Saturday, March 28, 2009 1 comments

Isaiah's prophecies about Zion

5 And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.
6 And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain. (Isaiah 4:5-6)
I really like these verses, because they describe how the Lord will protect His people in the last days.

The imagery that Isaiah uses is very beautiful, especially that of creating a cloud by day and a flaming fire by night over mount Zion’s dwellings and assemblies, but I have to point out that Isaiah doesn’t use this just because it sounds pretty. He uses it to teach a lesson. He wasn’t making this up out of his head; he was drawing from the history of Israel in Exodus when they were led out of Egypt by Moses the prophet.
21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:
22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)
Isaiah was using this imagery of the obvious sign of the Lord’s presence and guidance to show that in the last days it would be perfectly obvious that the Lord is with His people and protecting them.

Also, in verse 6 it talks about a tabernacle. This we know is the temple. Isaiah uses the imagery of a shadow on a hot day, a refuge, and a hiding place to show how the temple provides an temporary escape for righteous people from the heat of temptation and opposition, from war against evil, and from the storm of upheaval.

I know this is fulfilled when I attend the temple. I go in feeling weighed down with care, sometimes wondering if I really have the time to go. I walk out feeling like my inner soul has been fortified, my moral levies have been shored up against the flood with an additional wall of sandbags.

If Isaiah’s prophecy about the temple is fulfilled, his prophecy about the glory of the Lord resting upon the dwellings and assemblies of Zion will be fulfilled too, but we need to do our part. It lies in the definition of Zion.

Zion is the pure in heart.
Therefore, verily, thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART; therefore, let Zion rejoice, while all the wicked shall mourn. (Doctrine & Covenants 97:21)
Zion is the peaceful, where safety can be found.
68 And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.
69 And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another. (Doctrine & Covenants 45:68-69)
Zion is the obedient to God.
Nevertheless, Zion shall escape if she observe to do all things whatsoever I have commanded her. (Doctrine & Covenants 97:25)
In Zion is stability, happiness, productivity.
17 Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.
18 They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion— (Doctrine & Covenants 101:17-18)
Zion is the holy, the city of the higher law, the practice ground for living in heaven.
And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself. (Doctrine & Covenants 105:5)
Zion has the power of God, manifested by the priesthood keys and righteous exercise of priesthood authority.
7 Questions by Elias Higbee: What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52d chapter, 1st verse, which saith: Put on thy strength, O Zion—and what people had Isaiah reference to?
8 He had reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost. (Doctrine & Covenants 113:7-8)
Zion is the unified, the righteous, the charitable.
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7:18)
Is it hard to believe that the Lord would make His favor and presence known with a cloud and a pillar of fire to this Zion people? After considering the above scriptures, it isn’t hard to believe it at all.

When will this happen? How do we become a Zion people?
When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. (Isaiah 4:4)
This washing away the filth refers to baptism, which washes away our sins. The purging by the spirit of judgment and burning means receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, which acts like a purifying fire. Over the course of our faithful lives, the Holy Ghost works upon us to refine our dispositions and desires. I know this is real, because I have felt it in my life. I have noticed characteristics of myself that have become better than they were before because of the influence of the Holy Ghost.

Here's some examples of people working toward Zion-type communities.

Some have built a bit of Zion in New York City’s Harlem. (BYU Magazine, Fall 2008 issue)

Or take this section from a BYU Magazine article “Standing in Holy Places” from the Summer 2000 issue about the Jerusalem Center community:
On a typical evening at the center, some of the students are squirreled away in their rooms or in the library; some are writing e-mail. But others gather for a game of Trivial Pursuit on a landing, a study group in a classroom, or a trip by sherut (taxi van) to buy ice cream on Ben Yehuda street in the "new" city. There may be swing dancing instruction on the stage and aerobics, folk dancing classes, or basketball tournaments in the gym. Anyone is welcome at any activity, and a passerby never lacks an invitation to join the fun.

"It's been very interesting being a part of this group," says Adam P. Ash, a BYU zoology major from Mesa, Ariz. "They throw you together, and you don't have any choice of who you're going to be with. Yet sometimes I feel this is what God wants us to learn—He wants us to be able to get along with every kind of person."

