Sunday, January 31, 2010 0 comments

Scriptural Witnesses of the Holy Ghost and its Modus Operandi

Here are scriptures that I found in the process of studying more carefully the topic of the Holy Ghost, his mission, his way of working, and the way of inviting him into our lives. I tried to group them in a logical and instructive order. Enjoy!


…the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us. (D&C 130:22)

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Cor. 6:19)

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17)

For, behold, the Comforter knoweth all things, and beareth record of the Father and of the Son. (D&C 42:17)

And thus the Gospel began to be preached, from the beginning, being declared by holy angels sent forth from the presence of God, and by his own voice, and by the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Moses 5:58)
RECEIVING THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Matt. 3:11)

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: (Matt. 3:16)

5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6)

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible (1 Peter 1:23)

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost… (2 Nephi 31:33)

65 And thus [Adam] was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man.
66 And he heard a voice out of heaven, saying: Thou art baptized with fire, and with the Holy Ghost. This is the record of the Father, and the Son, from henceforth and forever; (Moses 6:65-66)

Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God. (Alma 13:12)

But now I give unto thee a commandment, that thou shalt baptize by water, and they shall receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, even as the apostles of old. (D&C 35:6)

Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost. (D&C 84:64)

And I will lay my hand upon you by the hand of my servant Sidney Rigdon, and you shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom; (D&C 36:2)

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19)

And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them. (Mosiah 4:3)
FRUITS OF THE HOLY GHOST
…ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: (Acts 1:8)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13)

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

… and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity… (Moroni 7:44)
SPIRITUAL GIFTS
We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth. (Article of Faith 7)

For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. (1 Cor 7:7)

11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby….
27 And unto the bishop of the church, and unto such as God shall appoint and ordain to watch over the church and to be elders unto the church, are to have it given unto them to discern all those gifts lest there shall be any among you professing and yet be not of God….
29 That unto some it may be given to have all those gifts, that there may be a head, in order that every member may be profited thereby. (D&C 46:11,27,29)

But covet earnestly the best gifts… (1 Cor. 12:31)

28 And it shall come to pass that he that asketh in Spirit shall receive in Spirit;….
30 He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh. (D&C 46;28,30)

Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. (2 Tim. 1:6)

Quench not the Spirit. (1 Thes 5:19)

And again, I say unto you, all things must be done in the name of Christ, whatsoever you do in the Spirit; (D&C 46:31)
1. Know the differences of administration (tailoring mercies to the conditions)
And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men. (D&C 46:15)

And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done. (Moroni 6:9)
2. Know the diversities of operations
And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal. (D&C 46:16)

Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? (Acts 11:17)
3. & 4. Testimony and belief in testimony
13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful. (D&C 46:13-14)

…when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. (2 Nephi 33:1)

For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. (1 Thes. 1:5)
5. Prophecy
And to others it is given to prophesy; (D&C 46:22)

And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease. (Numbers 11:25)

Behold, my brethren, he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really care, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls… (Jacob 4:13)
6. & 7. Gift of tongues and gift of interpretation of tongues
For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power, by the administration of the Comforter, shed forth upon them for the revelation of Jesus Christ. (D&C 90:11)

And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues; (D&C 46:24)

And to another is given the interpretation of tongues. (D&C 46:25)

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:4)
8. & 9. & 10. Wisdom, knowledge, and working miracles
And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom. (D&C 46:17)

To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge. (D&C 46:18)

And again, to some is given the working of miracles; (D&C 46:21)

And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, (Exodus 31:3, emphasis added)
11. Gift of writing by inspiration
And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration; (Moses 6:5, emphasis added)
12. & 13. Gift of dreams and visions
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: (Joel 2:28)

…and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. (Daniel 1:17)

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, (Acts 7:55)

…the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. (Ezekiel 1:1)

And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren. (1 Nephi 5:4)
14. & 15. Faith to heal and faith to be healed
And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed; (D&C 46:19)

And to others it is given to have faith to heal. (D&C 46:20)

…the Lord God…gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them (2 Nephi 25:20)

8 And Alma said: If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.
9 And he said: Yea, I believe according to thy words.
10 And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ.
11 And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk (Alma 15:8-11)
16. Discernment
And to others the discerning of spirits. (D&C 46:23)

We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6)
17. Knowing others’ thoughts
Now Zeezrom….thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit… (Alma 12:3)
18. Doing good
And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. (D&C 11:12)

…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. (Acts 10:38)
THE MISSION OF THE HOLY GHOST

1. To motivate us to learn about God
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (1 Cor 2:10-11, emphasis added)
2. To testify of God and Christ
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: (John 15:26)
3. To glorify God
14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (John 16:14-15)
4. To testify of the truth
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:5)
5. To reprove us of sin
8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 Of sin, because they believe not on me;
10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (John 15:8-11)
6. To motivate us toward change
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? (Acts 2:37, emphasis added)
7. To promise and reveal future rewards
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Cor 2:12)
8. To teach and enlighten us
Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them (Nehemiah 9:20)

Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. (D&C 8:2)

Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth; (D&C 6:15)

Calling on the name of the Lord for the Comforter, which shall teach them all things that are expedient for them— (D&C 75:10, emphasis added)
9. To move us to speak gratitude & praise to God
…then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel. (2 Nephi 31:13, emphasis added)
10. To give utterance to your witness and declaration of repentance
And it shall come to pass, that if you shall ask the Father in my name, in faith believing, you shall receive the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance, that you may stand as a witness of the things of which you shall both hear and see, and also that you may declare repentance unto this generation. (D&C 14:8)

Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. (Matt. 12:18)

But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. (Micah 3:8)

Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;( D&C 121: 43)
11. To help us teach others
Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Cor. 2:13)

But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. (Mark 13:11)

For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say. (Luke 12:12)

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:21)

And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach. (D&C 42:14)

