related to those afflictions.

b. God will, as He did with Lehi, lead us through our wilderness and our great deep and in leading us, help us to bear the associated afflictions.

c. Probably the greatest blessing of all - we shall be filled with love. Love beyond anything a person or earthly relationship can provide or expect. A love that is so great it feels like it will consume the flesh. On at least two occasions I have experienced that love and have felt that I might be consumed by that euphoric feeling. One I wrote briefly about in my journal; I don't recall writing about the second, more recent incident. I should, I suppose, because I have difficulty remembering them and unlike recalling the actual feelings of a warm embrace or a welcome homecoming, I cannot recall the exceptional depth of feeling I experienced. On the other hand, such things are deeply sacred and personal and should only be shared rarely and only as prompted by the Holy Ghost.

In further review of love so powerful "unto the consuming of [our] flesh," it occurs that such love will result in consuming all our base, fleshly desires. The Satanic promises of fun and pleasure pale into utter meaninglessness in the light of such love. It is literally the pure love of Christ.

d.We are further blessed in that God will confound and even fight our enemies. I have found that those who profess to be our enemies often turn from that attitude with our loving demeanor. Those who do not turn from their hateful attitude become irrelevant.

e. Our daily prayers are heard. This was a lesson I learned for the first time while serving on my mission. I realized that I did not have sufficient faith (I thought I had none) and began to pray for faith daily, morning and night. One day I needed to act or speak in total reliance on the promises of the scriptures. It wasn't until after the incident that I realized it was an act of faith and that my prayers had been heard.

f. We will be given visions. Not vision, but visions. For me, such things have been rare. Usually (not that they are usual), when it happens it is a very brief glimpse. When It happens, it is clear what I should do. If I do not shut it out because of fear, it always leads to my becoming more than my pathetic mind can imagine or dream.

The results of all this? Nephi lists several:

1. He waxed bold in mighty prayer. His fears did not keep him from asking in faith and expecting miraculous things of God. God was willing to comply because He knew Nephi would never ask anything for vain purposes.

2. Angels came down to minister to his needs and to extend comfort.

3. He was physically carried to a high mountain to be instructed and was given such blessings that he could not write what he had seen in vision. Mountains in our day have been replaced by temples. We can be led by the Spirit if we will, to that sacred, holy place, but it is just a short ride in a car.

Now, the negative. Nephi did not allow himself to grovel in the fact that he was imperfect.

1. Do not all yourself to linger in the valley of sorrow. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in his talk on PRIDE (October 2010) stated that we are not humble when we think less of ourselves, we are humble with we think less about ourselves. It does little good to engage in thoughts about our pitiful situation, how limited we are, what our past foolishness has brought us, the atmosphere in which we were raised or any other valley of sorrow. Instead, he immediately goes from acknowledging his weaknesses and failures into gratitude - deep, heartfelt gratitude.

2. Related to the valley of sorrow is dwelling on our afflictions. Doing so causes our flesh to weaken and we waste away. We cower from fear that is more debilitating than our afflictions.

3. Do not yield to the temptations of the flesh. We must curb the appetites while enjoying all that he earth provides. Meaningful recreation is useful and appropriate, but we must avoid the vulgar, base and counterfeits that make poor substitutes for the joys of life.

When we dwell on the negative, as Nephi points out, we find that these are consequences that can deepen our rebellion creating a downward spiral until we hit bottom and admit that we are the cause of our own misery. Those results:

1. It destroys our peace. Even in the midst of affliction we can feel peace knowing we are on the path God would have us choose. Rebellion never brings peace, but always results in its loss.

2. It afflicts our soul. The true source of life is the soul. No matter what afflicts our body we can enjoy the fruits of the Spirit, the joy of the Gospel and the love that surpasses understanding. But when our soul is afflicted the Spirit of the Lord is grieved and our quest for joy is answered by a hollow existence, at best.

3. Anger with our enemy. A base emotion that can never result in anything uplifting, it is one of the fruits of fear. It is devoid of love.

