Friday, March 30, 2012 3 comments

The martyrs return with Christ

For verily I say unto you, That he [Christ] shall come; and he that layeth down his life for my sake and the gospel’s, shall come with him, and shall be clothed with his glory in the cloud, on the right hand of the Son of Man. (JST Mark 8:43)

It seems that all the martyrs will participate in the second coming of Christ! I suppose we will see Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, all the missionaries who were killed, all the former-day saints who were martyred, all the prophets who were killed for their messages, and any of us who give our lives for the truth. These saints are privileged to come specifically because they suffered death rather than deny the faith. In a sense, they overcame death.

Jude wrote about this in his general epistle in the Bible, but not with so much information about who but with more information about what they would do:

14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,

15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 1:14-15)

It seems those who have overcome in this way we be given the privilege of cleaning up the evil in the world because they would not submit to it during mortality regardless of the consequences. This will be the day of their complete triumph because they will finally get their way, and they can’t be gotten rid of like they were before because they will be resurrected.

Ah, beautiful day…. (happy sigh of anticipation)


Wednesday, March 28, 2012 2 comments

Reaction to Paul’s “unknown god” sermon on Mar’s hill

32 ¶And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.

33 So Paul departed from among them.

34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them. (Acts 17:32-34)

It seems like those who said “we will hear thee again of this matter” received Paul’s words favorably in comparison to those who mocked, but when you compare them to those that “clave unto him, and believed,” we see it wasn’t totally sincere.

If waiting to hear the message again sometime isn’t a good reaction, then what is it really? It is a reaction that indicates the person has been taken by surprise and wants to respond, but doesn’t feel up to it right then, and doesn’t want to close the door on the possibility of accepting in the future. Unfortunately, all too often, the someday of hearing it again doesn’t happen.

I once got into a conversation with one of my teachers about the Book of Mormon, and he told me he would talk to me again about it. He never did. I suppose part of it might have been my fault because I didn't try to start another discussion about it. I was waiting for him. Maybe he was waiting for me to bring it up again.

Have you ever had a gospel discussion with someone and this kind scenario happened? Did you pursue it?

Monday, March 26, 2012 2 comments

Need for constant preparation

14 And it came to pass that on the morrow, that when the Lamanites saw that we were in the borders by the wilderness which was near the city, that they sent out their spies round about us that they might discover the number and the strength of our army.

15 And it came to pass that when they saw that we were not strong, according to our numbers, and fearing that we should cut them off from their support except they should come out to battle against us and kill us, and also supposing that they could easily destroy us with their numerous hosts, therefore they began to make preparations to come out against us to battle. (Alma 58:14-15)

These verses stood out to me recently as I was reading through. I noticed that the Lamanites were not prepared for battle. You’d think they would keep themselves in a constant state of preparation and alert, having taken over the city Manti in the first place, but no. And do they prepare when they find Nephites in the borders of the land? No. They only prepare once they decide it necessary to fight. The problem is, during the time they were preparing, the Nephites were putting their strategy in place.

16 And when we saw that they were making preparations to come out against us, behold, I caused that Gid, with a small number of men, should secrete himself in the wilderness, and also that Teomner and a small number of men should secrete themselves also in the wilderness.

17 Now Gid and his men were on the right and the others on the left; and when they had thus secreted themselves, behold, I remained, with the remainder of my army, in that same place where we had first pitched our tents against the time that the Lamanites should come out to battle. (Alma 58:16-17)

If the Lamanites had been prepared already, there would have been no time for the Nephites to split off their special ops groups.

Now, this is one of those times when I'm going to use the Lamanite failure as a lesson. I think this shows us the important principle of staying prepared in our fight against evil and temptation. If you prepare only after you have seen the enemy threatening, you are too late.

The tricky thing is, it requires faith to prepare before seeing the enemy. It can seem like preparation is pointless when no enemy is in sight. It can be hard to know exactly what to prepare for. UNLESS… you have prophets. Prophets are the men on the watchtower who can see the enemy from far away and who sound the alarm as to the way to prepare. Our prior preparation may be what makes the difference between our success or failure.

