Wednesday, December 29, 2010 3 comments

Esteem others as yourself

24 And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practise virtue and holiness before me.
25 And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself. (D&C 38:24-25)
This little bit was given in the context of a commandment to teach one another, and my husband, who was studying the quality of virtue, asked me what I thought practicing virtue had to do with esteeming everyone as oneself and with teaching. In thinking about it, I decided that perhaps it had to do with that saying “it takes one to know one” in that a teacher who practices virtue will be able to see it in his students and believe his students have it too.

We tend to think that others feel the same way about things as we do, so if we are determined and practiced at being virtuous, we will assume others are determined that way too.

For the last few days I’ve been trying to esteem others as myself and I’ve noticed I’ve been more generous and helpful. Instead of seeing requests as interruptions, I’ve thought about those requests as equally worthy as my own concerns, and thought, “If I were them, I would want extra help too, so I will help.” In the last month, I’ve also been in some teaching situations in which I tried to esteem the students as myself and I witnessed that it created an environment of edification that invited the Spirit.

Have you ever heard or seen the saying, “I am third”? It would puzzle me and eventually I realized that it was meant to remind everyone to put God first, others second, and themselves third. I think it is meant to try to encourage the value of self-sacrifice, which is good, but it seems to me that if we esteem others as ourselves, that precludes putting them before ourselves just as much as it precludes putting ourselves before others. It suggests that all of us have needs and that there needs to be a whole lot more negotiating and turn-taking in our lives.

How has esteeming others as yourself blessed your life? Do you have any experiences that you can share?
Tuesday, December 21, 2010 2 comments

Persecution: what goes around, comes around

When Nephi calls the Gentiles on the carpet for their treatment of the Jews, he gives a dire prophecy from the Lord. “…you have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.” (2 Nephi 29:5, emphasis added)

Here the law of restoration is declared in force upon all those who persecute the Jews. Those who persecute will be persecuted themselves. Thus we should not be surprised to see atheism persecuting the great and abominable church (and coming in for its own share of blowback persecution as well), extremist Muslims hating the decadence of western civilization, or western civilization coming down hard on the Middle East, where there happens to be a very strong anti-Semitism milieu. That doesn’t make any of it right, of course, but it becomes much less perplexing when we see it as a fulfillment of Nephi’s prophecy of “what-goes-around-comes-around” and take it as assurance that none of this is unexpected by God. (We get a piece of the persecution from both sides, but God strengthens His own, and as long as we turn the other cheek and forgive, we will overcome.)
Monday, December 20, 2010 3 comments

Remembering the ancients’ travails

But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles? (2 Nephi 29:4)
Nephi isn’t afraid to point out the rank ingratitude he’s seen in vision concerning Gentile treatment of the Jews. He saw the anti-Semitism of centuries, labels of “Christ-killer” and other dehumanizing propaganda, the accusations of plotting for world domination, the ghettos, the concentration camps, the suicide bombings, and more. (“…have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but you have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them.” (2 Nephi 29:5)) He points out that the Gentiles forget that Jews were also the ones who took the gospel to the Gentiles and who worked so hard to write the word of the Lord.

I think another application of this verse is our tendency to take for granted the efforts of the Saints in the early days of the Restoration. We fault them for failing to live the law of consecration and are we any better? It is a good thing that we tell and retell the stories of their sacrifices and persecutions and victories so that we can remember their travails and labors and pains and diligence to bring the church out of obscurity.

Yet another application of this verse is our tendency to take for granted the efforts of our faithful church teachers. Too often we speak slightingly of the teachers who read the lesson for the first time during sacrament meeting the hour before they have to teach it, and then we fail to recognize teachers who have really put a lot of work into preparation that we don’t see. The verse speaks of the teachers’ “travails,” “labors,” “pains,” and “diligence” in language evoking the difficulty and agony of women giving birth. For diligent teachers everywhere, this metaphorical language strikes a chord, and learners would do well to be aware of it.

Too often I’ve taken my teachers for granted, and it was only when I got a church calling to teach primary when I was 18 that I began to appreciate all the great teachers I had. I remember Brother Kuntzelman, who taught me in primary. (When he was released, I seriously considered indicating I was “not in favor as manifested” of the person who was called to take his place.) And Sister Imam and Sister Gallagher who were dynamite primary choristers. And Sister Ellefson, a stalwart adviser in Young Women. And Sister Kearney, with whom I had one-on-one conversations about the scriptures in our 16-18 year old Sunday school class when no one else came. And my mom, who was incredibly influential as my seminary teacher all through high school. And Brother Mortensen, one of my institute teachers, who would blithely fling his tie over his shoulder as a signal to batten down the hatches in preparation for a breeze of speculation forthcoming so that we would know not to take those things as seriously as the other things he was teaching us. And Brother Victor Ludlow who opened my eyes to the meaning of Isaiah. And David R. Seely who taught the Old Testament. And Richard Draper, who opened my eyes to the Book of Revelation and helped me parse Paul better. And Brother Merrill who assigned me to read the first half of the Book of Mormon in two weeks. It would take a long time to name all the good teachers I’ve had in the church. And behind each lesson is so much labor.

How about you? Will you tell me about some of the great teachers you’ve known? What stories of the early Saints have impacted you the most? And what stories of the ancient Jews help you remember and appreciate their travails?
Saturday, December 18, 2010 0 comments

Alma as a type of Christ in the healing of Zeerom

3 And also Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat.
4 Now, when he heard that Alma and Amulek were in the land of Sidom, his heart began to take courage; and he sent a message immediately unto them, desiring them to come unto him.
5 And it came to pass that they went immediately, obeying the message which he had sent unto them; and they went in unto the house unto Zeezrom; and they found him upon his bed, sick, being very low with a burning fever; and his mind also was exceedingly sore because of his iniquities; and when he saw them he stretched forth his hand, and besought them that they would heal him.
6 And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?
7 And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.
8 And Alma said: If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed.
9 And he said: Yea, I believe according to thy words.
10 And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ.
11 And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk; and this was done to the great astonishment of all the people; and the knowledge of this went forth throughout all the land of Sidom. (Alma 15:3-11)
These are the things that make Alma a type of Christ:
  • Alma taught Zeezrom the truth (previously in Ammonihah).
  • Alma suffered because of Zeezrom’s sins (imprisonment, abuse, mocking, etc.), yet he escapes though Zeezrom thinks he is dead.
  • Alma becomes an advocate to God for Zeezrom for healing and salvation on account of faith in Christ.
Thursday, December 16, 2010 3 comments

Observations on Alma 14 and the results of Alma and Amulek’s preaching in Ammonihah

Alma 14 shows the society of Ammonihah is ripe for destruction:
• They condemn holy people (Alma & Amulek) for their holiness.
• They consider good to be evil.
• They cast out the righteous men and stone them.
• They burn the innocent women and children to death.
• They destroy all the sacred records they can find.
• They mock, abuse, and imprison righteous church leaders (Alma & Amulek)

**

The people of Ammonihah burn the women and children and then mock Alma and Amulek saying, “After what ye have seen, will ye preach again unto this people that they shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone?” The people of Ammonihah think that if they subject other people to the penalties they themselves have been warned of, it means the warnings are invalid. It is a twisted sort of reasoning brought on by the pattern of injustice of the judges, who have been working to invalidate righteous authority, and they don’t realize that it seals their doom upon them.

