Saturday, December 26, 2009 1 comments

Lessons from the Amlici Threat

Recently I was reading in Alma 2, which recounts the incidents surrounding the attempt of Amlici to take over as king, and as I read about the battle, I realized this was another one of those relatively bald accounts that seems hard to derive meaning from. We don’t have much “and thus we see”s to help us here. Not only that, I began to wonder why Mormon included so much detail about the battle when it seems fairly straightforward.

Here's a summary:

Amlici seeks to be king and gathers many followers. There is a huge debate and Amlici’s bid for kingship is rejected. His followers make him king anyway and he commands them to make war on the Nephites. The Nephites fight Amlici and defeat them with a body count of 1:2 (N:A). Amlicites flee into the wilderness. Alma sends spies to watch them. Spies return next day warning the Amlicites have joined an army of Lamanites and are attacking the city of Zarahemla. Nephites fight huge host of Amlicites and Lamanites on banks of Sidon river, pray for deliverance and are strengthened. Alma fights Amlici, prays for deliverance, and kills him. Nephites defeat Lamanites and drive them into the wilderness.

It occurred to me that there must have been something singular about this account for Mormon to decide that it merited inclusion. So I started looking for notable aspects.

The first thing that stuck out to me was these verses about the second battle:
27 And behold as they were crossing the river Sidon, the Lamanites and the Amlicites, being as numerous almost, as it were, as the sands of the sea, came upon them to destroy them.
28 Nevertheless, the Nephites being strengthened by the hand of the Lord, having prayed mightily to him that he would deliver them, therefore the Lord did hear their cries, and did strengthen them, and the Lamanites and the Amlicites did fall before them. (Alma 2:27-28)
It is hard for us to get a sense of the true gravity of the situation when we are just skimming along the text, and this time when I was reading it occurred to me that the combined army of Amlicites and Lamanites must have been so large that just seeing the numbers caused the Nephites to cry out to the Lord to be saved. The numbers must have been so large that only God could help them. We often take it for granted that the Nephites armies will win in these accounts, but in this case it must have seemed by no means certain. Rather, it must have seemed a near-hopeless situation with imminent destruction practically staring them in the face.

So when it says that the Lord heard their cries and strengthened them, we are being told of a miracle.

Then I noticed something else that happened a little earlier in the text. Here’s what the spies said when they delivered their report:
Behold, we followed the camp of the Amlicites, and to our great astonishment, in the land of Minon, above the land of Zarahemla, in the course of the land of Nephi, we saw a numerous host of the Lamanites; and behold, the Amlicites have joined them. (Alma 2:24)
It struck me that that it was very interesting that when the Lamanite army met an Amlicite (apparently Nephite) army they joined together. Armies can do three things when they meet. They fight, they flee, or they join together. If a Lamanite army meets an army that looks Nephite in the wilderness, you’d think the Lamanite army would automatically fight the Nephite army. Instead the two armies join together. Armies will only join if they are on the same side. If there are no negotiations before joining, we can only conclude that they already know that they are allies. Because this seems to have happened with the Amlicites and Lamanites, it hit me that the Amlicites must have formed an alliance with them around the time that Amlici was made king.

Then something else occurred to me. I thought it was very interesting that Amlicites, when they were beaten, fled off into the wilderness. Interesting that they seemed to know exactly where to go to meet the Lamanites. And why didn’t the Amlicites wait until the Lamanites got there before they fought the Nephites? Could it be that the first Amlicite battle was not supposed to be the real battle at all? What if it was actually supposed to be a decoy, a diversion? It certainly could have ended up that way if the spies hadn’t been sent to follow the Amlicites to see what they would do. With the Nephite army clear out in the wilderness, Zarahemla would be wide open for invasion.

That has to be what happened. The Nephites almost were defeated with a diversionary strategy worthy of Captain Moroni. What saved them? Nephite spies were sent to watch the fleeing Amlicite army. Those spies warned the army in time and the army got to Zarahemla in time (to realize just how outnumbered they were). Who sent the spies out? Alma the Younger, who was the prophet.

So now we have a better idea of why this account was special. The Nephites were at a major disadvantage, being unaware of a clever diversionary plan to decoy them away from the city, and being far fewer in number than the invading armies of Amlicites and Lamanites. The deck was certainly stacked against them. And yet.. they won. With the help of the Lord they won.

The message I see in this story is that we don’t need to fear being outnumbered. We don’t need to fear the strategies against us. If we follow the prophet, we’ll be safe and we will be led to defend exactly what is under attack. If we pray for help, we’ll be strengthened at those times that we are outnumbered.
Sunday, December 13, 2009 3 comments

Charity and Spiritual Gifts: How Do They Mesh?

Here are some verses which have puzzled me for quite a while.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)
I get the part about charity being the greatest, but I always wondered what was meant by the statement that prophecies would fail, tongues would cease, and knowledge would vanish. What is this about knowing in part, prophesying in part, and then doing away that which is in part when perfection comes? It seems to be saying that other spiritual gifts are only part of something and that they will cease. It seems to say that spiritual gifts are the childish things and charity is becoming like an adult. It seems to say that spiritual gifts are like seeing through a glass darkly, but charity is seeing face to face. How is this the case?

After some wrestling, the idea that I finally came to was that every spiritual gift possessed by man is a piece of the ultimate spiritual gift of charity. Like maybe if you put together all the spiritual gifts in one person, the gifts run into each other until you can’t distinguish where one ends and another starts and the whole together is charity.

[W]hen that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away – If we think of charity as just another spiritual gift we might tend to think that if we don’t have it then it’s just not our particular gift. But if we think of all the other spiritual gifts as parts of charity, then we have greater motivation to acquire more spiritual gifts so that we can be a greater blessing to those around us, knowing that it will bring us closer to the perfection of charity. Certainly charity is the bond of perfectness and peace. The parts are done away in the whole.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face – When you think about it, it is true that we have a hard time seeing each other for who we really are. Spiritual gifts help us get a little better view of each other as precious children of God, but charity has to be the pinnacle of heavenly vision.

So if all the spiritual gifts together are charity, maybe that’s why it is said that the church is the body of Christ with all the members needed, each with their spiritual gifts. Maybe that’s why we are given the church organization so that we can all come to the perfect man and the stature of the fullness of Christ.

And what are the spiritual gifts except special ways of showing love and being of service?
Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. (1 Corinthians 14:12)
The whole purpose of the gifts is to edify and benefit the church. Charity!
11 For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.
13 To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
14 To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
15 And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.
16 And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.
17 And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.
18 To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.
19 And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;
20 And to others it is given to have faith to heal.
21 And again, to some is given the working of miracles;
22 And to others it is given to prophesy;
23 And to others the discerning of spirits.
24 And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;
25 And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.
26 And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God. (Doctrine & Covenants 46:11-26, emphasis added)
Do you see how all of these gifts can be used to benefit others? And if all have not every gift given to them, it means some gifts have to be worked for and prayed for. And we are encouraged to seek after spiritual gifts to help others and not to consume it on our lusts.
30 He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.
31 And again, I say unto you, all things must be done in the name of Christ, whatsoever you do in the Spirit; (Doctrine & Covenants 46:30-31)

School your feelings. Schooooooool your feeeeelings.

I have to hand it to President Monson. Talk about prophetic. You know, the longer I live, the greater respect I come to have for the prophet (and the apostles) for their willingness to speak out on important issues. The talk that I’m particularly grateful for right now is his talk “School Thy Feelings, O My Brother”, which he gave in the priesthood session. In this talk, he urged the priesthood to cultivate a proper spirit at all times by choosing to refrain from becoming angry.

I testify that this talk was both timely and needed. In the last little while I have witnessed or heard about at least four anger incidents just in the lives of members of the church, one incident of which I was involved in. Reading his talk made a big difference for me and helped me get back on track.

President Monson pointed out various causes of anger such as the following:
  • When things don’t turn out the way we want
  • Reaction to something said about us
  • Reaction to something said to us
  • When people don’t behave the way we want
  • When we have to wait for something longer than we expected (Hello, road rage on slow-moving highways!)
  • When others can’t see things from our perspective
  • When we feel we have been hurt or unjustly treated
Some other choice tidbits:
A man’s a fool who takes an insult that isn’t intended.
There are as many reasons for anger as there are people on the earth. (But there are also as many reasons to refrain from anger.)
The Apostle Paul asks in Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 26 of the Joseph Smith Translation: “Can ye be angry, and not sin? let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”
I ask, is it possible to feel the Spirit of our Heavenly Father when we are angry? I know of no instance where such would be the case.

From 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, we read:

“There shall be no disputations among you. . . . For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.”
It is my conviction that it doesn’t matter if you were right or wrong if you have the spirit of contention. You have to get rid of that spirit.
To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry. I testify that such is possible.
Anger, Satan’s tool, is destructive in so many ways.
May we ever be exemplary in our homes and faithful in keeping all of the commandments, that we may harbor no animosity toward any man but rather be peacemakers, ever remembering the Savior’s admonition, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” [emphasis added]
“School thy feelings, O my brother;
Train thy warm, impulsive soul.
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.”
As I read that bit of verse, one word that sticks out to me is “school”. We must “school” our feelings, not “smother” them. What is involved in schooling our feelings? I think it involves careful self-talk, figuring out what it is that we feel, giving it a label so that we know what it is, figuring out what exactly is causing it, analyzing what the extent of it is, thinking about how we’d like to react, thinking about whether that would change anything for the better, pinpointing any unreasonable feelings and talking ourselves out of them.

