Wednesday, December 17, 2014 0 comments

Ponder the Path of Thy Feet: Thoughts on President Monson’s Oct 2014 conference talk

This was a tricky talk for me to study for some reason.  I think it was because I had a hard time figuring out what the main theme was supposed to be.  The majority of the middle was devoted to a list of different paths Jesus walked in life—paths of disappointment, temptation, pain, obedience, service, and prayer—and how we can follow his example.    But the title seemed to give a different spin altogether—ponder the path of thy feet.

Eventually I realized that “ponder the path of thy feet” was the main theme and that we can’t follow the Savior unless we do a lot of pondering the path of our feet and figuring out how to adjust according to the Savior’s example.

This is when I realized how valuable this message is for us right now.  Consider that we have so many things clamoring for our time and attention and so many distractions and so much media that we could lose ourselves in that we are liable to get alternately frantic and overwhelmed or lulled into a thoughtless stupor.   

Living the life of a Latter-day Saint does not happen by accident in this day and age.  This talk is about thinking about what we’re doing and carefully following Christ’s example, living our lives with reference to Him.

My beloved brothers and sisters, I am humbled as I stand before you this morning. I ask for your faith and prayers in my behalf as I share with you my message.

All of us commenced a wonderful and essential journey when we left the spirit world and entered this often-challenging stage called mortality. The primary purposes of our existence upon the earth are to obtain a body of flesh and bones, to gain experience that could come only through separation from our heavenly parents, and to see if we would keep the commandments. In the book of Abraham chapter 3 we read: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.”

The world gives us the sense that our purpose on earth is to get as rich and powerful and famous and attractive as we can as quickly as we can.

In contrast to that, what does President Monson say the purpose of our earthly existence is?  
·      Gain a body
·      Gain experience from being separated from our heavenly parents
·      Prove that we will keep the commandments

How are you doing with respect to those heavenly purposes?

Body?    Check.

Experience away from heavenly parents?   Um, working on it.  (Incidentally, I wonder how one would know they had gotten enough experience at this?)

Proving I will do whatever God commands?  Um, working on that too.  I think this encompasses not just following previously revealed commandments, but also learning to follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost through personal revelation.

When we came to the earth, we brought with us that great gift from God—even our agency. In thousands of ways we are privileged to choose for ourselves.

I love the way President Monson put this.  We are sometimes liable to look on decision-making as a burden, when it is really a privilege. 

Here we learn from the hard taskmaster of experience. We discern between good and evil. We differentiate as to the bitter and the sweet. We learn that decisions determine destiny.

In what way is pondering our path related to each of those things?  Can we do any of those things without pondering our path?

I want to share how I’ve learned to ponder when I’ve made mistakes.  I’ve learned that how I think can make the difference between it being a painful experience and a learning experience. 

If I say to myself over and over, “That was terrible!  I can’t believe you just did that!  How could you do such a thing!  You’re a terrible person!” then I’m beating myself up.  What good does that do?  None at all.  There’s no learning involved, just self-flagellation. 

I can make it into a learning experience if instead I say to myself, “Okay, self, you’ve made a mistake.  Where did the mistake first start?  What went through your head at the moment you decided to do that?”  Then I try to piece together the thought process that led to that mistake.  Then I tell myself to notice carefully the unhappiness that I feel because of the mistake or sin, so that I can remember that choosing the right will keep me from feeling that.  Then I ask myself, “Okay, what should you have done instead?”  And I try to think of better alternatives or I acknowledge that I should have done something different.   Then I tell myself, “Okay, self, think about how good you will feel next time when you make the right decision,” and I allow myself to anticipate that and yearn for that.   And then I tell myself, “Okay, self, what kind of temptations might happen that will make you want to still not make the right choice?” and I try to anticipate and imagine the opposition I might face and what my response should be.

By the time I’m done thinking these things through, I’ve committed to choosing the right, I’ve got a plan, I’ve seen what thoughts and reactions caused the problem, and I’m ready to change. 

Am I ready to repent and use the Atonement?  You betcha!  Am I ready to ask for grace to strengthen me?  You better believe it!

This pondering takes practice, but it is what helps you learn the lessons and forgive yourself and move on in a way that helps you show yourself the same respect that you’d give anyone else.

I also can’t help but observe how happy I am that it is possible to learn through the experience of others as well as our own.  If we couldn’t learn through others’ experiences, there would be no point in sharing our experiences and stories with others and there would be no point in having the scriptures.  We would be doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again every generation.

I am certain we left our Father with an overwhelming desire to return to Him, that we might gain the exaltation He planned for us and which we ourselves so much wanted. Although we are left to find and follow that path which will lead us back to our Father in Heaven, He did not send us here without direction and guidance. Rather, He has given us the tools we need, and He will assist us as we seek His help and strive to do all in our power to endure to the end and gain eternal life.