Whatever else it might be, the Jerusalem Center is a laboratory for building Zion, in the "of one heart and one mind" sense (see Moses 7:18). For all their diversity in age and experience, and for all their simple human faults, the students are fundamentally of one heart and one mind. Seemingly without exception they want to be good. They come to Jerusalem desiring to know more of Christ, and they help each other know Him.

"As I watch people in my classes, I see attributes and characteristics that I strive for," says Shawn G. DuBravac, a BYU international development major from Alexandria, Va. "I think that's one of the great advantages to living with so many people, so close. I live next door to my role model when it comes to love. And I live across the hall from my example of humility. And so as I'm in the city learning about Jesus Christ, I'm also witnessing all those miracles that He performed, in each one of us. I'm witnessing people who have humility like the child Christ talked about. And I'm witnessing people who live that new commandment and love one another and show that they are His disciples."

It may be relatively easy to imitate Christ in the center's setting. For one thing, the program eliminates many of the variables that typically divide people. Everyone's meals and living conditions are identical. No one, typically, is fluent in the dominant local languages. Everyone has a calling in the LDS branch or a responsibility in the student government. Everyone travels to the same places and has roughly the same opportunities.

The program also eliminates many of the social distractions that might interfere with opportunities for service and growth. Though students sometimes come with a sibling or a best friend, no one has a pre-set clique. No one, except sometimes the children of faculty, has a parent to go home to. Though plenty of sweethearts get left at home and some people do, therefore, receive affectionate correspondence, no one ever has a "date." Dating of any kind is forbidden, though groups often produce several eventual marriages.

Program policies definitely encourage group-mindedness—the students' little apartments are shared by four people, and no one can leave the center without at least two companions. Concern for each other soon becomes instinctive. Whether sloshing through Hezekiah's Tunnel, clambering in predawn darkness up the steps of Mount Sinai, or trudging up the Mount of Olives toward the center, someone always waits for the straggler.

"You're never alone, and I think this is an amazing experience because of that," says Audrey A. Bastian, a BYU history major from Provo. "I think, in the end, I changed because of the people around me." Bastian came to Jerusalem for a semester in 1997 and returned in 1999 for the intensive Arabic program. On her first trip "we bonded so tightly that I was not only able to learn about this land and the Bible and religion, but I was able to put it into practice in a very close-range setting," she says. "That was the magic of the program for me." (http://magazine.byu.edu/print.php?a=134)
Or how about this section of the article “New Life in Old Nauvoo” from BYU Magazine’s Spring 2002 issue?
It is Friday afternoon, and after a morning visit to Winter Quarters and a few hours on the bus, students kick through fallen leaves on Spring Hill in Adam-ondi-Ahman, Mo. Scraggly tree branches cast shadows across the leaves and grasses and a light breeze comes from the direction of the sun and the Grand River on the other side of the valley. At the crest of the hill, students study a plaque, survey the landscape, and talk about Adam-ondi-Ahman. A few gather around Jerry C. Roundy, '60, one of their professors, and ask questions about what happened here and what will happen here. Others laugh and joke. Cameras come out and someone pulls Roundy into their photo.

Cameras are well used in the Nauvoo program. Students photograph historical sites, displays in museums, sculptures, and—mostly—each other. "We've become family," says Jessica D. Smith, '03, from Meridian, Idaho. "We do everything together: we study together, we eat together, we go outside and play together. We've become really close—even the teachers."

The structure and facilities of the program, combined with the social environment of a small town, foster such a tight-knit community. One building houses student and faculty dormitories, the cafeteria, classrooms, the game room, the library, and computer labs. And everyone is studying the same thing. All students take Church history and the Nauvoo teachings of Joseph Smith. With only half a dozen other classes to choose from, students share homework woes, test agony, and study groups.

Through skills learned in the Nauvoo Pioneer Life class, students also share a new hobby. In front of TVs, at firesides, and on the bus, students—both male and female—pull out needles and yarn and knit or crochet scarves, mittens, blankets, caps, and leper bandages. They call it the Grandma Club.

"Basically we don't want any of our friends back home to see what we do here on Friday nights," says Melissa Horsley, '03, from Burley, Idaho, of the Grandma Club activities.