“Self, I know it feels like you are being insulted, but she didn’t mean it.”
“But what if she did?”
“Then do you want to give her the satisfaction of knowing she got to you? But, you don’t know what she intended, and you don’t have control over her. You only have control over yourself.”

When we school our feelings, we teach ourselves what to feel, how to feel it, and how to express it. We teach ourselves when it is time to walk away and cool down. We teach ourselves what tone of voice to use and what words and actions are totally off limits.

“Self, you will NOT raise your voice, and you will NOT call names. You also will NOT use profanity, no matter what happens.”

“Self, you are starting to hate her. You need to go pray for help to forgive her and pray to not be angry.”

“Self, you will NOT send that email today. You will wait 24 hours and then read through it again and edit it.”

Elder Kent D. Watson also gave a great talk on temperance in conference called “Being Temperate in All Things”. Elder Watson indirectly highlighted one particular area that temperance is needed when he describes the age Joseph Smith lived as he was seeking answers to his questions. About the community of converts to various religions, “All their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.” This shows us that temperance is needed in religious discussion. That word “contest” shows where the intemperance can come from. When opinion-sharing becomes a contest, temperance flies out the window and spiritual manipulation and abuse can creep in.

This suggests some other ways that we can acquire temperance. We can temper our perceptions so that we are not easily offended. One way that I have found that helps me temper my perceptions is by working hard to remember that the person I am talking to does not mean to be offensive or cause me pain. When I am talking to person who is part of an organization, I try to remember that the person has certain rules set by the organization that they have to follow which may dictate the way that they interact with me. If they can’t help me, keeping the above in mind helps me keep from feeling like they are trying to make my life hard just for fun. Instead, I try to find out what policies they may be working around in hopes that we can negotiate a way to both meet our goals.

Of course there are times when people do things just to try to push our buttons. At these times, temperance is important because it allows us to choose our actions, rather than reacting in a way that we may regret later. I found that one skill that laid a foundation for me to acquire temperance in this respect was that of controlling the volume of my voice. When I was a teen, there were times when I got upset with my parents and started arguing with them. I would get louder. My dad could keep his voice perfectly level and he would tell me, “Please lower your voice.” I had to. (And he was keeping his voice down, so I always felt like I had gotten out of hand.) Another thing that helped me become more temperate was when my mother would tell us not to call each other names. This meant we had to find other ways of communicating displeasure with someone. (And of course, I learned from watching my brother get his mouth washed out with soap that profanity wasn’t appropriate either.)

Elder Watson compared temperance to the qualities of tempered glass.
Tempered glass, like tempered steel, undergoes a well-controlled heating process which increases strength. Thus, when tempered glass is under stress, it will not easily break into jagged shards that can injure. Likewise, a temperate soul—one who is humble and full of love—is also a person of increased spiritual strength.
If our windshields were not made of tempered glass, any bit of highway gravel thrown up at them might shatter them into thousands of sharp pieces and hurt everyone in the car. However, because windshields are tempered, the small things that hit it during everyday driving seem to have no effect. At most we may see a small crack, which we can then repair.

In the same way, a tempered soul has the spiritual strength to deal with the thousand little stresses of everyday with self-control and poise and the act of dealing well with the small things increases strength to handle the big problems.

I testify that these words about temperance and schooling our feelings are needed TODAY. Following the words of the prophets will allow us to escape the wrath of God when it overtakes the wicked.
Friday, December 11, 2009 1 comments

Great Resources for Teaching Church Lessons and Family Home Evenings

I have a tendency to put myself on the list of volunteers to substitute teach in primary classes, and as a result, I have substitute-taught a fair number of different classes this year. I’m not always content with the attention activities in the book; my goal is always to find object lessons and approaches that are both memorable and strongly tied to the purpose of the lesson.

Technology sometimes plays a part in my lessons, but I really dislike the prospect of checking videos and things out from the library because I have to do it during church while the class may be running wild. I don’t even like checking pictures out. I feel more relaxed as a teacher when I come to church completely prepared with all the resources I need.

I remember one time I was asked to sub in the CTR 8 class. The lesson was about how Heavenly Father loves all his children and contained several stories of children in different countries and how they lived the gospel. As I was reading over the lesson I strongly felt that I needed lots of pictures. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the lesson book. The lesson listed some pictures I could use, but I didn’t care for the idea of having to get them from the library.

Finally I got the idea to make a power point presentation and get lots of pictures from the internet that would work with the lesson stories and put them in the presentation and then bring in my laptop and show the pictures as a slideshow as I told the stories that went with them. It made me laugh to think of subjecting the 8-year-olds to a Powerpoint presentation, but I knew the pictures would interest them in a way that would make it possible for the Holy Ghost to work on them. And I was right. (Of course I later found out that I may have broken some copyright laws by using images not owned by the church.. DOH!! Guess I can’t do that anymore..)

Something the lesson suggested I do was sing “Children All Over the World” with the children. As I was studying the lesson, I knew from past experience that it feels uncomfortable to sing even a well-known primary song without some sort of accompaniment. So I downloaded an mp3 of the song from the church’s website onto my laptop and when teaching the lesson, all I really needed to do was hit play and then it felt more natural for everyone to sing. (I love that the church has primary songs for download!)

I’m very grateful for the technology tools that we have that can solve some of these problems and create an environment for the Holy Ghost to be present and teach.

One new resource that I’m excited about is the church’s Old Testament Visual Resource DVDs. My mother-in-law got us this for Christmas (and she had us open our gifts early). Today I decided that I wanted to try the DVDs out to see what they were like. The thing I was most excited about was the videos that were included. These are high quality videos, many of which I remember watching when I was in seminary and which had a big impact on me. (In fact, there have been occasions when I wished I had access to some of those videos to use in some lessons I’ve taught.) I can see these videos being useful in both church lessons and family home evenings.

Another thing I liked about the DVD was the charts. They are called “charts”, but what they really are is a series of slides that list scriptures and ask a question about those scriptures for you to think about when you look them up and read them. After each question slide is an answer slide. Of what I saw, there was a chart about the difference between true prophets and false prophets, a chart about prophecies of Christ that were in Psalms and then places in the scriptures where each prophecy was fulfilled. I think these charts would be a really good thing to use in family scripture study or family home evening. They can give children valuable experiences of searching the scriptures for answers and get them used to doing it.

There’s a sizable booklet that comes with the DVDs that acts as an index for everything on the DVDs. It goes by topic, and it also shows what kind of visual each thing is. There are videos, music videos, charts, audio quotations, video quotations, text quotations, and paintings.

I kind of wondered why paintings and text quotations were included in the DVD, since the church has a booklet of just pictures that can be used for lessons and church lessons tend to have choice quotations included with them. I looked at the booklet though, which had a list of all the copyrights and I saw that most of the paintings are fairly new ones that have been produced within the last 30 years. This means that these pictures not going to be the usual ones we’ve seen so often.

For small children, there is another DVD included with narrated slides of pictures from the book Old Testament Stories. (I remember my mom reading to me and my siblings from those books over and over when we were little.) I took some time to watch a few chapters from it and it was funny how much it took me back to my childhood. I listened to those simple words and I tell you, I felt the Spirit. This is a great way to familiarize children with scripture stories and it is something they can watch on Sunday (and any other days too).

I look forward to using the Old Testament Visual Resource DVDs in future lessons and I recommend it.

While I was at the church website, I happened to find more videos that are offered; these are on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History and they can be found here. Since we are studying the Doctrine & Covenants in Sunday school this year, I’m surprised I haven’t heard of anyone showing these in class.

Another resource that I recommend for teachers is a booklet put out by the church called “Teaching, No Greater Call”. (It can be accessed from the church’s website here.) It has a number of lessons on the following topics:
  • The Importance of Gospel Teaching in God’s Plan
  • Prepare Yourself Spiritually
  • Improve upon Your Talents
  • Love Those You Teach
  • Teach By the Spirit
  • Teach the Doctrine
  • Invite Diligent Learning
  • Create a Learning Atmosphere
  • Use Effective Methods
  • Prepare Every Needful Thing
  • Teaching Different Age Groups
  • Teaching in the Family
  • Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching
  • Teaching in Leadership Settings
It also has significant discussion on methods of teaching, along with a huge list of teaching methods! This list is so big you’ll wonder why you ever let your teaching get in a rut.

Here’s a small sample:
  • Case studies
  • Demonstrations
  • Dramatizations
  • Guest Speakers
  • Maps
  • Music
  • Puppets
  • Role Playing
  • Work sheets
Does that sound FUN or WHAT?!!

So why should we care about our teaching methods and whether we use resources or not?

Here’s a fabulous story that addresses this question. It’s from the “Teaching No Greater Call” manual (p222-223) about Elder Boyd K. Packer when he was a mission president:
We scheduled zone conferences. For each one, Sister Packer baked a three-tiered cake,…decorated beautifully—thick, colorful layers of frosting, trimmed beautifully, and with ‘The Gospel’ inscribed across the top. When the missionaries were assembled, with some ceremony we brought the cake in. It was something to behold!