To help guide us we have the words of God and of His Son found in our holy scriptures. We have the counsel and teachings of God’s prophets. Of paramount importance, we have been provided with a perfect example to follow—even the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—and we have been instructed to follow that example. Said the Savior Himself: “Come, follow me.”2 “The works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do.”3 He posed the question, “What manner of men ought ye to be?” And then He answered, “Verily I say unto you, even as I am.”4 “He marked the path and led the way.”5

As we look to Jesus as our Exemplar and as we follow in His footsteps, we can return safely to our Heavenly Father to live with Him forever. Said the prophet Nephi, “Unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.”6

It’s not enough to find the right way.  We have to stay in it to the end of our lives.  Since we’re prone to wandering, this is a continual challenge.  It is also why pondering our path periodically is so important because that’s going to be when we discern we’re off and what we need to do to get back on.

One woman, each time she related experiences she had during a visit to the Holy Land, would exclaim, “I walked where Jesus walked!”

She had been in the vicinity where Jesus lived and taught. Perhaps she stood on a rock on which He had once stood or looked at a mountain range He had once gazed upon. The experiences, in and of themselves, were thrilling to her; but physically walking where Jesus walked is less important than walking as He walked. Emulating His actions and following His example are far more important than trying to retrace the remnants of the trails He traversed in mortality.

I don’t think President Monson means to discourage anyone from taking trips to the Holy Land because that can be strengthening to one’s testimony of the reality of Christ’s life.  But when all is said and done, if seeing the geography that Christ saw is thrilling, how much more thrilling is it to chose what He chose, to testify as He testified, and obey God as He obeyed… so that we can be exalted as He was exalted?

We can find the spiritual geography he traveled and walk it ourselves.

And that doesn’t require being in the Holy Land.  We can do that anywhere.  (Yaaaay!)

This suggests another way of reading the Gospels—to look for actions Jesus did that we can emulate, also looking for things to do that He said to do.  After all, He would not have said to do something if He hadn’t done it Himself.

When Jesus extended to a certain rich man the invitation, “Come, follow me,”7 He did not intend merely that the rich man follow Him up and down the hills and valleys of the countryside.

We need not walk by the shores of Galilee or among the Judean hills to walk where Jesus walked. All of us can walk the path He walked when, with His words ringing in our ears, His Spirit filling our hearts, and His teachings guiding our lives, we choose to follow Him as we journey through mortality. His example lights the way. Said He, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”8

What does it take to have Jesus’s words ringing in our ears?
What is required to have His Spirit filling our hearts?
What do we do to get ourselves to the point that His teachings guide our lives?

In a world with so many choices and voices and conflicting methods and opinions, how does it help us to know that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life”? 
Why are each of those words—way, truth, and life—important to Jesus’s statement?  What do they teach us about Jesus?

As we examine the path Jesus walked, we will see that it took Him through many of the same challenges we ourselves will face in life.

For example, Jesus walked the path of disappointment. Although He experienced many disappointments, one of the most poignant was depicted in His lament over Jerusalem as He closed His public ministry. The children of Israel had rejected the safety of the protecting wing which He had offered them. As He looked out over the city soon to be abandoned to destruction, He was overcome by emotions of deep sorrow. In anguish He cried out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”9

I thought it was interesting that President Monson brought this up about Jesus walking the path of disappointment.  I started thinking about all the different kinds of disappointments Jesus experienced:
·      People thought He had a devil.
·      Some of the people didn’t have faith to be healed by Him.
·      People wanted Him to feed them more than they wanted to believe in Him.
·      Some people found fault with His healing miracles just because He did some on the Sabbath.
·      He was not accepted in His home country.
·      He was often not understood by His disciples.
·      He was betrayed by one of His friends.

It is interesting that Jesus did not choose disappointment.  He chose to be perfectly obedient, and yet He still experienced disappointment because of the choices of other people.  Yet he did not allow disappointment to discourage Him. 

I think it is easier to bear with disappointment with other people than it is to bear disappointment in myself from bad choices.

Jesus walked the path of temptation. Lucifer, that evil one, amassing his greatest strength, his most inviting sophistry, tempted Him who had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Jesus did not succumb; rather, He resisted each temptation. His parting words: “Get thee hence, Satan.”10

Did Jesus choose temptation?  Of course not.  He went about Heavenly Father’s business and temptation came at weak moments, such as described by President Monson when Jesus had fasted for so long and was tempted to turn stones into bread. 

The three temptations that came to Jesus at the beginning of His ministry are probably the best known, but I wonder if it is possible to discern other points when He was tempted and resisted?

I like that President Monson points out those words Jesus said—“Get thee hence, Satan.”  That reminds me that calling temptations what they are can really help us fight them. 