Behold, I say unto thee, Oliver, that it shall be given unto thee that thou shalt be heard by the church in all things whatsoever thou shalt teach them by the Comforter, concerning the revelations and commandments which I have given. (D&C 28:1)

And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. (D&C 68:4)

…they shall believe on his words, which are given him through me by the Comforter… (D&C 21:9, emphasis added)
12. To facilitate our comprehension
And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God. (Moses 1:27, emphasis added)
13. To help us remember truth previously learned
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall…bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26, emphasis added)
14. To teach us mysteries
For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:19)

God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now; (D&C 121: 26)
15. To show us things to come (foretelling)
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (John 16:13, emphasis added)
16. To show us what to do
For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do. (2 Nephi 32:5)

Go your way whithersoever I will, and it shall be given you by the Comforter what you shall do and whither you shall go. (D&C 31:11)

And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. (1 Nephi 4:6)

For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day. (D&C 45:57, emphasis added)
CHARACTERISTICS THAT INVITE THE SPIRIT
And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God. (Moroni 8:26, emphasis added)

… let him be humble before me, and be without guile, and he shall receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things, and shall give him, in the very hour, what he shall say. (D&C 124:97, emphasis added)

But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive… (John 7:39, emphasis added)

And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. (Acts 5:32, emphasis added)

Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him; (D&C 76:116, emphasis added)

And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. (D&C 76:53, emphasis added)
Friday, January 29, 2010 2 comments

Ammon, Lamoni, and Lamoni’s Father: Unexpected Obstacles Can Further Missionary Work

Yesterday my husband and I were reading the chapter about when Ammon and Lamoni go to deliver Ammon’s brethren from prison. I always thought it was very odd that Ammon was prompted to not go to see Lamoni’s father but that when he goes to Middoni to get his brothers out of prison, they meet Lamoni’s father anyway! This seemed kind of contradictory to me that the Lord would tell Ammon to not go see a person and then make it so that he meets him after all.

I was thinking about this today and I realized that in the larger scheme of things, by allowing the events to happen as they did, the Lord actually was setting the stage for the conversion of Lamoni’s father. Remember that Lamoni straightway wanted to go show Ammon to his father. (“See who I met! Look what I learned! Listen to him and be converted too!”) While Lamoni’s feelings were perfectly natural—what convert doesn’t immediately want to share what they found with their nearest and dearest?—following those inclinations would certainly have set up an awkward situation. The scene that played out in the road between Lamoni, his father, and Ammon would have have occurred in more unfavorable conditions and Lamoni would certainly have felt frustrated and stymied from it if that had been his main reason for seeing his father.

But by giving Ammon and Lamoni a mission to accomplish that didn’t involve conversion, the Lord could bring Lamoni’s father to them, and with that as the bigger concern, discussion of religion would be a “by the way” bonus and the interaction would be more natural and genuine.

I think Heavenly Father also knew that Lamoni’s father needed to be softened up in a similar way to Lamoni and his servants. The Lamanites, a fierce and warlike culture, considered fighting prowess to be the most impressive characteristic a man could have. The better a fighter you were, the more they would respect you. Heavenly Father used this bit of information and began missionary work among the Lamanites by creating a new association in the minds of the Lamanites—associating fighting prowess with God, faith, and religion. He used the same thing with Lamoni’s father. For the first time, Lamoni’s father saw superior strength and fighting prowess associated with saving souls, love of his son, mercy, having no guile, and the Spirit of the Lord. Not only this, but he heard everything that Ammon had done that led to Lamoni’s conversion. (He didn’t accept it initially, but with sufficient time to think after the encounter, those ideas began to sink deeper into his heart.)

The Lord allowed Lamoni’s father to be an obstacle for Lamoni and Ammon to overcome, knowing that this victory would be enough to impress Lamoni’s father and make him more receptive. Interestingly enough, Ammon and Lamoni were going to liberate the very missionaries that would later teach the gospel to Lamoni’s father.

Something I learn from this is that each person has a characteristic or a skill that they particularly respect. We may not know what it is, but Heavenly Father does, and to bring the gospel to His children, He may maneuver us into situations in which we demonstrate how that respected idea is associated with the gospel.

Something else I learned from this was that the unexpected obstacles we may suddenly run into can actually be part of the Lord’s plan, preparing the way for future missionary success. So, when we suddenly face opposition in choosing the right or helping others, we can keep this in mind. Stand up for what’s right! Stick to your guns! You never know if you may be playing Ammon or Lamoni’s part in a similar scenario that may eventually bring similar conversion results.

Another thing that occurs to me is that Lamoni’s father was particularly impressed not just by Ammon’s fighting prowess, but by his mercy and generosity when in a position of power. Ammon held the life of Lamoni’s father in his hand, and Lamoni’s father knew it. Lamoni’s father probably thought that Ammon would do what he himself would have done in the same situation—extract as much benefit as possible because the chance wouldn’t come again. Lamoni’s father considered Ammon’s mercy as completely undeserved. Further, he would consider Ammon’s unselfish requests highy unusual when Ammon could have asked for so much more. Whether or not Ammon or Lamoni’s father realized it, when Ammon was merciful and generous, he became a type of Christ, an object lesson for Lamoni’s father so that he could begin to understand the mercy and generosity of God in the face of his own undeserving position.
Monday, January 25, 2010 1 comments

Charis Southwell, Mormon poetess

Charis Southwell is one of those Mormon poetesses who has been forgotten by time. She won several prizes at BYU for her poetry. She died quite young of Lupus. A while back, I stumbled onto a website her brother William made on which he put many of her poems.

Her poems, a number of which deal with her faith, use fresh imagery and eschew cliché without seeming so in love with words that they forget to be accessible.

For the purpose of this blog, I am linking to her more devotional poems, but I hope you will also consider the others listed here.

