Tuesday, November 29, 2011 3 comments

The Old and New Baptismal Prayers

And when he [Alma] had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said: Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world. (Mosiah 18:13)
These words are different from the baptismal prayer that we say today, but I think we can benefit by studying the difference between this one and our current one.

Alma’s baptismal prayer is valuable to know about because it shows that the covenant of baptism used to be explicitly stated during the prayer. The terms of the covenant are simple.

We:
  • serve God until our mortal life ends,
and He will:
  • pour out His Spirit upon us and
  • grants us eternal life through the redemption of Christ.
We quote Mosiah 18:8-10 with all that stuff about bearing each other’s burdens, mourning with the sad, standing as a witness of God, etc. because it makes it easier to see what kinds of specific acts are meant by the phrase “serving God.” (I don't think that list was meant to be an all-inclusive list, but rather a list of examples.)

It is not known whether the prayer Alma used was a traditional one passed down over generations, but the one we use now is similar to another one in the Book of Mormon that was given by Christ to the Nephites after His resurrection.
23 Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words, and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them—Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them.
24 And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying:
25 Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

26 And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water.
27 And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one. (3 Nephi 11:23-27)
The baptismal prayer that Jesus gave is much shorter (and thus much more easily memorized). It covers the authority of the baptizer, where that authority comes from, what the act is, and to whom one is being baptized. Since it doesn't explicitly state the covenant, it is assumed that the baptized person understands they are participating in a covenantal act, whereas in Alma's baptismal prayer, baptism is referred to as a testimony that a covenant has already been made with God earlier. (Innnnnteresting...)

The baptismal prayer we use today is slightly different from the one Jesus gave to the Nephites, but in most particulars it is the same. The one we use today was still revealed from Jesus, but it was given to Joseph Smith.
The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism, and shall say, calling him or her by name: Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. (Doctrine and Covenants 20:73)
Here the words were changed from "having authority from" to "having been commissioned of." To me, this adds a layer of meaning. "Having authority from" to me evokes the idea of someone being given a badge to act, like police officers. "Having been commissioned" adds the idea of an artist who is given a commission to do a particular work for someone. This is conveys how people who baptize do it under presiding authority that emanates up the chain of priesthood all the way to Jesus Christ.

Something that is interesting about the newer Nephite baptismal prayer is that Jesus says it is in His name, but when He gives it, He says, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” It is odd that the specific name of Jesus Christ is not in that list, and instead He is “the Son.” I wondered why. After thinking about it for a while, it seemed to me that “the Son” was being made into a name just as important as the name “Jesus Christ.” (This reminded me of the temple.) Perhaps it is used in the baptism prayer to subtly reinforce the principle that baptism is a rebirth to become a son (or daughter) of God and also to show that Jesus submitted to be baptized as an example.

It is notable that Jesus explains to the Nephites why the Father and the Holy Ghost are included in the “in the name of” clause of the prayer. He says it is because He is one with the Father. What a neat thing it would be to be one and united like that in purpose, will, and action with the Godhead! Ultimately that is what we’re aiming for—to return to be united with them in heaven. We won’t be able to stay unless we also become united with their purpose, will, and action. So maybe the naming of all three members of the Godhead is a promise of eternal life with them. Being born again to "sonship" by baptism is the first step to becoming re-united with them.

Alma's baptismal prayer also mentions all members of the Godhead, but they are scattered throughout. The authority comes from “Almighty God,” which I assume must be the Father, and the Spirit of the Lord is promised, and the redemption of Christ is mentioned as the way to eternal life. The newer baptismal prayer unites the members of the Godhead into one clause. Could this be another way of expressing how they are united in purpose?

In Alma's baptismal prayer, the authority comes from "Almighty God," but in the new prayer, the authority and commission is from Jesus Christ. I think this is meant to show how Christ had ascended up and gained the power to draw all men unto Him.

Is there anything that you notice about the difference between the baptismal prayers? What do you learn from those difference?
Wednesday, November 23, 2011 2 comments

What’s part of the mighty change of heart?

2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
3 And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.
4 And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.
5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days… (Mosiah 5:2-5)
We’ve often heard of this might change of heart, and I think we focus a lot of our attention on the particular aspect of having no more disposition to do evil and wanting to do good continually. But as I was reading through these verses, I realized that there is so much more to the might change of heart than just that. If we only notice the change in our disposition and miss all the other spiritual gifts that go along with it, we don’t get a chance to enjoy the full manifestation of the mighty change!

It is worth studying these facets of the mighty change to see if we can remember feeling something similar in our own experience.

“through the infinite goodness of God” The mighty change of heart also brings a huge appreciation for the goodness and mercy of God. Goo seems infinitely good, not just good. Really, that’s just seeing things as they really are, isn’t it?

“manifestations of his Spirit” They know they have felt the Spirit multiple times. It is obvious to them. They know what it feels like and they know where it comes from.

“great views of that which is to come” One of the things that seems to happen with the mighty change of heart is that one’s view of the future is expanded. I know what this feels like. It is as if the possibilities jump from just pretty words to being realities, although still in the future. At least one great view that I’m sure these people received was that of the coming of Christ to atone for their sins. It is like a mystery suddenly has been unfolded.