As we pointed out that the cake represented the gospel, we asked, ‘Who would like to have some?’ There was always a hungry elder who eagerly volunteered. We called him forward and said, ‘We will serve you first.’ I then sank my fingers into the top of the cake and tore out a large piece. I was careful to clench my fist after tearing it out so that the frosting would ooze through my fingers, and then as the elders sat in total disbelief, I threw the piece of cake to the elder, splattering some frosting down the front of his suit. ‘Would anyone else like some cake?’ I inquired. For some reason, there were no takers.

Then we produced a crystal dish, a silver fork, a linen napkin, and a beautiful silver serving knife. With great dignity I carefully cut a slice of the cake from the other side, gently set it on the crystal dish, and asked, ‘Would anyone like a piece of cake?’

The lesson was obvious. It was the same cake in both cases, the same flavor, the same nourishment. The manner of serving either made it inviting, even enticing, or uninviting, even revolting. The cake, we reminded the missionaries, represented the gospel. How were they serving it?

After the demonstration we had no difficulty—in fact, some considerable enthusiasm—for the effort to improve the teaching of the discussions. A few months later I thought the missionaries might well be reminded of the lesson, so I sent out a bulletin with a sketch of the cake.

When I met the missionaries again, I said, ‘You received a bulletin recently, didn’t you?’

‘Yes indeed.’

‘And what did it say?’

Invariably the missionaries said, ‘It reminded us to sharpen up on presenting our lessons and to do more studying, to learn the lessons carefully, and then to help one another in our procedure for having them taught.’

‘You got all that out of one picture?’

‘Yes, that’s one lesson we won’t soon forget!’

I should, of course, add that I was happy where necessary to pay the bill to clean the elder’s suit!
It is my conviction that Heavenly Father has inspired the creation of many helpful resources for us to use in teaching the gospel, and using the right presentation and teaching methods and resources for the situation can make a big difference. As just a little instance, I have learned that one of the reasons we have appropriate attention activities at the beginning of our church lessons is to not to entertain (although that can happen), but to pique interest and curiosity. When we become interested and curious, we want to learn and we open our hearts to receive. We become humble and meek and teachable. This allows the Holy Ghost to work on us and teach us the things that the Lord really wants us to know, which may or may not be included in the actual words of the lesson.

I also know that as we prepare our lessons, Heavenly Father can help us know what will be the best methods to use.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009 3 comments

On struggling for a willingness to believe

34 And thus we see that the Nephites did begin to dwindle in unbelief, and grow in wickedness and abominations, while the Lamanites began to grow exceedingly in the knowledge of their God; yea, they did begin to keep his statutes and commandments, and to walk in truth and uprightness before him.
35 And thus we see that the Spirit of the Lord began to withdraw from the Nephites, because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts.
36 And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words. (Helaman 6:34-36, emphasis added)
I really liked Elder Ringwood’s talk (“An Easiness and Willingness to Believe”, October General Conference 2009) about easiness and willingness to believe because I ran across that same phrase he highlighted and it too made me pause and ponder. Here are some of the things he said that I felt were most helpful.

Believing examples help us
"This easiness to believe comes from the example of others who have soft hearts and who model this easiness to believe, such as Nephi and Lehi."
The generosity and great words of others can prepare our hearts to believe
“After Ammon simply requested that the king allow Lamoni to worship as he desired in his own kingdom, the generosity and greatness of Ammon’s words caused the king to be troubled in mind and heart”
Lamoni’s father allowed Ammon’s words to trouble him to the point that it humbled him and he became willing to seek for instruction and to repent.

Prayer can help us believe
“We are blessed with others in the scriptures who teach us how we can obtain an easiness and willingness to believe. Nephi, son of Lehi, is one example. His first act when he heard his father teach about the destruction of Jerusalem was to cry unto the Lord till his heart was soft and he believed all the words spoken by his father”
Hungering for truth helps us believe
“From Enos we learn the importance of allowing the words of God to sink deep into our hearts till we hunger for truth. An easiness to believe will come when the word of God is etched into our hearts.”
Also implicit in Elder Ringwood’s words is that we have to ponder the words of God often to get them to sink down into our hearts. When they have penetrated deeply enough, they will be etched on our hearts and we will find it easy to believe them because they will have actually become a part of our very identity that we act on.

Life circumstance can prepare us to want to believe
“Periods of significant change, such as marriage or the birth of a child; periods of intense service from a new calling or a mission; periods in our youth with a wonderful bishop, youth leaders, and seminary teachers; periods of trials; and periods of growth from learning for the first time about the gospel are all periods of an easiness to believe.”
We can allow our experiences and trials to humble us so that we become willing to believe. One of the best ways to use our circumstances as a springboard to belief is to carefully keep a journal and spend a little time each day writing about how we have seen the hand of the Lord in our lives that day, as Elder Eyring recommended several general conferences ago.

Commitment to living the gospel helps us believe
“If you are like me, you will find what really brought an easiness and willingness to believe were not the circumstances but the commitment to live the gospel during these periods of life.”
If it were truly the circumstances that determined our level of belief, then we would not truly be free agents. Rather it is how we act (not react) that makes the difference.

Obedience helps us believe
“I witness that this easiness and willingness to believe will come from doing those seemingly insignificant things taught to us repeatedly since our youth. Obedience will bring soft hearts and an easiness to believe in the word of God. I bear witness that an easiness to believe will bring an outpouring of the Spirit.”
Those Sunday school answers—pray, read the scriptures, go to church, keep the commandments—will change us if we do them with zeal and not complacency. Something I have noticed in my own life is that when I am truly zealous I find myself praying more often, reading the scriptures more often, and more intent upon doing my duty. And I notice that I’m not doing it with thoughts of “I’m so righteous; look how much I’m doing this” but because I find that I NEED to and WANT to. It becomes as necessary to me as breathing and I feel like I will wither and die without it. Belief becomes perfectly easy and natural.

Like Nephi told his brothers:
…if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth...(1 Nephi 16:3)
This seems to show us that willingness to believe is part of what brings easiness to believe. I have found this to be true in my own life. But if you are having troubles finding willingness to belief in your heart, often an experience of opposition can help you. When I was recently going through a stage of wishy-washy-ness, I found myself faced with a school assignment that I found morally repugnant. I finally just said to myself, “I am NOT going to do this. Whatever happens, I’m not doing this.” Taking my stand with determination took me beyond realm of belief into faith (belief + action). Further, it galvanized me to try to exert a good influence on others.
31 Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?
32 I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.
33 Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above. (D&C 58:31-33)
This scripture tells us that belief is very much attached to our obedience. We normally think that belief is required for obedience, but Elder Ringwood pointed out too that the reverse is just as true. Obedience is required in order to believe too. Obedience leads to belief, which leads to obedience, which leads to belief, etc.

Carefully patrolling our thoughts and feelings is also necessary to maintaining strong belief.

Elder Robert D. Hales said:
“[W]e must be careful not to constrain [the Holy Ghost’s] influence. When we do not do what is right or when our outlook is dominated by skepticism, cynicism, criticism, and irreverence toward others and their beliefs, the Spirit cannot be with us. We then act in a way that the prophets describe as the natural man.” (“Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ”, October General Conference 2009)
There have been times when I have been in church meetings listening to a talk or a song and I have been feeling the Spirit and then I start thinking critical or cynical thoughts. Too much of it, and then I feel the Spirit leave and I feel so empty. That’s when I realize what I did and I have to pray for forgiveness and then apply myself to listening more carefully, to receiving what is said, and to mentally assenting to every truth I hear. And eventually the Spirit returns.

Elder Tad R. Callister said:
“…some are willing to set aside the precious gospel truths restored by Joseph Smith because they get diverted on some historical issue or some scientific hypothesis not central to their exaltation, and in so doing they trade their spiritual birthright for a mess of pottage. They exchange the absolute certainty of the Restoration for a doubt, and in that process they fall into the trap of losing faith in the many things they do know because of a few things they do not know. There will always be some seemingly intellectual crisis looming on the horizon as long as faith is required and our minds are finite, but likewise there will always be the sure and solid doctrines of the Restoration to cling to, which will provide the rock foundation upon which our testimonies may be built.” (“Joseph Smith—Prophet of the Restoration”, October General Conference 2009)
If I were to paraphrase Elder Callister, I would probably say something like, “A testimony in hand is worth two doubts in the bush.” That being said, I think there is a difference between doubts and questions. Doubts don’t really do anything for me except paralyze me. Questions? I have many questions of my own, but I have never lost sleep over them. I know that if I frame my questions with faith, eventually the Lord will answer them for my edification when I am spiritually prepared. Many posts on this blog represent questions I have had that have been answered.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said:
“The Savior warned that in the last days even those of the covenant, the very elect, could be deceived by the enemy of truth….In Lehi’s dream an already difficult journey gets more difficult when a mist of darkness arises, obscuring any view of the safe but narrow path his family and others are to follow. It is imperative to note that this mist of darkness descends on all the travelers—the faithful and the determined ones (the elect, we might even say) as well as the weaker and ungrounded ones. The principal point of the story is that the successful travelers resist all distractions, including the lure of forbidden paths and jeering taunts from the vain and proud who have taken those paths. The record says that the protected “did press their way forward, continually [and, I might add, tenaciously] holding fast” to a rod of iron that runs unfailingly along the course of the true path….Remember this declaration by Jesus Himself: “Whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived”—and in the last days neither your heart nor your faith will fail you.” (“Safety for the Soul”, October General Conference 2009)
How will having an easiness and willingness to believe help us in a time when Satan is working so hard to deceive? Will having an easiness and willingness to believe make us more vulnerable? I don’t think easiness to believe is about believing everything you’re told by everybody unconditionally. I think that the key is to treasure up the word of the Lord as given by the scriptures, the church leaders, and personal revelation and measure everything by that standard. We know that by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of all things.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Unbelief can also be a product of pride, when our spirits are presented with greater knowledge from God but prefer to think that we already know best and prefer to discard it. In this case we are left to ever learn but never come to a knowledge of the truth.
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward….
29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned. (D&C 58:26,29)
This scripture suggests to me that unbelief tends to stop our progress and we become unwilling to do good on our own impetus. And unfortunately that leads to being unwilling to do good even when commanded.

Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days. (D&C 64:34)
Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe. (Alma 32:16)
He that receiveth of God, let him account it of God; and let him rejoice that he is accounted of God worthy to receive. (D&C 50:34)
The final word on the matter:
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed. (D&C 123:17)
Friday, November 20, 2009 0 comments

The Spiritual Perils of Going Through Foreclosure

Whether or not you have noticed, there is a movement among a number of people who say that if homeowners are underwater they should just walk away and allow their house to go into foreclosure to get out from underneath the debt. There are others who say that the homeowner should try to get a loan modification.

Please consider the article “How Banks View Loan Modifications.”

When I read this article, I was very disturbed that the writer seemed to say that a homeowner should not feel guilty and ashamed. The subtext seemed to be “The banks are trying to emotionally manipulate you to think that you are the bad guy, so get back at them by determining to not feel guilty about going through foreclosure.”

This is wrong on so many levels.

I know by sad experience (though not with foreclosure) that when a person makes a conscious decision to not feel sorry for something they have done wrong, they are deadening their conscience. It is refusing to sacrifice a broken heart and contrite spirit. Unless they realize what has happened and speedily repent, the Spirit will cease striving with them and they will become as the Nephites of old in Mormon’s day—good for nothing but to be hewn down and cast into the fire.

I can’t emphasize enough how DANGEROUS this spiritual state is.
Repenting of it requires:
  • Praying for forgiveness for the decision to not feel sorry
  • Praying for forgiveness for all other sins committed which caused the decision
  • Praying to overcome all temptation to shrink from the pain of a broken heart
I’m not talking about a few sporadic prayers. Constant prayer is required. It’s a very hard and painful process. You DON’T EVER want to go there.

Back to the foreclosure issue. Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not making any kind of judgment of people who have their house foreclosed. There are all kinds of ways people get into this predicament. I just want to point out the spiritual dangers and consequences of going through it. To not do what you promise to do in a contract is a sin, but there is a difference between deliberate delinquency and being forced into something by circumstances. Having nothing to pay is one thing, but deliberately withholding payment while possessing the means to pay is another.

Either way, the Atonement of Christ covers all sins and transgressions. God can forgive and God can provide. But of course we have to do everything in our power to avoid sin first.

If you happen to be getting the phone calls and letters from the banks that the article describes, realize that it amounts to spiritual abuse.
14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of hosts. (Isaiah 3:14-15)
Fortunately Christ has told us how we should act if we experience this type treatment.
43 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5:43-47)
By doing this, the unfortunate experience of foreclosure can be transformed from an embittering, confidence-destroying, and spiritually dangerous experience into a refiner’s fire that yields greater charity and a godly character.
Thursday, November 19, 2009 5 comments

Extra Blessings of Keeping the Sabbath Holy

Keeping the Sabbath Holy Qualifies and Prepares Us For Temple Blessings and Eternal Life

4 For thus saith the LORD
unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths,
and choose the things that please me,
and take hold of my covenant;
5 Even unto them will I give in mine house
and within my walls a place
and a name better than of sons and of daughters:
I will give them an everlasting name,
that shall not be cut off.
6 Also the sons of the stranger,
that join themselves to the LORD,
to serve him,
and to love the name of the LORD,
to be his servants,
every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it,
and taketh hold of my covenant;
7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer:
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar;
for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
(Isaiah 56:4-7)
Something that is special about these verses is that Isaiah promises eunuchs (those physically unable to have children) that if they keep the Sabbath, they will be given a name better than having children. Those who can’t bear children lament that once they are dead, their family name ends with them. Isaiah promises these people that if they are faithful, they will have an everlasting name that will never end. This is how Isaiah brings the idea of eternal life home to them. Today we also know that eternal life means eternal posterity as well.

Another thing that is special about these verses is that Isaiah promises those foreigners who join themselves to the house of Israel (which would mean they had accepted the everlasting covenant) that they will also be able to participate in the temple. In Isaiah’s day, non-Israelites could not enter the temple courts past the court of the gentiles. Isaiah promises them that if the strangers will join themselves to the Lord, serve Him, love Him, keep the Sabbath, and keep the everlasting covenant, that they too will be able to offer sacrifices on the altar; they will be allowed further into the temple precincts, as the Lord wants His house to be a house of prayer for all his covenant people, no matter what nation they are from.

Something that sticks out from this scripture is that no matter who we are or where we live, keeping the Sabbath holy is one of the specific things we can do to prepare to go to the temple. It took me a while to figure out how those two things are connected. It required some gospel-based reasoning.

The world doesn’t think “time” can be holy. They think one slice of time is just the same as another slice of time. We know differently. We know the Sabbath is a holy day, because God hallowed it. (To “hallow” something means to make it sacred. You could say God made the Sabbath wholly holy.)

Because the world doesn’t think a time can be holy, you can be sure they wouldn’t think a place could be holy either. If they pollute a holy time that is accessible to everyone and do it without a second thought, you can be sure they would also pollute a holy place without a second thought. So the temple is made inaccessible to them.

We, on the other hand, show by keeping the Sabbath holy that we are able to keep the temple holy too. And really, if you can keep an entire day holy, keeping a place holy is a cinch!

One way we keep the Sabbath holy is by learning how to serve God and practicing what we learn. If the Sabbath prepares us for the temple, can you guess that temple worship involves learning to serving God and practicing what we learn.

The world at large has a really hard time serving God, because they don’t know what work God considers most important. At best they have a vague idea that God would want them to help people, but they find this so difficult to do (since the natural man gets in the way) that they simply bag it and serve themselves instead, because they understand perfectly how to do that.

We, on the other hand, know exactly how to serve God. We know His work is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), so we serve him when we teach the gospel and administer saving ordinances to people. On the Sabbath, we do this by instructing and strengthening each other in the gospel. We serve each other in church callings. Guys are particularly of service when they use their priesthood authority to administer the sacrament. If it becomes natural to us to serve during the Sabbath, it will become natural to serve in the temple. The only difference is that in the temple you serve people whom the world thinks are “beyond help”. Namely, the dead. (If the world can’t serve God, who they think is “out-of-sight-out-of-mind”, they would have an equally hard time serving the “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” dead.)

Another way we keep the Sabbath holy is by worshipping God. If the Sabbath helps us prepare for the temple, you can probably guess what happens in the temple - the worship of God.

The world has a hard time worshipping God. They think the character of God is an unknowable mystery, and of course it is difficult to worship someone who you are told you can never know. (Naturally, they find our assertion “man can become like God” to be equally incomprehensible.) They also think that nobody is perfect, so they believe this dooms to impossibility any prospect of achieving a perfectly holy state similar to that of God’s. Because of this, they think God will excuse all kinds of bad behavior.

We, on the other hand, know exactly how to worship God. We worship God best by trying to become like Him. (I said it before and I’ll say it again; imitation is the sincerest form of worship.) We do this by doing three things: 1) we use Christ’s atonement to have our sins taken away, 2) we resist temptation, and 3) we work to develop Christ-like attributes by depending upon God’s grace.

The Sabbath is a special day to worship God, because we get the chance to worthily take the sacrament, which makes us holy, sanctified, just like Christ is holy. Becoming and staying sanctified prepares us to further imitate Christ in the temple. Just like Christ is our Savior, we can become saviors on Mount Zion (in the temple) by doing vicarious ordinance work that saves our dead from spirit prison. And just like participating in the sacrament worthily sanctifies us as we remember Christ’s sacrifice, participating at the temple worthily will sanctify us as we remember Christ’s sacrifice.

Now we see how keeping the Sabbath holy gives us valuable experience and practice at keeping something holy, serving God by serving each other, and worshipping God, all of which is also done in the temple. Now that we’ve figured all this stuff out, it’s time to go back to those verses of Isaiah and review the promises the Lord gives to those who keep the Sabbath holy.
5 Even unto them will I give in mine house
and within my walls
a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters:
I will give them an everlasting name,
that shall not be cut off. . . .
7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer:
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar;
for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
(Isaiah 56:5,7)
[U]nto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off - Now I can see that these two things mean essentially the same thing, but it can be read in two different ways.