I have a very good friend who once was a drug addict and drug dealer and who now lives a clean life.  She likes to call Satan “Hoof Boy.”  (When I’d tell her about the discouragement I was dealing with, she’d say, “And who is it that wants you to think that?  It’s Hoof Boy!  Flick him off your shoulder and tell him to get lost!”)   I know someone else who calls Satan “that dirty rotten scoundrel.”    Satan hates being called out because that means that he’s been unmasked and his tricks are uncovered, so we need to do that as much as possible.  Also, we have to tell him to go away.  Repeatedly.

This really helped me because as I was thinking about this section of President Monson’s talk, I thought about my life and I realized I am on a path of temptation right now.  And remembering that is part of what is going to help me resist.

Jesus walked the path of pain. Consider Gethsemane, where He was “in an agony … and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”11 And none can forget His suffering on the cruel cross.

I really don’t like pain.  I try to avoid it.  It is amazing to me that Jesus chose to go through those pains for me and everyone else.  His pain was for a great purpose.

It makes me wonder.  If we are to strive to be like Christ, might we too find higher purpose in our pains?  (Probably we’d need revelation for this.) Can Heavenly Father use our pains for the benefit of the rest of the world if we endure them bravely and well, just like Christ?   Can Heavenly Father make our pains redemptive?

Each of us will walk the path of disappointment, perhaps because of an opportunity lost, a power misused, a loved one’s choices, or a choice we ourselves make. The path of temptation too will be the path of each. We read in the 29th section of the Doctrine and Covenants: “And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves.”12

Likewise shall we walk the path of pain. We, as servants, can expect no more than the Master, who left mortality only after great pain and suffering.

We know we will all experience disappointment, temptation, and pain.  Do we know the best way to cope?  How did Jesus cope faithfully?
We will also have people around us trying to cope with disappointment, temptation, and pain.  Do we know how to help them?  Can we live so as to not disappoint others, tempt others, or cause pain to others? 

While we will find on our path bitter sorrow, we can also find great happiness.

These next paths President Monson are ones that we can choose for ourselves.

We, with Jesus, can walk the path of obedience. It will not always be easy, but let our watchword be the heritage bequeathed us by Samuel: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”13

The story that quote refers to has some important principles of obedience:
--Obeying a commandment with exactness
--Obeying a commandment completely
--Not modifying the commandment to suit our convenience or our desires
--Not making excuses about half-baked obedience as if it were full obedience
--Emphasizing obedience to those we have stewardship over instead of letting things slide.

Let us remember that the end result of disobedience is captivity and death, while the reward for obedience is liberty and eternal life.

I just wanted to emphasize that sentence because of its close linkage to the theme of pondering the path of our feet.  It shows us the end of two different paths.  Part of prophecy is being able to see the end from the beginning, seeing the end of the path and where it led.

When we’re pondering, can we point to the ways we were blessed for our obedience?   Can we use that to extrapolate how we will be blessed in the future?

One of the things I’ve noticed in my life is that when I am disobedient, I almost never can discern the bad consequences that will come out of it.  I can’t tell how my agency will be abridged.  I’m pretty much blinded.  But when I’m obedient, I know I will be blessed and I can discern how disobedience will bring negative consequences.

The story of King Saul in 1 Samuel is a pretty good case study of how disobedience leads to captivity and death.  Even though he was king, his disobedience to the commandments made him more and more a prisoner of his paranoia and anger.

We, like Jesus, can walk the path of service. As a glowing searchlight of goodness is the life of Jesus as He ministered among men. He brought strength to the limbs of the cripple, sight to the eyes of the blind, hearing to the ears of the deaf.

There is plenty we can ponder about our service.  Are we serving gladly?  Are we looking for opportunities to serve?  Do we see the little mundane things we do for our families as the services they are?

What is the result at the end of a path of service?  I personally feel satisfaction and love for those I’ve served.  I feel happy and less worried about myself. 

Jesus walked the path of prayer. He taught us how to pray by giving us the beautiful prayer we know as the Lord’s Prayer. And who can forget His prayer in Gethsemane, “Not my will, but thine, be done”?14

Under what conditions did Jesus pray?  (Yet another thing to study in the four Gospels..) 
Are we praying enough? 

Other instructions given to us by the Savior are at our fingertips, found in the holy scriptures. In His Sermon on the Mount, He tells us to be merciful, to be humble, to be righteous, to be pure in heart, to be peacemakers. He instructs us to stand up bravely for our beliefs, even when we are ridiculed and persecuted. He asks us to let our lights shine so that others may see them and may desire to glorify our Father in Heaven. He teaches us to be morally clean in both our thoughts and our actions. He tells us it is far more important to lay up treasures in heaven than on earth.15

That was a fast version of the Sermon on the Mount. 
Can we see the end of the path and how we will be blessed if we keep each of those commandments briefly mentioned above?
The merciful >> obtain mercy
The humble >> are exalted
The righteous >> _________
The pure in heart >> see God
Peacemakers >> are the children of God

Can you think of recent instances in your life when you’ve practiced these virtues?  Can you anticipate events coming up when you will be challenged in those areas?