Here’s to give you a taste:

A position on sin

Life cannot hold back pain,
But we might, if we wished
That moment before the flame,
Like the moth, before its wings expire
Consumed by surrender to desire.
But a promise I can't dream to name
Waits for restraint. I seek light higher
And trade the gold-warm candle flame
For an eternal sea of glass and fire

---------

His guilt injured mind

Advent

We are afraid. We are afraid

The power of God touches the reaches of space

Exercise in believing

The Conference

The Restoration

The gilded wheel spinning in the sun spiral
Friday, January 22, 2010 3 comments

Ananias and Sapphira: No room for distrust in consecration

1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. (Acts 5:1-5)
This is rather an alarming story. It’s alarming nature stems from the fact that the punishment (death) of this fellow Ananias (and later his wife Sapphira) seems to us to be far out of proportion to the sins committed—selfishness, lying to the Holy Ghost, and lying to God. Because of this, it behooves us to carefully study this story to understand exactly why Ananias incurred the wrath of God to such an extent so that we can avoid making the mistakes he made.

It might help us to first make some observations about this story. We must make sure that we see the events with an eye of faith. This will put us in a frame of mind to understand the higher wisdom of God in it.

First, I observe that Peter knew by the Holy Ghost and the spiritual gift of discernment all about what Ananias had done. Peter could have let it pass, but he didn’t. The intelligence Peter received seemed to have come with the conviction that it was his responsibility to confront Ananias with the truth to show him that God knew all about what Ananias was doing and that Ananias couldn’t put one over God or his apostles.

Second, I observe that Peter did not call down any sort of curse on Ananias. He asked Ananias why he had thought of doing it. "[W]hy hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?.... why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart?" (Acts 5:3-4)

Peter’s words suggest that the Holy Ghost had been working on Ananias to give the full price of his possessions to the apostles and Satan had been working on him to withhold part, and that Ananias had yielded to the temptation and had rationalized (told rational lies) to justify his actions to himself.

The question that will no doubt come to all of us about Ananias’s deeds is “Sure, it is great to give all your possessions to the church, but what is so bad about deciding to only give half?”

The answer can only come if we understand the nature of the offering Ananias was pretending to make. We are very used to the idea of offerings when you give as much as you feel inclined to. However, this doesn’t seem to be the type Ananias was making. He seems to have been pretending to make an offering of consecration, of the strictest all-or-nothing variety.

Something I realized as I looked closely a few verses in the chapter just before this story is that the early church’s consecration was carried out quite similarly to the method of consecration revealed to Joseph Smith.

Here’s the revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1831:
30 And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken.
31 And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me; and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church and his counselors, two of the elders, or high priests, such as he shall appoint or has appointed and set apart for that purpose.
32 And it shall come to pass, that after they are laid before the bishop of my church, and after that he has received these testimonies concerning the consecration of the properties of my church, that they cannot be taken from the church, agreeable to my commandments, every man shall be made accountable unto me, a steward over his own property, or that which he has received by consecration, as much as is sufficient for himself and family.
33 And again, if there shall be properties in the hands of the church, or any individuals of it, more than is necessary for their support after this first consecration, which is a residue to be consecrated unto the bishop, it shall be kept to administer to those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants. (D&C 42:30-33, emphasis added)
Those who desired to consecrate their properties were to lay everything in front of the bishop, who was acting in the stead of God, to receive their offering. The offering was to be a tangible testimony from the saint symbolizing their knowledge that everything belonged to the Lord.

Here’s how it was done in the New Testament:
32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common….
34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. (Acts 4:32,34-35)
I’m going to rearrange the order of some of those elements to make it more clear. Here’s my ultra-unofficial version:
32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own;
34 for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need; so they had all things common, Neither was there any among them that lacked.
These were the circumstances in the church at the time of Ananias’s story. Maybe Ananias felt like he was under a little bit of social pressure to do what others were doing. We’ve already noted that the Holy Ghost had also been working on Ananias in this respect. Perhaps he felt like he was being forced. If he was being forced, any of us can understand why he might try to hold something back for himself.

However, Peter tells Ananias that force had never entered into the case. “Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?” (Acts 5:4) To me this suggests that Ananias had had a choice to consecrate or not and that he wouldn’t have been penalized if he had chosen not to. It also suggests that he could have given it in part of he wanted to, as long as he hadn’t pretended to completely give it all. There had to be something about laying it at the apostles’ feet that ceremonially implied that he was giving it all.

Another thing that we have to remember about this act of laying everything at the apostles’ feet is that once all was given, it was the apostles’ turn to give back--“distribution was made unto every man according as he had need” (Acts 4:35). Everyone received their stewardship as though from the hands of God. It would take strong faith to give everything you had and trust that the apostles would be both fair and charitable and counsel with you to make sure you were given everything you needed. It would take great discipline of mind and heart to be content, to refrain from envy.

With this in mind, we begin to see Ananias’s fault. He wanted to look like he was giving it all without actually doing it. And he lay only part of his possessions at the apostles’ feet, expecting that they would distribute a stewardship to him afterwards. He didn’t give it all because he didn’t trust that he would be given enough for his needs, so he was hedging his bets. He doubted the apostles’ generosity because he wasn’t very generous himself. He couldn’t believe in that kind of complete charity. The thing is, consecrating all you have isn’t about trusting to the mercy of man—God’s apostles. It’s about developing inner charity and trusting that God will provide for you if you have sudden needs after having given away that comforting mound of surplus. Saying you are not holding back anything from God when you really are shows distrust in God’s ability to provide, and if you are taking a covenant to consecrate and give it all, that is lying to God.

And we LDS know how high and holy the covenant of consecration is. It stands to reason that there is terrible price to be paid if that covenant is broken or taken “in vain” with feigned words.