The wives of a couple of the professors have become valuable resources for Grandma Club projects, and all of the faculty and their spouses regularly offer counsel, friendship, and listening ears.

"It's fun to be on a personal relationship with the professors," says Mark N. Stevenson, from Orem, Utah. "They're not afraid to give you a hug or sit with you at lunch and talk. I feel like they're a part of my life, not just professors."

"Going to Joseph Smith Academy is like going to school with your grandparents—really cool grandparents," says Melanie D. Lenehan, '03, a math education major from Cameron Park, Calif. Those grandparents include professors and the missionaries that work in the academy cafeteria as well as some 100 other senior couples that serve missions in Nauvoo. (http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=984)
What can you do to help build Zion?
Thursday, March 19, 2009 1 comments

Oh, What Songs of the Heart?

Today I was reading a familiar verse and I saw it a different way.
For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads. (Doctrine & Covenants 25:12)
One of the things that hit me differently was that phrase “song of the heart”. Often I have had a vague idea that this means something about a song going through the mind. But in singing hymns, this interpretation doesn’t help us much; rather, it is almost like permission not to sing. (“I don’t have to sing; the Lord knows I have a song in my heart.”)

This time when I read “song of the heart”, my mind somehow turned it into “hearty song”, which gives it a much more helpful meaning for hymn singing in church. The Lord delights in hearty songs and hearty singing, singing with gusto and enthusiasm. None of this half-mouthed, lily-livered whispering business.

The next thing that struck me is that phrase “the song of the righteous is a prayer”. I’ve known some good people to sing some songs that haven’t been very…um… righteous. (And would the Lord consider it a prayer if I sang the song “I’m a Juvenile Delinquent” that goes to the tune of “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy”? I don’t think so.) Something more is needed to understand this.

This time the phrase “song of the righteous” seemed to transform itself in my mind into “righteous song”. This makes perfect sense in the context of the sentence. The righteous song is certainly a prayer to God, expressing sentiments of faith, a bright hope for the future, praise of God’s holy character and power, desires for repentance, appreciation for Christ’s redemptive sufferings, teaching correct principles, conveying histories of faithful Saints, and so on. Surely these are the kinds of songs that a righteous person would be disposed to sing.

And we’re promised that those prayers in righteous songs will be answered with blessings. Of course they would be!

This is the reason that we always sing hymns in our church meetings. Sing out!

Some Quotations on Patience

I’ve been gathering some ideas about patience. From Elder Neal A. Maxwell:
Patience is not only a companion of faith but is also a friend to moral agency. Inside our impatience there is sometimes an ugly reality: we are plainly irritated and inconvenienced by the need to make allowances for the agency of others. In our impatience we would override others, even though it is obvious that our individual differences and preferences are so irretrievably enmeshed with each other, that the only resolution which preserves agency is for us to be patient and long-suffering with each other. ("Patience and the Law of the Harvest.")
Michaela here. That seems like a very important idea—patience is a friend to moral agency (which we take to mean “freedom to choose”). Patience allows choice, but that’s not the end of it. If you see the name of the article that this quotation came from, you see that patience is also related to the law of the harvest (a.k.a. the long term consequences), meaning that it often takes patience to see the long-term consequences of choices we and others make. It takes time and patience to see the results of the efforts we make to nurture people. It also takes time and patience to see that breaking the commandments ultimately does bring misery and keeping the commandments brings happiness and blessedness.

From Elder Franklin D. Richards (Conference Report April 1968):
In periods of health, prosperity, and well-being, we are inclined to overlook the importance of patience and are apt to become impatient. It is well to remember, however, that there are many hazards connected with impatience. One of the greatest is that of overextending one's self-physically, mentally, financially, or in many ways.

In 1828 the Lord, in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, said, "Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength. . . ." (D&C 10:4.)

