We went to the temple tonight. After doing a session, I went into the dressing room, and I saw a woman sitting on a bench with a very glum look on her face. I said to myself as I passed, “Self, she looks like she needs a hug.” Then the still small voice spoke to me. Go back and give her a hug. I immediately went back and sat next to her. “You look like you could use a hug,” I told her, and I gave her one. She told me she had been waiting for her locker to be freed up. Then she asked me, “Were you reading my mind?” I told her I wasn’t. She told me that seven years ago from tomorrow her husband had died, and this was the first time she had attended the temple near the anniversary of his death. So I guess my being told to give her a hug was one of those tender mercies from the Lord to her to let her know that He was mindful of her. I’m very glad I obeyed the prompting immediately.
And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. (Moses 1:37)
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:10)
This verse contains the great blessing that comes with paying tithing—that there will not be room enough to receive the blessing poured out. However, if we also look at it from the perspective of de-cluttering, it teaches another principle—the necessity of being able to perceive when there is “not room enough.” Finding there is not room enough is an invitation to give away the surplus and be blessed further.
These days many people are not able to tell that they have no room to receive more. They live their lives with homes stuffed with goods that are not important enough to the way they are living their lives now. This verse gives us the hint that an indirect blessing of paying tithing is that we will begin to discern what we need and what we don’t and be able to tell when we have been given more than we are able to receive. If we are able to tell the difference between what we can receive to make use of and what we don’t have room to receive, we will be able to de-clutter, our lives will be simpler, and our possessions will be streamlined in a manner that will really facilitate our lives of discipleship rather than inhibiting us.
How does tithing help us do this? When we pay tithing, we learn it is possible to live with what is left over. It gives us a chance to cultivate greater efficiency in our expenditures. That skill of efficient use can spill over to other parts of our stewardship, such as considering how our space is used and whether the things we have that fill up our space are really serving us as they should. Paying tithing takes practice, and de-cluttering takes practice too. Paying tithing gives us practice in sacrificing, so it will be easier for us to let go of what we don’t need when we de-clutter.
The following is my talk I gave in church this last Sunday about being committed and being converted to Christ. I had to cut some of it out in the interest of time, but I wanted to post the whole of it here as I would have liked to give it. The opportunity to research and bring my life in harmony with this topic was a great blessing to me, and I was so happy to share what I learned about it with my ward. Read on..
Definition of commitment—
“the trait of sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose”;
“the act of binding yourself (intellectually and emotionally) to a course of action;
Scriptural language for being committed expresses it in different ways:
· Coming to the Lord with full purpose of heart. (3 Nephi 10:6)
· Offer your whole souls as an offering unto him (Omni 1:26)
· Loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:37)
· Having a determination to serve the Lord to the end (D&C 20:37)
I wanted to see what Jesus had to say about being committed.
26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea,
[or husband, yea and his own life also; or in other words, is afraid to lay down his life for my sake; cannot be] my disciple.
bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?
There are two important analogies Jesus uses to teach about being committed in this section. In the first, he compares it to counting the cost of building a tower. It’s about considering what effort it is going to take to do what must be done to get the final result (which is eternal life). Being committed to the gospel for our whole lives is like building a tower. But it isn’t done all at once. To make the best progress, we have to do all the building we can every day of our lives. Are we going to stop in the middle and say, “Okay, that’s good enough for me,” or are we going to get to a certain level one day and say, “Whoa, I’m starting to be scared of heights here,” or are we going to say “I’m getting really tired of this”? If we start, we have to finish it.
In the second part, he compares being committed to a king going to make war with another king, consulting to see if he has enough men to beat the opposition. The lesson is that we are going to face opposition in living the gospel and we have to be willing to do what it takes to fight and overcome whatever Satan attacks us with, even though we are outnumbered. We have to be ready to fight, no matter the cost.