4. Finally, it weakens us as our strength slackens. We lose contact with the only true source of strength.

Finally, Nephi's reaction to the defeat of his enemies and his receiving such great blessings:

1. Gratitude and rejoicing. "Rejoice my heart." "Cry unto the Lord." "Praise Him forever."

2. Increased faith. As he trust God, his faith is rewarded, resulting in increased confidence and even greater faith.

3. He is delivered from his enemies, including Satan. The gates of Hell are shut before him and Satan's power is greatly diminished.

4. His humility is increased. Notice that his humility increases with the increase of confidence because it is coupled with increased gratitude. He acknowledges a broken heart and a contrite spirit which is the ultimate in humility.

5. He now continues in mighty prayer. Not desperate prayer, not the rote or trite prayer we may have experienced, but prayer that leads to a full and miraculous life.

This is a road map to the greatest and in the end, the only true success in any aspect of life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Weak to be Strong

In his blessing upon his son Joseph, Lehi makes some promises and prophecies . Among them is the prophecy concerning the role of Joseph Smith. Included in the prophet's responsibilities are the preservation and bringing forth of the Book of Mormon, teaching Lehi's seed of their promises - manifesting to them the Messiah, leading the people, and writing in a powerfully persuasive manner.

he will do all this despite those who will seek to destroy him. Because he will be more powerful in writing than in speaking, he will be given a spokesman.

To a young, backwoods, unlettered boy these must have seemed impossible, but his promise was that "...out of weakness he shall be made strong..." (verse 13). Joseph Smith would have had many mental obstacles to overcome in order to fulfill those responsibilities. What gave him that strength to achieve?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Opposition in All Things/Pride

Lehi makes a point to all his children, though he begins with Jacob, that there was a purpose to Adam's transgression and fall. Therefore, there is a purpose to Satan. The Father had to know there would be one who would take up the satanic role, but there had to have been great sorrow, nonetheless. The son whose brilliance exceeded the brilliance of all other spirits except Jehovah's and whose name implies "light" rebelled and the eternal war began. Who was there to tempt him away from Father's will? Pride, it seems, is an eternal problem. Is that one of the traits of the "natural man?" Is pride a trait that needs no satanic influence? There must continue to be opposition even after this life, or according to Lehi, progress would cease.

The opposite of pride must be faith in Christ. Humility, of course, is necessary to achieve the depth of faith necessary to overcome pride. Pride is centered in self. Faith is centered in Christ and his atonement. The ultimate end of pride is misery, while the ultimate end of faith is holiness which is unspeakable joy. To Lehi, holiness and happiness are the same for the opposite of both is misery.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Isaiah's Premortal Calling/Covenant People/Gratitude

1. We often cite Jeremiah as evidence of our pre-mortal existence (before thou wast in the womb, I knew thee). Isaiah was called while in the womb, so obviously the same would apply with him.

2. He is concerned that not much progress is being made. The Lord sees a much broader vision, for these people are not his only people. Many more will come into this world and those will be the real recipients of Isaiah's writings, prophecies and personal sacrifices. In my mind the promises in this chapter are not strictly to Israel, but to all His covenant people. Perhaps, that is why those who enter into temple covenants are called "Israel."

3. Isaiah prophesies that the great and powerful people of the earth will hear the Gospel and embrace it. The Gentiles will embrace the covenant people and succor them (something we see throughout the history of Israel and even in the time of the early history of the Church). The Lord will protect and defend his covenant people even when they don't recognize it. A woman, he says, may forget her own offspring, but the Lord will not forget his covenant people.

