Monday, October 20, 2014 3 comments

David flees the Manhunt

Reading through 1 Samuel 19-31 this year, it struck me as never before how difficult life must have been for David to have Saul irrationally and jealously seeking his death. 

David was the focus of a concerted national manhunt.  Think what it would be like to have the police, the FBI, and the military called out to track you down because the president decided he was jealous of you and feared you would lead a coup against him.

You can see that David (and his friend Jonathan) do his best to deal with it and each step of the way he is kept safe.  Think about what you would do and where you would go if you were being chased like him.

First Jonathan speaks for David to King Saul and manages to talk King Saul down from the tree, so to speak.  King Saul makes an oath that David won’t be killed.  Jonathan is completely satisfied by this oath (and it requires David to do some hard oath-swearing himself later before Jonathan believes David is really in danger), but sadly Saul’s word isn’t worth much any more.

Next, David is home with his wife Michal when he first has to start running.  He has to escape out a window to avoid the soldiers coming to get him.  So he’s not safe with his wife; where can he go?

He goes down to Ramah and stays with the prophet Samuel and the company of the school of the prophets.  The Spirit of the Lord effectively softens the hearts of all who are sent to arrest him so that they prophesy and refrain from taking him.  Even Saul, when he tries to take David himself, is affected, though it is only temporary.

After this, David goes to Jonathan to try to get Jonathan to find out from King Saul why he is being hunted and chased like a villain instead of treated like a loyal servant.  Jonathan has to see Saul’s murderousness first hand, so they set up a test to demonstrate Saul really does want David dead.  And the test does show it is true.  And it seems no reconciliation is going to happen.  David really can’t stay around.  Where is he to go?  He doesn’t have food or weapons and he doesn’t know who he can trust.

David goes to Ahimelech the priest and Ahimelech gives him the shewbread and Goliath’s sword.  David pretends he’s been sent on a secret mission, probably in order to protect Ahimelech from having to decide whether to lie or tell the truth if he’s called on the carpet for helping.  I think he’s trying to give Ahimelech deniability, but Saul does not accept that, nor does he listen to Ahimelech’s very just arguments.   Now where does David go?

He tries going to the Philistines for refuge.  Unfortunately, they realize who he is and even think David might be Israel’s king, so he pretends to be crazy to get himself thrown out of Philistine Gath.

At this point his family comes to him, probably realizing that if Saul hates David they aren’t safe either.  David finds them refuge in Moab, but the prophet Gad won’t let him stay there too, and tells him to go back to Judah.

At this point, the prophetic direction seems absolutely CRAZY.  Why does the Lord want David to go back to living like a fugitive?  (We’ll have to see if we can understand why as we look through.)

Next David saved the town of Keilah from the Philistines, but discovers by revelation that he can’t stay there because the men of Keilah will betray him to Saul, who is about to come hunting him again.  So where does he go next?

He stays in the wilderness and caves.  But the men of Ziph tell Saul where he is and promise to spy out all his secret place, and David does some pretty desperate maneuvering and even gets trapped, but Saul is distracted at the last moment by news of a Philistine attack that he has to beat back.   So now where does David go?

David goes to the strong holds of En-gedi, probably more caves in difficult-to-reach places.  It is here he gets a chance to prove to Saul by not killing him that he means Saul no harm.  So Saul goes home.  But what does David do?  He goes back to his strong hold.  Saul was full of gratitude, but nothing about forgiving and forgetting is mentioned.

Next David goes to the wilderness of Paran and is kept from killing Nabal for Nabal’s rudeness by Abigail’s timely intervention.

Then David hides in the hill Hachilah and his position is betrayed to Saul by the Ziphites.  Saul chases David and David gets another chance to prove he’s not really trying to kill Saul, which causes Saul to leave him alone for a while again.

Then David goes back to Philistine Gath and works with his mind as mercenaries for Achish the king there.  He’s able to settle his people in a little town of Ziklag and make raids against Amalekites secretly.  However, right when the Philistines decide to go on a campaign against Israel, David is sent back to Ziklag, where he discovers their families were not as safe as they thought; the Amalekites raided Ziklag while they were gone so he has to go track them down and win everybody back.  And it turns out he doesn’t have to be in the Philistine army when the Philistines fight Israel and kill Saul’s sons or be part of Saul’s despair and suicide.

Amazing that he manages to thrive under this constant pressure of danger and having no certain dwelling.

Okay.  So now I have to ask, how does going back to Judah at Gad’s direction turn out to be the right thing for David to do? 