Next, there were some interesting conversations Jesus had with two disciples that are instructive:
Here two different people want to follow Christ and He shares with them some important information about being committed. The first one is very enthusiastic and says, “I’ll go wherever you go.” Jesus tells him that unlike the animals, Jesus has no place to sleep. I don’t think Jesus was trying to discourage this man; He was just being honest about what the man would experience if he were to follow Jesus around everywhere. The scribe wouldn’t have his own bed anymore. He had to be aware that there was going to be discomfort and a lot of traveling. Jesus wanted the scribe to make his choice based on full information about what was required to come along so he could be fully committed. The message for us is that you can’t take a rest from being a disciple of Christ. Being a disciple of Christ isn’t a 9-to-5 job; disciples of Christ are always on the clock.
The second man wanted to come with Jesus…but wanted to do it…later. He wanted to wait until after his father was dead. Maybe his father wasn’t excited about his interest in following Jesus and was making life tough for the man. In response, Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” In other words, he was to not let his father get in the way of following Christ. The message for us is that commitment to Christ is something we have to do NOW. It can’t be delayed until conditions are right; that would be like waiting to start a trip until all the stoplights have turned green.
How do we stay committed to follow the Lord when it is hard?
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)
I used to see this scripture as meaning that one decision is enough to last us through our whole lives, but I recently began to see it in a different way. When it seems really hard, we just need to break it down into manageable pieces. One day at a time. Make a firm decision that TODAY you will follow and serve the Lord. Make it the best day possible. (We can handle a single day, right?) Then, tomorrow, make a firm decision that THAT DAY, you will follow and serve the Lord. And make that firm decision each day of your life.
Personal Experience: For the last few months I’ve been struggling with internal chatter of the doubtful, fearful variety that was causing me to waver when I wanted to be firm. I wondered for a long time what I could do about this. I prayed for courage, and I struggled as best I could. When I was asked to give this talk, I realized immediately that commitment and conversion was exactly what I needed. I also knew that I would not be able to give this talk until I strengthened my own commitment to the Lord. So I began taking steps immediately. Whenever that negative chatter started tearing at me, I would say strongly to myself, “I will follow the Lord.” I repeating that to myself as often as necessary, “I will follow the Lord.” It said that to myself quite a lot for the first three days. I worked to be more vigilant in my small choices. I also asked my husband give me a blessing so I could escape the buffettings of Satan. And each day I would recommit myself to follow the Lord that day. It really helped me.
How do we show our commitment to the Lord?
It starts with obedience to the basic principles of the gospel-- faith in Christ, repentance, then baptism, then receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
We continue to show our commitment and renew that commitment when we take the sacrament and keep the other commandments that we’ve been given.
What kinds of experiences have people had when they’ve made a commitment to the Lord?
There are a number of examples in the Book of Mormon that illustrate how commitment brings great blessings, but in the interest of time, I thought I would focus on the stripling warriors.
The stripling warriors were committed both to following the Lord and to fighting in all cases to protect the liberty of their fathers. What the scriptures have to say about their character never ceases to be inspiring to me.
· They were “strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day” (Alma 58:40)
· They kept God’s “statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually” (Alma 58:40)
· They “[stood] fast in that liberty wherewith God [had] made them free” (Alma 58:40)
· They had “exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe” (Alma 57:26)
· “Their faith was strong in the prophecies” (Alma 58:40)
· They put their trust in God continually” (Alma 57:27)
· “They were…true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted” (Alma 53:20)
· They were men of truth and soberness” (Alma 53:21)
· They were “exceedingly valiant for courage” (Alma 53:20)
· Were “firm and undaunted” (Alma 57:19-20) when many Nephites were “about to give way” (Alma 57:20)
I so want to be firm and undaunted.
Story told by Elder John B. Dickson of the seventy:
In 1979…missionaries began proselyting in a lush, green area called the Huesteca. 52 people joined the Church in Panacaxtlan. … A short time later, a meeting was called in Panacaxtlan at which Church members were given the following options: denounce the Church, leave the village, or be killed (not an idle threat). The members, particularly the women, said they knew the Church to be true and would not denounce it. They also indicated they had worked just as hard as the rest of the community to secure their homesteads, and they would not leave. Boldly stepping forward, they told their taunters if they were going to kill them, to get on with it. The moment grew tense as machetes were raised, then finally lowered while the Latter-day Saints stood up for that which the Spirit had testified to them to be true. These Saints eventually learned, as most of us do, that it is harder to live the gospel day by day than to die for it in an instant, but their early commitment came because the Spirit had touched their hearts and changed their lives. Their conversion process had taken place as the Book of Mormon helped build their faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (“The Incomparable Gifts,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 7).