You and I do give of all we possess to help build the kingdom. We give time, talents, and so much energy! We pay tithing, which could be seen as a minimum sum that we consecrate. We pay fast offerings, donate to temple funds, perpetual education funds, missionary funds, humanitarian aid funds, and so on. We do all of this, more or less, to greater or lesser degrees, in all varied combinations of focus. We give so much already! I wonder what is stopping us from going the rest of the way?

Nothing is really stopping us from laying our possessions at our bishop’s feet and then receiving our stewardship. Sure, it doesn’t seem to be done today, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start to do it. We just have to be willing to give it all if we do.

This story also gets me thinking. It reminds me that someday this practice of consecrating our possessions will begin again in the church. It shows me most emphatically that we cannot and will not be forced to do it. We must choose it of ourselves. It shows me that if it begins in the church and I find myself unwilling to do it myself, I should not allow myself to feel pressured to do it. It has to be a completely voluntary act to give it all and hold nothing back. There is no halfway consecration. It’s all or nothing.

Now, here’s another thought that occurred to me that was rather intriguing. This act of laying it all out on the line reminds me a little of a technique used by some professional organizers to help their clients de-clutter a room. Everything in the room is pulled out and put in the front yard and the driveway and then the client gradually puts back in the room just what they need. Of course, the client hasn’t given it all up in the beginning, and they will still need to work on letting go at the end, but all the same, it shares some elements of consecration.

So this kind of gets me thinking that it might be possible to make up an exercise for ourselves, a thought experiment if you will, to see how we would do at this if we were really to consecrate all we possessed and lay it at the feet of the bishop and his counselors. Are you up for this? Yeah, this might take some time, but the self-knowledge gained will probably make it totally worth it. Get ready to use your imagination.

First, make a list of everything you own, leaving nothing out. (Inventories are useful anyway for insurance purposes in the event your house burns down or something.)

Second, pretend you have consecrated the whole list and are laying it before your bishop. Imagine what it would be like. Imagine yourself signing a deed to transfer it to the ownership of the church. Pretend you are now completely without possessions.

Then pretend that your bishop asks you to tell him what you need as part of your stewardship. Imagine that he asks you to “go shopping” or pick out what you need from a catalogue that happens to be the list that you have just presented to him. Do you know what you need? Circle or highlight everything you have chosen from the list..

Then your bishop asks you if there is anything you need for your stewardship that is NOT listed. What would you say? Can you say exactly what it would be without hesitation?

This might be a good exercise to try for family home evening just to see what would happen. (To some it might be an exciting challenge, while to others it might seem like a test of Abrahamic proportions.) Allow each family member to help decide what they need for their stewardship. (Maybe you will find you have to teach an impromptu lesson about “greed versus unselfishness”.)

This exercise could help prepare us to do the actual deed.
Monday, January 18, 2010 3 comments

The Vital Counsel of President Monson’s “What Have I Done for Someone Today?”

We know that our prophet and apostles give us important counsel that will keep us safe from dangers we are not able to see ourselves. But it is all too easy for us to listen to their inspiring talks and fail to realize how fully they are applicable to the particular challenges of our time. For instance, when I first listened to President Monson’s talk “What Have I Done for Someone Today?”, I confess that I only heard words in character with the man who had visited 84 widows when he was bishop. It was easiest to understand his good will and think of it as the wish of a prophet who wants everybody be kind and loving to each other.

Yesterday I was reading something in a future Sunday school lesson about prophets and I suddenly had a desire to try to find out how President Monson’s talk was important for our time. There must be something there that would warn us of some sort of danger.

So I read through it again, several times. I marked it up and drew arrows and underlined and made marginal notes. And I found some very important nuggets.
The Savior taught His disciples, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:24) I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.
This is particularly important for our day because of the very difficult economic circumstances we are in. All of us who are in difficult financial circumstances are in danger of hunkering down so much that we become deaf to the subtle distress cries of others. When we can barely provide for ourselves, it is very tempting to narrow our focus and take an “every man/woman/family for himself” mentality. President Monson warns us here that if we live only for ourselves, we will shrivel up and lose our purpose and our lives.
Often we live side by side but do not communicate heart to heart. There are those within the sphere of our own influence who, with outstretched hands, cry out, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” (emphasis added)
This seems to be counsel that we need to go beyond the shallow conversation of everyday if we are to comfort those with deep hurt. Even if we can’t take away another person’s struggle, we can alleviate their loneliness and isolation, which will make life easier for them to bear. Communicating heart to heart is another way that we can escape that shriveling self-centered focus.
How often have you intended to be the one to help? And yet how often has day-to-day living interfered and you’ve left it for others to help, feeling that “oh, surely someone will take care of that need.”
We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the “thick of thin things.” In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.” (emphasis added)
Here President Monson gently counsels us to not pass the buck when we see a need that we can fill. Further, his observation about how we get caught up in our busyness and neglect more weighty matters suggests that we need to carefully evaluate our priorities. Are there duties that seem flexible which actually should not be put off? Are there duties that seem inflexible that should really have a bit more give? If two of our priorities conflict, which one wins and which one tends to lose?

This is important for our day because the struggle for survival can eat up a lot more of our time, which causes us to try to rush to fit everything else in the time that is left, when a careful examination of priorities might help us jettison the less-important time-stealers.

Blessings Promised

President Monson mentioned a number of blessings throughout his talk that would come from trying to help someone every day.

Energy and Satisfaction

Firstly, he mentions a Dr. McConnell and how this man spent 60 hours a week in volunteer work after his retirement. Dr. McConnell testified to an increased energy level and a level of satisfaction that wasn’t there before.

Aren’t those wonderful blessings? While others are worried and anxious and depressed about economy, we can be invigorated and satisfied.

Personal Growth
“…those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives”
Happiness

President Monson quoted President David O. McKay: “Man’s greatest happiness comes from losing himself for the good of others.”

