Monday, April 30, 2012

The Merciful Obtain Mercy

Great talk.  Two things he said are already all over pinterest, and they are cute.  ("Stop It!" and "Don't Judge me cause I sin differently than you") ...but I hope I can remember that the gospel isn't about looking and memorizing these cute sayings that make good home decor, I need to DO the things that those clever quotes I love tell me to do, so I can become who God wants me to become.

All of this talk by Elder Uchtdorf is great, the questions he asks remind of the questions Alma asked the people of Zarahemla in Alma 5.  I also loved the end of his talk:

Brothers and sisters, there is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.
We are not perfect.
The people around us are not perfect.19 People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way.
Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way.
Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.
Lay your burden at the Savior’s feet. Let go of judgment. Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another. Forgive one another.
The merciful will obtain mercy.

Doing these things is how Zion will be brought about - it's not about building a government or social program that makes us change, we need to change and become Zion, it will be built by us, it is not built for us.  We need to do it, this is the work we've been called to do.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Tomorrow we are heading out on a family vacation, so even though I might have internet access while we're gone, I'm not planning on blogging for the next week+, so I'll be back on Monday April 30th. 

While I'm gone I plan to have time at the beach or in the car to read.  I plan on reading the scriptures, studying this talk "Becoming the Pure in Heart" by President Kimball, and on reading The Triumph of Zion.  I read this review of the book, thought it was excellent and wanted to share this part of it here:

What exactly *does* the word Zion mean to you?  What do you think of when someone mentions a Zion world, a Zion society, to you?

John M. Pontius, the author of this sturdy and enduring study, has some ideas on the subject.  He begins his second chapter with the following thoughts:

“To clearly understand Zion is to change the paradigm of our existence, because we will begin to see who we are and how our life fits into the mosaic of the last days.  Once we see who we are, we will see for the first time what our potential is, where we should be going, and how to get there.  Our worldview will change.” (p. 22)

If he is right, then perhaps members of the Church need to be looking at the whole Zionic idea in a new and exciting way.  Pontius seems to be saying that being a Zion people means, in essence, changing ourselves, standing outside ourselves, studying where we are, reconsidering who we want to be and where we want to go.  What a challenge!

Of course, Pontius isn’t the first one to write about these things.  The late Hugh Nibley’s “Approaching Zion” is a very good study on just what it means to begin moving in a Zionic direction.  It challenges us to reconsider our life’s priorities, to sweep away the comfortable assumptions that we’ve come to depend on so much.  Not an easy task, but it’s what God expects of us.

Pontius’ work is saturated with the idea that the blessings and privileges of the past are still active today, but are not so manifest because of our non-Zion condition.  The visitation of angels, seeing God, and other blessings, so evident in the scriptures and in the lives of the early Mormon church, are available to those today who choose to align their lives with the godly plan of the Zionic community.  So few are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make these blessings possible.  But, Pontius insists, we can still move forward and lay claim to these blessings if we would just decide to embark on such a wonderful and challenging journey.

The challenge of this book is a weighty one.  Notice these words in the chapter titled “Obtaining Zion”:

"We have spent generation after generation with the belief that we *are* Zion, not that we must become Zion – let alone a Zion that includes perfect righteousness and sanctification sufficient to bring us into the realms of Enoch’s Zion and translation.” (p. 217) Yes, you read it correctly – Zion is to be populated by beings worthy of translation, even as the Three Nephites were given this extraordinary gift.  How many of us measure up to this standard?

If, indeed, the Church isn’t Zion today, then what must it do to move in that direction?  How much repentance and renewal are needed to uproot this mega-monolith of a religious organization and get it moving in a Zionic direction?  Staggering thought.  But one that occupies the minds of some as they mourn what they view the spiritual poverty of the Church.

Pontius reflects on this spiritual poverty in words too plain to be misunderstood.  Consider the following, also from the chapter “Obtaining Zion”:

“In the beginning our minds are like a beautiful white wall beside a busy road.  Things get splashed on them by careless drivers, especially during rain storms and adversity.  We only become impure when the mud sticks.  We aren’t only becoming impure by sin, but also through the unavoidable processes of mortal existence.  To embrace the dirt as being a part of our structure is to not understand our true identity as spirit beings, or our true potential.  To be able to view these smudges as pollution that is foreign to our most intrinsic goodness is to strip them of their power and to coat our souls with spiritual Teflon.” (p. 310)

And this is his challenge: cast off the mud and line our souls with goodness and purity.  This, after all, is what being a Christian is all about.  This is what Jesus challenges us to do in the Sermon on the Mount.  And even today, modern prophets spare nothing in directing Latter-day Saints to pursue the good, to “choose the right.”