What blessings do we receive when we commit to follow the Lord?
Ezra Taft Benson said:
“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , 361).
(from the Bible Dictionary) Conversion “Denotes changing one’s views, in a conscious acceptance of the will of God. If followed by continued faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism in water for the remission of sins, and the reception of the Holy Ghost by the laying of hands, conversion will become complete, and will change a natural man into a sanctified, born again, purified person—a new creature in Christ Jesus. Complete conversion comes after many trials and much testing. To labor for the conversion of one’s self and others is a noble task.”
What shall we compare the conversion process to? Let’s compare it to taking an old car out of the junkyard and fixing it up. Let’s say it is a ’62 Chevy pick-up truck. It is a rusted-out dented shell, with torn leather seats, cracked and broken windows, birds nests behind the grill, blown head gasket, bent axel, a real clunker. Little by little, you take it apart and replace everything bad with new parts of the highest quality. You replace the body panels, put in new seats, replace all the glass, put in a new engine and new axel. You give it a gleaming, new paint job. It’s still a ’62 Chevy pick-up when you’re done with it, but it isn’t the same as it was.
Or, compare conversion to a caterpillar that makes a cocoon for itself and then comes out at the end of a time as a butterfly. It’s still the same animal, but in a totally different form. It can do things it couldn’t do before. It doesn’t become a butterfly all at once. It takes days of tiny incremental changes for the transformation to occur.
Why must we be converted?
"And [Jesus] said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3) Conversion is absolutely necessary.
King Benjamin said, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)
Conversion is both instantaneous, and it is a process.
It is a change of view, which is then followed by a process of transformation of action and character, from grace to grace, from glory to glory. Grace, or the power of God, is what makes this change happen.
When King Benjamin gave his great sermon to his people, they believed him, and their hearts were changed. Mosiah 5:2-7 has a list of all the things they felt that characterized their conversion:
· Knowing the surety of the words because of the Spirit they felt
· A might change in their hearts
· No more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually
· Great views of that which is to come through the manifestations of the Spirit
· Feeling as if they could prophecy of all things if they had to
· Great knowledge
· Rejoicing with exceedingly great joy
· Willing to enter a covenant with God to do his will and be obedient in everything to the end of their lives
So now, I would ask of all of you, like Alma asked his people, “if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?”(Alma 5:26)
As I was studying for this talk, I started to see that I have had moments of conversion throughout my life, and that they arose out of specific commitments I made.
· I remember when I was baptized and how clean I felt afterwards. I knew I had been changed.
· I remember the conscious commitment I made to start reading the scriptures on my own and the change that happened in me because of it.
· I remember the commitment that I would try to express my individuality by being a better person, instead of rebelling.
· Or the commitment I made to pay tithing, even when it was hard.
· Or the decision I made that I would be brave enough to admit the times I was wrong.
· Or the decision I made to keep the Sabbath holy.
· Or the decision I made to forgive a difficult roommate rather than harbor resentment.
Each of those commitments and many others have been part of my conversion process. Going back to the analogy of fixing up a truck, it has been like a new axel here, a new leather seats there, and so on. I have more commitments to make, and so do you.
The power of Christ’s atonement is such that not only does it make sinners into saints, but it will make saints into gods. He gives us the power to maintain good works that we otherwise would not have power to continue on our own. I can testify that is true. I have seen it in my life more times than I can count.
I pray that we will follow the Lord today, then tomorrow, and onward until our faithful commitments have allowed the Lord to seal us His, and complete our conversion into rightful heirs of the celestial kingdom. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
30 And it came to pass that Hearthom reigned in the stead of his father. And when Hearthom had reigned twenty and four years, behold, the kingdom was taken away from him. And he served many years in captivity, yea, even all the remainder of his days.