First, the name we’ll be given is that of Christ. We take this name upon us at baptism, and we renew it when we take the sacrament. In the temple, the name becomes even more important. According to Isaiah, being called a child of Christ is better than having sons or daughters that are called after us. (I think he is saying this based upon if we had to choose between having the gospel and having children.) If we’re called by that name, then we’ll be worthy of receiving eternal life, and as an immortal, exalted being, our name will truly never die. We’ll be able to have our own spirit sons and daughters that will be called by our names.

Second, in the temple we become sealed to our families for eternity, and that makes our family (with all its names) survive beyond the grave. It becomes an eternal family “that shall not be cut off”.

Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer – If we practice serving and worshipping God on the Sabbath, we will be ready to do the same in the temple. If we enjoy serving and worshipping God on the Sabbath, we will also enjoy serving and worshipping God in the temple.

[T]heir burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar - The modern version of this is that our broken hearts and contrite spirits will be offerings the Lord accepts. If so, then we will know that our subsequent offerings of service in the temple will also be acceptable and pleasing to God.

Keeping the Sabbath Helps Us Stay Active in the Church
13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath,
from doing thy pleasure on my holy day;
and call the sabbath a delight,
the holy of the LORD,
and shalt honour him,
not doing thine own ways,
nor finding thine own pleasure,
nor speaking thine own words:
14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD;
and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth,
and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father:
for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
(Isaiah 58:13-14)
If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath - This is a peculiar expression. You probably sense what it means in the same way that I do... that it means to not do something on the Sabbath, but what that is in particular we don’t know. Isaiah is nice enough to clue us in at the very end of the very same verse that “turn away thy foot from the sabbath” means “not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words”. It’s the Lord’s day, so you do the Lord’s ways, you find the Lord’s pleasure, and you speak the Lord’s words instead of your own. OR... even better, you can change yourself so that the things the Lord loves, you love, the things the Lord likes to do, you like to do, and the things the Lord likes to say, you like to say. That would definitely make the Sabbath more fun. In fact, it would make the Sabbath into your favorite day!

[C]all the sabbath a delight - Isaiah advises us to start by calling the Sabbath a “delight”. One of the strange, yet cool things about this is that it actually works! (I know because I tried it.) If you say, “Yippeee! Tomorrow’s the Sabbath! I get to rest!” in an enthusiastic, excited way, somehow you will start to actually feel enthusiastic and excited about the Sabbath. Try it on Saturday night; see what happens.

But why should we call the Sabbath a delight? I can think of several reasons.
  1. The Lord enjoys the Sabbath. I know this by the Spirit. If the Lord enjoys something, then that should tell us that we need to enjoy it too in order to become like Him.
  2. The Sabbath is made for man. It’s a gift! If we didn’t have God’s permission to rest one day out of every seven, think how overworked we would be!
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD - This is the real purpose of the Sabbath, to delight in the Lord and to worship Him. Just how do we best worship the Lord? First, by taking the sacrament, because that helps us remember Him and the Atonement He worked out for us. Secondly, by imitating Him as best we can. Imitation is the sincerest form of worship. (It’s also the kind of worship of God that we should not confine to just the Sabbath.)

[A]nd I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth – This is one of those phrases of Isaiah that sounds really cool but which we aren’t quite sure what it means. Several key words in this phrase, however, can give us a clue. The “high places” can mean the temple, since it is the mountain of the Lord and the highest and holiest place. Riding something evokes the image of being carried by an animal, and when we associate riding with the temple, it shows us that temple worship carries us through the hard times. Also, temple worship expands our vision of the purpose of earth life and we depend upon that vision to make proper decisions, so in a sense that vision from the temples’ “high place” also carries us.

[A]nd feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father – One important word in this phrase is “feed”. The other important part is “the heritage of Jacob”. This gives us a clue to the meaning. It has to be some kind of special meal that Israelites had in Isaiah’s day. My guess is that it is referring to the Passover meal. Since the Mosiac law also involved a number of festivals with various meals, we can interpret this phrase to mean that someone who kept the Sabbath holy would also participate in the other sacred festivals that faithful Israelites practiced, which in a certain sense means that a person who keeps the Sabbath will not go inactive. Christ replaced the Passover with the sacrament, as a sacred meal. It is certainly true that someone who really wants to keep the Sabbath holy will also take the sacrament with other members of the church who are the modern heritage of Jacob and part of the house of Israel.

In 2004, I decided I had not been keeping the Sabbath as well as I had been taught when I lived with my parents. At my parents’ house, there were plenty of church movies to watch and church books to read, but my husband and I had not yet started to build ourselves a library of church books, and because I thought I didn’t have anything to read on Sunday afternoons I had fallen into the habit of reading my other books. So I made a decision to change my ways and read only church books on Sunday. The next Sunday, I read through my relief society manual. The Sunday after that I read the Brigham Young manual through. The Sunday after that, I read another one of those manuals through. I studied them carefully, and boy, did it work my brain! I pulled out my Sunday school study guide and made sure to look over the material ahead of time so that I could be prepared to participate in the lesson. I wrote in my journal some things I discovered in the scriptures. I also decided to try to write poetry about different aspects of the gospel.

Some other things I like to do during the Sabbath are the following: go to choir practice, go to firesides, play church music, talk to my family, take a nap, and watch church movies.

I found myself really enjoying the Sabbath, and discovered that the gospel was satisfying my soul more than it ever had before. I wanted to pray more often for help with the things I intended to do, even with things that I thought I already knew how to do because I had a new conviction of my own ignorance and nothingness in comparison with the Lord. I felt the influence of the Spirit more strongly.

If recommitting to keep the Sabbath helped me, it will help you too.
Thursday, November 12, 2009 5 comments

We Shall Overcome

I was reading today in Doctrine and Covenants 76 about those who inherit the celestial kingdom and I ran across this:
And they shall overcome all things. (D&C 76:60)
This verse always sort of freaked me out because when I read it, I would think to myself, I’m going to have to overcome all things? Yikes! I would begin to fear the future, worrying about what would come at me next. And it kind of gives the impression that it is all going to come all at once, as if I was a wrestler who suddenly has to fight the entire WWF and the audience too.

Today I was reading it and thinking about it and I stopped focusing on “all things” and began to focus on the “overcome” part. In doing so, I realized that two different ideas were implicit in this word:
  1. All things can be overcome and
  2. those obstacles that are overcome have an end.
That suddenly seemed encouraging to me.

And it stands to reason that we don’t have to do it all at once. We may be given a combination of trials at the same time, but it is never ALL OF THEM AT ONCE. Overcoming isn’t about breaking us; it is about strengthening and refining us.

Then I found something else.
And who overcome by faith... (D&C 76:53)
This showed me that faith is how we overcome those things that we have to face. What do we have to have faith in?

Christ, of course.

Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet. (D&C 76:61)

He’s got the power to do it. I really like that image of God subduing my trials and afflictions and enemies under His feet. (Stomp, stomp, stomp) He trod that winepress alone.

Maybe we need to get in a habit of giving ourselves a pep talk periodically to remind ourselves to have faith.
  • You can get through this. There will be an end to it. (Just because you can’t see where that end is doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It may be closer than you ever dreamed.)
  • God will help you. He hasn’t left you alone.
  • If you endure, you will be a better person and will have gained valuable experience.
  • In the eternal scheme of things, this will be “but a small moment”.
  • It could be worse. [insert list of how it could be worse]
I had a little bit of an accident on my motor scooter on Friday which landed me in the hospital for a few hours. I was absolutely ecstatic that nothing was broken, although I had gotten scraped up on my right elbow, right hip, right knee, and right foot.

I didn’t know what nurses do to clean up bad scrapes. I didn’t know it would involve vigorously scrubbing the wounded area with disinfectant-saturated cloth pads

Before they started, the male nurse said, “You can have a little bit of pain now or a lot of pain later if it gets infected.”

“Right,” I said. “This is supposed to be good for me.” I knew then that he was warning me that it was going to hurt, and so I determined I was going to have a good attitude about it.

He started scrubbing the scrapes on my foot. Hard.

“This is good for me! This is good for me! I’m going to be okay!” I repeated loudly while it seemed like all the skin was being raked off my foot with rough sandpaper. The left side of my body was all tensed up and saying that seemed to help me focus on the goal rather than the pain.

I went through the same thing with my knee, my hip, and my elbow. It certainly wasn’t fun, but I was so thankful that I wasn’t hurt worse that I was more delighted than anything else.

I look back at that, and it was a small moment.

What is taking greater patience, however, is a full recovery. I didn’t know that I had bruises so deep that they would hurt for longer than it took my scrapes to scab up. Evidently it might take at least a month for my bruises to heal. I’m reminded of it every time I hoist my backpack to my right shoulder and it bangs against my right hip. I’m reminded of it as my elbow throbs a bit from lifting the backpack in the first place. I’m reminded that I need to have patience every time I accidently bump my elbow on something or raise my arm to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. Even after four days of dealing with it I have had to keep reminding myself that I will get through it and remember how much badly I could have been hurt and remember to thank Heavenly Father for His blessings.