**

The abuse Ammonihah leaders put Alma and Amulek through in prison is extreme. They try to break down their identities and destroy them spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Based upon this, it is amazing that Alma preaches so bravely and courageously afterward. It seems he overcomes it through faith in Christ.

**

While they are imprisoned, they answer the chief judge nothing when he questions them. What more can they say than has already been said? The people had rejected it all, so there was no more to say. It wasn’t fear that kept them quiet.

**

One the last day that Alma and Amulek are imprisoned, the chief judge and many teachers and lawyers mocked them and challenged them to prove Ammonihah would be destroyed by delivering themselves from the bands that tied them. Clearly the judge, the teachers, and lawyers never believed it would happen, but they had not reckoned upon the power and mercy that the Lord extends to His anointed. They sought a sign and they got it, but only to their condemnation. It didn’t cause them to want to repent; it only made them want to remove themselves from the city that they now knew would be destroyed. But it was too late for them. It is significant that it says that “they did not obtain the outer door to the prison.” They die in prison, both temporally and spiritually, while Alma and Amulek come out of this prison whose walls have been rent specifically for them.

**

Alma cried to the Lord “O Lord, give us strength according to our faith in Christ, even unto deliverance.” The Lord answered Alma and gave them complete deliverance:
• They broke the bands that bound them.
• They were freed from their tormentors when the earthquake destroyed the prison and the walls fell so exclusively on the evil men.
• They were freed from the prison, as the earthquake rent the prison walls and no one lived to prevent them from leaving.
• They were freed from the city, as all the townspeople ran away from them, so they could leave.
• Finally, because of the healing power of Christ, they eventually recovered and were freed from the debilitating effects of the abuse that they suffered.
According to their faith in Christ, they were delivered from all these afflictions. This dramatic story of deliverance is meant to remind us that God really does have power to deliver us from anything and everything. He can save in so many ways. He can save us from going through afflictions. He can save us from afflictions as we are in them. He can save us from the negative effects of afflictions. He can save us at ANY STAGE. He can save us through death or He can save us with life. He can save us from committing sin. He can save us from our sins. He uses His power to save in ways that will result in the greatest good for us and others and in ways that preserve our agency. Through it all, we have the challenge of remembering that He can save us in all things.

**

Mormon takes especial care to give us the specific date when Alma and Amulek are delivered from prison. Then in chapter 16, he gives the specific date when all the people of Ammonihah are attacked and slaughtered by the Lamanites.
Deliverance of Alma and Amulek – 10th year of judges, 10th month, 5th day
Destruction of Ammonihah – 11th year of judges, 2nd month, 5th day
We don’t know what was the last month of their Nephite year, but it could be as many as 6, or as few as 2 months later that Ammonihah was destroyed. Still, it seems Mormon wants to point out that destruction came swiftly when they were ripe, to underline that warnings from God should not be ignored.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 3 comments

Motivation to keep sacred records: external versus internal

In 1 Nephi 5 when Lehi examines the brass plates, he finds all kinds of good stuff on them. Something that I noticed with more attention recently was that they also had “many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah” (v 13). I found this interesting because Jeremiah was a contemporary of Lehi and had been put in prison, according to Nephi. What is more odd is that “Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records” (v16). “Kept the records” could mean keeping them secure, or it could also mean adding to them. But Laban does not seem like the type who would be carefully recording Jeremiah’s prophecies, full as they are of imminent destruction. Can we imagine this murderous man studiously laboring, stylus in hand, to engrave the words of Jeremiah?

This puzzled me for a while until I looked at the chronology of the kings as in the Bible Dictionary. I found that Jeremiah began his ministry during Josiah’s reign. It is likely that part of Josiah’s reforms were mandates that prophecies be recorded, and Laban and his fathers were responsible to see that royal command was carried out, so they wrote down many prophecies of the prophets, including Jeremiah’s. But it seems as soon as Josiah died, all motivation for record-keeping ended and the brass plates went neglected in the treasury. The motivation was only external and hadn’t been internalized.

This has some application in my own life. This semester I have taken a seminary preservice institute class and one of the assignments was to write down insights received during daily scripture study. The class ended this week. I could stop writing my insights down every day if I wanted to. But if I stopped, I realize I would be no better than Laban and his family. So I think I must keep on.

I have a better reason for continuing, however. It has been very helpful to me to write the things I have learned without worrying about evaluating them on whether to post them on my blog or not. It has reminded me that I really do learn so much from the scriptures through the Spirit, even if it is little tidbits at a time. It has also reminded me that sometimes when we record what we have learned, in the very act of writing, the Lord gives us even greater insight.
Sunday, December 12, 2010 2 comments

Focus on family leads to the overthrow of King Noah

The Lamanites attack the Nephites in the land of Nephi and King Noah causes all his people to flee. When the Lamanites catch them and begin to slay them, King Noah tells all the men to leave their wives and children behind. Here we begin to see how King Noah starts to lose followers. Some recognize right off that there is wickedness in just leaving their families to save themselves and they stay behind, even while they believe they will die with their families.

But others continue to listen to King Noah and the wicked priests and follow them away from their families. But then something begins to happen in their hearts. Part of it is in the text and part of it isn’t, but the part that is there helps us realize everything that happened.
Now they had sworn in their hearts that they would return to the land of Nephi, and if their wives and their children were slain, and also those that had tarried with them, that they would seek revenge, and also perish with them. (Mosiah 19:19)
Because these people made an oath in their hearts to return to their families, they must have realized soon after they had left their families that what they had done was wrong. After all that King Noah had done during his reign (and his wicked priests) to legitimize evil and whoredoms, the light of Christ was still in them and when they left their families in danger, immediately afterward they began to realize that was wrong to do. And that led to a desire to change and do it right. This led them to the point that they actually made an oath to return to their families.

No doubt they told the king what they had sworn to do. And King Noah, unfettered by any consideration for the legitimate claims that his family could have on him, was opposed to this. He was more worried about his own preservation. Because King Noah opposed their return to their families, it became immediately evident that King Noah was wicked. He was openly standing in the way of them keeping the oath they had sworn. So King Noah had to be removed.

It is interesting that changing their priorities with an oath to focus on family suddenly made it so obvious to the people that King Noah was wicked. Just think how the whole reign of King Noah could have been avoided if they had done such a thing at the beginning of his reign instead of at the end.

I think this lesson is relevant for us today. Anything that stands in the way of us keeping our covenants needs to be removed from our lives. Anything that becomes an obstacle and stands in the way of us doing our duty to our families needs to be removed from our lives.
Friday, December 10, 2010 3 comments

Birth and Rebirth

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (Alma 5:14)
When I ran across this verse recently in my scripture study, I was struck by it as I read it thinking of this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of Christ. How wonderful that my spiritual rebirth is made possible through Christ and His atonement! When I celebrate the birth of Christ, isn’t it a perfect time to examine myself to see if I have been spiritually reborn of God?
Wednesday, December 8, 2010 2 comments

Gifts from God to us

With the Christmas gift-giving season upon us, I decided to do some scripture study about the gifts that God gives to us.