“we could prophecy of all things” With a great view of what is to come, the words to share it are ready at a moment’s notice. One wishes one could be called on to spontaneously bear testimony to the truth.

“faith” This is the faith to act to obtain the promises given. It feeds on hope.
“great knowledge” With the mighty change of heart, one’s considers the knowledge gained to be no small thing. It is so precious, it is reflected upon again and again.

“we do rejoice with exceedingly great joy” Wouldn’t you call this the best part of the mighty change? Here is joy given as a spiritual gift. For me, it is both electrifying and my heart seems to swell wide.

“we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will” Along with the desire to do good continually comes the desire to make a covenant with God. The covenant seems like a perfectly natural and desirable thing to make. Submission to the will of God seems easy. One wants to obey ALL of God's commandments, ALL the time, for the rest of one's mortal life.

I notice that these facets of the change of heart affect one’s thoughts, one’s words, and one’s deeds. That is certainly what makes it a mighty change.

I’m thankful to Mormon for including those verses because they are so spiritually perceptive. They help me recognize that these feelings I have felt are all part of receiving the mighty change of heart.
Monday, November 21, 2011 2 comments

Strong as to the strength of men

Here’s a few verses I’ve been pondering:
11 Now, the Lamanites knew nothing concerning the Lord, nor the strength of the Lord, therefore they depended upon their own strength. Yet they were a strong people, as to the strength of men.
12 They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people…(Mosiah 10:11-12)
As I was reading this, I found myself puzzled as to how the Lamanites could be a strong people without knowing anything about the Lord or the strength of the Lord. When you have a testimony of the strength that comes from the Lord, it is hard to see how someone can be strong any other way.

But it becomes easier to see when you examine the implications of not knowing anything about the Lord. If you think there is no higher power to depend on, then everything depends on you, how strong you are, how smart you are, how rich you are, how capable you are, how much you know… If you can only depend on yourself, then the only way you can get anywhere in this world is by being stronger, faster, smarter, richer, more knowledgeable, and more ruthless than the next guy. Why? So you can gain control over your life and what happens to you. So you can get what you want. (It’s easy to see this attitude today, isn’t it?)

And what is the result in a society in which everyone is jockeying to be the strongest, fastest, smartest, richest, most ruthless, most dangerous, and most in control? Things get taken to incredible extremes. “They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people.”

The trouble with this way of thinking is life has a way of showing us all that we aren’t totally in control, that we don’t have everything figured out, that we arent’ the richest, that our plans can come to naught, and we aren’t strong enough to do everything on our own. There are times when life just plain kicks our tail, kicks it good and hard, and kicks it for months at a time. Or maybe years. NO ONE IS IMMUNE TO IT, NOT EVEN THE STRONGEST.

What does a Lamanite do when everything depends on their own strength and life’s yogurt suddenly hits the hurricane fan? Lamanites dealt with it by getting angry and blaming. They fed off their anger.
…believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this—Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea;
13 And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea, and all this because that Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord (Mosiah 10:12-13, emphasis added)
Notice how many times “wronged” was used in those verses. Anger was the only way they could deal with disappointments and setbacks and tragedies because everything depended on them and everything depended on being strong. Any kind of weakness was dangerous; if they showed weakness or admitted weakness to anyone then everyone would take advantage of them. They couldn’t even develop the virtues of patience, long-suffering, meekness, kindness, humility, or forgiveness, lest they be mistaken for weakness and invite oppression. (I have it on good authority that it is like this in prison.) They couldn’t help others, lest it give someone an advantage and create a dangerous rival later.

So they were forced to be wild, ferocious, and bloodthirsty. No other behavior or attitude would survive. And no other way would even seem possible.

But what happens when you know that you can depend on the Lord? If you know that, it is to your advantage to realize and admit your weakness as soon as possible and ask for help. Admitting weakness isn’t dangerous; it is part of showing that you know the Lord’s strength and trust in Him. It shows that you are ready for help, whether it comes from God directly or from other people. It doesn’t mean you’re not trying, it just means you know when you’ve hit your limits, and you realize your needs are greater than your strength. Also, when you trust in God, you are excited to help others because it means you get to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands and partake of the Lord’s strength in so doing. You realize that your talents and strengths are gifts and blessings from God. (Even frequent opportunities to practice a skill to develop a talent is a gift from God.)

To someone who knows nothing of the Lord or the strength of the Lord, people who depend on the Lord’s strength seem very weak because of how much they admit weakness. Belief and trust in God seem like a crutch. But it’s not. It is the key to obtain greater strength.

There are people who cope with tragedies, setbacks, and chronic problems by saying everything is fine and nothing is wrong. "I don't have an addiction." "My marriage is fine." "Nothing is wrong with my health/my child's health/my spouse's health/my parents' health." "I've done nothing wrong." "My financial affairs are just fine." "I get along with people just fine." Yet denying one's weaknesses doesn’t mean they go away; if anything it hides them. Like a tree with a wedge buried deeper and deeper in the wood, hiding weaknesses from yourself makes you even weaker. When the storm comes, trees with wedges deep in them break.

When you trust in the Lord as the one with the power, it doesn’t mean the storms never come or that pain is avoided. But it frees you from feeling there is something terribly wrong with you for feeling weak, inadequate, and devastated by life’s tragedies and troubles. You are free to admit that you can only do so much. You are free to admit your weaknesses, sins, and mistakes for them to be healed. You are free to develop the more refined virtues. You are free to ask for help.