What I am going through is mild compared to what many others go through, but small as it is, it still is showing me that it really is those longer trials (whatever they are) that take the most faith. Sometimes it is an external trial—something that happens that you are forced to deal with. Sometimes it is an internal trial—some sort of weakness or foible or tendency or character trait or disease or addiction or temptation that you suddenly have to grapple with. But we can overcome all things through Christ.
Friday, November 6, 2009 11 comments

Pomegranate Symbolism

The main places in the scriptures that we hear about pomegranates are in association with decoration of the high priest’s robes and of the temple Solomon built.
33 ¶ And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about:
34 A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about.
35 And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not. (Exodus 28:33-34)
Pomegranates were part of the high priest’s robes.
And four hundred pomegranates for the two networks, even two rows of pomegranates for one network, to cover the two bowls of the chapiters that were upon the pillars; (1 Kings 7:42)
Evidently there were temple pillars that Solomon built that had pomegranates as part of their decoration.
21 And concerning the pillars, the height of one pillar was eighteen cubits; and a fillet of twelve cubits did compass it; and the thickness thereof was four fingers: it was hollow.
22 And a chapiter of brass was upon it; and the height of one chapiter was five cubits, with network and pomegranates upon the chapiters round about, all of brass. The second pillar also and the pomegranates were like unto these.
23 And there were ninety and six pomegranates on a side; and all the pomegranates upon the network were an hundred round about. (Jeremiah 52:21-23)
I remember reading through the Old Testament with my family growing up and wondering what was so significant about the pomegranate that the Lord would want representations of it to adorn the robes of the high priest and the temple.

The first progress I made towards understanding was on a “Plants of the Bible” tour of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Arizona when the guide pointed out that pomegranates symbolized eternal life. I was struck and excited by this.

Recently I did a search to see if there was more that could be associated with pomegranates. Here’s what I found:
  • Christ’s atoning sufferings for our sins
  • Eternal life
  • Fertility
I enjoy eating pomegranates and as I was eating one, the symbolism began to strike me even more.

It’s a very messy process; cutting into it can induce an explosion of red juices all over, evoking remembrance of the blood that was shed for us.

It’s hard to get at all the fruit of a pomegranate. It’s a long, labor-intensive process.
Regina Schrambling has made an apt analogy: “[pomegranates] are the crabs of the produce aisle, wondrous to eat but a messy hassle to break down to extract that wondrousness.” Just like achieving eternal life takes work and time.

You want to get every single little aril—the “aril” is the little fruit-seeds inside the pomegranate—that you can, just like Christ works to try to get each of us.

The arils have to be handled carefully to remove them, otherwise they rupture. This reminds us of how carefully we are nurtured and how salvation comes through Christ’s persuasion and long-suffering, while forcing us to be good would break us.

Each one of the arils has the potential to become a pomegranate tree that bears many fruit. The large number of arils evoke the idea of the huge numbers of God’s children, all of whom are precious. (This also evokes the promise of eternal posterity as part of eternal life, so it certainly suggests a promise of fertility.)

These may have been the ideas that the Lord wanted to evoke by placing pomegranate decorations on the high priests robes.

Here’s a link to a video about getting seeds from a pomegranate.
(They try to make it seem like a shorter process, but you can see the care that has to be taken and you can see that it is a multi-stage operation.)

Image#1 from,

Image#2 from Faerie’s Finest,
Thursday, November 5, 2009 1 comments

Paul and Silas: Transcending physical captivity with spiritual freedom

The story of Paul and Silas and how they dealt with being cast into prison is very indicative of how Paul had learned to be content in whatever state he was in and how he had a strong conviction of how he was actually free in Christ.

Recall in Acts 16 that after casting out a spirit of divination from a girl, they were accused of troubling the city and teaching unlawful customs, then were beaten with many stripes and cast into prison.

The jailer was also charged to keep them very carefully, which must have made him think that they were the worst of hardened criminals and deserved to lose as much freedom as they could take away. So the jailer put them in the inner prison (maximum security) and had them physically restrained in the stocks. (see Acts 16:24)
And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. (Acts 16:25)
The jailer hadn’t thought to gag them or muzzle them. At the time of the greatest darkness, they exercised their freedom of conscience and prayed and praised God. And they did it loud enough that all the other prisoners heard them.

This shows us how Paul and Silas were still free to teach the gospel, even though they were in prison. They exercised freedom by praising God in spite of the pain they must have been experiencing from the stripes on their bodies. I can imagine that not only did they pray for themselves but also the other prisoners as well. I can imagine them singing Messianic psalms about salvation and freedom.
And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. (Acts 16:26)
We can see in this sudden earthquake how Heavenly Father wanted to show that spiritual freedom leads to physical freedom through faith on Christ. What a dramatic object lesson! And not just one or two doors were opened, but ALL the doors were opened, showing that freedom is available not just to a chosen few, but to ALL who were willing to fulfill the conditions.
And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. (Acts 16:27)
It is interesting that it says that the keeper awaked out of his sleep. Yes, it is physical sleep, but could it be that he is stirring from spiritual sleep as well? He is ultra concerned because here he has been given a charge to keep the prisoners confined and now all the doors are open and surely none will stay confined when they can escape. He will be held personally accountable to the government and they will execute him for dereliction of duty and probably kill him. So he might as well beat them to it and kill himself to salvage his personal honor.
But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. (Acts 16:28)
Here Paul is demonstrating the extent of his liberty. Even though the doors are open, and he is physically free to go, he has chosen to stay until he is released by an authorized agent of the government. (He knows that if he leaves on his own, it will not solve anything, but make things worse, since he will be considered an escaped prisoner and a maximum security prisoner at that!
29 Then he [the keeper] called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:29-30)
Here the jailer has awakened spiritually. He recognizes that the earthquake is somehow connected with Paul and Silas as a sign that their power and authority comes from God and supersedes even the governmental authority represented by the confining walls, doors, chains, and stocks of the prison.
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. (Acts 16:31-32)
Figuratively Paul and Silas are opening the prison doors to the jailer and his household. Even though they have been control of the physical prison, they recognize that they have been in a spiritual prison and that Paul and Silas have been given keys to set them free.
And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. (Acts 16:33)
The Jailer and his house have been made free.
And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. (Acts 16:34)
The jailer certainly knows now that there is no danger of Paul and Silas running away and that they are no more deserving of maximum security than any other ordinary citizen at large. (Rather, they deserve to have the highest level of freedom and convenience)
And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go. (Acts 16:35)
This is curious. The magistrates attempt to let Paul and Silas go secretly indicates they knew when they had them jailed that they were innocent, but that they didn’t feel free to administer true justice in public for fear of their townspeople. It indicates that they had the apostles beat and jailed as a show of responsiveness to their constituents, even though they knew that it was not right. Curious.
36 And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.
37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out. (Acts 16:36-37)
Paul is not demanding special treatment to rub the administrator’s noses in their mistakes. He is concerned about legality. He is a legal administrator of Christ’s kingdom; he knows that no one can come into the kingdom of God except by the correct way, through Christ, by obedience. Understandably then, he wants his release from physical prison to be just as legal and aboveboard as a true spiritual release. Everyone in the community must know that he has been legally released, otherwise the trouble will begin again.
38 And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.
39 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.
40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed. (Acts 16:38-40)
Paul and Silas are still using their spiritual freedom here. Although the magistrates want them to leave, Paul and Silas stay long enough to visit and encourage church members.

I like this story because it seems to draw a sharp contrast between those with spiritual freedom and those without. Spiritual freedom brings hope that transcends and overcomes temporal captivity. Spiritual freedom overcomes fear of man. Spiritual freedom is governed by internal restraints stronger than external restraints. Spiritual freedom opens a person up to be governed by righteous impetuses.

Interestingly enough, before running across this section, I also ran across another series of verses, this time in the Book of Mormon that seemed to teach about spiritual freedom of prophets and church leaders.
23 And also in the reign of Shule there came prophets among the people, who were sent from the Lord, prophesying that the wickedness and idolatry of the people was bringing a curse upon the land, and they should be destroyed if they did not repent.
24 And it came to pass that the people did revile against the prophets, and did mock them. And it came to pass that king Shule did execute judgment against all those who did revile against the prophets.
25 And he did execute a law throughout all the land, which gave power unto the prophets that they should go whithersoever they would; and by this cause the people were brought unto repentance.
26 And because the people did repent of their iniquities and idolatries the Lord did spare them, and they began to prosper again in the land…(Ether 7:23-26)
It seems significant that because the prophets were given the temporal freedom to go wherever they wanted to go to preach, it led to the spiritual freedom of the people, which led to greater temporal freedom for the nation in the form of prosperity.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009 2 comments

God’s Timing of Birth in Genesis

Today I was thinking about that desperate plea that Rachel made to Jacob when she finds she is barren.
Give me children, or else I die (Genesis 30:1)
As we know, Rachel finally became pregnant with Joseph much later, after 11 other children were born. And we know that Joseph ended up being sold into Egypt, where he was used as the Lord’s instrument to store food that ultimately saved the house of Israel (and a whole bunch of other people) from being wiped out by starvation. He was raised up for that purpose.