By exercising patience, we will not be inclined to run faster or labor more than our strength justifies.
Me again. So, impatience can cause mental and physical exhaustion and debt. Interesting. Back to Elder Richards...
In this regard, an adage that has been particularly helpful and inspirational to me is: "Survey large fields, but cultivate small ones." Often we want to cultivate large fields before we are properly prepared and equipped to do so.
So it seems that we must have a profound knowledge of our own capabilities AND limits in order to plan as properly and patiently as Elder Richards suggests. He continues:
Concentrating on an immediate task while envisioning and planning for extensive growth requires genuine patience, and patience is very essential to sound growth and development.
Oh man, do I ever need help with this. It’s one of the things I have terrible troubles with. I get brilliant ideas for enormous projects and get all excited about them, and then I realize that I don’t have time for them. It is absolutely agonizing to me when I realize I have to wait until I actually have time before I get started on that shiny new project. And this is usually when I have about five or six other projects that I have previously placed on the back burner! I keep saying to myself, “If I just do a little bit on it at a time, I can do it.” And inevitably, my enthusiasm wanes at some point and then the project remains at a bare beginning. Most of my projects are of a literary nature and are extensive in scope. Ideas for non-fiction, ideas for novels, ideas for short stories, ideas for posts on this blog…
One way to develop patience and to make it a positive force is to carefully plan our activities and set realistic objectives and goals. Sound planning requires meditation, patience, and prayer. President McKay has frequently referred to the great benefits…derived from meditation.
This reminds me of an interesting thing I read that President Eisenhower once said, which went something like this: the important things are rarely urgent and the urgent things are rarely important.

So, to be committed to the important things, you frequently have to take the initiative and work them into your schedule with the expectation that your efforts will be rewarded in time. And because the important things are rarely urgent, they are like indications of God’s patience with us, waiting for us to commit to them.
Frequently, patience is developed when coupled with repentance: a changing of one's attitude, a controlling of one's temper, or some other corrective action. But patience combined with prayer, repentance, faith, and works will overcome obstacles of every nature.

Patience means persevering, and persevering means work—mental and physical.
Maybe the persevering part is where I get hung up.
President Grant used to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: "That which we persist in doing becomes easy to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our power to do it has increased." …. [B]e not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. (Doctrine & Covenants 64:33.)
I suppose that when we carefully budget our time and energy to the things that most matter, we can avoid getting too tired of doing good things. I just wish I could remember not to get impatient with those small, laying-the-foundation things!

So, what have I learned from these quotes? I've learned a lot actually:
  • A patient person allows others to make choices.
  • A patient person looks for and is aware of long term consequences.
  • Prosperity, health, and well-being can actually increase our impatience.
  • Patience helps keep us from exhausting ourselves and our bank accounts.
  • Patience requires attention to both immediate tasks and long-term planning.
  • Patience requires meditation and reflection.
  • The non-urgent yet important things in our lives are manifestations of God’s patience with us.
  • Patience comes through repentance.
  • Patience takes work.
  • Having patience and not over-extending ourselves prevents us from becoming weary of well-doing.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 0 comments

I want patience NOW!!!

I am trying to understand patience right now, because I feel I need more of it. I've been kind of impatient with myself and a few others lately, so this post is for my own good.

Patience is defined as the ability to tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

Now let's see what Paul says about patience:
We glory in tribulations . . . knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience, and experience, hope. (Romans 5:3-4.)
I think it is very interesting that Paul says that tribulation “worketh” patience. I see that word as meaning two different things—1) that it means tribulation brings about patience and 2) that tribulation exercises patience.

I remember my Mom telling me something when I was growing up that I found kind of fearsome, but which I now know perfectly fits in with this. She told me, “When I felt I needed to become more patient, I prayed for it, and Heavenly Father gave me experiences that required that I be more patient.” It is easy to think this is kind of spiritually masochistic. Why would anyone want to pray for patience knowing that they would be given experiences that would stretch them and try their patience more? I think that in order to do this we really have to have a strong trust and faith in our Heavenly Father that He doesn’t want us to fail, especially when we have prayed to acquire a godly character trait. I feel that He will not give us something unfamiliar that is beyond our capacity, but something that we know about. Also, when we pray sincerely for something like patience, if afterward we are alert to notice when we need to be patient, then we become more involved and prepared for those stretching experiences and we can rejoice in them (“Look! I see how Heavenly Father answered my prayer for patience! He heard me! He loves me!”), even glorying in our tribulations, as Paul so provocatively suggested in the above scripture.