1.     David becomes a rallying point for those who suffer under Saul’s increasingly erratic and immoral reign.
2.     With people to take care of, he learns to lead and to care for large groups of men and their families, even with no certain homes or means of survival.  (It sounds a lot like the children of Israel living in the desert after leaving Egypt..)
3.     He begins to use his following to protect Israel from its enemies, building goodwill that will a) encourage people to help feed him and his army in the short term, b) help people better accept him as a good candidate for king in the long term.  His following, who start out as fearful, become an army of brave soldiers.
4.     He is given choices to respond mercifully when he could have avenged insult.  This clearly separates him as a different leader than Saul, who tends to be extra harsh in response to insult or seeming disregard for his authority.
5.     David goes on campaigns to destroy theAmalekites without needing prophetic prodding.   He also goes on campaign to save his own people who have been carried off, and he chooses to distribute spoils widely and generously.
6.     He tests and proves the Lord’s promises of protection and deliverance to the righteous.
7.     David becomes a person who people come to and choose as a leader, rather than someone merely appointed by authority.  He is chosen because the powers that be leave no alternative to those who want to keep their integrity.

Can we imagine that David would have been as good a king if he hadn’t had the painful experience of being hunted unjustly?  Would he have been as good as he was if the kingdom had just been handed to him like it had been to Saul?  Probably not.

That gives me hope because it shows me that my most difficult trials may be the very ones that teach me my most valuable lessons and skills. 

If I feel adrift in a sea of uncertainty, if I can trust the Lord like David did, I will be alright in the long run and the things I learn during my struggles may be instrumental in my later success, even if I’m not sure what that will be. 

And happily, even if I can’t see where my difficult experience will help me toward a temporal success, I can at least see somewhat how it is helping me toward an eternal success in the celestial kingdom.

Saturday, October 18, 2014 0 comments

The big lesson from all the attempts on David’s life in 1 Samuel 18

1 Samuel 18 has so much happening in it that it is really compacted.  A cursory reading makes it seem like the chapter only records two of Saul's attempts on David's life, but there are actually at least five.

Attempt #1

Attempt #2

After Saul's failed spearing attempt, v13-16 records:

13 Therefore Saul removed him from him, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people.
14 And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him.
15 Wherefore when Saul saw that he behaved himself very wisely, he was afraid of him.
16 But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.

What this tells us is Saul put David over a thousand men in the army and David went out on military missions set by Saul.  Can we imagine Saul giving David easy stuff to do?  No.  He would give David the dirtiest, most dangerous missions in hopes of getting him killed.

Do you think David was blind to what was being done to him?  I doubt it.  I think he had a feeling he was being treated like cannon fodder.  He could have complained, but it doesn’t seem like he did, and instead he just did his best.  That uncomplaining obedience may be what the text means when it says he behaved himself wisely.

The result was that Saul’s attempt failed.  God kept David safe, and David kept his mouth shut, and he ended up more loved by the people than before, which was the opposite of what Saul wanted.  Perhaps Saul hoped David would turn out to be an ineffective leader and was trying to “promote to discredit.”  Instead, God used it to increase David’s talents and made good come of it.

Attempt #3

In Saul’s next attempt, he tries to praise and incentive-ize David into doing something exceptionally foolish to get him killed.

And Saul said to David, Behold my elder daughter Merab, her will I give thee to wife: only be thou valiant for me, and fight the Lord’s battles. For Saul said, Let not mine hand be upon him, but let the hand of the Philistines be upon him. (v17)

Notice Saul gives this incentive—marriage to his eldest daughter—and his instructions are “only be thou valiant for me; and fight the Lord’s battles.”  That’s like saying, “Your only job is to be brave and fight.”

But… war takes more than just bravery and fighting, and in asking David to do that, Saul was attempting to discourage David from being smart about how he fought, hoping he would take stupid risks and get himself killed.  (As an aside, I’ve recently been reading a sci fi space opera series that has as a major plot point a space fleet’s tendency to suffer terrible losses because bravery was higher priority than discipline and strategy.  It gave this verse much greater significance than it would have had otherwise.)

How does David respond?  He refuses to take the bait and says that he and his family are nobodies and the last people to become connected by marriage to the king.  He’s okay with not being famous or connected to the king’s family.  His humility saves him.

Attempts #4 & 5

This is a two-parter. 