Would this purpose have been fulfilled if he had been born around the same time as Reuben and been one of the oldest of Jacob’s children rather than among the youngest? Would there have been that tension between the brothers? Would he have been sold into Egypt? Probably not.

Did Rachel realize that not getting to have children yet (as painful as it was) would culminate in the temporal salvation of her whole family? There’s no way that she could have known without revelation (And we don't know whether she ever knew.)

Thinking about this has suggested to me that Heavenly Father has good reasons behind His timing of people’s births in families of His Saints and good reasons for birth order. He is planning out not just parents’ lives, but he’s also synchronizing the lives of the children so that they are born at the necessary time that will build up to the fulfilling of His purposes for the maximum development of all of His children. Yet he has to also consider the agency of His children and provide backup plans. Some people may choose to be extraordinarily faithful, while others choose to drift and procrastinate their repentance.

We know that timing in some things for some people seems ideal, and timing for other people seems to be all skiddly-wampus. We can’t know why probably until much later when we get to see the end from the beginning. All we can do is do our part and trust the Lord.
Friday, October 23, 2009 3 comments

What can you do with just six words?

Earnest Hemingway was challenged to write a six-word novel. He came up with the following: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

Can you come up with a six-word sermon for a sacrament talk? Or how about telling a scripture story in six words? Here’s my contributions:

Tempted, tasted, sinned, left the Garden.

Tower of Babel? I don’t understand.

Watched sheep, chopped arms, converted many.

Giant, scary. Boy with sling, fearless.

Prophets: Repent! People: No! God: Good-bye!

Be wise, my son. ‘Nuff’ said.

Prophetic quotations about signs of personal apostasy

You will ask why I have included all of the following quotations. Reading them from the Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Joseph F. Smith manuals brought me to my senses more than a year and a half ago when I was on the road to apostasy. Like a two-edged sword, they cut all my rationalizations and arguments asunder, and they showed me my faults in all their hideous hues. I’m collecting them all together in hopes that it can do someone else good in the same way it did me good. Repentance was a difficult multi-stage process, but through the grace of God I was snatched out of the serpent’s mouth, and I thank the Lord for His infinite mercy.

So, without further ado..
What is that which turns people away from this Church? Very trifling affairs are generally the commencement of their divergence from the right path. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p79)
I give a loud amen to that. Trouble is it doesn’t really seem trifling when you’re in it; rather, it feels like the heavens and the earth are going to rend asunder. Only after it is all resolved in faithfulness is it seen in its proper perspective.

…if they became unpopular, if their interest or dignity was touched, or if they were detected in their iniquity, they were always the first to raise the hand of persecution, to calumniate [make false charges about] and vilify their brethren, and to seek the downfall and destruction of their friends. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p332)
You hear many say, “I am a Latter-day Saint, and I never will apostatize;” “I am a Latter-day Saint, and shall be to the day of my death.” I never make such declarations, and never shall. I think I have learned that of myself I have no power…. But when I am left to myself, I have no power, and my wisdom is foolishness; then I cling close to the Lord, and I have power in his name. I think I have learned the Gospel so as to know, that in and of myself I am nothing. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p80)
Men begin to apostatize by taking to themselves strength, by hearkening to the whisperings of the enemy who leads them astray little by little, until they gather to themselves that which they call the wisdom of man; then they begin to depart from God, and their minds become confused. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81-82)
Pride and religious hobbies
At other times people who pride themselves on their strict observance of the rules and ordinances and ceremonies of the Church are led astray by false spirits, who exercise an influence so imitative of that which proceeds from a Divine source that even these persons, who think they are “the very elect,” find it difficult to discern the essential difference [Matthew 24:24]. Satan himself has transformed himself to be apparently “an angel of light” [2 Corinthians 11:14; 2 Nephi 9:9]. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, pp116-7)
[Religious] hobbies give to those who encourage them a false aspect of the gospel of the Redeemer; they distort and place out of harmony its principles and teachings….Every principle and practice revealed from God is essential to man’s salvation, and to place any one of them unduly in front, hiding and dimming all others is unwise and dangerous…. Such a view, no matter to what point directed, narrows the vision, weakens the spiritual perception, and darkens the mind, the result of which is that the person thus afflicted with this perversity and contraction of mental vision places himself in a position to be tempted of the evil one, or… to misjudge his brethren and give way to the spirit of apostasy. He is not square before the Lord. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p118)
We have noticed this difficulty: that Saints with hobbies are prone to judge and condemn their brethren and sisters who are not so zealous in the one particular direction of their pet theory as they are. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p118)
…the man with a hobby is apt to assume an “I am holier than thou” position, to feel puffed up and conceited, and to look with distrust, if with no severer feeling, on his brethren and sisters who do not so perfectly live that one particular law. This feeling hurts his fellow-servants and offends the Lord. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”—(Prov. 16:18.) (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, pp118-9)
We all have our strengths, and so it is sometimes hard to tell whether they have become a religious hobby or not. I think some of the things from the above paragraphs are pretty good indications. In short, if consideration of a particular strength of yours causes any of the following, be careful:
  • A feeling of being extra extra extra proud of yourself when you consider a particular strength. (puffed up, conceited)
  • An attitude of “I am holier than you because I do this more than you”
  • Distrusting other saints who you perceive are not as strong in the area of your strength
  • Judging and condemning other saints who are not as strong in the area of your strength
They had used that priesthood to attempt to build themselves up and to perform some other work besides the building up of the kingdom of God. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
Many imbibe [conceive] the idea that they are capable of leading out in teaching principles that never have been taught. They are not aware that the moment they give way to this hallucination the Devil has power over them to lead them onto unholy ground; though this is a lesson which they ought to have learned long ago, yet it is one that was learned by but few in the days of Joseph. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
…realize that no man, no individual, no clique, and no secret organization can combine with force and power sufficient to overturn the purposes of the Almighty, or to change the course of His work. Many and many an individual has arisen in times past, and these individuals have been falsely impressed with the idea that they were going to work a wonderful reformation in the Church; they anticipated that in a very short time the whole people would desert their standard, the standard of truth to which they had gathered and around which they had rallied from the beginning of the Church until then. These persons thought the people would follow the “new shepherds,” but the people of God know the voice of the true shepherd, and the stranger’s voice they will not heed, nor the counsels of him who assumes authority that does not belong to him. None such will they ever follow. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p114)
It is in consequence of aspiring men that Kirtland has been forsaken. How frequently has your humble servant been envied in his office by such characters, who endeavored to raise themselves to power at his expense, and seeing it impossible to do so, resorted to foul slander and abuse, and other means to effect his overthrow. Such characters have ever been the first to cry out against the Presidency, and publish their faults and foibles to the four winds of heaven. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p320)
Deceptive spiritual manifestations
When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or any extraordinary gift or inspiration conveys something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know that it is not of God, no matter how plausible it may appear. Also they should understand that directions for the guidance of the Church will come, by revelation, through the head. All faithful members are entitled to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for themselves, their families, and for those over whom they are appointed and ordained to preside. But anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p117)
Self-righteousness and finding fault with others
When a man begins to find fault, inquiring in regard to this, that, and the other, saying, “Does this or that look as though the Lord dictated it?” you may know that that person has more or less of the spirit of apostasy. Every man in this Kingdom, or upon the face of the earth, who is seeking with all his heart to save himself, has as much to do as he can conveniently attend to, without calling in question that which does not belong to him. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, pp80-1)
That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p318)
I hope that even in Kirtland there are some who do not make a man an offender for a word. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p320)
No man gets power from God to raise disturbance in any Branch of the Church. Such power is obtained from an evil source. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
Losing confidence in leaders
If the Saints in Kirtland deem me unworthy of their prayers when they assemble together, and neglect to bear me up at the throne of heavenly grace, it is a strong and convincing proof to me that they have not the Spirit of God. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
If there are any uncharitable feelings, any lack of confidence, then pride, arrogance and envy will soon be manifested; confusion must inevitably prevail, and the authorities of the Church set at naught. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
…the very step of apostasy commenced with losing confidence in the leaders of this church and kingdom, and that whenever you discerned that spirit you might know that it would lead the possessor of it on the road to apostasy. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p318)
One of the first steps to apostasy is to find fault with your Bishop; and when that is done, unless repented of a second step is soon taken, and by and by the person is cut off from the Church, and that is the end of it. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
Whenever there is a disposition manifested in any of the members of this Church to question the right of the President of the whole Church to direct in all things, you see manifested evidences of apostasy—of a spirit which, if encouraged, will lead to a separation from the Church and to final destruction; wherever there is a disposition to operate against any legally appointed officer of this Kingdom, no matter in what capacity he is called to act, if persisted in, it will be followed by the same results; they will “walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities [see 2 Peter 2:10]” (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p80)
People do, however, leave this Church, but they leave it because they get into darkness, and the very day they conclude that there should be a democratic vote, or in other words, that we should have two candidates for the presiding Priesthood in the midst of the Latter-day Saints, they conclude to be apostates. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
Losing confidence in the church
Why do people apostatize? You know we are on the “Old Ship Zion.” We are in the midst of the ocean. A storm comes on, and, as sailors say, she labors very hard. “I am not going to stay here,” says one; “I don’t believe this is the ‘Ship Zion.’ ” “But we are in the midst of the ocean.” “I don’t care, I am not going to stay here.” Off goes the coat, and he jumps overboard. Will he not be drowned? Yes. So with those who leave this Church. It is the “Old Ship Zion,” let us stay in it. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, pp82-3)
There is a certain progression that we can detect in the above signs. Frequently it begins with pride—pride as manifested by complacency, pride in one’s faithfulness and zeal particularly in some area where one has a gospel hobby. Frequently, having someone else suggest that one is carrying a principle to excess can trigger anger and defensiveness. This leads to attack mode and attempting to find fault with the other’s judgment. If the chastisement comes from priesthood leadership, it can lead to hurt feelings, anger. It becomes hard to submit. It becomes easy to contend and gossip. This leads to questioning the leader’s judgment and thinking that they are not inspired and believing that they are committing the sin of unrighteous dominion. This leads to questioning the authority of those who called them to that position, which can lead to disaffection with the whole church for allowing the leader to operate as they are doing.