4. Ingratitude causes us to lose sight of the blessings we have received and even those we are receiving. To me this sin is among the greatest because it is the mother of so many other sins. When we take so much for granted, we assume that those whose lifestyles are different, more worldly wise, have the same blessings as we, but have found the key to some sort of success. We then embrace a lifestyle that includes breaking covenants and commandments; something we are able to justify in our own minds by that point. Gratitude recognizes that all we have and all we are come from a heavenly source. When we learn that truth, it allows us to tap into a source of wealth we had no idea was even available to us. This wealth is deeper and more satisfying than any we can gain on our own, because it is the wealth that comes from knowing our lives are lived in accordance with the will of God. Everyone, in the end, wants to know that his or her life counted for something - this is the only real method of accomplishing that innate desire. It is people like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nephi, Lehi, Joseph Smith and others who were willing to sacrifice all hope of peace and worldly wealth to allow us, their heirs, to be the recipients of such blessings. That, in itself is something for which we ought to be grateful, but usually take for granted.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Purpose of Prothets - coming of Christ

In explaining the purpose of the small plates, Nephi relates some of the "great vision" he had received. He obviously witnessed the events leading up to the crucifixion and the signs that would accompany it. He also saw the resurrection and the accompanying signs. They scourge, smite, and spit upon him and he suffereth it because of his loving kindness and long suffering toward the children of men. However, the Jews will suffer as a people and as a nation.

1Nephi 19:20, The spiritual experience left him physically weak. He has had a lifetime of spiritual experiences so this experience was, as discussed in the last entry, exceedingly beyond the normal. Joseph Smith stated that the physical exhaustion becomes less with more experiences. This, then must have been extremely powerful. 1Nephi 20;21 are from Isaiah 48;49. They are messianic and very little changed from our current version. The Lord makes it clear that he is giving the prophet vision, wisdom and prophecy in such a a manner that it will not be mistaken for personal knowledge or to have come from a false god.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Rebellion and Fear vs. Fear of the Lord

1. Nephi is commanded to go "into" the mountain. There is no reference to a cave, so I suspect you would go into a mountain the same as you would go into a wilderness. My experience with mountains is that most are forested, so you would go into the forest of the mountain. Doing so would provide some privacy. Also, mountains are substitutes for temples when no temple is available and the term "mountain" is a temple metaphor throughout the scriptures. It is clear that the Lord could have given him revelation in his tent, but he wanted Nephi in a more sacred and secluded setting.

2. After traveling 8+ years on a subsistence diet and experiencing hard physical labor, they arrived in a land they called Bountiful because of its fertility and abundance of resources. It must have seemed like the promised land to them. Nephi, informs them, however, that their stay here is temporary and that they need to build a ship. There is only one reason to build a ship large enough to contain them all along with some animals, seeds and plants - they are going to move again. As is always the case, the righteous will take this in stride; the faithless will rebel. The logic would be that they have escaped their enemies, they have found a land that is obviously choice and will bring them security and wealth, why would they ever leave? The logic of the faithful is that only God knows the future and what is in store for them in the great scheme of things, so they willingly go where He would have them go. Their experience guides their action.

3. Nephi knows that life is not intended to be easy and that when the Lord calls, he must respond. He not only goes as commanded, but does so without hesitation and with enthusiasm. Where is ore, I want to make tools and get started. His "fear" is the fear of God - reverence and faith. Laman and Lemuel are incredulous that Nephi would undertake to build a ship. It is not a raft with some logs cobbled together, but a seaworthy vessel large enough for six families of varying numbers, animals, seeds and provisions for a long journey.

They know that Nephi has never seen this done, let alone actually done this sort of thing before. They know that after eight years of extreme hardship instead of taking advantage of this bountiful land, Nephi intends not to stop at the edge of the ocean, but to keep going. To where; certain death? Will he ever be satisfied; will he ever stop? They rebel. Rather than risk their lives and the lives of their children they and their comrades are willing, once again, to kill him.

They have forgotten the experience of obtaining the brass plates, the multiple visits of angels, the voice of the Lord and the many other miracles and evidences of this divine mission. On the other hand, perhaps they associate these experiences with the hardships that followed them.