But how many see that all of this counsel, rather than being an end in itself, is, in fact, a means to an end?  And if that end is citizenship in Zion, in fellowship with Heavenly Father and with Jesus Christ, then all the sacrifice is certainly worthwhile.

As with the writings of Nibley and others, this book may be a bit heavy for those not accustomed to serious, non-fluff Mormon studies.  Pontius has put his all into this book.  Exploring every aspect of what it means to be a Zion Society, and not a bit reluctant to address those aspects of Zion that are hardly ever discussed in Mormon circles, this book becomes a virtual training manual for those desiring entrance into Zion.
This is a very fine work, meriting reading by scholars and laypeople alike.

Jeffrey Needle
Association for Mormon Letters

(ps - you should read this book and let's talk about it!)

~ Signing off, see you in 10 days! ~

The Spirit of Revelation

Revelation - sometimes the inspiration comes on like a light switch, other times it's gradual like a sunrise.
A nice video here, it's a compilation of one of my all time favorite talks ever by Elder Jeffrery R. Holland - "Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence". That video didn't show the parts that most influenced me or inspired me (see here for my favorite parts), but what a great talk. Here's the entire text of the address.

Another favorite part of that talk was him bringing to our attention an interesting thing: why does the Lord uses the crossing of the Red Sea as the classic example of a revelation? He explains:

Virtually everyone in the room knows the formula for revelation given in section 9 of the Doctrine and Covenants--you know, the verses about studying it out in your mind and the Lord promising to confirm or deny. What most of us don't read in conjunction with this is the section that precedes it--section 8. In that revelation the Lord defined revelation:

I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. [I love the combination there of both mind and heart. God will teach us in a reasonable way and in a revelatory way--mind and heart combined, by the Holy Ghost.] Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. [D&C 8:2–3]

Question: Why would the Lord use the example of crossing the Red Sea as the classic example of "the spirit of revelation"? Why didn't he use the First Vision? Or the example from the book of Moses we just used? Or the vision of the brother of Jared? Well, he could have used any of these, but he didn't. Here he had another purpose in mind.

Usually we think of revelation as information. Just open the books to us, Lord, like: What was the political significance of the Louisiana Purchase or the essence of the second law of thermodynamics? It is obvious that when you see those kinds of questions on a test paper, you need revelation. Someone said prayer will never be eliminated from the schools so long as there are final examinations. But aside from the fact that you probably aren't going to get that kind of revelation--because in this Church we do not believe in ex nihilo creation, especially in exams--this is too narrow a concept of revelation. May I suggest how section 8 broadens our understanding of section 9, particularly in light of these "fights of affliction" that Paul spoke of and that I have been discussing.

First of all, revelation almost always comes in response to a question, usually an urgent question--not always, but usually. In that sense it does provide information, but it is urgently needed information, special information. Moses' challenge was how to get himself and the children of Israel out of this horrible predicament they were in. There were chariots behind them, sand dunes on every side, and just a lot of water immediately ahead. He needed information all right--what to do--but it wasn't a casual thing he was asking. In this case it was literally a matter of life and death.

You will need information, too, but in matters of great consequence it is not likely to come unless you want it urgently, faithfully, humbly. Moroni calls it seeking "with real intent" (Moroni 10:4). If you can seek that way, and stay in that mode, not much that the adversary can counter with will dissuade you from a righteous path. You can hang on, whatever the assault and affliction, because you have paid the price to--figuratively, at least--see the face of God and live.

Like Moses in his vision, there may come after the fact some competing doubts and some confusion, but they will pale when you measure them against the real thing. Remember the real thing. Remember how urgently you have needed help in earlier times and that you got it. The Red Sea will open to the honest seeker of revelation. The adversary does have power to hedge up the way, to marshal Pharaoh's forces and dog our escape right to the water's edge, but he can't produce the real thing. He cannot conquer if we will it otherwise. "Exerting all [our] powers to call upon God," the light will again come, the darkness will again retreat, the safety will again be sure. That is lesson number one about crossing the Red Sea, your Red Seas, by the spirit of revelation.

Lesson number two is closely related to it. It is that in the process of revelation and in making important decisions, fear almost always plays a destructive, sometimes paralyzing role. To Oliver Cowdery, who missed the opportunity of a lifetime because he didn't seize it in the lifetime of the opportunity, the Lord said, "You did not continue as you commenced." Does that sound familiar to those who have been illuminated and then knuckled under to second thoughts and returning doubts? "It is not expedient that you should translate now," the Lord said in language that must have been very hard for Oliver to hear. "Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now" (D&C 9:5, 10–11; emphasis added).