One very practical way that we need to cultivate patience is in financial matters. It takes patience to save for what we want, and impatience to have it now leads us into debt. How much of our nation’s current financial crisis could have been averted if people had been willing to save for at least a down payment? And how much could have been averted if people had decided to not buy something unless they could pay cash for it? (Sounds revolutionary, huh?) My husband and I would really like to find a nice house to buy. We've been renting for four years and we rented through the bubble. Now that prices are coming down we need even more patience so that we can study the options and make a wise choice, one that is not driven by the excitement of dropping prices. We looked at the end of 2008 and we decided to wait more. But it's difficult, especially when our real estate agent continues to send us emails about houses for sale.

As Paul wrote in the scripture above, patience brings experience, which brings hope. How does this happen? When our patience is tried and eventually is rewarded, we have gained positive experience with it (which is also a testimony of it), which encourages us to be patient in other similar situations. As a cub scout den leader, if I can be patient with my assistant and the boys and their parents as I explain to them their responsibilities, I eventually learn that my patience is rewarded when they improve. This gives me a reason to be more patient in other areas too. I gradually gain hope that my patience will yield better results than impatience. This is how patience leads to experience, and how experience leads to hope. As a writing tutor, I've learned that patient explanations work better than impatient ones. As a wife, I've learned that patient requests of my husband work better than impatient ones.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin wrote about how Christ is the perfect example of patience:
Though absolutely unyielding in adherence to the truth, he exemplified patience repeatedly during his mortal ministry. He was patient with his disciples, including the Twelve, despite their lack of faith and their slowness to recognize and understand his divine mission. He was patient with the multitudes as they pressed about him; with the woman taken in sin; with those who sought his healing power; and with little children. Finally, he remained patient through the sufferings of his mock trials and his crucifixion. (Finding Peace in Our Lives, “Patience, a Key to Happiness” chapter)
Are you brave enough to pray for patience?
Monday, March 9, 2009 3 comments

Lessons from the Washing of Feet


5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. (John 13:4-8)
I suppose we can pretty well understand Peter’s feelings about the Savior getting down on his knees and washing everybody’s feet. “This is Christ! He shouldn’t have to do this!” No wonder Peter first refused to let Christ wash his feet. “I can wash my own feet. I’ll save you the trouble.”

I have always thought it was peculiar that Christ told Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”

One answer to this puzzle comes a little later in the same chapter.
12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. (John 13:12-16)
Christ considered Himself the servant of all, and so He wanted to make sure that none of the apostles considered themselves too great to serve. If they thought they were too great to serve, they would miss out on the same blessings and satisfaction that Christ got out of serving and they would alienate themselves from Him.

Another answer comes from examining the effect of Peter’s attitude, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” Rejecting the Savior when He wants to do something for you is no light matter. Reject Christ when He is present, and how can you possibly accept His Spirit, which can be almost imperceptible in a noisy world? Reject offers of help from people, and how can you be in the humble frame of mind to accept invitations and impressions from the Spirit that offer help and bring you to have greater part with Christ?

Another answer lies in the unifying effect of service. Although the apostles could have washed their own feet, by allowing Christ to wash them, they learned how much Christ loved them (enough to do a rather dirty and low-status job). This love could make them one.

I have found that this is true. When I get to help people, I feel more one with them. And similarly, when people offer to help me, if I allow them to help, I feel one with them.

Let’s have the humility to give and accept help.

Image from www.stmatthewsonline.org/2009%20Easter.htm
Friday, March 6, 2009 0 comments

Things everybody should do at least once in their life

  • Read the entire Bible
  • Read the entire Book of Mormon
  • Find some missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and listen to what they have to say.
  • Go to a church service of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to see what it is like. (This is easier if you go with a friend who is also a member.)
  • Take a guided tour of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Keep this in mind for when you happen to be in the area.)
Why do I say that everybody should do these things at least once in their lives? To build awareness and for the positive effect they have.

I think everyone should read the Bible at least once so to have an idea of the foundations of Christianity. The four gospels are particularly sublime. If reading takes too much time, you can download MP3s from here and listen during free moments. You can listen in your car, and use commuting time. Did you know that by listening for 30 minutes a day you can get through the New Testament in 40 days?

The other things I have listed are things that I feel are helpful to understand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also commonly called Mormons).