20 And Michal Saul’s daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.
21 And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the one of the twain….
25 And Saul said, Thus shall ye say to David, The king desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to be avenged of the king’s enemies. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. (v20-21, 25)

Saul intends Michal to be a snare to David and of course he also requires David to pay a dowry of 100 Philistine foreskins to marry her, and we know he hoped David would get killed trying to fulfill that requirement.

But how did Saul intend Michal to be a snare?  I had to think about this one and read more about Michal to figure this out.  I have a feeling that Saul meant it in the same sense that the Lord told the Israelites the Canaanites would be a snare to them and the same way the Moabite women were a snare in Numbers 25.  Michal may have been idolatrous.  I Samuel 19:13,16 tells that she put an image in David’s bed as a decoy so that David could escape Saul’s servants.  But what was an image doing in their house when there is that commandment in the Law of Moses to not have any graven images?  This was a full-sized statue and it was moveable.  David was a man after God’s heart, so it had to be Michal’s.  So Michal was idolatrous.

It seems Saul hoped that Michal’s idolatry would begin to pull David down once he was married to her.  Saul hoped to destroy David’s righteousness and favor with God in a manner strikingly similar to what Balaam taught the Moabites to do to the Israelites.

No, David!  Don’t marry her!  It’s a trap! 

Yet David does obtain the 100 Philistine foreskins with God’s protection.  (Note: v27 says he brought back 200 foreskins, but 2 Samuel 3:14 says it was 100.)  And he does marry Michal.   (At this point we should holding our heads and yelling “Oh noooooooo!”)

But… instead of Michal becoming a snare to David, the Lord uses Michal as a means of delivering David.  Remember when Saul sent his men to kill David, Michal warned him of his danger and helped him escape.  Then, she took the image she worshipped and put it in service as a decoy.    The very things that Saul meant to destroy David became the means by which the Lord saved him.  How’s that for showing the Lord’s great power to bring good out of evil?

It’s really a sad thing reading about all the ways Saul planned to try to get rid of David.  Yet, we get a great lesson from David.  As we see all the ways that the Lord brought good out of evil for him, we can gain greater faith that the Lord does the same thing for us today.   If we try to be as faithful to the Lord as David was (at this time in his life), the Lord can similarly take the bad things and turn them to our good.   To use an airplane analogy, if we keep our wings tilted up, the winds of opposition will lift us higher. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014 4 comments

KJV versus JST: Law, Hope, and Priesthood Oaths in Hebrews 7

King James Version (KJV)
Joseph Smith Translation (JST)
19 For the law made nothing perfect,
but the bringing in of a better hope did;
by the which we draw nigh unto God.
19  For the law was administered without an oath and made nothing perfect,
but was only the bringing in of a better hope;
by the which we draw nigh unto God.
20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:
20  Inasmuch as this high priest was not without an oath,
by so much was Jesus made the surety of a better testament.
21 (For those priests were made without an oath;
but this with an oath by him that said unto him,
The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)
(Hebrews 7:19-21)

21  (For those priests were made without an oath;
but this with an oath by him that said unto him,
The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek;)
(JST Hebrews 7:19-21)

We learn a number of things from the subtle changes Joseph Smith added here.  (Notice that it isn’t just the blue sections that were added, but the order of words was changed and some words were removed. 

The KJV makes it seem like the law—the Law of Moses—was completely useless—that it didn’t make anything perfect and it had nothing to do with giving hope.

However, the JST tells us that even though the law didn’t make people perfect, it brought in a better hope.  This makes us ponder what that hope might be and how the law would do that.  I can think of several ways.  1) The rules in the law suggest that someone would come who could be obedient to them all.  2) The type of rules in the law teach principles of repentance, purity, atonement, and charity for us to think about.  3) The way the rules and ordinances were administered by the priests were types of Christ and His redeeming mission.  So when their obedience was mixed with faith in Christ, the people would gain hope of their salvation and thereby draw nearer to God.

The KJV makes it seem like the better hope could make men perfect.  The JST removes the word that creates this implication.  Hope alone does not perfection bring, but helps with maintaining faith and encourages us to keep getting closer to God.  (How could we keep fighting our natural man if we didn’t have hope that Christ makes it possible to escape that and become more like God?)

The KJV makes it seem that Jesus was a priest made with an oath, but the other priests were not.  The JST clarifies that high priests were made with an oath, so they were a type of Christ, while other priests were not made with oaths, though they could administer the law.

The JST also adds that the high priest’s oath was meant to increase men’s certainty of Christ who would bring a better covenant than the Law of Moses.  The oath was to be a guarantee that Christ would come.