I'm really looking forward to general conference in a week. My husband and I have never been in the conference center yet and we're going to try to go to one of the general sessions. We don't have tickets, so we're going to be standing in line hoping some seats stay empty for us. ;-)

Saturday, March 24, 2012 4 comments

Fiery darts of the adversary and our defense

23 And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?

24 And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction. (1 Nephi 15:23-24)

Lately, one question I found that I had was this: just what are the fiery darts of the adversary? Obviously “fiery darts” is being used as an image for an idea, so what is the fiery dart representing?

Fiery darts are poison darts. They spread infection and corruption. Fiery darts are insults and slurs cast against our faith, targeting our identity, our self-esteem. They are often intended to make us feel bad about our previous decisions to choose the right. They are accusations against good works that put the worst possible construction on our motives and acts. The fiery darts are aimed at our eyes to try to blind us, or to make us see good as evil.

Or they may not even be directed at us; they can be directed at church leaders and against God and we’ll still feel like we got hit. Fiery darts can be used at long-range to keep us out of the battle. Compare this to our offensive weapon—the sword of the Spirit—which is used at close range in hand-to-hand combat. (

Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (Ephesians 6:16)

The shield of faith quenches the fiery darts, causing them to lose effect. And as Nephi described, the rod of iron (the word of God) keeps us from being blinded by the fiery darts of the adversary.

In what way do we hold up a shield of faith in our lives? What do we have faith in?

We have faith most of all in our Savior Jesus Christ. How does that become a shield to us from the adversary?

For me, when I realize that I have done something wrong, my faith in Christ shows me I can repent and escape that sin. I don’t have to live with my sins forever. It shows me that I can rely on Christ to help me become better than I am.

We have faith in living prophets. How does that shield us from the adversary’s fiery darts?

We have faith in the scriptures. How does that shield us?

What other faith that we have shields us?

Friday, March 23, 2012 0 comments

Why “go the second mile”?

Today I was reading the Beattitudes and I ran across this verse.

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. (Matt. 5:41)

I began pondering it, and now I think I finally understand the reason behind this commandment from Jesus and why it is in the Beattitudes. Jesus recognized that there would be times when we might be forced to give service. (I have heard that this commandment is based on the context of how Roman soldiers could and would force people to carry their gear while on the march.)

Again, Jesus knew there would be times when we’d be forced to serve, and Jesus knew being forced to serve would not help us spiritually, and it can even be bad for us if it causes resentment and animosity to arise in our hearts. But…. He knew if we do extra after having done the good we were forced to do, then it becomes of real benefit to us because that extra mile was something we chose to do. When service is our choice, it makes us a better person.

Going the extra mile doesn’t just bless us, it blesses the faceless other person who would have been compelled to go that second mile once you finished your first. It also allows your light to shine on the person who compels you to go the mile when they see you are willing to make your own choice to serve without being forced. It shows them there are people willing to serve of their own volition, and it can raise their estimation of the goodness of humanity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 2 comments

De-clutter with prayer

Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening. (Alma 43:21)

If you are deep in trouble with clutter, you need the Lord’s help. You need miracles, and a bunch of them. You need the miracle of inner change that will help you change your circumstances. Those miracles can start with fervent, sincere prayer, constant prayer.

  • Pray about your confusion of what to keep and what to let go.
  • Pray for a different and better perspective of the purposes that your stuff should have in your life.
  • Pray about your worries about what you might need “just in case.”
  • Pray that you will be given the spiritual gifts of ingenuity and resourcefulness if a need for something you have let go suddenly arises.
  • Pray to have the spiritual gift of discernment and to acquire better judgment about your needs than you now have.
  • Pray to discover better criteria by which to judge how much is enough and what should be gotten rid of.
  • Pray to have stamina and endurance—mental, emotional, and physical—to deal with all the decisions you must make about your stuff.
  • Pray to be kind to yourself and not be judgmental of your past self as you begin to make different decisions from what you made in the past.
  • Pray to maintain your motivation during times when progress seems slow. Pray for renewal of desire to de-clutter.
  • Pray find disposal methods that are BOTH easiest AND wisest.
  • Pray to be led to people who can teach you good habits of dealing with stuff and who will teach you both by example and by edifying words.
  • Pray to find ways you can change your personal habits such that you won’t get in this predicament again.
  • Pray to find people who will validate your efforts and celebrate with you over your efforts.
  • Pray to feel peace and not fear.
  • Pray to be able to overcome temptation and any obstacle that might stand in your way to de-clutter.