Why read the Book of Mormon? We Latter-day Saints testify that this book is a second witness of Jesus Christ. It was translated from ancient writings on gold plates unearthed from a hill in upstate New York back in the 1800s. Just from an archeological standpoint, this is absolutely breathtaking. Everyone should read the Book of Mormon at least once to see what the big deal is. Reading it will also give some profound insights as to how Latter-day Saints view the world, since we read it as much and quote it as much as we do the Bible. (You can request a free copy here; just scroll to the bottom of the webpage. You can choose to have it sent by post or brought to you personally by missionaries.)

Why would it be helpful to listen to the LDS missionaries if you believe in Christ? The missionaries work with people to prepare them for baptism into the church by teaching them principles of the gospel. There are many people who don’t even know that they belong in our church until they hear those teachings, and then they realize it is what they were always searching for deep down inside. How do you know that you don’t belong in it too unless you find out more about it? It may be what you’ve always wanted.

Another reason for talking to the missionaries is that at some point you will probably run into them anyway and they will want to talk to you. I suspect that many people are caught off guard by these sudden encounters, and so they don’t know what to say, or they don’t want to talk about religion, and this makes them very uncomfortable. You can minimize your discomfort by having a few questions prepared in advance for them about something you have always wondered about concerning religion.

Why should you go to at least one LDS church service? To see what it is like. LDS church services are very similar in format across the entire church. This site can help you find the closest church building to where you live and the time of meeting, and this site can let you know what to expect when you attend. One thing you may find helpful to know ahead of time is that when they pass the sacrament, they offer it to everybody, and they will offer it to you too. They are not doing this to make you feel uncomfortable, they just don’t know that you don’t belong to the church. (There are sometimes new members that have moved in or members that are visiting in a different congregation than the one they usually go to.) It’s okay to refuse; it won’t cause offense.

Why should everyone take a guided tour of Temple Square in Salt Lake City? Why Temple Square? Because it is so central to the church. Church headquarters is there, and there are so many LDS-church-associated sites within a two block radius of Temple Square that any one can gain an incredibly wide view of the church and what it does. This map shows what sites are in the area.

If you can work it in, I can also recommend the Beehive House, the Museum of Church History and Art, a tour of Welfare Square, and a performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Don’t worry, admission to all of these is free.

So why have I pointed these things out as important for everyone? Because they form the basis of a well-rounded exposure to a religion—sacred texts, doctrines, teachers, worship meetings, general organization, and important places. All of these experiences add perspective and understanding in a way that nothing else can.

But more than the exposure and the awareness that these things can give, the most important thing that I hope for is that these things can have an effect upon you, that they will influence you for good. And they will, if you let it happen.

I have noticed that there are a lot of people who are afraid of being influenced by anything or anyone. Perhaps it is all the advertising, and we don’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of knowing that they affected us.

What do we fear? It must be that we fear that an entity that can influence us will have power over us and force us to do things we don’t want to do or hurt us somehow. But does a good influence force? Does a good influence hurt? Maybe it stretches a little and asks for more good than you are used to. Maybe you become aware that you have some room to improve and that makes the ego shrink a bit, but it only hurts inside when you’re unwilling to follow.

Life is full of influences and we can’t distance ourselves from all of them. If we were to become uninfluence-able we become incapable of receiving guidance from anyone, whether good or evil, which is a thing impossible. If good influences can’t reach someone, then evil has the ascendency in them, and if bad influences can’t get to them, then good has the upper hand in them. It must be one or the other. The best thing we can do for ourselves is put ourselves under as many positive influences as we can and crowd out the bad.

The things I have listed are good influences. I share my ideas here because I also want to be a good influence and point people towards what will bring happiness and joy.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 1 comments

Fullness of the Earth - An Unusual Blessing of Keeping the Sabbath

Here’s an interesting blessing that is given to Sabbath-keepers in the Doctrine & Covenants:
13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full….
15 And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
17 Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
18 Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
19 Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
20 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments. (Doctrine & Covenants 59:13,15-21)
I read these verses today out loud to my husband as part of our family scripture study and I began to wonder how keeping the Sabbath holy could bring us the fullness of the earth. In my mind it didn’t seem like those two were logically connected in any way. (Usually I’ve found that most blessings are logically connected with the commandments they are attached to, so I always look for that so I can understand the commandments better.)