Really. Trusting God is just a better way.
Saturday, November 19, 2011 3 comments

How I gained my testimony of the law of tithing

I want to share this story from my life with you.

First, I have to say that my parents taught me about paying tithing, and I grew up paying it without any question. 10% right off the top.

When I started going to college at BYU, I found that it was necessary for me to earn a certain amount every summer in order to have enough for the rest of the school year. That’s when it started to feel a little more difficult to pay tithing. I would look at the amount I was writing for a tithing check, and somehow it seemed large to me, and I would resent it just a little bit.

My second summer home from BYU, I heard of another guy in the ward who had paid all his paychecks as tithing at the beginning until it reached 10% of the full sum he needed and how he was blessed to make enough money for college. I decided I wanted to do that to bind the Lord to bless me with the money I needed for college.

I got a part time job as a telemarketer at the beginning of that summer. (This was back when telemarketers still sold things.) That job was really hard for me, especially because I had to try to convince people to take out a second mortgage. (More debt, bad!) It was also especially hard to pay my entire paychecks as tithing. I remember crying a few times as I was filling out the tithing slip. But I had faith that Heavenly Father would bless me.

Then, I lost my telemarketing job. On one hand, I was happy about that because I didn’t like telemarketing to try to get people to go deeper into debt. On the other hand, I was sad because it meant I had to go on the job search AGAIN. Deep down, I didn’t worry at all because I had paid all the tithing for the sum I needed for college, so Heavenly Father was now BOUND to bless me. The iron had entered my soul. I sensed that there was a better job out there for me.

There was. With a job application miraculously pulled from the trash, I became one of two candidates for a job with a mosquito abatement company. They chose me. All of a sudden, I had a job counting dead mosquitoes and treating standing water for mosquito larvae. The amount of work I had depended upon how bad the mosquitoes were and how much standing water there was for mosquitoes to breed in. In turn, the amount of mosquitoes depended upon high temperature and lots of rain. That summer became a very hot and rainy summer. The mosquitoes were so terrible, my hometown used up all of that year’s mosquito abatement budget and had to use part of the next year’s mosquito abatement budget to pay for mosquito abatement services.

At the end of the summer, I didn’t have all the money I needed for the school year, but I still wasn’t worried because I knew that Heavenly Father was bound to bless me. While I was at BYU, I was prompted to get an on-campus job. I picked out a job at an electronics parts storeroom, which I felt qualified for and applied. They didn’t hire me, but as I left, I felt prompted to go back and ask if they knew anyone else who might need me. They directed me to a different electronics storeroom on campus. The second storeroom didn’t need employees at the moment, but they took my name and number. After that, I didn’t feel any extra urgency to apply for jobs. Near the beginning of winter semester, I got a call from the second storeroom with an offer of a job to work there. I took the job and thereby earned the rest of the money I needed.

When I looked back at the end of the year, I could see how the Lord had blessed me with what I needed, and I had a strong testimony of the law of tithing. But that wasn’t the end of it. A few years later, I could look back and see that not only had the Lord blessed me with the money I needed, He led me to a job where I met my future husband. Every time I think of this experience, I am always flabbergasted by the immensity of this blessing the Lord poured out upon me. I feel like what I did was so small in comparison, even though it was an extra trial of faith for me. I learned that sacrifice does bring forth the blessings of heaven.

Will you share with me how you gained your testimony of the law of tithing?
Thursday, November 17, 2011 0 comments

13 Principles for Building Belief in the Face of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD)

A few months ago, I read a book written by a man who has struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder his entire life. (I just wish I could remember the title and the author.) I read his description of the anxiety that underlay his compulsive behaviors and I empathized to a certain extent because I was struggling with anxiety at that time.

Then man shared a number of principles that he had to remind himself of often to deal with his obsessive-compulsion, and I really resonated with them. I could see that at bottom, they were part of the gospel.

I think they are worth sharing.

13 Principles for Building Belief in the Face of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD)

1. Choose to see the Universe as friendly. God is in charge, and the Universe is the friend and servant of God.

8 For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.
9 Yea, behold at his voice do the hills and the mountains tremble and quake.
10 And by the power of his voice they are broken up, and become smooth, yea, even like unto a valley.
11 Yea, by the power of his voice doth the whole earth shake;
12 Yea, by the power of his voice, do the foundations rock, even to the very center.
13 Yea, and if he say unto the earth—Move—it is moved.
14 Yea, if he say unto the earth—Thou shalt go back, that it lengthen out the day for many hours—it is done;
15 And thus, according to his word the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the sun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun. (Helaman 12:8-15)

2. Affirm your divine potential and infinite worth.

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; (D&C 19:10)

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)

28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.
29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness. (D&C 88:28-29)

3. Resolve to keep sight of the big picture

Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18)

20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.
22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.
23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.
24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.
25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them. (2 Nephi 4:20-25)

4. Accept and let go of what you can’t control. Let it go into the hands of God and the Universe.

5 ¶Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it shall yet be said of me—he was murdered in cold blood.” (D&C 135:4)

5. Allow for bigger plans than your own to unfold. Think, “This or something better.”

Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men; (D&C 3:3)