Some men there will be who would limit the power of God to the power of men, and we have some of these among us and they have been among our school teachers. They would have you disbelieve the inspired accounts of the Scriptures, that the winds and the waves are subject to the power of God; and believe the claim of the Savior to cast out devils, raise the dead, or perform miraculous things, such as cleansing the leper, is only a myth. They would make you believe that God and his Son Jesus Christ did not appear in person to Joseph Smith, that this was simply a myth, but we know better; the testimony of the Spirit has testified that this is the truth. And I say, beware of men who come to you with heresies that things come by laws of nature of themselves, and that God is without power. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p115)
Neglect of duty and breaking the commandments
…no person ever apostatized, without actual transgression. Omission of duty leads to commission. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p80)
The moment you permit yourselves to lay aside any duty that God calls you to perform, to gratify your own desires; the moment you permit yourselves to become careless, you lay a foundation for apostasy. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p318)
…any man, any elder in this Church and kingdom, who pursued a course whereby he would ignore or, in other words, refuse to obey any known law or commandment or duty—whenever a man did this, neglected any duty God required at his hand in attending meetings, filling missions, or obeying counsel, he laid a foundation to lead him to apostasy and this was the reason those men had fallen. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p319)
If the Saints neglect to pray, and violate the day that is set apart for the worship of God, they will lose his Spirit. If a man shall suffer himself to be overcome with anger, and curse and swear, taking the name of the Deity in vain, he cannot retain the Holy Spirit. In short, if a man shall do anything which he knows to be wrong, and repenteth not, he cannot enjoy the Holy Spirit, but will walk in darkness and ultimately deny the faith. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p79)
When men lose the spirit of the work in which we are engaged, they become infidel in their feelings. They say that they do not know whether the Bible is true, whether the Book of Mormon is true, nor about new revelations, nor whether there is a God or not. When they lose the spirit of this work, they lose the knowledge of the things of God in time and in eternity; all is lost to them. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p81)
…at different periods there have been manifestations from delusive spirits to members of the Church. Sometimes these have come to men and women who because of transgression became easy prey to the Arch-Deceiver. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p116)
Notice the progression that occurs in the above paragraphs. Neglecting commandments and refusing to do one’s duty (which is rebellion) leads to loss of the Spirit, which leads to becoming infidel in one’s feelings (or feelings of not wanting to be faithful, feelings of unbelief), which leads to not knowing whether certain fundamental principles are true or not, which leads to vulnerability to deception, which leads to being deceived by Satan.

I believe that the emphasis in this last general conference that was put upon keeping the commandments was intended to help us avoid this particular route to apostasy.

Results of apostasy
You have known men who, while in the Church, were active, quick and full of intelligence; but after they have left the Church…they have become darkened in their minds and everything has become a mystery to them, and in regard to the things of God, they have become like the rest of the world, who think, hope and pray that such and such things may be so, but they do not know the least about it. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p82)
Those who leave the Church are like a feather blown to and fro in the air. They know not whither they are going; they do not understand anything about their own existence; their faith, judgment and the operation of their minds are as unstable as the movements of the feather floating in the air. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Brigham Young, chapter 12, p82)
…notwithstanding all the professed determination to live godly, apostates after turning from the faith of Christ, unless they have speedily repented, have sooner or later fallen into the snares of the wicked one, and have been left destitute of the Spirit of God, to manifest their wickedness in the eyes of multitudes. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, pp320-21)
From apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p321)
Here we see another progression. From uncertainty about the things of God, comes aimlessness and instability of purpose because all foundation of deep meaning for life has been doubted. From this, all foundation for good works seems rooted up and the difference between good and evil becomes confused because the foundations for a sure knowledge have been rejected. Deception tightens its hold and no good influence can stand in the way of the apostate doing worse and worse things without the good influence being condemned wrongly as evil. In this way, genuinely good people are considered evil by apostates, and the apostates will target them with the strongest opposition and persecution.

Belief in certain fundamentals is imperative
There are some great truths in the plan of redemption that are fundamental. They cannot be ignored; none others can be placed before them. The fatherhood of God, the efficacy of the atonement of our Lord and Savior, the restoration of the gospel in these latter days, must be accepted with our whole hearts. We cannot compensate for a lack of faith in these essential doctrines by the most absolute abstinence from things unhealthful, by the rigid payment of tithing on our “anise and cummin” [see Matthew 23:23], or by the observance of any other outward ordinance. Baptism itself without faith in God avails nothing. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p119)
Errors will be righted
The Church of Christ is with the Saints. It has committed to it the law of God for its own government and perpetuation. It possesses every means for the correction of every wrong or abuse or error which may from time to time arise, and that without anarchy, or even revolution; it can do it by process of evolution—by development, by an increase of knowledge, wisdom, patience and charity. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p116)
Confidence in the saints
I believe, too, that the most of the Latter-day Saints are wise enough, that they have sufficient intelligence and a sufficient portion of the Spirit of the living God in their hearts, to decide between truth and error, between right and wrong, and between light and darkness; and I will say I believe they have sense enough to abide by the simple, pure, truthful principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in preference to all the vagaries of philosophers, or of scientists, or of anybody else. There is no science, nor philosophy that can supersede God Almighty’s truth….I believe that the Latter-day Saints know enough about the word of God to know it is His word when they see it and shun whatever is not (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph F. Smith, chapter 13, p119-20)
Escaping apostasy
When confidence is restored, when pride shall fall, and every aspiring mind be clothed with humility as with a garment, and selfishness give place to benevolence and charity, and a united determination to live by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord is observable, then, and not till then, can peace, order and love prevail. (Teachings of the Presidents of the church: Joseph Smith, chapter 27, p320)
One of the difficulties of leaving the road to apostasy and getting back on the right course is that frequently one’s confidence in oneself shatters. No one ever expects that they will someday be one of those people who has to escape apostasy, so the realization that this has happened to oneself is very hard to take. It’s hard on the ego.

It is easy to begin to question yourself and your decisions constantly, wondering if you are really doing what is right or whether you are about to make a mistake again. It’s very easy to begin over-thinking everything.

The discomfort of doubting yourself can begin to cause you to look back on the days before the “I’ve-been-going-apostate” realization with nostalgia. You begin to miss the days when you used to be sure of yourself and confident of being right.

Eventually you realize that perhaps that confidence that you miss may have been what led to the pride that put you in danger of apostasy. You may begin to realize the absolute necessity of retaining humility. You may become terrified of somehow backsliding.

You may read the scriptures and begin to find that the stories about anti-Christs and the rebellious seem to have much greater depth to you and that you have a more profound understanding about their side, and this will probably distress you. Reading those stories may begin to hurt more than it has before. You may feel afraid of telling others about what you’ve learned because you may fear what it may indicate to them about you.

You may begin to feel that you are terribly wicked. And because of your efforts to remain humble, you may not feel able to fight these feelings without worrying that you are putting yourself at risk of pride again.

It is necessary to transfer one’s faith in one’s self to faith in Christ. Things that helped me were the following:
  • Praying to feel properly sorry
  • Praying for mercy and forgiveness
  • Praying every time I felt tempted
  • Reading the scriptures every day
  • Praying to receive spiritual instruction without criticism or a jaded attitude
  • Confession and submitting to discipline
  • Keeping the commandments carefully
  • Trusting that with Christ’s help I could get through it
It is likely that it may be said that I am a stronger person for having almost apostatized, but that is not true. Strength only comes from depending on the Lord, not from almost apostatizing. Learning to depend on the Lord can be accomplished without apostasy. We have enough trials and afflictions in our lives by which to learn faith in God without needing to dance with the devil.

Like Brigham Young once said, I have learned enough to know that by myself I am nothing. When I conclude to follow the gospel and depend upon the Lord, all will come right, whether in life or eternity, it doesn’t much matter.

I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church. The gospel was restored through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith, and he was a true prophet. I know that the scriptures are true. I know that the above quotations are true. Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet, and the apostles have been called of God. I know that we have to follow our priesthood leaders and keep the commandments, or we will fall into error and Satan will sift us and separate us. It is easy to puff ourselves up with pride, and I know it is important to use the words of God to humble ourselves. I know that prayer can save us from temptation. I know that Christ has made it possible for us to overcome every spiritual difficulty with His help.