Every one of us runs the risk of fear. You do, and I do. Did you catch the line I tried to emphasize as I read the account from the Pearl of Great Price? For a moment in that confrontation, "Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell" (Moses 1:20). That's when you see it--when you are afraid.

That is exactly the problem that beset the children of Israel at the edge of the Red Sea. That is lesson number two. It has everything to do with holding fast to earlier illumination. The record says, "And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid."

Some, just like those Paul had described earlier, said, "Let's go back. This isn't worth it. We must have been wrong. That probably wasn't the right spirit telling us to leave Egypt." What they actually said to Moses was, "Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? . . . It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness" (Exodus 14:10–12).

And I have to say, "What about that which has already happened? What about the miracles that got you here? What about the frogs and the lice? What about the rod and the serpent, the river and the blood? What about the hail, the locusts, the fire, and the firstborn sons?"

How soon we forget. It would not have been better to stay and serve the Egyptians, and it is not better to remain outside the Church nor to reject a mission call nor to put off marriage and so on and so on forever. Of course our faith will be tested as we fight through these self-doubts and second thoughts. Some days we will be miraculously led out of Egypt--seemingly free, seemingly on our way--only to come to yet another confrontation, like all that water lying before us. At those times we must resist the temptation to panic and to give up. At those times fear will be the strongest of the adversary's weapons against us.

"And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. . . . The Lord shall fight for you."

In confirmation the great Jehovah said to Moses, "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward" (Exodus 14:13–15; emphasis added).

That is the second lesson of the spirit of revelation. After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel his love and hear the word of the Lord, "go forward." Don't fear, don't vacillate, don't quibble, don't whine. You may, like Alma going to Ammonihah, have to find a route that leads an unusual way, but that is exactly what the Lord was doing here for the children of Israel. Nobody had ever crossed the Red Sea this way, but so what? There's always a first time. With the spirit of revelation, dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet. In the words of Joseph Smith, "Brethren [and, I would add, sisters], shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!" (D&C 128:22).

The third lesson from the Lord's spirit of revelation in the miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea is that, along with the illuminating revelation that points us toward a righteous purpose or duty, God will also provide the means and power to achieve that purpose. Trust in that eternal truth. If God has told you something is right, if something is indeed true for you, he will provide the way for you to accomplish it. That is true of joining the Church. It is true of getting an education, of going on a mission or of getting married or of any of a hundred worthy tasks in your young lives. Remember what the Savior said to the Prophet Joseph in the Sacred Grove. What was the problem in 1820? Why was Joseph not to join any other Church? It was at least in part because "they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof"
(JS--H 1:19; emphasis added).

God's grace is sufficient! The Lord would tell Joseph again and again through those early difficult days that, just as in the days of old, these modern children of Israel would
be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. . . .
Therefore, let not your hearts faint . . . : Mine angel shall go up before you. . . .
. . . and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land. [D&C 103:17–20]

What goodly land? Your goodly land. Your promised land. Your New Jerusalem. Your own little acre flowing with milk and honey. Your future. Your dreams. Your destiny. I believe that in our own individual ways, God takes us to the grove or the mountain or the temple and there shows us the wonder of what his plan is for us. We may not see it as fully as Moses or Nephi or the brother of Jared did, but we see as much as we need to see in order to know the Lord's will for us and to know that he loves us beyond mortal comprehension. I also believe that the adversary and his pinched, calculating little minions try to oppose such experiences and then try to darken them after the fact. But that is not the way of the gospel. That is not the way of a Latter-day Saint who claims as the fundamental fact of the Restoration the spirit of revelation.

Fighting through darkness and despair and pleading for the light is what opened this dispensation. It is what keeps it going, and it is what will keep you going. With Paul, I say to all of you:

Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.
For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. [Hebrews 10:35–36]

Amen, I love it all!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"The Translation Experience"

I'm slowly slooowly digesting The Triumph of Zion. Finally got my book in the mail - it was MIA in USPS for a week but finally got that resolved and now I've got my pencil in hand and am reading it nice and slow.

And I'm now on page 17, and just listen to this!....

(This is from President Kimball in an Ensign article from 1973 titled "The Family Influence"... about 2/3rds of the way down)

O my beloved hearers, what a world it would be if a million families in this church were to be on their knees like this every night and morning! And what a world it would be if nearly a hundred million families in this great land and other hundreds in other lands were praying for their sons and daughters twice daily. And what a world this would be if a billion families through the world were in home evenings and church activity and were on their physical knees pouring out their souls for their children, their families, their leaders, their governments! ~ This kind of family life could bring us back toward the translation experience of righteous Enoch. The millennium would be ushered in.