God gives certain gifts to everyone
7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Ephesians 4:7-8)
Certain gifts God gives to everyone is their agency, the light of Christ so that they know good from evil, coverage of their sins by the atonement of Christ (conditional upon repentance), and unconditional resurrection.

My parents actually followed this principle in their Christmas gift-giving; there were always a few presents that they gave to each of us alike.
And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. (Eccl. 3:13)
When you think of how Heavenly Father designed our brains so that our bodies can feel satisfied when we eat and drink enough, that is a great gift. He could have made us so that didn’t happen. Also, the satisfaction we feel when we have done a good job at something—that is a gift from God too.

God gives many different gifts according to our individuality
10 And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.
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. (D&C 46:10-12)
Think of all the spiritual gifts that the church is blessed with! Prophecy, visions, healing, faith to be healed, revelation, tongues, interpretation of tongues, knowledge, wisdom, discernment, charity, faith, testimony, belief, working miracles, and so much more!
God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now; (D&C 121:26)
What a fascinating gift the gift of the Holy Ghost is! It is such a special thing the Lord wants us to have.  There are things we learn and things we feel through its influence that are so majestic, so awe-inspiring, so wondrous, that words simply fail to express it adequately, and only someone else who has experienced it too can understand.
Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him. (D&C 20:60)
This made me think about priesthood ordinations in a different way. I hadn’t thought that they were a gift from God. This verse calls it “the gifts and callings of God unto him” which makes me think that gift and calling may be synonymous to the Lord. Even though I don’t hold the priesthood, I have been given callings, and when I think of how they have blessed my life, I see that my callings are gifts to me. My calling as ward organist and choir pianist is a gift of music and my calling as a cub scout den leader is a gift of working with, associating with, and teaching children. I consider all my callings fun gifts and I'm not ashamed to say that I had to grow into the fun-ness thereof.
Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you… (D&C 78:11)
This phrase occurs so many times in the Doctrine and Covenants. Commandments are a gift too, and in so many ways! They are gifts because
  • Learning about them expands and refines our understanding of right and wrong.
  • They represent an opportunity for us to exercise our agency.
  • They present us with a choice to keep them or not.
  • They have blessings attached to them that the Lord wants us to have.
  • Inevitably we learn that we can’t keep the commandments on our own and we need the Lord’s help, so we learn to trust in the Lord.
  • When we follow them we are kept safe from bad things that tend to happen without them.
  • They help us become more like God. Doing them helps us do the things the Lord does.
  • Even if we try to ignore them, inevitably we are brought to a recognition of our need for the atonement of Christ and the necessity of repentance, by which we can discover the joy of our redemption. (And then we still get to keep the commandments!)
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God. (D&C 14:7)

And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God. (D&C 46:26)

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2 Cor. 9:15)
Eternal life is the final gift God wants to give us. We have our whole lives to look forward to it and the Holy Ghost as a down payment of it. Surely there are spiritual gifts we must seek now that will help us prepare for this great gift.

What should we want?

Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given; (D&C 46:8, emphasis added)

And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing. (Moroni 10:30, emphasis added)

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2)
Even if I were to have the best blog in the world and do all I’m asked to do at church.. Even if I were superwoman (which I’m not) and could move mountains, if I don’t have charity, I’m nothing. Hmm. I think I need to pray more for charity.

Things to remember about the gifts God gives us
Thou shalt be diligent in preserving what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward; for it is the free gift of the Lord thy God, and thou art his steward. (D&C 136:27)

Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. (1 Timothy 4:14)

For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift. (D&C 88:33)

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)
We learn from these scriptures:
  • to be diligent in preserving our gifts from God
  • to not neglect our gifts from God
  • to receive and rejoice in our gifts from God
  • and to give to others liberally like God has given us
What other scriptures do you know of that tell of the gifts that God has given us? Will you share them? What gifts from God are you feeling particularly thankful for right now? What is something you are doing to diligently preserve a gift from God?
Friday, December 3, 2010 1 comments

Alma 1 Comparison between fruits of priestcraft and fruits of true faithfulness; also the church’s defense against persecution

Alma 1 is an interesting chapter. I went through it today and at first I saw it as a series of unrelated events—“Nehor teaches false doctrines, establishes a church, introduces priestcraft, and slays Gideon—Nehor is executed for his crimes—Priestcrafts and persecutions spread among the people—The priests support themselves, the people care for the poor, and the Church prospers” (chapter summary).

But as I got toward the end of the chapter, I began to realize that the chapter actually sets up a contrast between the faithful people of the church and the people outside the church involved in priestcraft.


















































People who practiced and embraced PriestcraftFaithful church members

Preached false doctrine (v3-4, 7, 16)

(Ex: Nehor contended to lead Gideon and others away from the church)

Spoke the word of God (v7,26)

(Ex: Gideon withstood Nehor with the word of God)

Preached for riches and honor (v16)

Imparted the word of God freely (v20)

Teacher no better than the learner and vice versa (v26)

Lifted up in pride (v6, 32)Showed humility (v20)
Contending sharply, persecuting with all manner of words (v7, 20)No persecuting anyone in or out of the church (v21)

Preachers not laboring with their hands

supported by the people (v3, 5)

Preacher and learners all laboring with their hands for their own support (v26)
General idleness (v32)Diligently returned to labors after hearing the word of God (v26)
Wearing costly apparel (v6, 32)

Clothes neat and comely,

Not wearing costly apparel (v27)

Indulged themselves in all manner of wickedness (sorceries, idolatry or idleness, babblings, envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms, murdering, etc.) (v32)Steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments (v25)
Envying, thieving, and robbing (v32)Imparted their substance liberally to all, having no respect to persons (v27, 30)
Babbling, envying, strife, murdering (v32)Had continual peace notwithstanding suffering persecutions (v28)

I think that Alma observed these characteristics as he saw them and that Mormon thought these observations important to include because it shows very well that false doctrines really do have an impact on how people live their lives and that it isn’t a good one.

Nehor’s doctrine had a bad influence on Nephite society, which led to the church suffering much persecution. According to Nehor’s doctrine, every priest and teacher had to be popular and had to establish a following. Undoubtedly this led to many people teaching to try amass a following, then trying to steal followers from each other and from the church. Because they felt popularity and material support legitimized a teacher rather than actually teaching the truth, in their view, priests and teachers in the church who didn’t have large followings and who weren’t paid for their preaching weren’t really legitimate and could be dismissed and denigrated. Further, free preaching destroyed priestcraft, so they had a material interest in discouraging free access to the word of God.

The church went through a whole lot of persecution because of this. And some of the church couldn’t resist giving back as good as they got. But most of them hung in there.

The chapter lists several things that the faithful people of the church did:
  • They lived by a strict rule that none of them would persecute anyone whether in or out of the church.
  • They stood steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments.
  • They left their labors to hear the word of God and then they diligently returned to their labors.
  • They imparted of their substance to anyone who stood in need.

These sound like a list of good things that everyone should do, and they are, but I also started to see that there was a strategic quality to them that helped them cope with and dampen the persecution they suffered.

Living by the rule that none of them would persecute anyone whether in or out of the church helped minimize the amount of persecution that occurred. It meant that they could have a place of safety if they were among church members. It also meant that retaliatory persecution from the outside would be negligible.