31 And he begat Heth, and Heth lived in captivity all his days. And Heth begat Aaron, and Aaron dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Amnigaddah, and Amnigaddah also dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Coriantum, and Coriantum dwelt in captivity all his days; and he begat Com. (Ether 10:30-31, emphasis added)
That’s a lot of captivity. Verse 31 has massive history compression, and all you learn about four generations is that they were all in captivity.
So I began to wonder, what does it mean when a king is in captivity? What is the character of this captivity?
While I was starting to think about that, I realized that this idea of kings in captivity is repeated over and over in the Book of Ether. Its repetition suggests that it has great importance to us.
In one way, it is important because it shows the fulfillment of the prophecy made by the brother of Jared that kingship brings into captivity. But in another way, it is important because those of us who are endowed have been promised that we will become kings and queens, priests and priestesses unto the most high God hereafter, and yet WE may still be living now in spiritual captivity!
Reading those verses about the Jaredite kings has always given me a feeling of sadness that they lived at a level so far below their privileges. But now I see that it may be just as true of me as well, if I don’t repent and keep a broken and contrite heart.
13 O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe. (2 Nephi 1:13)
29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom. (2 Nephi 2:29)
18 Or, that a cursing should come upon you for the space of many generations; and ye are visited by sword, and by famine, and are hated, and are led according to the will and captivity of the devil. (2 Nephi 1:18)
For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil, of which I have spoken. (1 Nephi 14:7)
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12:11)
Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever….(2 Nephi 1:7)
We escape captivity through faith in Christ, repentance, and keeping the commandments.
You can find some interesting things when you compare the KJV to the JST.
Here are some verses as given in the KJV:
1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) (John 4:1-2)
Here are the verses that we ran across today in the JST that clarify the above:
1 When therefore the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
2 They sought more diligently some means that they might put him to death; for many received John as a prophet, but they believed not on Jesus.
3 Now the Lord knew this, though he himself baptized not so many as his disciples;
4 For he suffered them for an example, preferring one another. (John 4:1-4)
The difference between the JST and the KJV gives us several bits of information that we wouldn’t have otherwise.
First, it shows us that the Pharisees were keeping track of the size of the following of these grassroots leaders, and when they saw Jesus was making and baptizing more followers than John the Baptist had, they plotted Jesus’s death more intently. It seems they opposed Jesus from virtually the beginning of His ministry.
Second, while the KJV says that Jesus didn’t baptize, the JST says that Jesus did baptize. It confirms that baptism is an important ordinance and Jesus Himself performed it.
Third, these verses give us the intriguing information that Jesus allowed his disciples to baptize more than He baptized. He could have insisted on personally baptizing all of His disciples, but He didn’t. That makes me think that He wanted His disciples to get practice using their priesthood authority. “[H]e suffered them for an example” suggests that it may have been painful at times for Jesus to watch them, but He let them anyway, even allowing them to set their own examples for others.
This has a good message about delegating priesthood authority and opportunities to use that authority. Perhaps we underestimate the service an experienced priesthood leader does when he gives chances to use the priesthood to someone who is less experienced.
8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee [Zion] for a moment;
but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.
for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth;
so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. (Isaiah 54:8-9)
I always had a hard time seeing how these two ideas were associated together, but I finally got it. The Lord compares the time that Zion has been desolate to the time of Noah when the floods were over the earth with all that rain. Then He says that just as He promised Noah that He would never flood the earth so badly again, He promises everlasting kindness forthwith to Zion.
I find that very encouraging for these days, don’t you?
And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock. (Exodus 2:19)
There is something so funny about this report, since it is the opposite of what we’d expect from an Egyptian or shepherds in the Book of Exodus. You’d expect the shepherds to be delivering them out of the hands of the Egyptians! But since the Egyptian saves them from the shepherds, the Egyptian is a better shepherd than the shepherds were.