His parables teach with power and authority. With the account of the good Samaritan, He teaches us to love and to serve our neighbors.16 In His parable of the talents, He teaches us to improve ourselves and to strive for perfection.17 With the parable of the lost sheep, He instructs us to go to the rescue of those who have left the path and have lost their way.18

Can we see what will come to us if we keep those commandments?  Can we see how we’d be changed?

As we strive to place Christ at the center of our lives by learning His words, by following His teachings, and by walking in His path, He has promised to share with us the eternal life that He died to gain. There is no higher end than this, that we should choose to accept His discipline and become His disciples and do His work throughout our lives. Nothing else, no other choice we make, can make of us what He can.

Great perspective there about how transformative discipleship can be.   Do we have something about ourselves that we are trying to change, and are we getting Christ’s help?   Can we see in our lives how we are being changed?

As I think of those who have truly tried to follow the example of the Savior and who have walked in His path, there comes readily to my mind the names of Gustav and Margarete Wacker—two of the most Christlike individuals I have ever known. They were native Germans who had immigrated to eastern Canada, and I met them when I served as a mission president there. Brother Wacker earned his living as a barber. Though their means were limited, they shared all they had. They were not blessed with children, but they nurtured all who entered their home. Men and women of learning and sophistication sought out these humble, unlettered servants of God and counted themselves fortunate if they could spend an hour in their presence.

Their appearance was ordinary, their English halting and somewhat difficult to understand, their home unpretentious. They didn’t own a car or a television, nor did they do any of the things to which the world usually pays attention. Yet the faithful beat a path to their door in order to partake of the spirit that was there. Their home was a heaven on earth, and the spirit they radiated was of pure peace and goodness.

We too can have that spirit and can share it with the world as we walk the path of our Savior and follow His perfect example.

I love this sketch of what the Wackers were like.  How wonderful that even though they lived in obscurity, the way they lived attracted the faithful.

Now, think about the kind of choices the Wackers made that made them what they were.  Let’s list them:
--they shared all they had
--they nurtured all who entered their home
--their appearance was ordinary
--their home was unpretentious
--they didn’t own a car
--they didn’t own a television
--they didn’t do things the world usually pays attention to
--their home was a heaven on earth
--they radiated a spirit of pure peace and goodness

Do all these things happen by accident?  No.  There are signs that the Wackers pondered the path of their feet and put their effort into following the Savior instead of striving for worldly success.

Maybe they were too poor for a fancy home, a car, and a TV.  Maybe.   But then again maybe they decided those things weren’t important to them.  If their means were limited, they could have decided to hoard all they had instead of sharing.    If they wanted a fancy home and a car and a TV they could have skimped their charity and/or gone into debt for those things.  Many people do.  But they didn't.

That they nurtured all who entered their home tells us that they thought about their childlessness and what to do to transcend their circumstances and gain experience helping others grow.

That their appearance was ordinary suggests they thought about what the consequences might be of putting emphasis on outward appearances and decided they preferred to escape a trap of temporary vanity.

That they didn’t do things the world usually pays attention to tells us they pondered where to put their energies and efforts and decided that quiet satisfaction was better than the world’s applause.

That they made their home a heaven on earth tells us that they pondered how to make their home a welcoming and loving place and practiced those principles constantly.

That they radiated a spirit of pure peace and goodness tells us that they pondered what impact they wanted to have on the people they met and they worked to be a positive influence.  That kind of spirit does not happen by accident.  It has to be cultivated on purpose and practiced even in adverse circumstances.

We read in Proverbs the admonition, “Ponder the path of thy feet.”19 As we do, we will have the faith, even the desire, to walk the path which Jesus walked. We will have no doubt that we are on a path which our Father would have us follow.

Here we get prophetic promises of blessings that come from pondering the path of our feet.  We will have the faith and desire to follow Jesus, and we will enjoy certainty that we are in the right way.  Those are great blessings, aren’t they?

The Savior’s example provides a framework for everything that we do, and His words provide an unfailing guide. His path will take us safely home. May this be our blessing, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, whom I love, whom I serve, and of whom I testify, amen.

I want to share a personal experience of a time when pondering the path of my feet prevented me from making a mistake which could have affected others in my family.

One year for summer vacation our family rented a condo for a week up in Wisconsin at a resort.  The resort had a pool in the main building, and one day two younger brothers, my younger sister, and I went to swim in the pool.

As we enjoyed playing in the pool, some teenaged boys came in to swim too.  I made friends with them.  After some time, they got the idea to go up to a balcony that overlooked the pool and use it as a diving platform to jump into the pool.  They did it a few times and made tremendous splashes.  It looked rather fun to me.