Steadfastly keeping the commandments helped prevent any outsiders from persecuting out of a sense of having been wronged.

Leaving their labors to hear the word of God and then diligently returning to their labors meant that there would be far fewer idle moments around outsiders and less opportunity for persecution to occur. If outsiders thought labor was beneath them, then members would be safe while laboring as outsiders would avoid work.

Imparting of their substance to anyone who stood in need helped minimize the want that would drive priestcraft adherents on a rant to try to draw followers and their money. If those needs were provided for, they couldn’t complain and rail as much. (Also, refraining from wearing costly apparel prevented them from becoming a target of envy.)

The result of these strategic efforts was this:
28 And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions.
29 And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need….
31And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church. (Alma 1:28-29,31)
How amazing that even in persecution, they began to have “continual peace” and were prospered to such an extent! Surely these principles were given as revelation from God through the prophet Alma (the high priest) to help them in those difficult times. I’m sure the principles the Nephite members followed are applicable today as well.

Will you share with me a time when you were able to achieve peace during persecution?
Wednesday, December 1, 2010 0 comments

King Mosiah let them go

1 Now it came to pass that after the sons of Mosiah had done all these things, *they took a small number with them and returned to their father, the king, and desired of him that he would grant unto them that they might, with these whom they had selected, go up to the land of Nephi that they might preach the things which they had heard, and that they might impart the word of God to their brethren, the Lamanites— ….
5 And it came to pass that they did plead with their father many days that they might go up to the land of Nephi.
6 And king Mosiah went and inquired of the Lord if he should let his sons go up among the Lamanites to preach the word.
7 And the Lord said unto Mosiah: Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life; and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites. (Mosiah 28:1,5-7)
I used to wonder why Mosiah took so long to decide to let his sons go teach the Lamanites. (After all, I knew how successful they would be on their mission because I had read all about it.) It took me a while to realize that King Mosiah seems to have been against letting them go, which is why his sons pled for many days on the issue. I realized King Mosiah had some very good rational reasons for not wanting them to go. He was worried they would lose their physical or spiritual lives, or even both. Up to this time, attempts to convert the Lamanites had been unsuccessful. Further, there was the saying given to Nephi that any who departed from the Nephites to join the Lamanites or who mingled their seed with the Lamanites would be cut off from the presence of the Lord like the Lamanites had been. Having seen his sons become so miraculously converted, Mosiah was extremely apprehensive that if his sons went among the Lamanites, they would be pulled down and turn like a dog to its vomit or fall victims to their hatred. I’m sure we can understand his view.

When his sons continued to plead for many days, Mosiah went to the Lord about it, seeking for revelation. I think that is admirable that he humbled himself to do that. The answer Mosiah got perfectly addressed all these concerns. In response, the Lord said, “Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life; and I will deliver thy sons out of the hands of the Lamanites.” (Mosiah 28:7)

Mosiah took courage from this answer and lets them go. What comfort it must have been to have that promise that they would have eternal life.

If we notice subsequent events, it turns out that Mosiah’s obedience to this revelation becomes a great sacrifice; because he lets them go, he never sees them again in the flesh, and he dies about a year afterward. How he must have prayed for his sons in that year! How he must have yearned after them. I imagine that once released from his mortal body, his spirit must have rejoiced to finally see his sons’ progress among the Lamanites and must have watched every development with eagerness.

What does this story mean for us today? Undoubtedly the Lord knew of all the missionaries and parents of missionaries in the last days and prepared this little bit in the Book of Mormon to comfort parents as they sacrifice contact with their sons and daughters out in the mission field. I think it also can be a comfort to parents to help them trust the Lord to deliver their sons and daughters from harm. And for those few parents whose sons and daughters are killed, there is additional comfort in that promise of the Lord to Mosiah, “they shall have eternal life.”

To all you parents of missionaries, I salute you for your sacrifice!
Monday, November 29, 2010 0 comments

The four sons of Mosiah and their long tail symptoms of escaping apostasy

And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them, for they were the very vilest of sinners. And the Lord saw fit in his infinite mercy to spare them; nevertheless they suffered much anguish of soul because of their iniquities, suffering much and fearing that they should be cast off forever. (Mosiah 28:4)
Often we think that the angel’s visit to Alma the Younger and the four sons of Mosiah made the repentance process quick and easy, especially when we cite Alma’s later words—“I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more” (Alma 36:19)

However, we see from the verse in Mosiah that there is a long hangover symptom of anguish and fear that lasts for quite a while afterward and I think this is true for any person redeemed from their downward road into apostasy. I know I experienced it after my own near miss, and when I noticed that verse in Mosiah more than two years ago, the light went on and I thought, Ah ha, this is why I’m feeling this way.

What helped Alma the Younger and the four sons of Mosiah overcome it was having the Spirit of the Lord work on them to do missionary work.
35 And they traveled throughout all the land of Zarahemla, and among all the people who were under the reign of king Mosiah, zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church, confessing all their sins, and publishing all the things which they had seen, and explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desired to hear them.
36 And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer. (Mosiah 27:35-36)

Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble. And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them...(Mosiah 28:3-4)
They knew they had to declare that what they had previously done was wrong and they had to replace it with the truth. So they went about teaching among their own people first. This was part of their repentance process. We know that. But it also had the effect of helping to assuage their own anguish and fear with the presence of the Holy Ghost during the long spiritual recovery. Focusing on helping others got them outside themselves. It gave them a store of good memories to look back on with satisfaction for the moments when Satan still tried to buffet them and make them feel like they were cast away despite their hopes to the contrary. It helped them rebuild their self-confidence because let’s face it—when a person is recovering from apostasy, they often have lost confidence in their own judgment (having found they were terribly wrong when they were sure they were right) and they distrust themselves. The best way to get it back is to build up a sufficient store of experiences serving the Lord, and doing missionary work is the best for that.

So why am I pointing this stuff out? I am writing for those in the church who have gone astray but who have come back, and who are going through that “long tail” anguish and fear. That is a hard place to be, and I understand what it feels like. It is as if you have fallen or begun to fall from a steep cliff, then realized it, and have clambered back up with help from the Lord. You have turned away from the cliff edge and are trying to leave it as quickly as possible, yet you don’t know how far you’ve come away from it and the cliff edge still feels like it is just at your heels and the slightest backsliding would send you over the cliff again.

It was hard enough for me even though I continued to go to church meetings, fulfill my callings, read the scriptures, pay tithing, keep the Word of Wisdom, or do visiting teaching, etc. etc. I never stopped doing that, yet my spiritual state felt so precarious. For a few months I had to take medication for depression and anxiety when it was becoming paralyzing. But over the long term, one of the big things that helped me was missionary work, particularly sharing my scripture insights on this blog.