For a story about how praying helped someone de-clutter, you can read my post “Prayer: the powerful tool for overcoming the fear of de-cluttering” on my blog Zion Space.

For a post about how de-cluttering involves repentance, you can read my post “De-cluttering and repentance” on that other blog as well.

If you want to see how clutter is closely related to idolatry, you can read the chapter from my book here.

Monday, March 19, 2012 9 comments

Projects like ravening wolves

Here’s a block of verses that can be applied in an unexpected way to our efforts to de-clutter:

15 ¶Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matt. 7:15-20)

Firstly, who are the false prophets when we are organizing and de-cluttering? They are the advertisers that tell us we NEED this and we NEED that or we won’t succeed/be worthwhile/be loved. They are the ravening wolves wishing to devour our dollars, wishing to sell us things even if we don’t really need them.

But we can also apply this as we are trying to de-clutter, if we think of “false prophets” as also meaning “false projects.” Let me explain why this can help.

As I have helped a number of people de-clutter, I have observed that they are incredibly creative people. They have a lot of projects that they are working on, projects that are in various stages of completion, with a backlog of materials to use up. And as we go through their stuff, we run across things that could become functional if they were fixed. These people I help say, “Oh, I could do this and this and this to it and then I could use it.” They essentially create another project for themselves in an effort to ensure that they waste nothing. (The problem is, they already are drowning in real projects. They don’t need another project.) This doesn’t happen just once. It happens over and over again in a single de-cluttering session.

Most of the time, those projects are false projects.

This is why we should beware of false projects as well as false prophets. False projects come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. False projects appear to keep you from wasting resources, but really they waste your time and energy, devouring it so it can’t be used on higher priorities.

  • False projects have little or no planning to them. They are taken on impulsively, without consideration for all the other projects in the works and all your other priorities in life.
  • False projects have little if any thought about whom they will benefit and what the real payoff is.
  • False projects are started with little thought of how much effort will be required to complete them. It is simply assumed that it should be easy, and the results will be “so cool.” Cool for who? Why?
  • False projects have few if any resources assigned to them. This means you expect yourself to complete it without spending any money, and without taking any time away from everything else you have to do, and it can’t be delegated to anyone else. AND they are undertaken without tools that are best for the job. (Or the opposite may be true—the false project has so much time, money, and effort given to it far out of proportion to its importance and benefit, to the detriment of more important priorities.)
  • False projects don’t have anyone asking for status updates about when they will be done.
  • False projects have requirements that morph inexplicably over time into something more complicated and time-consuming and soul-sucking than you thought.
  • False projects have a self-coercive quality to them; you feel like you have to do them to prove that you are good/organized/talented/dedicated/important/loving/etc. They are born out of insecurities and they batter us with guilt when we look at them sitting there.

False projects don’t have good fruits. As said before, they may have the appearance of benefitting us, but if examined carefully, it may be unexpectedly hard to explain what that benefit is.

How can you keep from getting pulled into a false project? How can you keep from getting into too many projects?

Here’s a simple practical solution. Make a list of ALL the projects that you have. Then try putting them in order from most important to least important. Pretend your family is a job and you have to explain exactly how each project will benefit you and the family.

Pretend your project is a product you are making to sell. Who will buy it? Who will the finished product benefit? If you can’t think of a customer who would “buy” it, then it is a false project. If you wouldn’t buy it, then why should you even do it?