Because of the JST, we get a better perspective of the spiritual purpose of the Law of Moses, that it was good for something and not just busywork until Christ came.  We also have clarified for us where priesthood oaths were administered and how they distinguished the high priest from the other priests and the teaching purpose of that difference.  We also learn that it was (of course) meant to teach about Christ and strengthen faith in His coming redemption.

It might sometimes seem to you like I am too interested in subtle changes and turns of phrases, distinctions that seem not worth noticing, but when I compare the JST with the KJV, I can’t help but see it as evidence of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling.  These verses may well be the revelatory seeds of the oath and covenant of the priesthood.  How could he have known what was supposed to be there unless it had been given by God?   

How many false traditions might Joseph Smith have corrected to help us know how to come to Christ and we aren’t paying attention?  How much of our life might be eased if we only knew that he had been given answers our questions so many years ago?
Tuesday, October 14, 2014 2 comments

Probing the counsel to “Stand in holy places”

Sunday school lesson 36 has an attention activity showing some repeated counsel about standing in holy places from different parts of the D&C.  You may have just gone through this lesson, but I want to look at these scriptures to see if they can tell us more about how to stand in holy places, since that’s kind of abstract counsel.  Yes, we usually take it to mean attending the temple, but is that all?

31 And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.
32 But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die. (D&C 45:31-32, emphasis added)

The context of this verse tells of overflowing scourges and desolating sickness, and outside the range of those verses is desolations, murder, and massacre.  Among this, we are to stand in holy places.  Holy places seem to be places of refuge that help us withstand the difficulties spoken of.

In desolating sickness, we can stand in holy places with healing priesthood power, good sanitation practices, healthy diet, prayer for the sick, service to help one another, and faith in God that He has all power.  Is going to the temple the best thing if you are in close contact with communicable disease?  (Sanitation and hand-washing, people!)

In natural disasters, we can stand in holy places with our emergency preparedness, organizing together, watchcare and service to others, and keeping up the devotional practices that give us strength like prayer, scripture study, FHE, and church.  And going to the temple. 

Among violence, we can stand in holy places by not seeking revenge, avoiding anger, forgiving, praying for comfort and protection and courage, showing love, as well as continuing devotional practices.  And going to the temple.

Note that in contrast to the disciples who stand immovably in holy places, the wicked will lift up their voices, curse God, and die.  What does that really look like?  I suspect it is a ton of complaining, venting anger, bitterness, outrage.  It will probably involve many people looking at the widespread suffering and asking, “How could God let this happen?” and getting angry at God for not preventing it.  But because they were not willing to keep the commandments that would mitigate their suffering, they can only suffer and eventually die in their sins.  Very sad.

The contrast shows that the wicked place blame on God and yet don’t do the things He asks that would make it better for themselves or others, while the righteous trust God and at the same time keep the commandments and their obedience makes things better for themselves and others around them.

The next “stand in holy places” scripture comes at the end of the section that prophesied the Civil War and more troubles to come afterward:

6 And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;
7 That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies.
8 Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen. (D&C 87:6-8, emphasis added)

Bloodshed, famine, plague, earthquake, storm, and a consumption (a consuming event) that will eventually make an end of all nations.  It also mentions the cry of the Saints and the blood of the Saints coming up into the ears of the Lord.

So not only does this tell us that standing in holy places will help us survive disasters, but while society and governments collapse, the organization of the church will help us maintain order among our own, through our obedience and diligence as we “be not moved.” 

Since it seems there are Saints who will be wronged and even killed unjustly, standing in holy places will mean staying with the principles of faith, forgiveness, prayer, and leaving justice in the hands of God.  And going to the temple.  We’ll also need courage and faith in the final judgment that God will right our wrongs.

20 And, behold, there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed; neither shall there be any other place appointed than that which I have appointed, for the work of the gathering of my saints—
21 Until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them; and then I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.
22 Behold, it is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places;
23 And prepare for the revelation which is to come, when the veil of the covering of my temple, in my tabernacle, which hideth the earth, shall be taken off, and all flesh shall see me together. (D&C 101:20-23, emphasis added)

The context of this instance of “stand in holy places” talks about the gathering of the Saints in Zion and in stakes and preparing for the time when all flesh will see Jesus.  It seems to me that gathering with the Saints is one part of standing in holy places because we encourage each other and our service to each other helps us practice discipleship.