Nephi is filled with the Spirit perhaps more than he has felt before as it leaves him exhausted. He speaks with the influence of the Spirit reminding them of all the miracles and evidences that they are on the Lord's errand and he tells them that he is so filled with the power of the Lord that anyone who lays hands on him will be consumed like a dry reed in a fire. The Spirit apparently confirms what he says because they left him alone for many days. They must have started to doubt after a while because he found it important to just touch them and give them a shock. It was an experience powerful enough that they fell down to worship him as a result. What will happen next? L & L will do a job while Nephi will do the will of the Lord. L & L are focused on the earth and its challenges and pleasures. Nephi is focused on eternity and submitting his will to the will of God. No matter what he suffers, rebellion is never a thought. The fear that motivates L & L is the fear of losing their lives. It is limited and leads to more rebellion as the spiritual experiences fade in memory. Nephi's fear is that his spiritual nature must be constantly nourished and those experiences, while fading, increase his faithfulness.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

More on the Tree of life/Gifts of God/Love of God

In Nephi's explanation to his brothers of the meaning of Lehi's Tree of Life dream, it is clear that they were all familiar with the concept of a tree of life. There are references to it throughout the Old Testament from the Garden of Eden through the writings of Isaiah, so they would have read or heard about the tree in their Sabbath worship. For us there are the same references and more in the book of Revelation in the New Testament. It is referred to throughout the Book of Mormon, mostly in the writings of Alma. In most cases, the fruit of the tree is spoken of as being most desirable, or that its roots are fed with everlasting water. I will be interested in knowing if it is strictly symbolic or if there remains such a tree in actual existence. Either way, I want some of that fruit!

The fruit of the tree represents the love of God. It is the most desirable of all the gifts of God. It seems that it is a dual gift. 1. We can experience God's love for us - probably the most beautiful experience we can have in this life. 2. We can love as God loves - unconditionally, unfeigned. When Lehi partook of the fruit, he was not inclined to hoard it or prevent others from receiving it, but immediately looked for his family, that he might share it. In fact, he was happy to share and saddened when those with whom he desired to share rejected the gift.

So it is with us. When we receive a gift we know is from God the tendency is to share it. When we are inclined to hoard our goods, time, skills or talents, we forget the origin of those gifts. We believe there is a limit and when we share, there is less of such things for us. When we take that attitude, the love of God and His other gifts are less available and, at least to some degree, they are withdrawn.

If we would have the blessings of God and especially the love of God, we must learn that all that we have is from Him to begin with and that we must learn to serve and share. It must be done in order which we will discuss when we get into the book of Mosiah, but our hearts must be constantly in tune with Him by sharing our bounty with others.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Tree of Life - Nephi's Version - the Role of the Holy Ghost

10:17-22 the role of the Holy Ghost:
1. The Holy Ghost is a gift of God to those who diligently seek Him. The requirement of diligence is reiterated in verse 19 where the promise is that (a.) they will find what they seek and (b.) they will be shown the mysteries of heaven.

2. We know in some cases what is revealed is not to be shared. President Boyd K. Packer said, "Those who know don't tell and those who tell don't know." Verse 22 says that it is the Holy Ghost who gives such authority. In this case the commandment was given to share what Nephi was about to see and not deny it.

3. If we seek to do wickedly, we will see no such thing, but we will be found unclean. No unclean thing is invited into his presence. In verse 22 and in Chapter 11, Nephi is pondering. In my mind, he is in an attitude of prayer. I would be trying to recall everything my father had said and, perhaps, writing down what I could remember, so I could continue to reflect on it in the future. PONDER is not the same as WANDER. His mind was focused and his mind, heart and spirit were open to the messages of God. I doubt he expected the visitation he received, but when it came, he was prepared for and welcomed it. As it unfolded he did not pull back, but remained for the duration, which must have tried him physically as well as spiritually. He was aware that he had a full day of physical labor ahead of him, but he put those concerns aside to get as deeply into this spiritual experience as he possibly could.

This experience, however, Nephi knew was not just for his own consumption. He is the example of someone who is completely open to the Lord's will. He dutifully records and repeats what the Lord expects him to do. On the other hand, he keeps within himself what the Lord commands him not to share. Those things are for his broadened perspective as he serves God for the remainder of his life.