I found myself wanting to go up there and do some jumps of my own.  But just as I was about to get out of the pool and go do it, an impression came to my mind to ponder what would be the result if I did.  I played the scenario through my mind and realized that if I did, my younger siblings would be very likely to want to imitate my example.  They would probably think, “Older sister does cool things, and if older sister does it, it’s okay for me to do it too.” 

Then I pondered further whether it would be a safe thing for them to do.  The horizontal distance from the edge of the balcony to the pool wasn’t a problem for me, but would it be a problem for them?  And then I realized that if it was a problem, or if there was the slightest mishap, our play could turn tragic very easily.  I could see in my mind the result--one of my siblings falling nine feet onto the cement next to the pool and hurting him or herself very badly.  And I realized if that happened, I would feel horrible for being the one to start it.

So I stayed in the pool.  And a few minutes later, an adult from the resort got after those boys for their unsafe jumping and made them stop.

Again, pondering the path of my feet and considering the consequences of my example on my siblings, and whether it would be safe for them to do what I did restrained me from acting irresponsibly.  

Ideas for teaching from this talk

Ask your class what things they ponder about.  Are there specific ways that pondering has helped them?

Ask class members to share an experience they had when pondering helped them avoid making a mistake or helped steer them in the right direction.

Ask your class to think about what disappointments they are feeling about their life right now.  Is this something they have control of, or is it something that they feel about others?  What are good ways of coping with disappointment?  (Ask the same questions about temptation and pain.)

How can we help our children and others learn to ponder their path and make good decisions? 

What things get in the way of us having time to ponder?  Are there things we can do to lower the noise in our lives?

Monday, December 15, 2014 0 comments

How Jesus gains his disciples through member missionary work

John 1 has two stories of Jesus gaining the disciples that were to become his apostles, but three stories about member missionary work and I don’t know that we usually look at them this way.

35 ¶Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
43 ¶The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.
44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:35-51)

I like these verses because they show how witness and invitation really work upon those prepared to accept Jesus as Savior. 

In the first one, John’s disciples hear his witness that Jesus was the Lamb of God, and they immediately began following Jesus.  This shows how the witness of a prophet is effective on those who are honest of heart and believing.

One of those two converted in the first story (Andrew) went and found his brother Simon Peter and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” and brought him to Jesus.  This shows how the excitement of finding brings converts to share with their family the significance of what they have found.  And Andrew brings Simon to meet Jesus, just as we are asked to take our friends and family by the hand and lead them to Jesus.

In the third story, Jesus found Philip and invited him to follow and Philip believed.  Then Philip went to Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the one Moses and the prophets wrote of!”   That shows us that they must have had a fair amount of discussion about the scriptures and prophecy of the Messiah and thought about how to recognize Him.  It also shows us it is possible to identify Jesus as Christ through the scriptures as He fulfilled what was predicted.  Nathanael was a little skeptical about Jesus’ origins from Nazareth, but he was still willing to come and see for himself what Jesus was like, and he believed pretty quickly.

We can see that pattern of people sharing their excitement of their new discovery, but what about those of us who have been members of the church for a long time?

I think what both John and Jesus do is a good pattern for long-time members.  First, when John saw Jesus walking by, he pointed him out to his disciples and testified of him.  That is something we long-time members can do.  For instance, if we were driving with coworkers to lunch and passed one of our church buildings, we could point out the building, identify it as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, say we belong to it, and share that it is the true church of Christ.  As another example, we do this when we identify for children when they are feeling the Spirit or when mentioning the need to pray in the middle of trouble.   This pattern is about taking advantage of circumstances to testify of related truths in a short, simple way. 

Second, what Jesus does is another part of this pattern that we long-time members can do.  Jesus asked, “What seek ye?” and also invited a man asking about him to “Come and see.”  We can ask people what they are looking for spiritually and we can invite them to come to church to see what happens there, to see if it is what they are looking for.
Saturday, December 13, 2014 0 comments

The Key of the House of David

And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (Isaiah 22:22)

I ran across this verse in Sunday School lesson #37 in the teacher’s manual.  The manual’s interpretation is that this tells of the Messiah and that he has the power to admit or exclude any person from Heavenly Father’s presence.

This leads me to ask the question, “Why is ‘the house of David’ being used to refer to Heavenly Father’s presence?”  We’re used to David being used as a type of Christ, so why the slight shift here?  

I suppose since David was the king of Israel, and Heavenly Father is the king of the earth, Isaiah meant to teach how Christ was like the doorkeeper to Heavenly Father’s presence.

Another meaning occurs to me after having studied 1 Samuel so carefully lately about how the Lord chooses kings of Israel.  It suggests that to have the key of the house of David opened for you is to be admitted not just into the presence of royalty, but to be admitted into royalty itself, to be made a king or queen, implying celestial exaltation.