What is your return on investment? What benefit do you expect from completing it? It has to be a reasonable benefit and it has to be defined.

Do you have a deadline for this project? If there is no deadline, there is no reason to push it forward.

What is the budget for the project? What time and money are you willing to spend on it? Why are you willing to spend on it?

Maybe the project was a good idea at first but circumstances changed and the project no longer fits current needs. Allow yourself to reconsider the project at various points to determine whether it is still viable or not.

Does the project fit with your abilities and interests? If it is something outside your abilities, then the project cost rises because educating yourself and experimenting are little mini-projects that have to be added to your project.

If you have determined that a project is a false project, do not be afraid to let go of it. You will feel better for it.

Life is short and you only have so much time in a day. We need projects that enrich our lives and help us increase our talents and skills so we can help others. We may not get to all we want to do in this life, but I have confidence that in the next life we will have all the opportunities we ever wanted to try new things and build all our skills that we never had time to develop in this life.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 6 comments

Gospel principles help with de-cluttering

Organizing and de-cluttering is an activity near and dear to my heart. So near, in fact, that one of my dreams is to be a professional organizer. My mom has told me that when I was three, she found me organizing and arranging the toys in the milk crate that they were kept in. During my growing up years, she would periodically enlist my help to restore order to various chaotic areas of the house. My dad would occasionally ask me to organize his collection of CDs.

I’ve learned that there are principles in the scriptures that can be applied to organizing and de-cluttering. I’ve learned that when we look at organizing and de-cluttering from a spiritual perspective, it has much more meaning and can give us more motivation to succeed. For instance, I realized that at bottom, there might not be much difference between clearing clutter and consecrating our surplus. I hope to share with you some scriptures that can help with efforts to de-clutter, so that you realize these efforts are sanctifying.

19 ¶Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19)

This scripture can be extremely challenging, but it also can be extremely liberating. I’m sure you are perfectly aware of that. But I also believe that we have a tendency to interpret it too strictly, which causes us to get frustrated and feel like we can’t live by it, which in turn causes us to find ways of ignoring it. (Thinking it impossible and ignoring it would be exactly what Satan would want us to do.)

One of the things I have realized about this scripture is that Jesus didn’t go into great detail about what “treasures” were. All kinds of objects can be treasures to people. (Heck, I once met a woman who considered an empty Evian water bottle to be one of her treasures.) Because Jesus didn’t explain in hair-spitting detail what a “treasure" is, this leaves it up to us to ponder exactly what in our lives we lay up as treasures on earth. We can ponder the difference between “treasures” and tools that we need. We can ponder whether there is a difference between treasures we lay up and treasures we use. The ball is in our court to ponder and apply the principle according to our individual circumstances.

If you look at this scripture from an organizing and de-cluttering perspective, it makes perfect sense to let go of treasured objects that are just being stored, especially if they really aren’t useful for anything. They just take up space when they are stored. Jesus could see that when we lay up our treasures, we do it because at bottom we want them to last extra long…even forever, if possible. (Sometimes we even let them go completely unused because we don’t want to ruin them.) Jesus noted that when treasured things are stored for long periods, they usually get ruined or stolen. He gave a better solution—lay up treasures in heaven instead (suggesting that the treasures on earth be sold and used to help someone in need) and the reward from the good deed would last throughout eternity.

Sunday, March 11, 2012 1 comments

Things I’ve learned from D&C 121

D&C 121-123 are well-known sections taken from a letter that Joseph Smith wrote to the Saints when he was in Liberty Jail. I want to share some things I've learned from D&C 121.

Insight #1: Joseph Smith became a type of Christ. The first six verses contain His prayer for the Saints. He advocated for them to God, and thereby acted as a type of Christ.

I also think it is significant that that this prayer of his begins the section. It is not often that his prayers are preserved in the Doctrine & Covenants as part of the message from the Lord. The section would not nearly have the power it does without it. I think it underlines the importance of praying even after we have exhausted all of our options and are at our very lowest point.