So it seems to me that more than being in a particular place, “standing in holy places” means to act in doctrine in a way appropriate to the emergency or need.  It’s falling back on gospel principles to get through the hard thing, the trial, the affliction, the whatever.  Going to the temple and going to church is only a few of the many good ways we can respond, although it could be argued that if you prepare yourself for the temple, that encompasses keeping a whole raft of commandments.

I think “stand in holy places” is yet another way of saying “keep the commandments” that build your house with an unshakeable foundation in the Savior.

Sunday, October 12, 2014 0 comments

King’s Saul’s first attempt to kill David

9 And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.
10 ¶And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit which was not of God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand.
11 And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.
12 ¶And Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, and was departed from Saul. (1 Sam. 18:9-12, JST emphasized)

This is the beginning of Saul’s attempts to kill David.  This is kind of a disturbing story, but you’ll bear with me, we’ll see if we can learn some good things from it besides the obvious “don’t murder people.”

It is easy to think that Saul wasn’t really responsible for his actions here if he was under the influence of an evil spirit, but Saul knew what he was doing.  He was using his past history of disordered thinking as a cover for his attempt on David’s life, both to get David to come within range of his spear and for exoneration once the deed was done.  If any of us ever have troubles with mental illness, I hope we never try to use it as an excuse or cover to hurt someone deliberately. 

If a spirit which was not of God was upon Saul, what are we to think when it says he prophesied in the midst of the house?  What kind of prophesying is the evil spirit going to induce?  Probably not the good kind.  This reminds me of some verses from the D&C:

17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God….
23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. (D&C 50:17-18, 23)

I’ll bet if we could have heard what Saul said, we would be able to tell that he didn’t have the right spirit with him.

David was in a precarious position. Unless he was one of those amazing musicians who could play without looking at his instrument, he would be paying attention to getting his fingers in the right place, which would give him only the briefest of moments to look up and notice Saul aiming a spear at him.

It also says David avoided out of Saul’s presence twice.  It is hard to tell whether this means two separate incidents in which David got spears thrown at him or if there was just one incident and David preferred to avoid Saul at least one other time.  However, you have to give David credit for bravery (staying around) and restraint (not immediately avenging himself).  He had to rely on God. (After all, what human authority could he go to about what happened?  His trouble was with the king himself!)

I have to point out here another way Saul made a big mistake.  In the past, music helped Saul get free of the evil spirit tormenting him.  But this time, in choosing to try to kill David played, Saul resisted the calming influence in the music.  Do you think music is going to help Saul after this?  Probably not because he gave power to the evil spirit instead.  He’d have to repent and then make careful efforts to follow good impulses and resist bad ones.

From that we learn we can’t resist the Spirit of the Lord in any of the number of ways he tries to reach us without consequences.  We can’t resist good without putting ourselves in the power of the devil.  On the positive end, we can’t resist the devil without putting ourselves more in the Lord’s power, which is where we want to be anyway..  The influence we list to obey will have power over us.

I think it is interesting that after this incident the one who is afraid isn’t David.  It’s Saul.  Acting on his suspicions didn’t make Saul feel any more secure, but actually less.

Okay, so let’s tally up what we’ve learned from this:
·      Don’t use mental illness as a cover for deliberately hurting people.
·      Evil spirits don’t bring good prophesying.
·      When in danger from a direct superior, you have to rely on God.
·      There are consequences for resisting the Holy Ghost when it is manifest in good influences.

Friday, October 10, 2014 0 comments

God’s wisdom versus the world’s wisdom

Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the way he spoke to them and it is interesting to see how aware he is of the process.

4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.  (1 Cor. 2: 4-5)

Paul’s initial preaching was all of Christ, using testimony so that the Spirit could testify.  This meant that the people’s conversion and faith would be spiritually based rather than based on rhetoric.

Once conversion takes place, whoever, Paul’s preaching gains something more--

6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:  (1 Cor. 2:6-7)

Conversion by the Spirit gives us access to hidden wisdom that comes from God, which Paul calls “the wisdom of God in a mystery.”

Paul says this is spoken among them that are “perfect,” but I don’t think he means “flawless,” but instead “whole and complete.”

This kind of wisdom is hard to grasp by a carnal mind and seems foolish, but it makes sense for those prepared for it.

In this context, Paul gives a description of this hidden wisdom--

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  (1 Cor. 2:9-10)

We usually think of v9 as referring to the glory of the celestial kingdom, but in the context of Paul’s discourse we also see it refers to the wisdom from God that we gain after conversion.  It would be a shame if we were to cease to learn from the Spirit and to cease to search all things.