It could also refer to the resurrection, since we can only return to the presence of God, having been resurrected.  It suggests the final judgment and our hope to stay in the presence of God with a favorable verdict.

All of this depends on Christ.

I also like how two other scriptures give us more perspective on this verse of Isaiah.  John the Revelator uses this imagery and Nephi clarifies it too.

7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write;
These things saith he that is holy, he that is true,
he that hath the key of David,
he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
8 I know thy works:
behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it:
for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. (Revelation 3:7-8)

Imagine how you’d feel if a prophet or apostle told you that Christ had opened the door to you.  Wouldn’t that be the greatest feeling?

Then there’s Nephi:

…the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel;
and he employeth no servant there;
and there is none other way save it be by the gate;
for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. (2 Nephi 9:41)

Just think; if Christ had never been born, that key of David spoken of by Isaiah would never have been forged. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014 2 comments

Reaching for Humility

I was curious to see what quotes from great thinkers out in the world could be collected about humility.  Here are some of my favorites.

“If pain doesn't lead to humility, you have wasted your suffering.”
― Katerina Stoykova Klemer

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

“Humility is so shy. If you begin talking about it, it leaves.”
― Timothy Keller

There's a trust and commitment thing that has to allow yourself fail, allow yourself to be embarrassed, allow yourself to be vulnerable”
― Tom Verducci, The Yankee Years

“The disillusionment with our own abilities is, perhaps, one of the most important things that can ever happen to us.”
― Tim Hansel

“I want a man who knows something about himself. And is appalled. And has to forgive himself to get along.”
― C.P. Snow, The Masters

“Humility is the nearly impossible task of being more concerned with our own sins that we are with the sins of others.”
― Trevor Hammack

“I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps.”
-- Mahatma Gandhi

“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, "He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.”
― Epictetus

“A candid admission of a blunder is refreshing and not often heard in human affairs. It is the saint alone who is large-minded enough to think and speak in this way. This is part of his authenticity.”  
–Thomas Dubay

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”
-Thomas Merton

“True humility is intelligent self respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be.”
-Ralph W. Sockman

“The first test of a truly great man is his humility. By humility I don't mean doubt of his powers or hesitation in speaking his opinion, but merely an understanding of the relationship of what he can say and what he can do.”
-John Ruskin

“Humility consists in not esteeming ourselves above other men, and in not seeking to be esteemed above them.”
― St. Francis de Sales

“A true understanding and humble estimate of oneself is the highest and most valuable of all lessons. To take no account of oneself, but always to think well and highly of others is the highest wisdom and perfection.”
― Thomas à Kempis, The Inner Life

“Judge yourself; if you do that you will not be judged by God, as St. Paul says. But it must be a real sense of your own sinfulness, not an artificial humility.”
-Johannes Tauler

'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.”
-- Alice Walker

“When someone saves your life and gives you life, there's gratitude, humility; there's a time you've been so blessed you realize you've been given another chance at life that maybe you did or didn't deserve.”
-- Pat Summerall

“The proud man can learn humility, but he will be proud of it.”
-- Mignon McLaughlin

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”
-- Saint Augustine

“The devil…the prowde spirite…cannot endure to be mocked.”
― Thomas More

“If there is one single reason why good people turn evil, it is because they fail to recognize God’s ownership over their kingdom, their vocation, their resources, their abilities, and above all their lives.”
― Erwin W. Lutzer, When You've Been Wronged: Moving From Bitterness to Forgiveness

“Relativism poses as humble by saying: “We are not smart enough to know what the truth is—or if there is any universal truth.” It sounds humble. But look carefully at what is happening. It’s like a servant saying: I am not smart enough to know which person here is my master—or if I even have a master. The result is that I don’t have a master and I can be my own master. That is in reality what happens to relativists: In claiming to be too lowly to know the truth, they exalt themselves as supreme arbiter of what they can think and do. This is not humility. This is the essence of pride.”
― John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God

“For thousands of years, it had been nature--and its supposed creator--that had had a monopoly on awe. It had been the icecaps, the deserts, the volcanoes and the glaciers that had given us a sense of finitude and limitation and had elicited a feeling in which fear and respect coagulated into a strangely pleasing feeling of humility, a feeling which the philosophers of the eighteenth century had famously termed the sublime.
But then had come a transformation to which we were still the heirs.... Over the course of the nineteenth century, the dominant catalyst for that feeling of the sublime had ceased to be nature. We were now deep in the era of the technological sublime, when awe could most powerfully be invoked not by forests or icebergs but by supercomputers, rockets and particle accelerators. We were now almost exclusively amazed by ourselves.”
― Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

“The humble person is open to being corrected, whereas the arrogant is clearly closed to it. Proud people are supremely confident in their own opinions and insights. No one can admonish them successfully: not a peer, not a local superior, not even the pope himself. They know - and that is the end of the matter. Filled as they are with their own views, the arrogant lack the capacity to see another view.”
― Thomas Dubay