I think it is significant that he didn’t ask “why” all of this had happened to him and the Saints, but instead asked God “where are you?” and “how long?” This shows that he had moved beyond asking the simple “why” questions that almost all of us would have asked.

A question that came to me when I was studying this part was this: What did Joseph Smith want the Lord to do?

I think that Joseph Smith wanted the Lord to get him out of prison, to help the Saints get their property back, and to subject the forces of evil that had caused such suffering. You can tell that he had confidence the Lord could do it. “O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand” (v4)

I’ve already noted the prophecy against the Saints’ persecutors and how it was fulfilled in my post "A dire prophecy fulfilled."

Something else I noticed was that these verses also answer the question “Why do bad people do bad things to good people?”

  1. Their hearts are corrupted (v13)
  2. They love to make people suffer (v13)
  3. They are the servants of sin (v17)
  4. They are the children of disobedience (v17)
  5. They want to bring God’s servants into bondage and death (v18)

That second item about how they love to make people suffer really made me ask myself, “Do I like to make people suffer?” No, I don’t. But then I asked myself, “Do I like to torment people?” I really searched my soul and I found that in one way I do, so I decided that I needed to repent of that and stop. It showed me that even if we just take delight in causing small suffering, we show the same qualities as the mobbers who persecuted the Saints.

Another thing I thought very hard about was what the connection was between the first part of the section, which seemed to be about affliction and justice, and the last part that seemed to be about how the priesthood is inseparably connected to the powers of heaven through righteousness. To me, that second part had always seemed unrelated to the questions Joseph Smith had at the beginning.

I finally realized that Joseph Smith must have been wondering how the church was going to fulfill its mission if it was in such desperate straits and how he could lead the church effectively if he was in prison. In answer to this, the Lord told him:

1. God shall give you knowledge by his Holy Spirit (v26)

2. What power can stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints. (v33)

But along with this NOTHING-can-stop-the-Lord-from-doing His-work idea, came the intelligence that Latter-day Saints themselves may get in the way of their own progress if their hearts aren’t right. Then the rest of the chapter is all elaboration on how exactly Latter-day Saint priesthood holders (and other leaders) sabotage themselves, along with the consequences, then is given illumination on how to lead righteously, along with great promises of blessings will come from that.

Priesthood leaders (and anyone else with any kind of authority) sabotage themselves by:

  • Setting their hearts on the things of the world
  • Aspiring to the honors of men
  • Trying to handle the priesthood without righteousness
  • Covering their sins
  • Gratifying pride and vain ambition
  • Exercising control, dominion, or compulsion unrighteously (unrighteous dominion)


  • The heavens withdraw
  • The Spirit is grieved
  • Power of the priesthood departs
  • They are left to themselves
  • They kick against the pricks of conscience
  • They persecute the Saints
  • They fight against God

In that last list, I detect that there is a gradual progression through the list. Without quick repentance, a person may slide gradually all the way to the bottom.

I think we can easily turn those negatives inside out and discover how we can increase power in the priesthood.

Increase power in the priesthood by:

  • Setting hearts on the things of heaven
  • Aspiring to the honors of God
  • Trying to handle the priesthood WITH righteousness
  • Repenting of sins
  • Humbling self, remembering the great power of God
  • Excising dominion with righteousness.

Promises for strengthening priesthood power and leading righteously (v45-46)

  • -confidence will wax strong in the presence of God (v45)
  • -the doctrine of the priesthood will distill upon our souls as the dews from heaven (v45)
  • -the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion (v46)
  • -our scepter will be an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth (v46)
  • -our dominion will be an everlasting dominion (v46)
  • -our dominion will flow to us without compulsory means forever and ever (v46)

thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth – “unchanging” This talks about consistency. We all appreciate leaders who are consistently righteous about what they ask of us and consistently righteous about how they enforce the rules. This makes life easy because then we know that if we always do the right thing, then we will always be able to please them. As leaders we want to be consistent like this.

thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion – The best leaders and teachers we’ve ever had, we will always think of them as our leader and teacher even after we have moved on. When we lead righteously, those who follow us will always think of us as their leader, even after they have moved on.

without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever – We won’t have to force people to obey us and follow us and our dominion will get larger and larger.