Of course, since the Egyptian was Moses (delivering the daughters of Jethro at the well), we know why. Eventually too, Moses would become a shepherd and deliver his people out of the hands of the Egyptians.
I like this little story because it is another example of the type of helpful person Moses was. He didn’t stand aloof from other people’s problems; instead, he made it is problem too and did his best to help.
5 And it came to pass that he [Nehor] did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money.
6 And he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching. (Alma 1:5-6)
We in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often pat ourselves on the back when we read the story of Nehor and his priestcraft. We think that because our church has lay leadership that means that we are safe from priestcraft. It is true that the way the church is organized makes priestcraft much more difficult, but we are not out of the woods yet.
I have begun to see that we are coming to a time when the temptation of priestcraft is exploding from an unexpected direction—blogging. (Other internet communication can be included, but I want to focus on blogging because that is what I am involved in, and I need this message as much as anyone.)
And I don’t just mean religious blogging, I mean ALL blogging. We live in an age when distance is no longer an obstacle to disseminating a message. Technology level and language are still barriers, but if they aren’t, a message can go around the world and bloggers can gain followers from far beyond their physical range of influence. Bloggers are very susceptible to the temptation of priestcraft. See how these verses might apply to bloggers:
…priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world,
that they may get gain and praise of the world;
but they seek not the welfare of Zion. (2 Nephi 26:30)
Bloggers may start writing to get something off their chest, but bloggers continue to write in hopes of being read. Our human need for validation causes the hope of being read to become the hope of being appreciated. Hope for appreciation becomes desire for praise. Considering how our world values fame and celebrity, it is easy for the hope of receiving praise to transform into a hope for popularity. And considering how much our culture values creative enterprise and money-making, hope of popularity easily develops into the hope of someday making a living with one’s blog.
Many people start blogging because they feel they have something important and valuable to say to the rest of the world. We have a light we want to shine. As long as letting our light shine brings others to glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 6:16), all is as it should be, but if becomes setting ourselves up as THE light to get glory for ourselves, then we get into dangerous ground.
Further, Nephi notes that the motives for setting oneself up as a light are the main thing to watch out for.
Priestcraft motive #1: That they may get…praise of the world
This is such a real danger in blogging. What blogger doesn’t love positive comments on what they’ve written? There are little blogging awards that get passed around, contests of popularity as to the best posts or comments, etc.
I am not immune from this. I feel the pull of the desire for honors too; I get fixated on positive comments and I sometimes feel the urge to self-censor or post more of what people seem to like when my goal should be always to inspire, motivate, and edify.
And let’s be honest; it is hard to keep writing without some sense that what you are doing is appreciated by somebody. Receiving praise from other people is one way to tell your writing is appreciated. Luckily, it isn’t the only way. The Lord is able to give us revelation about our effectiveness when no one else says anything. (I just wish I didn’t forget this so often!)
The best kind of comments though, are ones in which someone says that they learned something or they changed for the better because of what was shared; that gives writers true joy. (Those comments are part of what keep me going on this blog and help me feel like all the time and effort I put in has been worth it.) And when someone comments and shares an experience from their life that illustrates what I’ve written about, I am edified and very VERY grateful. Those comments strengthen my faith in the Lord and they teach me. (I love to learn from comments!)
But back to seeking for praise. Seeking for praise can occur in more insidious forms because of blogging tools that allow bloggers to analyze what posts are getting the most traffic and what gets the most comments, what posts cause people to exit their site, and so on. The ability to quantify popularity makes the quest for popularity alarmingly more scientific and calculating. On one hand, these tools can help a blogger hone their writing to become more engaging, which is good, but on the other hand, there is that subtle pressure to write more of what’s popular and less of what isn’t in order to expand and keep readers. (Just as an example of how bloggers value their popular messages and use them, many blogs have widgets on their sidebars that have a list of popular posts. What if we also had lists of unpopular and neglected posts in our sidebars?)