No Regrets

President Monson also quoted one of his favorite poems:
I have wept in the night
For the shortness of sight
That to somebody’s need made me blind;
But I never have yet
Felt a tinge of regret
For being a little too kind.
This suggests that one of the blessings of helping someone at least every day will allow us to look upon the past without regret. For anyone who has experienced painful regrets, this is magical.

Rest

The natural man will find this a counter-intuitive blessing, but it comes from a scripture that President Monson quoted.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, emphasis added)
Divine Approval
If we truly listen, we may hear that voice from far away say to us, as it spoke to another, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
I had never thought to listen for that divine voice of approval after helping someone.

Celestial Glory
The words from the 25th chapter of Matthew come to mind:
“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:34-40, emphasis added)
While this is not an earthly reward, it shows us that those acts of service (no matter how small) have eternal consequences and help determine our destiny. This reminds me of the following scripture:
And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42)
Even Christ pointed out that there is a reward for the smallest and commonest acts of kindness and service (like giving a thirsty child a drink).

What can we do?

President Monson anticipated that we would have questions about how to provide service every day when we have troubles making it through each day as it is. He told about the notes he got from people about what they did as service to give him his birthday wish (“Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely and do something for him or her”). He listed some of the things that children and youth did:
  • Assembling humanitarian kits
  • Yard work
  • Holding grandpa’s hand
  • Organizing and cleaning the toy closet without being asked
  • Babysitting for free
  • Bringing water from the well for mother
  • Giving mother hugs and kisses while dad is away for army training
  • Picking strawberries for great-grandma
  • Playing with a lonely kid
  • Visiting a woman who never gets visitors and asking questions and singing songs
  • Making blankets for hospitals
  • Serving in food pantries
  • Vicarious temple work
I thought it was interesting that President Monson didn’t list anything that the Relief Society or priesthood groups did, but when I thought carefully, it seemed that he did this not to denigrate what adults did, but to highlight how simple our service can be.

I had an experience in BYU that showed me just how a simple act of service can be more important than I thought. One particular day in my religion class, I volunteered to give the opening prayer. The teacher called on me and asked my name and major, and after I gave that information, he surprised me by telling the class that I had a beautiful smile and that it had gotten him through the semester so far. (!!!!!) He explained that he taught another religion class just before ours, and it was hard for him to switch gears between the two, and somehow when he walked in and saw me smiling at him, it helped him. I had no idea that a smile could help so much. I had observed how often he would walk in, with his head down, and a veritable grimace distorting his features, almost as if he were in pain. I hadn’t known why. Yet when he came in, I couldn’t help smiling because I loved his class and I couldn’t wait to see what we’d learn that day. I suppose I had been smiling with anticipatory happiness, though I have no idea what it looked like, since I was on the blind end of it. I don’t remember whether it was a grin or a smirk or a “big cheese”. But it taught me that even those miniscule positive acts have their effect.

Someone that had a similar effect on me when I was teen was my friend Rachel. We had early morning seminary and it always seemed to me that she positively bounced into the room, as if there was so much energy and good spirits in her that she couldn’t hold it in. I learned a lot about cheerfulness from Rachel. A cheerful attitude is an important service to everyone.

Once again, daily acts of service to others is the only antidote for prophetically foreseen recession/depression-caused inward-spiraling preoccupation with self.

So..

What have I done for someone today?

What have you done for someone today?
Saturday, January 16, 2010 3 comments

Captain Moroni's perfect understanding

And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding (Alma 48:11, emphasis added)
These are strong words about Captain Moroni, considering all the knowledge we have today that hadn’t even been thought of in his day. Yet Mormon, a disciple of Christ, considers Captain Moroni’s understanding “perfect”.

Can we aspire to this perfect understanding? Do we need to know everything in order to have this “perfect understanding”?

Mormon elaborates on what makes up Captain Moroni’s understanding.
…yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; (Alma 48:11)
Captain Moroni understood the sanctity of life. This suggests he understood the plan of salvation.
…a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery; (Alma 48:11)
Captain Moroni understood the importance of agency. And he loved liberty not just for himself, but for his whole country.
Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; (Alma 48:12)
He had perfect understanding of all the blessings that had been bestowed not just on him, but on his people as well, and he understood exactly who he should be thankful to for those blessings. He also seems to have understood that it was okay to show his gratitude, because he allowed his heart to swell with thanksgiving, rather than trying to suppress it and choke it off.
…a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people. (Alma 48:12)
Captain Moroni understood the principle of work and he practiced it. He also had a perfect understanding of his own responsibility. He understood there was much to be done for his people’s welfare and safety. No one understood better than he his people’s precarious situation, because he labored exceedingly; there was so much to do and so little time to do it in.
Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ… (Alma 48:13)
He had a perfect understanding of the principles of the gospel and the need for Christ’s Atonement. He put his complete trust in Christ, achieving and retaining a remission of his sins and undoubtedly urging others to do the same.
…and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood. (Alma 48:13)
He had a perfect understanding of how covenants bind a person to act and how God assists his people to keep their righteous covenants, so he was willing to bind himself by covenant to defend his people, his rights, his country, and his religion, trusting that God would enable him to faithfully fulfill it even in the greatest extremity.

Based on this description, it seems that “perfect understanding” is possible and attainable. In fact, many of us are well on our way towards it! May we strive until we achieve that perfect understanding so that it can be said of us as it was said of Captain Moroni: “if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto [insert your name here], behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” (Alma 48:17)

Image: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, http://www.lds.org/hf/art/display/1,16842,4218-1-3-99,00.html.
Thursday, January 14, 2010 3 comments

Thoughts about Self-Reliance

I thought that the visiting teach message on self-reliance had a lot of things that I needed. (Incidently, I’m incredibly thrilled that the VT message has been moved to second in the magazine! Yaaaay! No more flipping frantically to try to find it!)
Self-reliance means using all of our blessings from Heavenly Father to care for ourselves and our families and to find solutions for our own problems. (Julie B. Beck)
Here’s the kicker to that simple statement: in order to use all your blessings, you have to be perfectly aware of them and be able (and willing) to leverage them. Another thing that occurs to me is that we have to get over any ideas of “I’ll just wait and the Lord will bring ______ into my life.” No, self-reliance is all about being anxiously engaged so that when the Lord brings opportunity into our lives, we will have met him halfway.
How do we become self-reliant? We become self-reliant through obtaining knowledge, education, and literacy; by managing money and resources wisely, being spiritually strong, preparing for emergencies and eventualities; and by having physical health and social and emotional well-being. (Julie B. Beck)
Notice the action words--obtaining, managing, preparing. Self-reliance has a lot to do with the principle of stewardship.