One of the things these verses explain is why certain principles of truth can seem so obvious to members of the church and yet the rest of the world seems completely oblivious to it, and if they are informed of it, they think it silly or they are threatened by it.

13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Cor. 2:13)

How many principles are founded in the wisdom of God!  Chastity.  Fidelity.  Sacrifice.  Obedience to prophets.  Continuing revelation.  Priesthood authority.  Eternal families.  Vicarious ordinance work for the dead.  I could go on and on.  You can’t justify these adequately using only man’s wisdom because man’s wisdom only deals with mortal life and temporal consequences, whereas the full consequences of these principles stretch into the eternities, which fallen man knows nothing about.  (Also, we’ve been told that this life is a time of probation, so consequences are delayed in order for us to practice living by faith.)  In order to grasp them, you have to start with faith in Christ as the Savior. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 0 comments

Reflections on Oct 2014 General Conference

This is the post when I share a little something from each talk in conference that affected me.  I will also give some brief thoughts about those things.

Saturday morning session

I loved that Elder Packer talked about the Plan of Salvation so close to the beginning of the Saturday morning session.  Instant perspective fixer right there.  Suddenly I could see the eternal perspective and my little mortal worries didn’t seem so serious any more.  I think it also helped me open my heart further for the rest of the conference messages.

Lynn R. Robbins had an awesome talk about which way you are facing and whether you are trying to please men or God.  This talk had so many gems that I had a hard time typing fast enough, but here are my favorites:
--Courage is the form of every virtue at the testing point. 
--The guilty take the truth to be hard.  The hit bird flutters.  Guilt tries to reassures itself.
--The scornful accuse prophets of being bigoted.  Dumbing down God’s standards is apostasy.
--Avoid flattery from without and conceit from within.

Cheryl Esplin had an excellent talk about the sacrament.   I was happy to discover that I could personally echo a testimony of everything she talked about. 
Remember Christ always.  (I’ve been trying to put this into practice myself and I find that stopping to remember Christ brings the Spirit back into my life when I’m down.)

I loved how Elder Wong talked about the story of Christ healing the man with the palsy and the effort his friends took to get the man there and used it as a metaphor to teach about how wards and leaders can rescue individuals and bring them to Christ.  I had never thought about it in that way before, as a pattern for rescue.

Elder Christofferson talked about some big concepts—agency and justice and law and mercy. 
A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God that doesn’t exist.
He also touched on personal responsibility.  It is too easy to get into a mode of just going with the flow.   I also liked that he said we have to defend accountability against people or programs that would make us dependent, even against ourselves.  (Yes, it’s true; the natural man would like to give up accountability.)

Elder Uchtdorf had a very nice thought experiment about what it would be like to tell people in the distant past about technology of the future and see their varied reactions based upon their limited knowledge.  He related this to our search for truth and how we can gain more spiritual knowledge.
As a humorous aside, I noticed that he mentioned airplanes, yet we didn’t really bat an eye.  The way he talked about telescopes and how they were the instrument to gain more knowledge of the cosmos and how experimenting on the word can help us gain more truth made me think to myself, “And some people think prayer and scripture study is too hard or bothersome.  Where would we be if Galileo had decided it was too hard to build a telescope?”

Saturday afternoon session

Dallin H. Oaks talked about Christ’s new commandment “love one another as I have loved you” and how it is on a higher level than “love your neighbor as yourself.”  He also talked about different challenges we have in living this out in communities where others don’t share our beliefs.    I like that he emphasized speaking the truth in love and speaking with meekness and humility.   I have found that the way we speak can make a big difference in others’ willingness to listen.  Being accusing rarely works.  But when I’ve spoken gently, assuming that others may have not known there was a problem and explained things carefully, I’ve had more success. 

Neil L. Andersen talked about the problem of evil being spoken of Joseph Smith.  I like that he pointed to witnesses written down of people who personally knew Joseph Smith.  I also like that he called attention to how the media can take things that are innocent and by putting a spin on them, can make them appear bad.  I think this is especially important to remember in the news because while people may not directly say something damaging, they may insinuate in damaging ways.   Writers are always looking for an angle to approach things, and political correctness dictates a limited number of angles from which stories can be told in the news outlets, unless the outlet has a very different agenda.