And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls. (Alma 37:7)

And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will. (Words of Mormon 1:7)

For the eternal purposes of the Lord shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled. (Mormon 8:22)

6. Picture Possibility. Use your imagination to visualize the end you want.

And he shall be led in paths where the poisonous serpent cannot lay hold upon his heel, and he shall mount up in the imagination of his thoughts as upon eagles’ wings. (D&C 124:99)

28 And when [Jesus] was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.
29 Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. (Matthew 9:28-29)

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (Hebrews 11:13)

7. Embrace the possibility of every moment.

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. (Mark 9:23)

8. Direct your attention and choose what you pay attention to.

For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? (Mosiah 5:13)

36 Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.
37 Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day. (Alma 37:36-37)

33 Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation; (D&C 20:33)

…cast away your idle thoughts… (D&C 88:69)

How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! (Psalms 139:17)

9. Notice the abundance given to you from the abundance of God by counting your blessings

For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. (1 Cor. 10:26)

For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things (D&C 104:17)

And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell? (Alma 26:2)

And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind. (2 Nephi 5:11)

And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need—an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of silk and fine-twined linen, and all manner of good homely cloth. (Alma 1:29)

Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state? (Alma 26:17)

Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name. (Alma 26:35)

Oliver Cowdery describes these events thus: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! (Joseph Smith History 1:75, footnote)

10. Go through the motions and act.

All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. (D&C 93:30)

27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.(D&C 58:27-28)

Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. (2 Nephi 2:16)

Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. (2 Nephi 10:23)

And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me. (Moroni 7:33)

11. Act to empower yourself and serve the Lord, not to assuage FUD.

Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! (D&C 128:22)

Wherefore, as ye are agents, ye are on the Lord’s errand; and whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord’s business. (D&C 64:29)

36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
37 Light and truth forsake that evil one. (D&C 93:30)

12. Resolve to put your commitments and covenants ahead of your comfort.

And thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me— (D&C 43:9)

8 Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me.
9 For I, the Lord, will cause them to bring forth as a very fruitful tree which is planted in a goodly land, by a pure stream, that yieldeth much precious fruit. (D&C 97:8-9)

13. Use purpose and service to overcome FUD.

Now they wept because of the fear of being slain. Now when Ammon saw this his heart was swollen within him with joy; for, said he, I will show forth my power unto these my fellow-servants, or the power which is in me, in restoring these flocks unto the king, that I may win the hearts of these my fellow-servants, that I may lead them to believe in my words. (Alma 17:29)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)

Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. (Alma 56:47)


I have to remind myself of these principles from time to time, and they have helped me. I hope they can help you too.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 6 comments

Things that make my brain explode inside my skull

Last week when I had to get ready to teach a primary song about reverence, I found myself wondering where reverence comes from. We all know that reverence is more than just behaving respectfully. Where does that respect come from? I asked myself, “How do I cultivate reverence for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?”

I remembered some things I learned in my astronomy class in high school. (Humor me on this little scientific diversion..)


This picture has squished all the planets together in one frame and distorted all the sizes of the planets and the sun. The big planets are much bigger and all the distances are much more far apart. (If you want to teach your kids about the real distances and sizes of the planets, here is a link to instructions for a “planet walk” you can do to help bring the proper scale into perspective.)

Consider each of these things carefully..

The earth is about 8,000 miles across.
Light travels about 186,000 miles per second.
(If the earth were completely hollow and two mirrors were placed opposite each other at the equator, light could bounce between them 23 times in a single second.)

The earth is about 93 MILLION miles from the sun.
It is so far away that it takes light 8 minutes to get from the sun to the earth.
Pluto’s average distance from the sun is about 40 times greater than the earth’s. It is about 5.3 light-hours away from the sun.

The closest star to us is Proxima Centari, a red dwarf star 4.2 light-years away.

Now let's jump to the galaxy level.


The sun is about 2/3rds of the way out from the middle of the Milky Way galaxy, or about 25,000 light years away from the center (1).
The Milky Way galaxy is an estimated 100,000 light years across (2). Our solar system is so small in comparison that the smallest dot in its approximate location on the map would exaggerate its size by 100 times.
Astronomers estimate our galaxy may have between 200 to 300 BILLION stars in it (3).

Now.. check out this next picture..


Look at all those galaxies… *

I remember when I saw a picture very similar to this in my astronomy class, it made my brain explode inside my skull. HEAVENLY FATHER CREATED ALL OF THAT AND MORE! It is a testimony to the glory, majesty, and power of God. This awes me to no end. That awe leads to a deep sense of reverence for God.

Mind-blowing Concept #2

There’s something else that brings me to a feeling of deep awe and reverence. When I think of all the mistakes I have made and the sins I have committed and the pain I have experienced in my life, it is amazing to me that Jesus Christ suffered for all of it too. But then when I remember He also suffered those things for my family…

and for my ward…

and for all the people of our church…

and for all the people living on earth right now…

and for all the people who have ever lived or who will yet live on earth….

That causes my brain to explode again inside my skull.

Mind-blowing Concept #3

Heavenly Father hears my prayers and He answers them. He understands my language. He also hears and answers prayers in every other language, even when the prayers are being said simultaneously. The idea that He can make sense of, let alone respond to such a staggering array of messages, languages, pleas, thanks, praise, and more causes my brain to explode again inside my skull.