Ultimately, the Book of Mormon gives hope that by clinging to the Lord and sharing the gospel, the long tail of anguish and fear will eventually come to an end and the Lord will make us stronger. Remember that when these same four returned from their mission to the Lamanites,
…they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
3 But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.
4 And they had been teaching the word of God for the space of fourteen years among the Lamanites, having had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God, to call on his name and confess their sins before him. (Alma 17:2-4)
I know that this is true. Glory be to the Father, who receives all His children who will repent and believe in Jesus the Christ! Glory to Christ for His infinite love and sacrifice! Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!
Friday, November 26, 2010 2 comments

What we can learn from Jacob’s account of Sherem the anti-Christ

1 And now it came to pass after some years had passed away, there came a man among the people of Nephi, whose name was Sherem.
2 And it came to pass that he began to preach among the people, and to declare unto them that there should be no Christ. And he preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ.
3 And he labored diligently that he might lead away the hearts of the people, insomuch that he did lead away many hearts; and he knowing that I, Jacob, had faith in Christ who should come, he sought much opportunity that he might come unto me. (Jacob 7:1-3)
“he [Sherem] sought much opportunity that he might come unto me [Jacob]” – When I read this recently I struck me that Jacob must have had many encounters with Sherem, not just the one that is recorded in the rest of this chapter. Sherem was a militant anti-Christ, so he was very persistent in trying to spread his beliefs around. Evidently he marshaled all the powers of sophistry and rhetoric he could. “And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil” (Jacob 7:4). What a test that must have been.

When I realized Jacob must have had multiple conversations with Sherem, suddenly this account became a lot more valuable to me. The world is increasing in secularism and we may have people who come to us often, trying to shake us from our faith and using much flattery and powers of speech according to the power of the devil.

So how does Jacob stands up to this continual barrage if Sherem seeks him out so often? What is his secret, and can we use it to help us today?
And he [Sherem] had hope to shake me [Jacob] from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken. (Jacob 7:5)
Jacob doesn’t take credit for his strength. He cites the many revelations, the many things he had seen, and the angelic visitations and the voice of the Lord as what kept him from being shaken. Because Jacob remembered all the times he had received revelation, his testimony was steadfast.

That is the key for us today—remembering all the revelations the Lord has given us, all the ways our prayers have been answered, and all the tender mercies of the Lord to us. I think this is one of the reasons why it is so important to keep a journal (and a scripture journal) so that we can accumulate that evidence of God in our lives in a way so that it will have greater weight with us than the words of unbelievers who try to shake our faith. Then we can bear testimony of what we know. Jacob does this too.
9 And I [Jacob] said unto him [Sherem]: Deniest thou the Christ who shall come? And he said: If there should be a Christ, I would not deny him; but I know that there is no Christ, neither has been, nor ever will be.
10 And I said unto him: Believest thou the scriptures? And he said, Yea.
11 And I said unto him: Then ye do not understand them; for they truly testify of Christ. Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.
12 And this is not all—it has been made manifest unto me, for I have heard and seen; and it also has been made manifest unto me by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, I know if there should be no atonement made all mankind must be lost. (Jacob 7:9-12)
I remember a time when I talked to a coworker and he said he didn’t know if there was a God or not. I told him I knew there was a God and I had had too many answers to prayer to not know. I told him gently, yet with confidence, “You know there is a God.” And he agreed with me; he said believed in YHWH of the Bible. (Obviously, this conversation had a happier result than Jacob’s.)

Will you share with me an experience you’ve had when your experience with revelation and your testimony helped you withstand militant unbelief?
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 0 comments

In which I notice the dangers of Zeniff's over-zealousness and how different it is from actual zeal

21 And ye all are witnesses this day, that Zeniff, who was made king over this people, he being over-zealous to inherit the land of his fathers, therefore being deceived by the cunning and craftiness of king Laman, who having entered into a treaty with king Zeniff, and having yielded up into his hands the possessions of a part of the land, or even the city of Lehi-Nephi, and the city of Shilom; and the land round about—
22 And all this he did, for the sole purpose of bringing this people into subjection or into bondage. And behold, we at this time do pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites, to the amount of one half of…all we have or possess…or our lives. (Mosiah 7:21-22)
Here King Limhi describes the process by which the Nephites in the land of Nephi got into their predicament of bondage and it is illustrative of the problem of over-zealousness. Taken simply, overzealousness, leads to being deceived by cunning craftiness, which leads to eventual subjection, which leads to bondage.

I think it is interesting too that he also describes another process to bondage, that of iniquity. (It is King Noah’s story in particular.)
25 For if this people had not fallen into transgression the Lord would not have suffered that this great evil should come upon them. But behold, they would not hearken unto his words; but there arose contentions among them, even so much that they did shed blood among themselves.
26 And a prophet of the Lord have they slain; yea, a chosen man of God, who told them of their wickedness and abominations, and prophesied of many things which are to come, yea, even the coming of Christ….
28 And now, because he said this, they did put him to death; and many more things did they do which brought down the wrath of God upon them. Therefore, who wondereth that they are in bondage, and that they are smitten with sore afflictions? (Mosiah 7:25-26, 28)
Transgression leads to contention, which leads to violence. The Lord sends prophets to cry repentance, and if the people reject the message, they kill the prophets. Having killed the prophets, nothing stands in the way of greater evil, which eventually angers outside powers, who attack and prevail because the people have lost their moral backbone.

Over-zealousness on one side leads to bondage, and iniquity on the other side leads to bondage. Thus we see that the way truly is straight and narrow between them.

This lead me to this question: what is the difference between zeal and over-zealousness? (Feel free to chime in on this matter in the comments.) I checked the Topical Guide on ‘over-zealous’ and there wasn’t anything, so I looked up ‘zeal.’ From those scriptures listed it seems that zeal is manifested through righteous initiative and being anxiously engaged in a good cause and cheerfully doing all things that lie in our power. So maybe one part of over-zealousness is being reactive and not doing everything we can.

Over-zealousness is, of course, manifested in the Book of Mormon by Zeniff who is so over-eager to possess the land of his fathers that he ignores the dangers associated with living near the Lamanites and at the beginning he glosses over their desires to enslave and leach off of the Nephites. (Of course, later in his reign, he is much more realistic about it and even laments “we have suffered these many years in the land.” (Mosiah 10:18)) In my own life, over-zealousness has been manifest every time I act with impatience thinking that one dramatic and ‘heroic’ act will change things. It happens when I am so over-concerned with bringing an end about that I become less scrupulous about the means I employ to achieve it. I have seen how over-zealousness makes me vulnerable to deception.

As I considered this line of thought, I began to realize something I had never thought of before--that over-zealousness is really an insidious form of laziness. I know that sounds kind of contrary, but hear me out. As I said before, when I think one dramatic act will change things, it is usually because down at bottom I am impatient (and I have neglected to do the small diligent acts that would make the large heroic act unnecessary). Like when I suddenly feel fat and go out and run instead of diligently doing a little jogging every day. Like when I send a huge 10-page essay on doctrine to the inactive lady I visit teach instead of sending her a little something maybe every week. Like when I go for two months (and more!) without cleaning the bathroom and then do a marathon cleaning session. Further, I have learned through sad experience that in my church activity, my dramatic acts of over-zealousness easily become improper and self-vaunting or worse.

As I realized this, I started to read again through Zeniff’s story in Mosiah 9 and Mosiah 10 looking specifically to see if I could detect indications of over-zealousness leading to laziness.

There were some very subtle things that I noticed in his wording, which I hadn’t noticed before and probably wouldn’t have noticed unless I had been looking specifically for it. He starts out well in the land of Nephi saying, “we began to build buildings, and to repair the walls of the city” (Mosiah 9:8) and “we began to till the ground” (Mosiah 9:9). Note the use of “we” there. He’s involved in the day-to-day work. This is good, but it doesn't seem to last.