Tad R. Callister had some very good things to say about how parents can teach children to pray.  He told about how his mother instructed him to pray that the Lord would help him find a good wife. 
Often children learn what to value from what their parents talk about praying for.  I think explanations for why we pray for what we do can help children appreciate prayers.  When I pray before going to bed, I never fail to ask that I can wake up happy in the morning because I find it has helped me start my days out with an optimistic viewpoint.  I remember my little brother Nelson, who was somewhat afflicted with nightmares, would pray to have good dreams.  I also think it helps us to hear others pray because we can learn new things to pray about.  Sometimes others' prayers have jolted me because I didn't know it was possible to pray for what they asked for. 

Jorg Klebingat had talked about how to increase our confidence before God.  This felt like something I needed, so I look forward to studying this talk further.    One of the things he said that struck me was about doing the right things for the right reasons.   Yes, God knows why I am doing what I am doing.  It occurred to me that when my worship is casual, I am cheating myself out of a more powerful and meaningful spiritual experience.   I can sit in sacrament meeting and daydream about something different, but then I don’t get the full benefit of being at church.  Likewise, if I sit through temple ordinances and daydream about something completely different, I'm not getting the full benefit of being in the temple.  However, I've found that participating in temple ordinances with an eye toward how they apply to my problems helps me learn new things and feel the Spirit powerfully.

Eduardo Gavarret talked about a missionary activity he participated in a zone conference when he had to try to follow a voice while blindfolded and he discovered later that he had followed the wrong voice.   This really illustrated to me how hard Satan may try to deceive the Saints, making his voice sound as close to the Spirit so he can lead us astray.   We’ve recently seen some people following the wrong voice while insisting strenuously it was the right one. 

Jeffrey R. Holland.  I thought the best part of his talk was drawing meaning out of “She hath done what she could” in the context of relieving the poor.   This reminds me that I can make a difference, even if my reach is limited.   It also makes me grateful that I’m part of the Relief Society because that increases my opportunities for doing good.  I’ve chances to help in ways I never would have had otherwise.

L. Tom Perry talked about the parable of the wheat and the tares in the context of parenthood, and although I am not a parent, I really appreciated what he said about how we must nourish wheat so carefully the tares will have no appeal.   I am trying so hard to do that in my own life, and sometimes I get really tired, but I can’t give up.  I have to rely on Christ for strength.

Sunday morning session

Henry B. Eyring talked about revelation and confirming revelation.  I really liked the guide that he gave for receiving revelation, straight from D&C 121--Let thy bowels be filled with charity and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly.   I think I need to work a little harder to let virtue garnish my thoughts.   And humility too.

Russell M. Nelson talked about sustaining the prophet and apostles.  I love what he shared about how decisions among the apostles and first presidency have to be unanimous.  For so many varied backgrounds to come to complete agreement on things, all the concerns have to come out, all the ideas have to be shared, but not only that, ego can’t have any place in the discussion.  These men have to keep their focus firmly on what is best for the church and doing what the Lord would do.   I appreciate the glimpses we get about how the twelve and the first presidency do things.   You can get more of it from biographies of the presidents of the church.  I’ve loved reading biographies of Presidents Kimball, Benson, and Monson.

I liked how Carol F. McConkie shared how following the words of the prophet gave her the faith to find a husband, establish a family, to bear and raise a family.   She’s lived her life by prophecy.  Just think, we’re trying to do the same!

Robert D. Hales talked about scriptures that witnessed of Christ.  I love that he mentioned that he wanted to learn more about baptism before he got baptized.  (That’s spiritual maturity at a young age for you.)   As he was going through the different scriptures about Christ’s relationship with Heavenly Father, I couldn’t help but notice how often Jesus prayed.  I really have to work harder to improve my prayers.

James J. Hamela talked about the sacrament symbolism.  I really liked how he pointed to the sacrament as not only symbols of Christ’s sufferings, but also as instructive tokens.  He said the bread is a promise of our resurrection and the water as representative of Christ’s blood reminds us of our responsibility to repent.   This also reminds me of the warning that if we don’t repent, we will suffer for our own sins as Christ suffered.

President Monson talked about the paths Jesus walked—paths of disappointment, temptation, and pain, but also those of prayer and obedience.  Monson said that physically walking where Jesus walked is less important than walking as he walked spiritually.   I don’t think this is meant to say that there is nothing to be gained from going to Israel to see the holy land; I’ve heard people talk about how their testimony has grown from seeing those things and it has helped them grasp the reality of Christ and His ministry.   But in terms of priority, following Christ’s example is to be preferred.   I also liked President Monson’s story of the German refugees living in Canada who were poor in goods, but rich in faith, such that the faithful beat a path to their door.   I want to be the kind of person who beats a path to the door of the exemplary faithful.  I also want to be the kind of person who is sought out like that couple.