All of this brings me to a feeling of great reverence for God. With an awareness of Heavenly Father’s powers of creation, we can trust His purposes for us. With an awareness of Jesus’s magnificent demonstration of love in the atonement, we can obey the commandment to repent. With an awareness of Heavenly Father’s ability to hear and understand so many different messages directed to Him, we gain the ability to trust His responsiveness.

Awe for God leads to reverence.
Reverence toward God leads to love and trust.
Love and trust in God leads to obedience.

* There are many galaxies in this picture, and some of them have so much gravitational energy that they actually bend the light of other galaxies, producing multiple images of them. Google "gravitational lens."

Sources

1 Gene Smith Astronomy Tutorial, “The Milky Way Galaxy”, http://casswww.ucsd.edu/archive/public/tutorial/MW.html

2 “Milky Way Galaxy”, Space Yuga, Feb. 6, 2011, http://spaceyuga.com/milky-way-galaxy/

3 Nicholos Wethington, December 16, 2008, “How Many Stars are in the Milky Way?”, http://www.universetoday.com/22380/how-many-stars-are-in-the-milky-way/

Images

Milky Way Galaxy Image from http://spaceyuga.com/milky-way-galaxy/,

Galaxy Cluster Image from Starts with a Bang, http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2010/11/hey_dark_matter_where_are_you.php

Solar system Image from Purple Slinky, http://purpleslinky.com/trivia/science/amazing-things-about-our-solar-system/
Sunday, November 13, 2011 3 comments

Thoughts on President Monson’s talk “Stand in Holy Places”

President Monson starts out telling how technology had changed during his life and continues to change. “In fact, yesterday’s science fiction has become today’s reality. And that reality, thanks to the technology of our times, is changing so fast we can barely keep up with it—if we do at all.” Then he tells us about the moral changes that have called increasing decay in society, but assures us that God’s laws are eternal.
Although the world has changed, the laws of God remain constant. They have not changed; they will not change. The Ten Commandments are just that—commandments. They are not suggestions. They are every bit as requisite today as they were when God gave them to the children of Israel. If we but listen, we hear the echo of God’s voice, speaking to us here and now…
Three important principles also help.
[W]e know that morality is not passé, that our conscience is there to guide us, and that we are responsible for our actions.
Like Abinadi speaking to King Noah, President Monson repeated for us the Ten Commandments, and we can test ourselves to see if we have them written on our hearts.

We know we are accountable for our actions, but we also seek joy, and sometimes we may get confused as to where to find it. President Monson understands this well.
It may appear to you at times that those out in the world are having much more fun than you are. Some of you may feel restricted by the code of conduct to which we in the Church adhere. My brothers and sisters, I declare to you, however, that there is nothing which can bring more joy into our lives or more peace to our souls than the Spirit which can come to us as we follow the Savior and keep the commandments. That Spirit cannot be present at the kinds of activities in which so much of the world participates.
Watch and Pray

President Monson talked about how we can’t allow ourselves to become complacent or inattentive because there are so many moral dangers everywhere.
We must be vigilant in a world which has moved so far from that which is spiritual. It is essential that we reject anything that does not conform to our standards, refusing in the process to surrender that which we desire most: eternal life in the kingdom of God.
This implies that we need to be more committed to our standards (and the promise of eternal life that comes with them) and notice when we are tempted to violate them. According to the dictionary, vigilance means “keeping careful watch for possible danger and difficulties.” It means we have to be able to notice situations that lead to temptation and be ready to diffuse or flee it. It means we have to be able to notice when it becomes difficult to keep our standards and prepare ourselves to take steps.

Vigilance won’t do much good though, unless we can access the power of God to resist the temptations we face.
As a means of being in the world but not being of the world, it is necessary that we communicate with our Heavenly Father through prayer. He wants us to do so; He’ll answer our prayers. The Savior admonished us, as recorded in 3 Nephi 18, to “watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you. …
“Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
“And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.”
This implies that we need to learn to pray always and learn to pray when we are being tempted. Certainly the Lord will help us overcome the temptation so that it doesn't appear desireable any more.

President Monson then tells the story of how he gained his testimony of prayer as a 12-year-old boy, after having lost $5 in the wash. ($5 would have been the equivalent of $77 today, so it was a substantial sum for a 12-year-old, especially at the tail end of the Great Depression.)

Certain phrases from this story could make it a type of all stories about prayer:
  • “I had worked hard”
  • “I just remember how important that...was to me”
  • “I was sick with worry”
  • “The chances…were extremely remote”
  • “I wanted…;I needed…;I had worked very hard…”
  • “I turned to my Father in Heaven and pleaded with Him”
  • “somehow”
  • “relief flooded over me”
These phrases remind me of so many situations of need that I have faced when the Lord answered my prayers.

I love that President Monson didn’t omit thanks to Heavenly Father.

I suppose that just as many of us have gained a testimony of Heavenly Father's ability to help us regain our lost possessions, each of us has to gain a testimony of Heavenly Father's ability to help us resist temptation through our prayers.