It took my husband and I six years of marriage before we learned how to build, use, and manage a budget. That was a big deal.

The last few months, my husband and I have moved our family budget to an Excel spreadsheet that I can have on my Palm Pilot. I enter in our purchases and I have set it so that it computes how much money is left in each category. This is much more convenient than having our budget on a memo when we had to compute what was left ourselves. However, I found that at the beginning of the month it was very time-consuming for me to create the next month’s budget. I didn’t know enough about Excel to know if there was any way to do it faster, so it was taking several hours. I really wished that I knew more.. but I wasn’t doing anything to find out.

Finally I realized that I needed to take responsibility and just go get a book on Excel at the library and see if I could figure some more things out. It really couldn’t be that hard. I’m a smart girl. (I’ve taken classes on at least six different programming languages, for heaven’s sake!) So I did. And I was right; there was something I could learn that cut down the time by at least 80%! And I was so excited that I set up budget sheets for the next four months to make the process even faster for myself.

Something else hit me as I was reading the message about self-reliance. I have some dreams of things I would like to do. I need to take responsibility if I’m ever going to achieve them. I love to organize and I want to help people become more organized and learn the skills they need, so I need to work on that rather than just waiting for something to happen. I have a story that I want to write, and I need to work on writing it, rather than just wishing I could write it.

The idea of preparing for emergencies and eventualities also struck me. We’ve been told by the prophets that we need to have food storage and some money saved. This is clearly meant to compensate for some of the biggest emergencies, such as losing a job or some other accident. It is impossible to plan for every emergency, but we can decrease the difficulty of the biggest ones and then all the littler ones should be covered as well. The idea of preparing for eventualities seemed singularly enlightening and showed me that yes, there are some things that we can predict will happen eventually and we can take steps to prepare for them. My husband and I are steadily building a car fund in anticipation of the day when we have to replace one of our cars. I’m starting to plan how we’re going to allocate money for this year’s vacation travel. There are any number of things that can be anticipated and planned for. Senior missions. Children going to college. Parents become too feeble to care for themselves. Funerals. How to fill time after retirement. Provision for children getting their driver’s licenses. Children going on missions. Looking ahead like this can help us gain greater vision. Planning can help us embrace the future rather than running away screaming at its mere mention.

Something else I thought about was emotional self-reliance. It takes emotional self-reliance to be able to have a good attitude even when things are hard. It’s okay to lean on others when we are weak, but we can’t lean on others permanently. It some point we have to stand on our own. Complaining prevents us from achieving this emotional self-reliance.

“Self-reliance is taking responsibility for our own spiritual and temporal welfare and for those whom Heavenly Father has entrusted to our care.” (Robert D. Hales)

Here’s some questions we can ask ourselves:

Am I waiting for my husband to suggest we have family home evening/scripture study/family prayer, or am I suggesting it myself?

Am I waiting for others to instruct me in doctrine before I learn, or am I searching the scriptures and the words of the prophets for myself?

Am I waiting for teachers to give good lessons, or am I studying the material myself?

Am I waiting for my priesthood leader to ask if I have committed a certain sin before I will confess it, or will I go to him and bring it up myself?

Am I waiting for my ancestors to appear to me before I do family history work, or will I start searching for them on my own?

Am I waiting for someone to give me extra food, or am I going to build food storage myself?

Am I waiting for the fire marshal to tell me that I need to clean up my house and get rid of stuff, or am I going to start working on getting organized myself?

Am I waiting for people to remind me of all my appointments, or will I write them on a calendar and check it each day myself?

Am I waiting to lose my job before I update my resume, or will I take care of it myself?

Am I waiting for people to tell me what jobs they want to give me, or am I looking at the options myself?

Am I waiting for others to teach my children good manners, or am I going to teach them myself?

Am I waiting for things to get so bad that my bishop and home teachers have to show me exactly how to make and use a budget, or am I going to do this myself?

Am I going to wait for someone to tell me to do my calling, or am I going to start working on it myself?

If there is a lot of things you realize you need to begin doing, try not to get stressed and overwhelmed. There is a time and a place for everything. Decide on something you will do and decide when you will do it. You can begin or increase your self-reliance in at least one thing today.
Friday, January 8, 2010 5 comments

Stewardship: A Foundational Principle of Zion

I love to organize. I have been doing it since I was very young when I used to arrange my toys carefully in the milk crate that they were stored in. Over time I learned various things about organization and various techniques, but I never really understood how the things I did fit into the framework of my religious beliefs until I really began to study the principle of stewardship. Learning about this principle opened up to me the deep ‘why’s of organization from a gospel perspective and even showed me what the purpose of it was.

I really think that in order to build Zion, we have to begin by understanding the principles upon which it is based and begin to practice them in our lives. Stewardship is one of these principles and it is something that can prepare us for Zion.

All things belong to the Lord
I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. (D&C 104:14)
This world may talk of ownership; we may say that such-and-such belongs to us, but ultimately, the Lord owns it, He gives it to us, and…

We are stewards
…every man shall be made accountable unto me, a steward over his own property, or that which he has received by consecration, as much as is sufficient for himself and family. (D&C 42:32)
For me, learning that I am a steward took away any reason to be greedy. If I’m not the one who really owns something, what am I getting competitive and covetous about? Suddenly having what I needed seemed like enough. Stewardship helped me become more content.