Elder Oaks gave a warning that can be applied to blogging about gospel topics in an address entitled, "Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall," Ensign, Oct. 1994. This is from an address previously given at BYU:
Another illustration of a strength that can become our downfall concerns charismatic teachers. With a trained mind and a skillful manner of presentation, teachers can become unusually popular and effective in teaching. But Satan will try to use that strength to corrupt teachers by encouraging them to gather a following of disciples. . . .Teachers who are most popular, and therefore most effective, have a special susceptibility to priestcraft. If they are not careful, their strength can become their spiritual downfall. They can become like Almon Babbitt, with whom the Lord was not pleased, because "he aspireth to establish his counsel instead of the counsel which I have ordained, even that of the Presidency of my Church; and he setteth up a golden calf for the worship of my people" (D&C 124:84). (http://www.lds.org/ensign/1994/10/our-strengths-can-become-our-downfall?lang=eng)
So, one error that we can fall into as religious bloggers is thinking that readers should listen to us and ignore the prophet and apostles the Lord has put in place to lead us. This is an obvious prideful wish like Almon Babbitt’s wish to supplant those the Lord set in leadership,
Another error is seek to gather a following. Satan does tempt bloggers to gather a following, and those “Follow Me” blog widgets can contribute greatly to it. I have a love-hate relationship with my own Followers widget on my blog. I appreciate it because it reminds me that I have an audience. But I have to continually remind myself when looking at all your pictures that you are looking to the Lord, to the prophets, to the scriptures, and to your local leaders, and my words are simply my personal, though well-considered opinion, which is not binding on anybody.
A different type of error we might make is when/if we find conference messages that repeat even vaguely something we have written about, and we may be tempted to think those speakers learned it from us. (Ohhhh, the insidious ego-ness thereof! Gag! Spit! Shun!) In actuality, the same heavenly source that teaches us, teaches the leaders. Our leaders learn through the Holy Ghost, independent of us, and if anything, the Lord may have actually been working on us to prepare us to heed the words of our leaders.
Blog popularity is double-edged. Lots of readers mean a message can be spread to a lot of people easily, assuming we have something worthwhile to say. But it also brings the high risk of pride, and the risk that we are pleasing people with a message that pleases the carnal mind. (Side note: I do not consider my blog to be popular, But believe me, pride can strike whether there are millions of hits or whether there are five.)
Elder David A. Bednar said in an address originally given to Seminary and Institute instructors:
[W]e must be careful to remember in our service that we are conduits and channels; we are not the light. “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:20). It is never about me and it is never about you. In fact, anything you or I do as an instructor that knowingly and intentionally draws attention to self—in the messages we present, in the methods we use, or in our personal demeanor—is a form of priestcraft that inhibits the teaching effectiveness of the Holy Ghost. “Doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God” (D&C 50:17–18). David A. Bednar, "Seek Learning by Faith," February 3, 2006, Address to CES Religious Educators, Jordan Institute of Religion.
This scripture has some great perspective:
…the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength. (Alma 1:26)
That verse holds a principle that has always been helpful for me to remember when I am about to puff myself up with pride. Just because I blog about the scriptures does not make me a more of a worthwhile person than someone who comments or someone who lurks or someone who doesn’t read blogs at all. We’re all equal. This is another reason why I love it when you comment and share inspiring stories from your lives about living the principles; it reminds me that the blogger and the commenter are equal.
If it sounds like I’m talking too much about myself, it is to show you that I am not immune from problems with this. I have to remind myself because I forget.
Priestcraft motive #2: That they may get gain
Popularity usually begins to bring on the next tempting aspect of priestcraft—seeking gain. There are all kinds of ways that people have discovered they can use to make money off their blogs—reviewing products, sponsorships, embedded ads, banners, affiliate links, etc. There are whole industries devoted to increasing online popularity, blogs and otherwise.
I’ve been tempted by this too. I go through stages where I wish I could find some way to “monetize” my blog, and then I have to slap myself out of that. I used to wish that I could make a living as a scripture blogger, but I’ve never been paid one cent for it, and I suppose that I probably never will.