The next paragraph is something so indicative of President Monson’s character and something I aspire to.
Since that time of long ago, I have had countless prayers answered. Not a day has gone by that I have not communicated with my Father in Heaven through prayer. It is a relationship I cherish—one I would literally be lost without. If you do not now have such a relationship with your Father in Heaven, I urge you to work toward that goal. As you do so, you will be entitled to His inspiration and guidance in your life—necessities for each of us if we are to survive spiritually during our sojourn here on earth. Such inspiration and guidance are gifts He freely gives if we but seek them. What treasures they are!
When President Monson says that he would be literally lost without his relationship with Heavenly Father, it gives me a sense that prayer acts for him like a road map and guide. I love that he says Heavenly Father freely gives inspiration and guidance if we seek it.

If we’re looking for our marching orders from this talk, it has to be this bit from the above paragraph: “If you do not now have such a relationship with your Father in Heaven, I urge you to work toward that goal.” He calls it a treasure and a necessity of survival. I suppose that we may not fully realize how truly necessary it is to our survival until we have it, so it may be we have to take his words on faith.

The second story President Monson tells is quite an extraordinary one: that of being inspired to announce Peter Mourik would speak at a temple dedication, even after having specifically told that Peter Mourik was not there. At the same time that President Monson announced the speaker, Peter Mourik received an impression that he had to get to the temple as soon as possible, which he obeyed, and not a moment too soon.

This story was truly striking and even somewhat disturbing. It causes me to wonder if I could have such confidence if I had been in President Monson’s position. President Monson’s words after how he felt afterward are instructive:
I have pondered the inspiration which came that day not only to me but also to Peter Mourik. That remarkable experience has provided an undeniable witness to me of the importance of being worthy to receive such inspiration and then trusting it—and following it—when it comes.
There are three important things there for us to do:
  1. Be worthy to receive inspiration
  2. Trust the inspiration
  3. Follow the inspiration
I also notice that President Monson pays tribute to Peter Mourik for being worthy of inspiration, trusting it, and following it. The situation wouldn't have worked out if President Monson had been the only one to receive that inspiration. This shows just how necessary it is that we as members receive our own inspiration as well as the prophet. It also shows that individuals may be partners in inspiration and work together to bring to pass the purposes of God without even knowing that they are partners.

I have to point out that President Monson’s preface to this story also provides us with additional insight about it.
I am always humbled and grateful when my Heavenly Father communicates with me through His inspiration. I have learned to recognize it, to trust it, and to follow it. Time and time again I have been the recipient of such inspiration.
President Monson has had so much acquaintance with the feelings of inspiration and guidance and so much practice following that they have become unmistakable to him and he follows with confidence. It isn’t necessarily that they always make sense; in fact, President Monson specifically said the “unmistakable inspiration” he received that Peter Mourik should speak “was counter to all [his] instincts, for [he] had just heard from Elder Asay that Brother Mourik was definitely not in the temple.” He had to trust the inspiration he received and act upon it with faith, knowing it would cause chagrin to some.

This then was the difficulty in the inspiration he received—it appeared against all common sense. It appeared completely irrational. This is why the story is disturbing. It causes us to wonder how we would be able to tell whether we are truly inspired or simply being irrational. It is beyond explanation in words and requires experience (of both painfully wrong and joyously successful varieties) to learn to be able to tell the difference. (And perhaps praying always can bring us the positive experience we need to tell the difference.)

President Monson then says that prayers and inspiration is necessary to weather the storms and trials of life and shares the comforting promise from the Lord:
The Lord invites us, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me.” As we do so, we will feel His Spirit in our lives, providing us the desire and the courage to stand strong and firm in righteousness—to “stand … in holy places, and be not moved.” As the winds of change swirl around us and the moral fiber of society continues to disintegrate before our very eyes, may we remember the Lord’s precious promise to those who trust in Him: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
In summary, the message in President Monson’s talk is that we must keep the commandments, watch and pray, and develop a relationship with Heavenly Father such that we, like President Monson, would be lost without it.

I have to say that I was kind of confused about why President Monson titled his talk “Stand in Holy Places” when there was more talk of keeping the commandments and praying than there was of temples. But part of that last quote above explains it. “stand strong and firm in righteousness—to “stand … in holy places, and be not moved.””
Friday, November 11, 2011 1 comments

An Amalekite demands: "Why do not angels appear unto us?"

5 Therefore, as Aaron entered into one of their synagogues to preach unto the people, and as he was speaking unto them, behold there arose an Amalekite and began to contend with him, saying: What is that thou hast testified? Hast thou seen an angel? Why do not angels appear unto us? Behold are not this people as good as thy people?
6 Thou also sayest, except we repent we shall perish. How knowest thou the thought and intent of our hearts? How knowest thou that we have cause to repent? How knowest thou that we are not a righteous people? Behold, we have built sanctuaries, and we do assemble ourselves together to worship God. We do believe that God will save all men. (Alma 21:5-6)
I used to think the Amalekite’s questions were indicative of envy of the spiritual experiences Aaron had had.

Recently I realized the Amalekite was actually trying to invalidate Aaron’s testimony. From the Amalekite’s questions, it is evident that Aaron was telling about his experience of being called to repentance by an angel and then using that to issue a more general call to repent. The Amalekite was trying to invalidate Aaron’s testimony on the grounds that unless an angelic call to repentance came to the Amalekites too, then they had no need to repent.