“If someone were to ask whether communications skills or meekness is most important to a marriage, I'd answer meekness, hands down. You can be a superb communicator but still never have the humility to ask, 'Is it I?' Communication skills are no substitute for Christlike attributes.”
― John Bytheway, When Times Are Tough: 5 Scriptures That Will Help You Get Through Almost Anything

“Humility is really important because it keeps you fresh and new.”
--Steven Tyler

“I'm a writer by profession and it's totally clear to me that since I started blogging, the amount I write has increased exponentially, my daily interactions with the views of others have never been so frequent, the diversity of voices I engage with is far higher than in the pre-Internet age—and all this has helped me become more modest as a thinker, more open to error, less fixated on what I do know, and more respectful of what I don't. If this is a deterioration in my brain, then more, please.”
--Andrew Sullivan

“The job is to ask questions-it always was-and to ask them as inexorably as I can. And to face the absence of precise answers with a certain humility.”
--Arthur Miller

“Stay hungry, stay young, stay foolish, stay curious, and above all, stay humble because just when you think you got all the answers, is the moment when some bitter twist of fate in the universe will remind you that you very much don't.”
― Tom Hiddleston

“Real genius is nothing else but the supernatural virtue of humility in the domain of thought.”
-- Simone Weil

“Having all the answers just means you've been asking boring questions.”
― Joey Comeau

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Wild Years

“If you desire to know or learn anything to your advantage, then take delight in being unknown and unregarded.”
― Thomas à Kempis, The Inner Life

“[T]o really try to be informed and literate today is to feel stupid nearly all the time, and to need help.”
― David Foster Wallace, The Best American Essays 2007

“You must know nothing before you can learn something, and be empty before you can be filled. Is not the emptiness of the bowl what makes it useful?”
― Lloyd Alexander, The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen

“Every person that you meet knows something you don't; learn from them.”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“How quickly self rises to the surface, and the instrument is ready to believe he is something more than an instrument! How sadly easy it is to make of the very service God entrusts us with a pedestal on which to display ourselves.
― Arthur W. Pink, Elijah

“Any honours that come our way are only stolen from him to whom alone they really belong, the Lord who sent us.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

“To be humble is to recognize gratefully your dependence on the Lord—to understand that you have constant need for His support. Humility is an acknowledgment that your talents and abilities are gifts from God. It is not a sign of weakness, timidity, or fear; it is an indication that you know where your true strength lies. You can be both humble and fearless. You can be both humble and courageous.
Jesus Christ is our greatest example of humility. During His mortal ministry, He always acknowledged that His strength came because of His dependence on His Father. He said: “I can of mine own self do nothing. … I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30).
The Lord will strengthen you as you humble yourself before Him. James taught: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. … Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:6, 10). “
--True to the Faith

“It becomes us in humility to make our devout acknowledgments to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for the inestimable civil and religious blessings with which we are favored.”
--James K. Polk

“In such a state, humility is the virtue of men, and their only defense; to walk humbly with God, never doubting, whatever befall, that His will is good, and that His law is right.”
--Paul Elmer More

“Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.”
― Andrew Murray, Humility

“Humility is the gateway into the grace and the favor of God.”
--Harold Warner

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
― Abraham Lincoln

“And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.”
― Doctrine and Covenants 1:25-28

“The highest glory of the creature is in being only a vessel, to receive and enjoy and show forth the glory of God. It can do this only as it is willing to be nothing in itself, that God may be all. Water always fills first the lowest places. The lower, the emptier a man lies before God, the speedier and the fuller will be the inflow of the diving glory.”
― Andrew Murray, Humility

“We are not worthy to unloose the latchets of Jesus' shoes, because, if we do, we begin to say to ourselves, "What great folks are we; we have been allowed to loose the latchets of the Lord's sandals." If we do not tell somebody else about it with many an exultation, we at least tell ourselves about it, and feel that we are something after all, and ought to be held in no small repute.”
― Charles H. Spurgeon, Humility and How to Get It

“We are aware that the order of God requires the exercise of humility, but not of servility of slaves; but a humility that can be associated with undoubted courage and unflinching integrity; at the same time there is no room for pride, self-sufficient pride, that rests solely upon its own capabilities, and refuses to look for the support and countenance of others.--MS 7:91 [MS is the Millenial Star]”
― John Andreas Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government

“Humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all.”
― Andrew Murray, Humility

“Humility is simply the disposition which prepares the soul for living on trust.”
― Andrew Murray, Humility

“We need to approach the Bible each day with a spirit of deep humility, recognizing that our understanding of spiritual truth is at best incomplete and to some extent inaccurate ... we should approach the Scriptures in humility and expect the Spirit to humble us even further as we continue being taught by Him from His Word.”
― Jerry Bridges, Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey

“We feel that, for the honour of God (and also, though we do not say this, for the sake of our own reputation as spiritual Christians), it is necessary for us to claim that we are, so to speak, already in the signal-box, here and now enjoying the inside information as to the why and wherefore of God’s doings. This comforting pretence becomes part of us: we feel sure that God has enabled us to understand all His ways with us and our circle thus far, and we take if for granted that we shall be able to see at once the reason for anything that may happen to us in the future. And then something very painful and quite inexplicable comes along, and our cheerful illusion of being in God’s secret councils is shattered. Our pride is wounded; we feel that God has slighted us; and unless at this point we repent, and humble ourselves very thoroughly for our former presumption, our whole subsequent spiritual life may be blighted.”
― J.I. Packer, Knowing God

“I had such a hard time giving all the glory to God when first accepting Him as Lord. Coming out of a theatre background where there were many applauds and accolades, I suffered from what I call "attention-itis" - the need for recognition. It took many years and much eating of crow before I became conscious of giving all praise to God for my accomplishments.”
― Sheryl Young, God, Am I Nobody?

“The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”
― Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more; he overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.
― Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon's Sermons Vol. 1-10

"Judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent, shaped by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath."
--John Roberts

“A great man is always willing to be little.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Confident and courageous leaders have no problems pointing out their own weaknesses and ignorance.”
― Thom S. Rainer

“A man who can own pearls does not bother about shells, and those who aspire to virtue do not trouble themselves over honors.”
― St. Francis de Sales

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less."
C. S. Lewis

“Humility is throwing oneself away in complete concentration on something or someone else.”
― Madeleine L'Engle

“Humility is attentive patience.”
-- Simone Weil

“We must listen and learn, show humility and seek again to talk for and to people's ambitions and concerns.”
--Johann Lamont

“To have humility is to experience reality, not in relation to ourselves, but in its sacred independence….we encounter a world where…. a tree becomes a mystery, a cloud a revelation, each man a cosmos of whose riches we can only catch glimpses. The life of simplicity is simple, but it opens to us a book in which we never get beyond the first syllable.”
― Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings

“Humility is that freedom from our self which enables us to be in positions in which we have neither recognition nor importance, neither power nor visibility, and even experience deprivation, and yet have joy and delight. It is the freedom of knowing that we are not in the center of the universe, not even in the center of our own private universe.”
― David F. Wells, Losing Our Virtue

“We try, when we wake, to lay the new day at God’s feet; before we have finished shaving, it becomes our day and God’s share in it is felt as a tribute which we must pay out of ‘our own’ pocket, a deduction from the time which ought, we feel, to be ‘our own’. A man starts a new job with a sense of vocation and, perhaps, for the first week still keeps the discharge of the vocation as his end, taking the pleasures and pains from God’s hand, as they came, as ‘accidents’. But in the second week he is beginning to ‘know the ropes’: by the third, he has quarried out of the total job his own plan for himself within that job, and when he can pursue this he feels that he is getting no more than his rights, and when he cannot, that he is being interfered.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

“These are the few ways we can practice humility:
To speak as little as possible of one's self.
To mind one's own business.
Not to want to manage other people's affairs.
….To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
To pass over the mistakes of others.
To accept insults and injuries.
To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
Never to stand on one's dignity.
To choose always the hardest.”
― Mother Teresa, The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living

My assessment of what humility is

Humility is to have full awareness of how far you still have to go before you can become what God means for you, yet see it without falling into despair that it can’t be done.  It is to be aware the distance can’t be closed without full submission to God and receiving enabling grace through the atonement of Christ. 
The humble man is confident in what he knows, yet never deceives himself into thinking that he knows anything but a tiny part of what can be known, and is not afraid of revising his knowledge.  He is comfortable with discovering his own ignorance, then seeks to educate himself.  He is respectfully curious and asks questions with charitable intent, expecting to discover the goodness in his fellows.

He can be corrected by others.  He confesses his errors readily and recognizes his human capacity to mistake.  When he sees the errors of others, he remembers his own.
He is equally content to be known or unknown, respected or not.  He remembers that he is part of a system and that others are equally striving.
He expresses gratitude fully and often, looks upon the world with awe, and sees each of his fellows as a universe to be explored.

He is willing to lose himself in focusing on others.

The humble man may be honored, but he sees these honors as directed more toward God who gave him life, talents, opportunities, and strength to overcome obstacles.  He sees privileges given to him as a sign that anyone may receive brief favor.

It is often said that if you think you’ve got humility then you don’t, but this isn’t very helpful because you have to be able to identify when you have acted in humility versus when you haven’t.   Instead, it is more useful to label various acts with their motivations as humble, rather than to think of ourselves as humble, since giving ourselves a label often leads to complacency and pride.  We will know when we are acting humbly when we have mortified our flesh and our ego and put God or one of our fellows ahead of ourselves.