A little later we see an incident when his people working out in the fields are attacked by the Lamanites and “they fled, all that were not overtaken, even into the city of Nephi, and did call upon me for protection.” (Mosiah 9:15) It seems that Zeniff is no longer out in the fields working. He is in the city. What was he doing there? We have no idea. I begin to wonder if he had decided that manual labor was beneath him by this time.

Well, he’s roused to heroic efforts to arm his people and of course everyone is aflame with over-zealousness, so he says “I and my people did cry mightily to the Lord that he would deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, for we were awakened to a remembrance of the deliverance of our fathers.” (Mosiah 9:17) This faith is reactive to their circumstances and even though he and his people were living so close to the Lamanites, he hadn't done everything to prepare them for battle until the Lamanites were actually breathing down their necks.

But Heavenly Father is merciful. So they slay the Lamanites and then we read this: “And I, myself, with mine own hands, did help to bury their dead” (Mosiah 9:19). He makes such a big deal about how he works with them doing this dirty job that it suggests that it is something now very unusual for him to help. Something else I noticed was that as they go back to peacetime, Zeniff says “I caused that there should be weapons of war made of every kind” (Mosiah 10:1) and “I did cause that the men should till the ground” (Mosiah 10:4) and “I did cause that the women should spin, and toil, and work” (Mosiah 10:5). He causes them. This makes me think that he’s not involved in it himself and it also makes me think that their motivation to work diligently is starting to flag too.

Finally, I noticed that Zeniff seems to only mention the Lord in times of extremity. He points out at the beginning that the Lord smote his people with famine and afflictions because they were slow to remember the Lord. (Mosiah 9:3) The next time he mentions the Lord is when they are getting ready to fight their first big battle (see Mosiah 9:17-18). The next time he mentions the Lord is in a big pep talk he gives to his people in preparation for their second big battle twenty-two years later (see Mosiah 10:11-19). The final time he mentions the Lord is just as he ends his account: “And may the Lord bless my people” (Mosiah 10:22).

After studying the story of Zeniff and the beginnings of King Noah, I begin to see how it was that King Noah’s wickedness arose out of Zeniff’s over-zealous ways. If Zeniff parented like he did other things, there is no doubt that Zeniff’s children missed out on the foundational gospel teachings that come from consistent discussion. Even if Zeniff had a strong gospel foundation to return to when things got tough, his son Noah didn’t get acquire it because it appeared so rarely. And suddenly we can see why Noah, upon assuming the throne, would get rid of the priests and put new ones in their place. (He probably thought the new ones were more ‘hip’ and the old ones too restrictive.) We can see why Noah thought he had license to do whatever he wanted. We can see why Noah would have felt no problem with taxing his people to support himself and his priests. We can see how the people became idolatrous and deceived by flattering words.

If Zeniff is an example of over-zealousness, the Anti-Nephi-Lehis are examples of genuine zeal.
And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end. (Alma 27:27)
I suppose their days would be very recognizable to us. We would see them having daily prayer apart and as families. We would see them reading and studying sacred records and discussing them. We would find them teaching and encouraging each other. We would find them working hard and doing their best. We would notice them being very watchful to make sure that neither they nor their children fell into transgression. We would notice them teaching and loving and sometimes warning their children.

Because their zeal was consistent in even the smallest day-to-day things, their children, among whom were the stripling warriors, grew up strong in the faith and were strict to keep the commandments. We get a small sample of it in this verse:
But behold, they have received many wounds; nevertheless they stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free; and they are strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day; yea, they do observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually; and their faith is strong in the prophecies concerning that which is to come. (Alma 58:40)
Even when they were wounded, they were strict to remember their duty to God every day.

That’s the zeal we want to have--consistently remembering the Lord every day and consistently keeping the commandments every day.

What is your earliest memory of your parents teaching you to be consistently faithful?
Monday, November 22, 2010 2 comments

Thoughts on President Monson's talk "The Divine Gift of Gratitude"

Lately I’ve been studying President Monson’s conference talk “The Divine Gift of Gratitude” to try to see if I can come to better understand it. It’s a relatively simple talk, yet I’ve found unexpected depths in it that I had not anticipated. I have to confess that I’ve felt for a few days that I needed to do a post on this talk and I’ve been very worried about it; I worried that I wouldn’t be able to adequately point out how strong and effective it is. Because it IS powerful. But I’m going to do my best.

Since President Monson is both a master teacher and a master storyteller, one of the things we have to do when reading his talks is to analyze every single one of his stories, no matter how small. Since his topic is on gratitude, what can we find about gratitude in each one of his stories?
This has been a marvelous session. When I was appointed President of the Church, I said, “I’ll take one assignment for myself. I’ll be the adviser for the Tabernacle Choir.” I’m very proud of my choir!
My mother once said of me, “Tommy, I’m very proud of all that you’ve done. But I have one comment to make to you. You should have stayed with the piano.”
So I went to the piano and played a number for her: “Here we go, [here we go] to a birthday party.” Then I gave her a kiss on the forehead, and she embraced me.
I think of her. I think of my father. I think of all those General Authorities who’ve influenced me, and others, including the widows whom I visited—85 of them—with a chicken for the oven, sometimes a little money for their pocket.
I visited one late one night. It was midnight, and I went to the nursing home, and the receptionist said, “I’m sure she’s asleep, but she told me to be sure to awaken her, for she said, ‘I know he’ll come.’”
I held her hand; she called my name. She was wide awake. She pressed my hand to her lips and said, “I knew you’d come.” How could I not have come?
Beautiful music touches me that way.
This beginning struck me as a rambling reminiscence when I first heard it, even as I smiled at his pantomime of picking out the old John Thompson song with one finger and his singing it in front of hundreds of thousands of watching Latter-day Saints.

But…

I looked for gratitude and it is there. He tells us he’s so proud of his assignment as advisor to the Tabernacle choir (gratitude for their beautiful music and his chance to be associated with them in some way) because his mother once told him that for all he had done, she still thought he should have continued lessons with the piano.

Think about that—a mother who is disappointed that her apostolic son hadn’t stuck with his piano lessons. Hmmm. Yet let us pass over that and realize that this same mother gave birth to and raised this great man. President Monson, for his part, seems to have alluded to his own boyhood ingratitude for piano lessons, and repented of it, and we see in his attempt to plunk out a song for his mother a new thankfulness for the small skill he learned long ago.

Then he compares his mother’s frustrated expectation of him with a time that he was able to meet the expectation of one of the widows he visited. He ends this with the almost cryptic sentence “Beautiful music touches me that way.” It seems that he was speaking of how the Tabernacle choir’s beautiful music helps satisfy a deep yearning he had to please his mother and that the choir itself always fulfilled his own expectations and hopes for it, especially in times when he really needed it.

This is an incredibly complex way of expressing gratitude, but he manages to thank the Tabernacle choir, his parents, general authorities who influenced him, and even those he served.