The problem with this view is that it is an attempt to dictate to the Lord and limit His workings to one method. Not only that, but the method they ask for, they implicitly disbelieve. They don’t understand that calls to repentance come in many different ways, and the needful thing is to sensitize oneself to them and obey.

I’ve seen calls for me to repent in many different places. I’ve found them in talks and lessons. I’ve found them in books and movies and songs. I’ve found them in pictures. Sometimes I’ve found them when visiting someone else’s home. Sometimes I find calls to repentance in blog posts or conversations even when the very word was never mentioned. I’m sure you’ve had this kind of experience too.

Without giving the details of the sin, will you tell me about a call to repentance you received from an unconventional source?
Wednesday, November 9, 2011 1 comments

As a thief

Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (Revelation 3:3)
This Christ’s counsel to the church in Sardis after He tells them to strengthen those ready to be martyred.

That phrase “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief” tells how the sudden requirements the Lord asks of us can feel like He is stealing something from us if we are not watchful and ready to comply. This means that at no point can we allow ourselves to get too comfortable and complacent with our plans and our lives because at some point, the call comes to place that comfort on the altar and it is much harder to do if we aren’t watching.

For the church in Sardis, if they were too comfortable, then any sudden change that required their death to seal their testimony would seem as if the Lord had come to steal their peace and their lives.
Monday, November 7, 2011 2 comments

From Samuel, prophecies of Christ

Peter says this to the people after healing the lame man:
22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. (Acts 3:22-24, emphasis added)
Every time I run across these verses, I can’t help but wonder, “When did Samuel foretell of those days?” Elsewhere too, Jesus says that Samuel and all the prophets spoke of Him, and I couldn’t recall anything Samuel said like that.

So I decided I needed to look closer at Samuel’s life in the Old Testament. As I studied 1 Samuel, I first started to see that Samuel’s life was a type of Christ.
  • Samuel was born to a woman who otherwise would not have children—Hannah was infertile. (Christ was born to a woman who otherwise would not have had children—Mary was a virgin.)
  • Samuel was the firstborn son of his mother (Christ was the firstborn of His mother)
  • Samuel was given to the Lord all the days of his life. (Christ was given to the Lord all His life.)
  • Samuel grew up serving amidst wicked priests. (Christ grew up among hypocritical scribes, Pharisees and the corrupt sanhedrin.)
  • Samuel hid none of the things from Eli the priest that God had said against Eli. (Jesus hid none of the things from the chief priests that God had said against them.)
  • Samuel prayed for all Israel (1 Sam. 7:5) (Jesus interceded for all covenant Israel.)
  • Samuel traveled around Israel to judge them. (1 Sam. 7:16) (Jesus traveled around Israel to teach the people.)
  • Samuel witnessed how Israel rejected the Lord as their true king and wanted a man instead. (1 Sam. 10:19) (Jesus was rejected as “king of the Jews” when the Jews cried “we have no king but Caesar!”)
  • Samuel was cleared of any guilt or injustice. (1 Sam. 12:3-5) (Jesus was innocent of any wrong-doing.)
Seeing Samuel’s life as a type of Christ is helpful, but we are interested in seeing how Samuel prophesied of Christ. I found a few instances, somewhat disguised.

“And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?” (1 Sam. 9:20) This was spoken to Saul before Saul was anointed king, but it was also true of Christ, who was the Messiah all Israel looked forward to, as well as his father’s royal Davidic lineage.

Samuel’s specific instructions to Saul that he should go to Gilgal and wait seven days until Samuel would come and show him what to do (1 Sam. 10:8) is a type of Christ instructing the apostles (Acts 1) to wait for the promise of the Father of the Holy Ghost to be poured out on them, which it was on the day of Pentacost, 8 days later (Acts 2).
“And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?” (1 Sam. 10:24) Samuel was speaking of Saul, but the words were also true of Christ. There was none like Jesus among all the people, considering his nature was part man and part God.

“the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people” (1 Sam. 13:14) This is Samuel’s words of rejection and chastisement to King Saul after Saul committed an act of unrighteous dominion by offering sacrifices that he didn’t have authority to offer. Jesus truly was a man after Heavenly Father’s own heart, being perfectly united in purpose and mission with Him in all things.
27 And as Samuel turned about to go away, he [Saul] laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent.
28 And Samuel said unto him, The Lord hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent. (1 Samuel 15:27-29)
These are Samuel’s words to Saul after Saul disobeyed instructions to completely wipe out the Amalekites. In verse 29, Samuel testified to the complete truthfulness and integrity of Christ as one who had no need to repent because he was “not a man,” which I take to mean “not a fallen man.”

I also found three other people in 1 & 2 Samuel who seemed to be prophesying of Christ: 1) Hannah, 2) the man of God who chastised Eli, and 3) Nathan.

Hannah

“The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up." (1 Sam. 2:6) Here Hannah spoke of Christ’s power of resurrection.

The man of God who reproached Eli

“And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.” (1 Sam. 2:35) Christ was a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek and did everything according to the will of Heavenly Father.

Nathan
12 ¶And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. (2 Samuel 7:12-13)
Nathan’s prophecy, which spoke of the establishment of the kingdom by a son who would come from David. It speaks of a human being, Solomon, who would build a house for God. However, elements of the prophecy could be interpreted as having messianic meaning.