Actually, I wrote the above paragraph a few months ago and then interestingly enough, someone commented on one of my posts, inviting me to become an affiliate so I could earn money with my blog. My first reaction was, “Wow, they think I have snagged enough eyeballs to make them money! I’ve arrived!” But my second reaction was “Priestcraft! Stay away!” I thought it through carefully, and I could see that if I became an affiliate site, my focus would change, and I would become more interested in what money I was making than in my labor of love of blogging about the scriptures, which I consider laboring for Zion.
Why is priestcraft such a big deal? Because the consequences are dire. Here’s Nephi’s warning for all those who engage in priestcraft:
For the time speedily shall come that all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world, and those who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity; yea, in fine, all those who belong to the kingdom of the devil are they who need fear, and tremble, and quake; they are those who must be brought low in the dust; they are those who must be consumed as stubble; and this is according to the words of the prophet. (1 Nephi 22:23, emphasis added)
Consumed as stubble. That’s a heavy consequence for priestcraft.
Nephi observed priestcraft causing great problems in gentile society:
And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor. (2 Nephi 26:20)
These days churches aren’t just brick and mortar; they can be virtual as well. Nephi notes that spiritual hazards that go with priestcraft are denying miracles and preaching up one’s own wisdom (which may include scientific atheism), and neglect of (and even abuse of) the poor.
Seek the welfare of Zion
Seeking the welfare of Zion should be the motive of any blogging or preaching. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It’s about wanting to make the reader’s lives better, wanting to say something that will be of benefit, that may bring positive change, something that may help unravel difficulties and make the right way clear. It’s not saying something just to keep posting on schedule, but to edify and enlighten. It requires charity.
The goal is to not put oneself above others, but to show others how to rise to a higher level. The goal is not to champion our own view, but to increase perspective so the truth can be seen more clearly.
I’ve written about the different aspects of priestcraft that can enter blogging because I’ve had to struggle with it myself in all kinds of different ways. My hope is that sharing these things will help you to find and conquer priestcraft in yourself, and your desire to strengthen Zion with sound words and pure motives will be increased. We need as much of that as we can get.
The goal we are all striving for is this:
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:34, emphasis added)
The day will come when teaching will be over because ALL will know. It will be a day of kings and queens, priests and priestesses, everyone at the pinnacle of knowledge and development. There is no room for pride and priestcraft in that future.
I’ve been pondering that statement today. There’s a lot of meaning wrapped up in it that I want to draw out to show why we as members can say, “The church is true.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s church. The church belongs to Him and no one else. He established it. He revealed Himself to a man and called him to be a prophet.
Christ established the priesthood and instituted the ordinances of it. He sent angels to ordain men to hold the keys of the priesthood.
He established all the offices of the priesthood and gave revelation as to their duties.
He gave the gift of the Holy Ghost whereby all members of the church could receive greater revelations to guide them and speak in the name of the Lord.
He reveals, reminds, and warns the church through the prophet and apostles.
He gives to church leaders to know by the Holy Ghost who should serve in what callings. He gives to members by the Holy Ghost inspiration concerning their calling as well as revelation about their lives.
He gives inspiration as to where missionaries should be sent on their missions, and He gives inspiration to those missionaries as to where they should go, who they should teach, and how.
He gave revelation about temple-building in all particulars as to why, how, and where. He gave revelation as to what should be done in temples and who would do it.
That’s just scratching the surface.
The Lord is in this work. It is His church. That’s why we can say the church is true.
Image 1: First vision, http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,104-1-3-4,00.html
Image 2: Priesthood Restoration, http://mormonthink.com/priesthood.htm
Image 3: Priests preparing sacrament, http://www.mormonwiki.com/Priests
Image 4: Gift of the Holy Ghost, http://sandiegomormontemple.com/142/mormon-priesthood
Image 5: Mormon prophet Thomas S. Monson, http://wellbehavedmormonwoman.blogspot.com/2012/03/why-do-mormons-trust-men-to-speak-for.html
Image 7: MormonMissionaries, http://dcmormontemple.com/104/mormon-missionaries
Image 8: Nauvoo Temple, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nauvoo_Temple
15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
It is easy to dismiss this parable as one applying to the rich and not to ourselves. However, I think that Jesus set a rich man as the main character in order to exaggerate the characteristics that he wished to decry in order to make them more obvious and to show the end consequences. The piercing question, “whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” could be said to a poor man or a middle class man as well as a rich man. People at all heights on the socio-economic latter can be equally obsessed with their possessions, equally covetous for more, and equally chagrinned if they were to be told their life would end that night.