Next..
My beloved brothers and sisters, we have heard inspired messages of truth, of hope, and of love. Our thoughts have turned to Him who atoned for our sins, who showed us the way to live and how to pray, and who demonstrated by His own actions the blessings of service—even our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In the book of Luke, chapter 17, we read of Him:
“And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
“And as he entered into a certain village, there [he met] ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
“And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
“And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”2
Through divine intervention those who were lepers were spared from a cruel, lingering death and given a new lease on life. The expressed gratitude by one merited the Master’s blessing; the ingratitude shown by the nine, His disappointment.
My brothers and sisters, do we remember to give thanks for the blessings we receive?
Why was this story included? I’m sure we’ve heard it many times before. What does it mean to us? Obviously we are meant to take it to heart somehow. As I thought about it, I realized that we are the lepers. Every one of us has been made unclean by the terrible thing called sin. When we are made clean through the atoning power of Christ, we have just as much reason to glorify God with a loud voice as did the Samaritan in the story. Do we remember to give thanks?

President Monson names a bunch of blessings that come from gratitude, and they are scattered all over the talk:
  • “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.”
  • “President Gordon B. Hinckley said, ‘When you walk with gratitude…you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.’”
  • “We can lift ourselves and others as well when we…cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude.”
  • “Someone has said that ‘gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.’”
  • President Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church….said…: “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life….How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul…”
  • Gratitude freely expressed minimizes feelings of regret when we lose a loved one.
  • It helps us find blessings in the midst of serious challenges.
President Monson’s talk also contains a list of ways to cultivate gratitude:
  • Rejoice over what you have.
  • Look for and acknowledge the Lord’s hand in all things.
  • Live in thanksgiving daily for the many mercies and blessings the Lord bestows upon you.
  • Pause and contemplate our blessings.
  • Refuse to remain in the realm of negative thoughts.
  • Consciously cultivate an attitude of gratitude until it becomes a habit.
  • Cultivate, through a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man.
  • Appreciate what money can’t buy: our families, the gospel, good friends, our health, our abilities, the love we receive from those around us.
  • Remember the happy days of the past and express gratitude before loved ones are gone.
  • Take an inventory of what you have.
About a third of President Monson’s talk is devoted to recounting the story of Gordon Green’s family and how they found blessings during difficult challenges, and this calls for serious attention and study. I will include the story below along with things that stuck out to me.
Gordon tells how he grew up on a farm in Canada, where he and his siblings had to hurry home from school while the other children played ball and went swimming. Their father, however, had the capacity to help them understand that their work amounted to something. This was especially true after harvesttime when the family celebrated Thanksgiving, for on that day their father gave them a great gift. He took an inventory of everything they had.
On Thanksgiving morning he would take them to the cellar with its barrels of apples, bins of beets, carrots packed in sand, and mountains of sacked potatoes as well as peas, corn, string beans, jellies, strawberries, and other preserves which filled their shelves. He had the children count everything carefully. Then they went out to the barn and figured how many tons of hay there were and how many bushels of grain in the granary. They counted the cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and geese. Their father said he wanted to see how they stood, but they knew he really wanted them to realize on that feast day how richly God had blessed them and had smiled upon all their hours of work. Finally, when they sat down to the feast their mother had prepared, the blessings were something they felt.
Taking an actual count and making a list is a very good way of cultivating gratitude. Gordon’s father is very wise because not only did he teach his children to work, but to notice and tally the fruits of their labors and their blessings from God. I would add that not only is it good to count tangible blessings, but intangible ones too. And if that weren’t enough, there are times when it is good to count the cost we save because of what didn’t happen. [Like the times when the car made it to the repair shop before it died. Or the time the surgeon noticed and removed the cancer while operating on dear husband for something else.]
Gordon indicated, however, that the Thanksgiving he remembered most thankfully was the year they seemed to have nothing for which to be grateful.
This should be a heads up that counting one’s present blessings may not work in all circumstances but that something very special and almost miraculous is coming in this story. We need to be alert to look for it.
The year started off well: they had leftover hay, lots of seed, four litters of pigs, and their father had a little money set aside so that someday he could afford to buy a hay loader—a wonderful machine most farmers just dreamed of owning. It was also the year that electricity came to their town—although not to them because they couldn’t afford it.
One night when Gordon’s mother was doing her big wash, his father stepped in and took his turn over the washboard and asked his wife to rest and do her knitting. He said, “You spend more time doing the wash than sleeping. Do you think we should break down and get electricity?” Although elated at the prospect, she shed a tear or two as she thought of the hay loader that wouldn’t be bought.
I have to point out once again how wise Gordon’s father is, simply from examining these paragraphs. Gordon knew his father was saving for a hay loader. That indicates that Gordon’s father involved the family in decisions about what they were going to save for and got family buy-in so that they were united. And a hay loader is pretty practical.

Interestingly enough, Gordon’s father changes his mind about what to get at an interesting time—while he decides to step in and take a turn at the washboard helping his wife wash clothes. As he did a task that his wife usually did, we can discern that he began to appreciate more fully the hard work his wife did to keep the family’s clothes clean. (Principle: Gratitude for what others do can come when we take over their duties for a little while.) Because Gordon’s father was now grateful for all that washing, he was filled with a desire to really lighten his wife’s burden—with electricity and a washing machine. He was willing to sacrifice his own plans to help her.

How curious that his wife was both elated, yet saddened. Yes, she would appreciate the electricity and a washing machine, but she still couldn’t think of foregoing the hay loader for her husband without a little pang. How often we are like her; as sudden unexpected blessings come to us we sometimes have a hard time letting go of what we previously planned for and thought we wanted before. Sometimes it is hard for us to see how much more beneficial for us the present blessings will be. (I could write a whole post about how my college career played out like that.)
So the electrical line went up their lane that year. Although it was nothing fancy, they acquired a washing machine that worked all day by itself and brilliant lightbulbs that dangled from each ceiling. There were no more lamps to fill with oil, no more wicks to cut, no more sooty chimneys to wash. The lamps went quietly off to the attic.
Electricity brought immediate blessings and they knew exactly how it helped them. No lack of gratitude here. Of course, it is always easiest to be thankful for a blessing just after you receive it.
The coming of electricity to their farm was almost the last good thing that happened to them that year. Just as their crops were starting to come through the ground, the rains started. When the water finally receded, there wasn’t a plant left anywhere. They planted again, but more rains beat the crops into the earth. Their potatoes rotted in the mud. They sold a couple of cows and all the pigs and other livestock they had intended to keep, getting very low prices for them because everybody else had to do the same thing. All they harvested that year was a patch of turnips which had somehow weathered the storms.
Then it was Thanksgiving again. Their mother said, “Maybe we’d better forget it this year. We haven’t even got a goose left.”
In no way were the Greens to blame for their difficulty. It was simply a result of difficult conditions and they weren’t the only ones that suffered. For them to lose their crops like that is just as serious as if they lost a job. With no income from crops, they had to get income by selling their animals.