Having found all these instances of prophecy, it seems I’m going to have to go through all the other prophetic books and look for prophecies of Christ. (That will have to be another post, though.) It’s nice to know exactly what Samuel said that prophesied of Christ.
Thursday, November 3, 2011 2 comments

Thus it whispereth me to do according to his will


And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will. (Words of Mormon 1:7)
I have always been enthralled with this verse from Mormon, who discusses his feelings about including the small plates of Nephi in his record after having already made an abridgment of the same material from the large plates of Nephi. (Many of us are very familiar with the results and the larger picture. The Lord worked upon Nephi to make that extra record. The Lord worked upon Mormon to include that record. Then, when Joseph Smith lost the translation of the main record, the extra record was in there to save his bacon from enemies who had altered the first translation and were waiting for him to retranslate it so they could show the altered version and cast aspersions upon his spiritual gifts and calling. Joseph Smith translated the extra record rather than retranslate what was lost, and this showed the great fore-knowledge and preparation of the Lord.)

As I was saying, it always enthralls me that Mormon was able to realize this prompting and follow it, considering it was asking him to do something as unusual as add a repeat of the material he had summarized. He explains it with the only explanation possible in such a situation—“I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.” That is true humility and trust right there. His submission is palpable.

To experience the Lord working in you to do according to his will is a fascinating experience. I had a recent sample of it myself. It’s as though you find a topic occupying your mind and/or you feel you must do something in particular, usually something you ordinarily would not consider needful. Sometimes it requires you to change your plans at the last moment, and that can be embarrassing, especially if other people are involved in those plans and participating. It can be disquieting to find that the same thoughts are recurring about what needs to be done, as much as you try to push them away. You may come up with excuses why it should not bother you, but you can’t get rid of the slightly unsettled feeling that you have to do it until you actually get it done. (Or at least that’s my experience from my less-humble less-submissive perspective. (See? I have a long way to go..))

It is possible to detect from the previous verses HOW the Lord worked on Mormon to include the small plates of Nephi. You can follow it by the action words from verses 3-6:
3 And now, I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates, which contained this small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi.
4 And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ; and my fathers knowing that many of them have been fulfilled; yea, and I also know that as many things as have been prophesied concerning us down to this day have been fulfilled, and as many as go beyond this day must surely come to pass—
5 Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.
6 But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren. (Words of Mormon 1:3-6, emphasis added)
I find this description precious because it shows me that the whispering of the Spirit wasn’t a sudden impulse that was felt for a moment and then gone; it was something that drove Mormon onward. It stirred a hunger in him to find more material, it pushed him to search and read, it must have heightened his sense of edification and pleasure in what he read in Nephi’s small plates, it must have made those things seem extra precious as he pondered them at length, it must have increased his desire to share them with us.

How does this apply to us today? I think the process Mormon describes happens over and over today in the church as diligent teachers prepare their lessons, as speakers carefully prepare their talks. Heck, I’m a primary chorister and I’m finding myself go through that process as I plan for singing time. (I SEARCH for the best songs for the theme, I FIND a good song, the song PLEASES me, I CHOOSE it, it is CHOICE to me and I KNOW it will be choice to the children who sing it.) As we seek out the best and choose the best for ourselves and to share with others, we will find that the Lord has worked in us to do according to His will.

Can you recall a time when you experienced the Spirit working in you to do the Lord’s will this way? Did you know it was the Spirit right off or did it take a while to sink in? Was it easy or hard for you to submit? What was the result?

Image: Mormon Abridging the Plates, lds.org, http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,8555-1-4779-5,00.html
Tuesday, November 1, 2011 7 comments

The Mark of the Beast in Revelation 13

And he [the second beast] causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: (Revelation 13:16)
This scripture consistently gets people all freaked out. I’ve written on it before, but I want to write about it again because I discovered something interesting from the Book of Mormon that can inform this passage and throw a different light upon it.

One aspect that is so worrisome about this verse is that EVERYONE seems to be FORCED to receive the mark, even if they don’t want to, and then Revelation 14:9-10 warns that anyone who receives this mark is doomed to suffer the wrath of God with fire and brimstone, etcetera, etcetera. This makes it seem as if there is no escape from it. However, here’s where the Book of Mormon gives us a different (and possibly more hopeful) view.
4 And the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephites, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites; nevertheless they had not shorn their heads like unto the Lamanites….
14 Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them.
15 And again: I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also.
16 And again: I will set a mark upon him that fighteth against thee and thy seed….
18 Now the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words of God when they began to mark themselves in their foreheads; nevertheless they had come out in open rebellion against God; therefore it was expedient that the curse should fall upon them.
19 Now I would that ye should see that they brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doth every man that is cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation. (Alma 3:4,14-16,18-19)
The Book of Mormon gives us the insight that people actually choose to set the mark upon themselves when they come out in open rebellion against God, and they don’t know they are fulfilling the words of God when they do it. So the message for us is, “don’t rebel against God and you won’t end up with the mark.” Also, we are told that the mark (and the attached curse) can be put off through repentance and turning to the Lord; the Lord promises to have mercy on the repentant. I find this more reassuring.