But I’m going at this a bit out of order.
The rich man’s solution to an incredibly bounteous harvest seems like common sense from a worldly standpoint. He’s acting under the assumption that he still has many years to live and provide for himself. He’s very prudent in temporal things, as we can see throughout the parable. He works hard at farming, and the ground brought forth plentifully, so we see he understands the law of the harvest. He is careful to provide proper storage for his goods, with proper-sized barns. He understands the principle of delayed gratification, as he understands the more he works now, the more he’ll have later to enjoy. He knows how much he needs in a year to have a high quality of life, and he can tell that after this harvest he has enough that he probably doesn’t have to work again for the rest of his life. The problem is, he thought of it as all his own, all so he could take it easy, eat, drink, and have fun. He forgot it was a stewardship given to him by God. It is interesting this man was already rich before the bounteous harvest, and his bounteous harvest made him obscenely rich.
The wake-up call comes when God says to him, “this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” Suddenly the assumption that he has to provide for himself for many more years is no longer valid. Suddenly it is clear that he won’t even need any of what he has stored up. (If he were to decide to dispose of his possessions in charitable giving in one day, would he be able to accomplish it all? Or would it have been better for him to be giving all along? Clearly giving all along is the better way.)
This parable throws into sharp relief the conflicting requirements between the need to provide for oneself and the importance of being ready to leave it all behind and meet God. We don’t know how long we will live, but we also don’t know how soon we will die.
Said another way, we live now according to our perception of the future. We save carefully to prepare for later years when we will not be able to work. But we forget that our mortal future is only temporary and we don’t know how long it will last. Provision for a long mortal future does not guarantee we will actually have that time. The greatest future we have to prepare for is eternity. If we only prepare for the future of our mortal life, we demonstrate shortsightedness.
Do you see the dot in the middle of those lines above? The dot is like our mortal life. The lines are like eternity.
I think one of the ways we can stay prepared is by staying de-cluttered. There’s a lot here that can apply to clutter.
What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? – When we have no room for all our stuff, it is a good indication that we need to let go. The world’s solution is to get a bigger storage space, but this parable suggests it’s better to give away the surplus and donate to charity—“be rich toward God,” in other words.
Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years – So often, the things we are hanging onto are not for use now, but for later at a time when we anticipate we will be able to use them, or for a time that someone else will be able to use them! This parable suggests that if we were to suddenly pass away, there would have been no point in storing those items. (Not only that, but the haunting question “then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” hints that our specific wishes for that stuff we were storing probably wouldn’t be known by those trying to dispose of it. They may do something completely different with it from what we wanted done.) The rich man may have been keeping things to bequeath to his children, but this parable suggests the time to give is now. What if instead we keep around only the things we are using now.
I think the parable also shows the difference between providing for oneself and covetousness. The man in the parable was already rich beyond providing for his ordinary human needs, but he had to have more. Likewise, it is possible to figure out how much we really need to live and calculate how much is needed for that part of our mortal future when we won’t be able to provide for ourselves.
Ultimately, this is the punch line of the parable—“a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” What did the rich man’s life consist of, minus his riches? We may never know, since this was a parable, but it is a good question to ask of ourselves—“What does my life consist of, minus my possessions?” It is a very important question to ask because at some point we will die, and our spirits will be separated from our bodies and will have nothing more to do with the material world, for a long, long while. What will our spirits do to spend the time between death and resurrection without any things to use and play with? We’ve been told that we will join the throng of teachers preaching to the spirits who are in prison, but are we prepared to do that? Will that be an activity congenial to us there if it is not now? We’ve been told we will join our departed families, but are we prepared with the social skills and communication skills to appreciate and use that time together?