So, to wrap up, what do we learn from D&C 121?

  1. Prophets experience very difficult trials and tribulations too.
  2. Prophets feel great compassion on the Saints who suffer terrible afflictions and pray for them.
  3. Tribulation will not last forever, and is only a small moment in comparison to eternity.
  4. Enduring tribulation well enables God to exalt us.
  5. Dire consequences come from persecuting and afflicting the Saints.
  6. No power can stop the Lord from pouring revelation upon the Saints except the Saints themselves.

I know at times and at seasons pieces of the verses in this section have come to mind at times when I really needed them. In affliction, I’ve tried to find ways of “enduring it well,” and asked the Lord to help me. At times when I’ve had a little authority, remembering the principles about power and influence has helped me keep from making terrible mistakes of coercion and pride. I haven’t been perfect and I’m still not, but I know I’ve been a whole lot better than I would have been if I had never known these things. (I found that my relationships with my younger siblings were smoothed considerably when I practiced the principles of gentle persuasion, meekness, love unfeigned, etc. as described in D&C 121:41-42)

How has this section helped you in your life?

Friday, March 9, 2012 1 comments

Amulon's unnoticed bondage

8 And now it came to pass that Amulon began to exercise authority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children.

9 For Amulon knew Alma, that he had been one of the king’s priests, and that it was he that believed the words of Abinadi and was driven out before the king, and therefore he was wroth with him; for he was subject to king Laman, yet he exercised authority over them, and put tasks upon them, and put task-masters over them. (Mosiah 24:8-9)

This part has always been rather puzzling to me. It didn’t seem to make sense that Amulon would persecute and enslave Alma and his people just because they had believed Abinadi’s words and left. So I went looking for other factors that may have added to Amulon’s motivations.

Puzzling factor #1: Amulon is king. You’d think kings would feel secure in their place in the social hierarchy. Amulon has clearly advanced in station—priest to king--but he wears his kingship badly.

Problematic factor #1: Amulon may be king, but unfortunately he isn’t really at the top. He is at the top of the people in Helam, but he is subject to the demands and whims of King Laman back in the land of Nephi-Lehi.

Puzzling factor #2: In theory, as king, Amulon can command and those under his authority would obey.

Problematic factor #2: After escaping from King Noah, Alma told his people to trust no one to be a king or a priest over them except he be a man of God. Depending on how well Alma’s people remembered this counsel, it could be that they were not supportive of Amulon’s kingship. There’s a term “institutional inertia” which describes how people tend to resist complying with rules they do not support, and a person in charge can find themselves stone-walled if they make demands that their underlings don’t agree with. I would not be surprised if Alma and his people were resistant to Amulon’s attempts to rule them. This would be frustrating to Amulon, and he would naturally implement stronger and stronger measures to enforce obedience—from badgering persecution to coercion with physical enslavement.

It is interesting to note that Mosiah 23:39-24:9 describes the formation of Lamanite empire, through the organization and leadership of Amulon and his people. Somehow Amulon gained favor with King Laman (probably through flattering words) and got himself and his fellows put as teachers throughout ALL the Lamanite lands. (Mosiah’s son Ammon would have LOVED this kind of favor when he came to do missionary work.) They taught the language of Nephi throughout the Lamanite cities, which would have eased communication among a diverse people. They taught record-keeping, which would have enabled efficient administration and tallies of people and taxes. There’s something that is noticeably absent from the account here though, which would explain Amulon’s treatment of Alma and people—tribute. Amulon had not yet been under tribute, so it would have been very stressful to him to have to provide the Lamanites with however much they required. He had thought nothing of the 20% under King Noah’s reign especially since it contributed to his own living. But I bet you that the requirement to provide tribute to the Lamanites drove him wild. I bet that was part of what was behind his enslavement of Alma and his people. I bet that he felt sandwiched uncomfortably between the demands of King Laman and the quiet resistance of Alma and his people.