Is it just me, or does it appear there that President Kimball just told us how to be translated? (I think he did!!!) Hello, blow my mind. This isn't just something we read about in the scriptures that happened to ancient prophets and people, this is something that needs to happen before Christ comes again. It needs to happen in our day. This is our privilege and responsibility!!! And it all centers around family and prayer.

Last night the kids and I wrote down the steps from his quote above

1) Pray every morning and night
2) Pray for your children twice daily
3) Family Home Evening
4) Family Church Activity
5) Be on your physical knees POURING OUT YOUR SOULS for your children, families, leaders, and governments

I think the key there is learning how to pour out our souls to God. I've done that occasionally, but not regularly. I think that is the first part of these steps that I shall work on and study.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is Anyone Beyond His Reach?

I want to briefly type up some other thoughts that I had after listening to Elder Holland's address from the post yesterday, particularly something he says in the last part of his talk where he makes this point:

I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.

In this world we live in with digital photographs and videos and internet websites, our past mistakes might be recorded for many people to see and remember for years to come. People might think those images display who we are even if we've repented and changed and have moved forward in a new and better direction.

Is there any sin that would make us unable to be saved? Is there any immoral behavior that we cannot repent of and be freed from? I say no. From what Elder Holland says, it is not possible for us to be so deep in sin that Christ cannot rescue us. If there is a voice in your head saying you cannot be forgiven or change, you can know that that voice is the voice of the devil. He would have us believe all is lost, there is no going back, we're in too deep, it would be too hard or impossible for us to change. Satan would have us give up, but no Christ. Jesus Christ shows us that there is hope through Him. He is the way, he made the way possible for us, we just need to believe that it is true and follow Him. It is amazing that it is not possible for us to sin and sink so low that we are out of Christ's grasp to help and save.

Even one who has murdered another can confess and seek forgiveness and be forgiven by those he has so terribly hurt. It's not easy, but it is possible (see Alma 39:6). (part 1 and part 2 - I thought that was an insightful article). Really the only thing that is needed for a person to have a change of heart is a desire, faith, or belief that it is possible. I think that might be one way that a person could "deny the Holy Ghost" which the scriptures teach is the one sin that is unpardonable. (Alma 39:6 again). Maybe it's unpardonable because you can't be pardoned if you're not seeking pardon and don't believe it is possible. Does that make sense? That's one thought I've had about the unpardonable sin. What do you think of that interpretation? That the only way it is not possible for Christ to save us is if we forever deny his hand reaching out to save us. He can't save us if we deny His outstreched arms or if we deny the Holy Ghost which whispers to us to turn and look at the Savior reaching out for us as we drown in our sins.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Labourers In The Vineyard


My favorite part(s):

It is with that reading of the story that I feel the grumbling of the first laborers must be seen. As the householder in the parable tells them (and I paraphrase only slightly): “My friends, I am not being unfair to you. You agreed on the wage for the day, a good wage. You were very happy to get the work, and I am very happy with the way you served. You are paid in full. Take your pay and enjoy the blessing. As for the others, surely I am free to do what I like with my own money.” Then this piercing question to anyone then or now who needs to hear it: “Why should you be jealous because I choose to be kind?”

Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.

Furthermore, envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment! To say nothing of the chagrin in the end, when we find that God really is both just and merciful, giving to all who stand with Him “all that he hath,”2 as the scripture says. So lesson number one from the Lord’s vineyard: coveting, pouting, or tearing others down does not elevate your standing, nor does demeaning someone else improve your self-image. So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Where To Find Happiness

Elder M. Russell Ballard's talk from General Conference April 2012

My favorite parts from this talk:

Brothers and sisters, the most important cause of our lifetime is our families. If we will devote ourselves to this cause, we will improve every other aspect of our lives

Amen! and about where we find genuine happiness:

Being lost can apply to whole societies as well as to individuals. Today we live in a time when much of this world has lost its way, particularly with regard to values and priorities within our homes.

One hundred years ago, President Joseph F. Smith connected happiness directly to the family and admonished us to focus our efforts there. He said: “There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from the home. … There is no happiness without service, and there is no service greater than that which converts the home into a divine institution, and which promotes and preserves family life. … The home is what needs reforming” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 382, 384).

It is our homes and families that need reforming in this increasingly materialistic and secular world.

We had a great time talking with the kids last night. And I love seeing my kids love and care for baby Sophia. When they squeal and laugh at her cuteness and beauty, I'm always sure to point out to them "What you are feeling is JOY - true joy!" So many things in this world give us a thrill or some form of exciting pleasure, but true joy cannot be imitated, and it is found in a baby's smile, in a child's achievement, in thinking of others before yourself, and in sacrificing what you want for what God wants for you.
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