Everyone should have a stewardship
It is wisdom in me; therefore, a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall organize yourselves and appoint every man[, woman, and child] his stewardship; (D&C 104:11, brackets added)
There are many aspects to our stewardships. Everyone has the stewardship of time and energy to use as they think proper. There is the stewardship of our family—spouse, younger siblings, children, etc. Then there is the stewardship of space, money, property. Then there is the stewardship of our employment, educational opportunities, and church callings. There is the stewardship of our knowledge and the gospel doctrine and our testimony. There is the stewardship of our talents and abilities.

Stewardship is intended for personal development, self-improvement, and to serve others
And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church—(D&C 82:18)
Faithfulness required
Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man [, woman, and child] be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2, brackets are mine)
Thou shalt be diligent in preserving what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward; for it is the free gift of the Lord thy God, and thou art his steward. (D&C 136:27)
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order. (Mosiah 4:27)
Set in order your houses; keep slothfulness and uncleanness far from you. (D&C 90:18)
40 But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth….
42 You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments; and that wicked one hath power, as yet, over you, and this is the cause of your affliction.
43 And now a commandment I give unto you—if you will be delivered you shall set in order your own house….see that they are more diligent and concerned at home, and pray always, or they shall be removed out of their place.
(D&C 93:40,42-43, 50)
The principle of stewardship is at the foundation and so we really can’t start learning about it too early. When we teach children to clean their rooms and make their beds and do their laundry, we need to start by teaching them the principle of stewardship and explain to them what their stewardship is. Then we need to teach them how to do the tasks that are a part of their stewardship and be willing to guide them through it until they can do it on their own.
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; (D&C 88:119)
Organization allows us to be prepared. Preparation allows us to anticipate needs and plan ahead for long term needs instead of being at the mercy of circumstances.
Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion. (D&C 132:8)
123 See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.
124 Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated. (D&C 88:123-124)
These verses are not a random list of things to do that were just crammed together. They are actually a list relating to various aspects of individual stewardship, beginning with the most important aspect of interpersonal relationships.

Relationship stewardship
  • Love one another
  • Learn to impart
  • Cease to find fault
Temporal stewardship
  • Cease covetousness
  • Learn to impart
  • Cease to be idle
  • Cease to be unclean
Stewardship of our bodies
  • Cease to be unclean
  • Don’t sleep too long
  • Retire to bed early
  • Arise early
I have to add that keeping the Word of Wisdom also helps us be faithful in the stewardship of our bodies.

Faithfulness should be observed regardless of stewardship size
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. (Luke 16:10)
11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? (Luke 16:11-12)
This is why it is important for us to avoid covetousness. It is very easy want another person’s stewardship while neglecting the one we have.

We will be held accountable for our stewardship
And also, my servants who are abroad in the earth should send forth the accounts of their stewardships to the land of Zion (D&C 69:5)
And an account of this stewardship will I require of them in the day of judgment. (D&C 70:4)
Accountability and responsibility increases with the size of the stewardship
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:48)
Reward for good stewardship
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (Matthew 25:21)
And he that is a faithful and wise steward shall inherit all things. Amen. (D&C 78:22)
Punishment for bad stewardship
1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. (Luke 16:1-2)
47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. (Luke 12:47-48)
And even the bishop, who is a judge, and his counselors, if they are not faithful in their stewardships shall be condemned, and others shall be planted in their stead. (D&C 64:40)
Stewardship in church callings
7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled…not given to wine,…not given to filthy lucre;
8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. (Titus 1:7-9)
The priests and teachers shall have their stewardships, even as the members. (D&C 42:70)
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (1 Timothy 4:14)
Stewardship in government
86 Let them importune at the feet of the judge;
87 And if he heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the governor;
88 And if the governor heed them not, let them importune at the feet of the president;
89 And if the president heed them not, then will the Lord arise and come forth out of his hiding place, and in his fury vex the nation;
90 And in his hot displeasure, and in his fierce anger, in his time, will cut off those wicked, unfaithful, and unjust stewards, and appoint them their portion among hypocrites, and unbelievers; (D&C 101:86-90)
If we believe that one of our government representatives has been overstepping his authority or neglecting his stewardship, we are within our rights to call for an accounting and if they are found unfaithful, it is justice that their stewardship be taken away.

Considering issues in terms of stewardship can bring greater clarity of vision to our decision-making. I know this is true, because I have seen it in my life. When I get confused and off track it is generally because I have forgotten these principles. I know that Heavenly Father wants us to take care of our stewardships and grow in our abilities so that we can build Zion. I know that He will help us as we do our best.
Thursday, January 7, 2010 5 comments