But maybe I am completely wrong and Alma and his people were not quietly resistant to Amulon. Maybe Amulon thought they were anyway though. This would explain his extreme reaction of threatening death to anyone who prayed to the Lord for deliverance from their afflictions. He would see it as rebellion against him and call it “speaking evil of the ruler of thy people,” (Acts 23:5; Exodus 22:28) a behavior prohibited in the Law of Moses.

Amulon’s position, if he was responsible for providing tribute, reminds me of the difficulty of facing punishment for actions over which you don’t have much control.

What does this teach us? Essentially it shows us that Abinadi’s prophecy of bondage for the people of King Noah was fulfilled in every particular. Even the wicked priests were brought into bondage to the Lamanites. It might look like Amulon had a cushy position as king, but it was just as much bondage as the other people. He wasn’t free to make his own decisions if they were contrary to the will of the king of the Lamanites.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 2 comments

Interesting points on the Lord’s commendation of Alma

This commendation from the Lord comes as Alma the Elder inquired what to do about the widespread transgression in the church.
15 Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi.
16 And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them. (Mosiah 26:15-16)
This seems to indicate that when Alma was converted, it wasn’t because Abinadi had authority but because Alma had faith in the truth Abinadi shared. And when Alma taught King Noah’s people in secret, it seems they didn’t believe because any institutional legimacy he had from being a priest (rather, he had lost his institutional legitimacy in the eyes of King Noah and the other priests and could have lost it in the eyes of the other people as well), but they believed simply in the words that Alma shared. They believed the truth.

The Lord calls it “exceeding faith” to believe in a single witness’s words of truth, and when you think about how much effort it takes to teach people these days, we can see how true that is. The Lord sends multiple witnesses to testify of the truth, so when someone believes with just one witness, it is something special.
And blessed art thou because thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established, and they shall be my people. (Mosiah 26:17)
For a long time I didn’t understand why the Lord would commend Alma for doing what it seemed like he should have done anyway, but then I ran across this verse:
Now king Mosiah had given Alma the authority over the church. (Mosiah 26:8)
It seems that perhaps Alma didn’t strictly have the authority to organize a church in Shilom or in Helam, but he was given it by King Mosiah in Zarahemla, which means that the church meetings at the waters of Mormon and in Helam were a sort of grassroots organization, an anticipatory church.

Because Alma was a priest at that time, he had authority to baptize and ordain other priests and teachers, but it seems he didn’t necessarily have the authority to establish a church, yet the people gathered together anyway, and they acted like a church anyway, under his leadership.

I think this initiative to prepare themselves to be churched was what the Lord was praising Alma for.

This would also explain why Alma was skittish about rendering judgment on people’s transgressions. If he had been more used to being a grassroots authority who taught and baptized, the prospect of rendering judgment might seem uncomfortable. It would feel like over-stepping his authority. We also know that he was worried he would do wrong, perhaps worried he would make bad judgments like King Noah and his priests had done. And too, perhaps his days as a sinner came back to him and it was hard to judge those who may have committed the same sins he had.

The instructions the Lord gives afterward are good hard fast doctrine of how to tell who should stay in the church and who should be blotted out from the rolls. Alma, who seems to have only previously dealt with repentant people who wanted in, would appreciate this doctrine.