Sunday afternoon session

M. Russell Ballard related life to a trip through rapids on the Colorado river.  I appreciated his guidelines of 1) stay in the boat, 2) always wear a life jacket, and 3) always hold on with both hands.  Concerning his likening daily scripture study to always wearing a life jacket, I know that my daily scripture study has kept me in the good ship Zion.  It has showed me my errors so I could repent more quickly so that I didn’t get into deeper trouble.    I also liked that he pointed out that prayer and fasting, though not easily measured, is of great importance.   This makes me think that even if they can’t be measured, their effects can be recorded.   When I read through my journal and come across times that I recorded my prayers and the way the Lord answered me, the reminder strengthens my faith. 

Richard G. Scott talked about four life habits that can help us 1) Prayer 2) Daily scripture study 3) Family Home Evening and 4) going to the temple.  He gave a great promise: The more we develop these habits, the less ability Satan will have to harm us.   I’m sure you, like me, are familiar with these habits, but it seems to me I could do with some improvement in two of them.   I think it is not enough to sometimes do them in order to get the protection; we need to be more consistent.  And we can’t just do some of them, we need to do all of them.

Carlos A. Godoy shared his experience of  deciding to further his education, even though it required difficult decisions and sacrifices.  He asked some penetrating questions:
--If you continue to live as you have been, will the blessings of your patriarchal blessing be fulfilled? 
--What does the Lord expect from us?  
--Are we willing to pay the price for our decisions? 
--Can we leave our comfort zones to come to a better place?
This teaches me that to fulfill my patriarchal blessings I have to meet the Lord halfway on it.   And I don’t know about you, but I want to know ahead of time what I’m getting into so that the price and opposition doesn’t scare me away.   But maybe I just need more faith and determination.  Maybe I need more faith that there is a better place than my comfort zone.

Allan F. Packer talked a lot about family history work and how the church has tried to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of doing family history research.  He said it is different now.   I’ve found this to be true, and I blogged about it earlier this year how it is so much easier to find records now.  This doesn’t mean that there won’t be research problems to overcome, but the church is making it easier to get to the records quickly and easily.    Elder Packer said one obstacle remains—the individual’s hesitation to be involved.   I’ve noticed this hesitation arises out of having tried and failed multiple times in the past to make progress.  It can also arise out of misunderstanding the research process.  I think a good way to get involved is to think of it as exploratory play, and wander around your family tree to find people who need more records and practice trying to find them.  This isn't wasted time; this can help build skills needed for the work of extending branches further. 

Hugo E. Martinez talked about service and how his family was blessed after an earthquake by people who brought more badly needed water.  He said knowing people are interested and are watching out for us is precious.   I think this is all the more precious as our society becomes more and more isolating with technology.    He said that our service is not limited to those who live now.  We can also serve the dead.   It is so cool to me that we can serve not just the living, but also the dead, whom the rest of the world think of as beyond help.

Larry S. Kacher talked about the powerful forces in our lives, of deadly currents and divine currents and how our choices may contribute to creating either of those currents for other people.   I never want to be someone creating a deadly current.  I only want to be part of a divine current.

David A. Bednar talked to nonmembers about why members try so hard and are so eager to share the gospel.  He is totally right about it being so important to us and our anxiousness to share with others the beneficial experiences that helped us.   The thing is, unlike a sales person who can demonstrate a special slicer, the full spiritual benefits of being part of the restored church of Christ –the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—are not fully visible to those who examine it from the outside.  There are special feelings that come with the holy ghost, but you don’t know what it is like to have that all the time until you get baptized into the church and confirmed.  There is so much more than what can be told.
I also loved Elder Bednar’s story of how his older son cared for his younger brother.  (I have a memory as a child of doing something similar for one of my younger brothers.)  I loved how it showed not just the lessons of love they had been trying to teach in their family, but also the children’s whole-hearted efforts to do as they had been taught.  I suppose that Heavenly Father must sometimes see our efforts to share as clumsy, but He sends the Spirit to witness of truths anyway.

So how about you?  Will you share with me a few things from conference that moved you? 

Final Note:  The day after conference I could feel that Satan was trying to ruin things for me because I was attacked by rebellious attitudes.   One thing that really helped me was singing hymns to myself as I worked on preparing a new hymnbook for my use as organist.  (I have a lot of extra things written in that I had to transfer to my new hymnbook.)   Go away, Satan!!