Woman vs. Beast: Lessons from JST Revelation 12

I was reading the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible today and I started to understand some symbols that I hadn’t before.
1 And there appeared a great sign in heaven, in the likeness of things on the earth; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. (Revelation 12:1, JST, italics removed in this and all following verses)
Clothed with the sun = celestial glory (in this case it is anticipatory and looking forward to the future with an eye of faith)
The moon under her feet = terrestial kingdom in subjugation to her
Upon her head a crown of twelve stars = led by 12 apostles
(crowns always equal ruling authority)
2 And the woman being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
3 And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God and his throne.
4 And there appeared another sign in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman which was delivered, ready to devour her child after it was born. (Revelation 12:2-4, JST)
Horns = power to destroy (like a bull can gore you with its horns)
Tail = followers inseparably attached
Ready to devour her child = evil tries to take advantage of goodness, because evil is parasitic. This reminds me of the parable of the sower in which the thorns choke the seed as it springs up.
5 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore years. (Revelation 12:5, JST)
Fled = fleeing temptation
Wilderness = marginalization, difficulty, outcast
Note that even though the woman is in the wilderness, she is in a place God prepared for her, and she is still nourished. Being nourished in the wilderness evokes the story of the miracle of manna from heaven.
6 And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought against Michael;
7 And the dragon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman which was the church of God, who had been delivered of her pains, and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ.
8 Neither was there place found in heaven for the great dragon, who was cast out; that old serpent called the devil, and also called Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into earth; and his angels were cast out with him.
9 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ;
10 For the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
11 For they have overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; for they loved not their own lives, but kept the testimony even unto death. Therefore, rejoice O heavens, and ye that dwell in them. (Revelation 12:6-11, JST)
I just have to comment that the same things that allowed us to overcome Satan in the pre-mortal world will help us overcome him in the next:
  • The Atonement
  • Bearing testimony
  • Giving our lives to the truth and giving our lives for the truth
12 And after these things I heard another voice saying, Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, yea, and they who dwell upon the islands of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
13 For when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.
14 Therefore, to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might flee into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. (Revelation 12:12-14, JST)
Wings = heavenly power (birds often are used to symbolize angels)
Given two wings of a great eagle that she might flee = given power from heaven to flee temptation (available through the temple)
Note that the idea of being nourished in the wilderness is repeated.
15 And the serpent casteth out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. (Revelation 12:15, JST)
casteth out of his mouth water as a flood = a multitude of rationalizing arguments meant to cause us to stop resisting temptation. Could also represent an environment in which sin is everywhere.
16 And the earth helpeth the woman, and the earth openeth her mouth, and swalloweth up the flood which the dragon casteth out of his mouth. (Revelation 12:16, JST)
The earth swallowing up the flood = the temptations are ineffective.
For the earth to swallow anything large like a flood, there has to be a massive earthquake creating a huge drainage rift. Such an earthquake at the opportune time would be a miracle, so the above phrase could also symbolize unexpected miracles allowing us to escape temptation and sin.
17 Therefore, the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:17, JST)
the dragon was wroth with the woman – evil is angry when good escapes the traps and snares set for it. Anger is a ruling emotion in evil.
The battle continues even though the flood is stopped.

In conclusion, it is evident that the Lord prepares different ways for us to escape Satan during mortality. First we are to fight with our faith in Christ, our testimonies, and with our determination to die for the truth. God gives us heavenly power to flee temptation. In situations where escape is impossible, He works miracles through those who are sympathetic to our concerns to attenuate the intensity of the threat to resistable and escapable proportions. This message is meant to give us courage and hope when the opposition seems overwhelming. It is a testimony that God loves us, feels after us, and wants us to triumph over evil with His help.

Final score?
Woman 2, Beast 0.
Game over.
Monday, January 4, 2010 2 comments

From Humble Poverty to Proud Prosperity: Lessons from Alma 4

While I was reading Alma 4, I noticed something interesting. Alma 4 starts out with the people of Nephi “greatly afflicted for the loss of their brethren, and also for the loss of their flocks and herds, and also for the loss of their fields of grain, which were trodden under foot and destroyed by the Lamanites” (Alma 4:2). This is in the sixth year of the reign of the judges.

The result of this affliction was that every one had reason to be sad, and amazingly, they all believed that their afflictions were a judgment of God sent because of their wickedness, so they began to remember their duty.

A mere two years later, we find the people of the church in this state:
And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel. (Alma 4:6)
It is amazing to me that in only two years, the people go from a state of poverty and loss to a state of such abundance. I think that can give us some hope in this difficult economic climate.

It is also amazing to me that they could go from a state of such humility to a state of such pride and scorn in which they began “to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure” (Alma 4:8).

The problem of their pride unfortunately stems from the specific cause of their humility. Because they believed that their loss was punishment from God for their sins, after two years of hard work and righteousness, they believed that their prosperity was reward from God for their righteousness. But Mormon is very clear that they had obtained these things because of their industry. Certainly industry is a part of righteousness and it shows that there is a strong work ethic, but it is not the only part of righteousness. Further, the motives for work ethic can be all over the board, from self-aggrandizement to desires to help others.

Unless we can get out of the cycle of remembering our duty to God only when we are afflicted with temporal losses, we will not escape from the pride cycle. Do we remember our duty after our gains? We remember our duty when our to-do lists are overflowing. Do we remember our duty to God on vacations? Do we remember our duty after our victories and successes? Gratitude can help us remember.

It is my conviction that if we cultivate gratitude in our lives to a greater degree, it will enable us to maintain humility and thus keep us in the way of our duty to God even when things are going well for us.

I think one of my New Year’s Resolutions is going to be to take some time every day to consider what Heavenly Father has done for me.
Sunday, January 3, 2010 0 comments

Waiting Upon the Lord

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:31)
It is easy to interpret this scripture as another way of saying “be still and know that I am God” because of that word wait, but there is another way to read interpret it, which takes into account the full phrase “wait upon”. It is sort of an archaic phrase, but it evokes the idea of service and action, rather than inaction. This idea is preserved in the name of the person who serves people eating at restaurants—“waiter”. Perhaps this example is weak, but it is helpful. I also think of that old name for female servants of a queen—“ladies-in-waiting”. Surely their job wasn’t to wait for the queen, but to serve the queen. I think the same thing applies in the above scripture.

By understanding “wait upon” to mean service, we see that the above scripture contains a sort of counterintuitive promise—people who serve the Lord will have their strength renewed. It seems impossible that someone could be given more strength as they expend it in work, but the Lord has the power to do this through the Holy Ghost.

I know that this promise is real because I have experienced it in my life. I know how it works. When I serve the Lord and keep His commandments, I qualify to have His Spirit to be with me (as promised in the sacrament prayer). The Spirit sanctifies, enlivens, and renews my body so that my strength lasts longer. I know that this is a blessing that everyone can access who is willing to keep the commandments.

For my past thoughts on this scripture, see "The Promise of Stamina."