For me, this story seems more like an encouragement toward taking the initiative as a leader. I wonder how many problems could be solved in the church with innovative leadership? I know in the Great Depression, Harold B. Lee was a stake president who was challenged with finding a way to help the members of his stake, more than half of whom were unemployed.
Here was a challenge, a terrifying challenge, for the young stake president. He worried, he wept, he prayed, as he saw men, once proud and prosperous, reduced through unemployment to a point where they could not feed their families. Then came inspiration to establish a storehouse where food and commodities could be gathered and from which they could be dispersed to the needy. Work projects were undertaken, not only to improve the community, but, more importantly, to afford men an opportunity to work for what they received. An old business building was demolished and the materials were used to construct a stake gymnasium to provide social and recreational facilities for the people. Other stakes were engaged in similar projects… (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p. xvi)
On April 20, 1935, Harold B. Lee was called into the office of the First Presidency. They knew him as a young stake president who had been successful in caring for the poor and needy. According to Harold B. Lee,
President Grant…said that there was nothing more important for the Church to do than to take care of its needy people and that so far as he was concerned, everything else must be sacrificed [so that] proper relief [could be] extended to our people. I was astounded to learn that for years there had been before them, as a result of their thinking and planning and as a result of the inspiration of Almighty God, the genius of the very plan that was waiting and in preparation for a time when, in their judgment, the faith of the Latter-day Saints was such that they were willing to follow the counsel of the men who lead and preside in this Church. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, p. xxiii)

It seems that what surprised Harold B. Lee was that the First Presidency had been waiting and planning to put the welfare plan into operation, and it struck him that what he had been doing in his stake to help his people was demonstrating to the First Presidency that the time to put those plans into action had come.

It seems there is a principle at work here. The best way I can describe it is this way: we show we are ready for change or revelation to come when we move toward it first.
Sunday, March 4, 2012 0 comments

Good desires and reward

And now I command you, that if you have good desires—a desire to lay up treasures for yourself in heaven—then shall you assist in bringing to light, with your gift, those parts of my scriptures which have been hidden because of iniquity. (D&C 6:27)

I like this verse because I feel like it doesn’t just speak to Oliver Cowdery about translating the Book of Mormon, but I feel it speaks to me and anyone else who works to understand the scriptures and write about them for other people.

I also like that it highlights that it is a good desire to want to lay up treasures in heaven. Laying up treasure in heaven usually means doing something that is not necessarily praised or rewarded on earth. It’s not rewarded on earth because the world doesn’t know how to estimate the true value of spiritual things, and even if it could, it doesn’t have the power or resources to reward adequately.

Fortunately, God can reward now and later, as is shown in v20, 33-34:

…Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love….

33 Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.

34 Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.

We see that we are rewarded by being encircled about in the arms of God’s love, we are promised a harvest of a good reward, and we are promised that we will prevail over the opposition that will come.

Which parts of this reward come now and which parts come later? In what ways have you felt that you’ve received some reward from God?

Thursday, March 1, 2012 1 comments

Blameless Service

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. (D&C 4:2)

This verse touched me as I had been preparing for my calling as primary music leader. For some reason I’ve been getting overwhelmed lately by different life demands, and I’ve been more inclined to retreat and wish things away rather than face them. When I ran across this verse, it reminded me that I can do my best.

This verse has a neat promise it it—that of standing blameless at the last day on condition of putting our heart, might, mind, and strength into our service.

  • Heart—courage to carry on, feeling
  • Might—physical strength
  • Mind—knowledge and intellectual ability
  • Strength—physical and mental capability; energy or intensity

I don’t know if it is necessarily that we are to attack our service as if it were a weight-lifting competition, grunting and groaning all the way. Rather, it seems as if the Lord means us to become immersed in the great range of experiences that go with giving service. He wants us to feel everything that goes with it, to think everything through, to study it all out, to experience both the success that elates, and the disappointment that requires courage and heart to carry on, and use all our resources and faculties.. and discover new ones. (If that sounds like living a life of service to the fullest, it is probably because it is.) I think He wants us to put all of that into our service because any of it may be the deciding factor that helps someone else come to repentance. If we hold anything back, that may have been the one thing that would have worked. But if we have used all our heart, might, mind, and strength, then we will be blameless because we have done all we could do. (And doing all we can do qualifies us for the grace of God. He will make us what He wants us to be.)

One additional note: The section summary has an interesting perspective on this verse. It says, “valiant service saves the Lord’s ministers.” Here’s my question to you—is “standing blameless” the same as being saved? Discuss. Why or why not?