I brought it to my husband attention and asked him about it, and I thought about it, and then the next time I read through again, my eye happened to catch something.

…And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances…

It hit me that keeping the Sabbath holy involves a lot of giving thanks to God, and when we notice our blessings and express gratitude liberally (especially for the spiritual opportunities of the Sabbath), we feel those things are more valuable to us and our contentment grows. In this way, we find ourselves feeling rich, as if we have everything. We become more sensitive to how the Lord works in our lives. We also appreciate the material goods we have and feel content.

Blessings of Keeping the Sabbath

9 And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
10 For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High.
11 Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times; (Doctrine & Covenants 59:9-11)
These verses teach us that going to the house of prayer (church) and offering up sacraments (prayers and taking the sacrament) on the Lord’s holy day (Sunday) keeps us more pure from the sins of the world than if we didn’t.

Why is this?

I suspect it is because doing these things fulfills some spiritual laws that secure us from a good many temptations that we would fall prey to if we didn’t.

Meeting together makes it possible for us to nourish each other with the word of God through talks and lessons. The Savior told Peter to “feed my sheep”, and that is done with gospel doctrine.

Offering up meaningful prayers on the Sabbath (and on other days) helps us by not only calling the blessings of heaven down on us as individuals, but helps us develop love for others when we call down blessings on those around us. Also, when a whole congregation prays silently for the same things that the vocal prayer-giver asks for, the combined faith is stronger, the blessings greater, and the Spirit is given in greater measure. This helps us keep more unspotted from the world, because it puts us further in God’s territory and more acquainted with His goodness. The better we know Him, the more we will want to be like Him. The more we want to be like Him, the more we will want to repent and the less attractive sin will seem.

Offering up our sacraments can mean that priesthood holders prepare and bless the sacrament and it can also refer to all those who take the sacrament. Taking the sacrament renews the covenant of baptism to follow Christ and keep His commandments. It is offering a renewed promise to God that we will forsake sin. This will help us keep from being spotted by the world. God’s promise to us is that we will have His Spirit to be with us always if we try to remember Him always. This is an extra aid to help us resist temptation.

I really look forward to taking the sacrament each week. I notice the effect that it has on me, and it is different from any other time that I eat a piece of bread or drink a little bit of water. It is really subtle, but over a period of years I’ve noticed how I am affected by taking the sacrament worthily. I feel like I want to be a little kinder. I’m more open and interested in listening to spiritual messages. I feel like I want to contribute in the discussions and say something edifying.

Back to the topic. How does resting from our labors on Sunday help keep us unspotted from the world? The Sabbath is a day to put aside the work of the week. We get a break. It is a lot easier to do what I have to do during the week when I am rested and relaxed. When I am tired and cranky, I have a hard time getting myself to do my homework or help other people or work on chores around the house. I just want to vegetate. I also have a hard time working up the energy to keep the commandments as fully as I know I should. When we are weak and tired, our defenses are down and Satan will try especially hard to overpower us with temptations. He may tempt with sins of commission or with sins of omission. Resting on the Sabbath from work renews our strength for the rest of the week.

However, refraining from the week’s work is not enough to constitute keeping the Sabbath. The Sabbath is also for paying our devotions to the Most High. It’s not just at church, it’s for the whole day. It’s for studying and learning about the gospel (preparing for next week’s church lessons), strengthening ties with family with good conversation, praying about things you need help with, thinking, writing in your journal, etc. It’s not about entertaining yourself, it has to be consciously or subconsciously directed to God.
13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 58:13-14)
How does this help keep us unspotted from the world? It strengthens us in our knowledge of what is right, and strengthen our commitment to practice throughout the week what we have learned. Including our families in these efforts will unify them, which is especially needed in this age of dysfunctional families.

Some of the things I like to do on the Sabbath are the following:
Go to church
Write in my journal
Read my scriptures
Write for this blog
Talk to my husband
Call my family
Go to church choir practice
read church books
listen to hymns and uplifting classical music
go on a walk with my husband
go visiting teaching

I know that keeping the Sabbath has blessed me. I feel truly rested and rejuvenated and ready for Monday when I keep it holy.