Notice that Gordon’s mother thinks they have hit rock bottom. She can see no reason for celebrating Thanksgiving or even anything to celebrate it with. Yet they still have a patch of turnips!
On Thanksgiving morning, however, Gordon’s father showed up with a jackrabbit and asked his wife to cook it. Grudgingly she started the job, indicating it would take a long time to cook that tough old thing.
Gordon’s father worked very hard to come up with something to have as a main dish for Thanksgiving. (Maybe he shot the jackrabbit as it was nibbling the turnips? ;-) ) But notice Gordon’s mother’s attitude. She is thinking too much about not having a goose for Thanksgiving to appreciate that without her husband’s efforts, she wouldn’t even have the jackrabbit. Watch how her ingratitude spreads to her children..
When it was finally on the table with some of the turnips that had survived, the children refused to eat. Gordon’s mother cried…
The children are also infected with ingratitude and turn up their nose at what Gordon’s father got them and what Gordon’s mother did to try to prepare it for dinner. Who can blame Gordon’s mother for crying now? I suppose our ingratitude must make our Heavenly Parents mourn the same way when we turn up our noses at his blessings because we have expected something better.
…then his father did a strange thing. He went up to the attic, got an oil lamp, took it back to the table, and lighted it. He told the children to turn out the electric lights. When there was only the lamp again, they could hardly believe that it had been that dark before. They wondered how they had ever seen anything without the bright lights made possible by electricity.
Gordon’s father is incredibly wise. While his wife and children are troubled by their want, he assuages their grief not by giving them something new, but by taking something else away temporarily. This brings them all to an immediate awareness that things are not as bad as they thought. Suddenly they remember how wonderful electricity is as they experience a brief “vacation” from its convenience. Undoubtedly it was easier for them to endure this brief, voluntary loss than the more sustained, involuntary financial losses they had experienced over the year.
The food was blessed, and everyone ate. When dinner was over, they all sat quietly. Wrote Gordon:
“In the humble dimness of the old lamp we were beginning to see clearly again. . . .
“It [was] a lovely meal. The jack rabbit tasted like turkey and the turnips were the mildest we could recall. . . .
“ . . . [Our] home . . . , for all its want, was so rich [to] us.”
I thought very hard about this part. I wondered just how that realization about the blessing of electricity suddenly seemed to also bless their meal and their feeling for their home. Surely this wasn’t just empty words; there had to be something more behind it. Then I started to understand. Perhaps the briefness of their break from electricity suggested to them the possibility that their financial troubles would also be brief. Perhaps just like turning off the lightbulbs and using the oil lamps helped them appreciate electricity, losing their harvest and their animals for a year helped them more fully appreciate the plenty they had had… and would someday enjoy again.

I shared these last thoughts with my husband and he thinks I’m reading too far into it, but I can’t shake the feeling that maybe that is something we can learn from this story. What do you think? Is there anything in particular in this talk that really speaks to you? How is the principle of gratitude blessing your life?
Saturday, November 20, 2010 3 comments

28 Ways to squeeze every drop of insight from your scripture reading

I went to observe a seminary class and on one of the classroom walls was a cluster of scripture study strategies. There were so many of them and they were so good that I just had to write them all down for reference. If you want to squeeze every last bit of wisdom and insight from your scripture study, or add extra breadth and depth to it, these are very helpful.
  1. Insert your name in place of other names. This helps you feel like the scriptures are speaking to you.
  2. Link a scripture mastery scripture to its surrounding context and then to your life. This helps you see where you need to change and repent. It is the best method spiritual growth. This can also be done with other scriptures as well.
  3. Look for lists and number them. This helps us see how big they are and understand them better.
  4. Look for words of emphasis, attention, and focus (verily, O, wo, Lo, truly). These help us know what the writer considered important.
  5. Look for blessings and how to obtain them. Some people think this creates a faulty transactionalist view of the scriptures, but if you want blessings, nothing beats learning what the scriptures say about how to obtain them.
  6. Look for if-then statements. Often this is an easy way to find blessings and warnings.
  7. Compare and contrast. Contrast good people and bad people. Contrast leaders and followers. Contrast God and mortals. Anywhere there is a conflict, there is potential to contrast.
  8. Look for characteristics of the Godhead. This helps us understand who we worship better and helps us have faith in them.
  9. Look for power phrases. These are the really memorable lines like "Wickedness never was happiness." They pack a huge punch of truth.
  10. Look for principles and doctrines. These are general statements that can be used to guide you in a bunch of different situations.
  11. Look up word definitions. Sometimes word meanings change over time. For example, the word "peculiar" in the Lord's command to become a "peculiar people" has changed from "special" to "weird," so we need the reminder of what it used to mean.
  12. Look for patterns and repetition. Patterns can involve events, idea repetition, word repetition, and more. We know about the pride cycle because someone noticed a pattern. Repeated words in a scripture block can indicate emphasis on a certain principle or doctrine.
  13. Look for problems and their solutions. The problems we have in our lives will very much resemble the problems that people had in the scriptures, and their solutions will also work for us.
  14. Look for questions in the text and answer them. This will help you improve your ability to explain scriptures to people, which you will always use when sharing the gospel.
  15. Ask the writer a question, then look for the answer. The Lord listens and wants to answer our questions when we ask them.
  16. Ask what the author intended to teach. This can help us keep from going off into left field with interpretation. It also helps us notice what the writer emphasized most.
  17. Check footnotes. Sometimes there are translation issues. You might find the Joseph Smith Transation has something to add.
  18. Look up cross references. This can broaden our view of the meaning of our reading.
  19. Study by topic using the Topical Guide. This can REALLY expand our understanding of a topic so we can see it from a number of different angles. It can help us find the underlying connection between two gospel principles that seem to contradict each other. (Ex: grace and works) This is best started when there is an attribute that you want to learn about so you can become it.
  20. Create scripture chains. This allows you to connect together in a linear fashion scripture verses that are closely related. It is useful for when you have to teach someone about, say, baptism and build a foundation for their understanding.
  21. Create scripture clusters.* This helps broaden your understanding and helps develop the skills of discernment as to what principles are most important and which are more peripheral.
  22. Use manuals. These can fill in the holes when we lack cultural or historical insight.
  23. Find out background and read in context. Context can help you pick out significance that you may have missed earlier.
  24. Use maps and photographs. They help make the scriptures real. These things happened in real places with real people!
  25. Find a supporting hymn. Music can teach what words alone can't.
  26. Ask how it relates to the Plan of Salvation. This helps you see how a doctrine or principle will help you return to Heavenly Father someday.
  27. Ask how it might relate to the Proclamation on the Family. This helps you see how a doctrine or principle will help you strengthen your family.
  28. Write what you discover in a scripture journal. This is the depository for all the great insights you will get. The Lord can reveal more to us when we show we value what He has already given us.

*A scripture cluster is a list of scriptures all dealing with the same topic and represents the best scriptures you can find on that topic. Each scripture in the cluster must add a special bit of knowledge or insight to the topic that none of the other scriptures in the cluster have.

Are there any other methods that you use that you can share with me?
Thursday, November 18, 2010 3 comments

Outside Article on learning emotional maturity from the Book of Mormon

Please consider Larry W. Tippets’ article “Toward Emotional Maturity: Insights from the Book of Mormon” from the The Religious Educator, volume 10, issue 2, 2010.

The scriptures that he examines may have been well-known to me, but his focus on how they help us develop emotional maturity provides a very helpful and insightful practical connection to our real life difficulties. I, for one, am very grateful for it.

What do you think of the article?
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 3 comments

Falling River, Fall of Adam


10 And I, the Lord God, caused a river to go out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.
11 And I, the Lord God, called the name of the first Pison, and it compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where I, the Lord God, created much gold;…
13 And the name of the second river was called Gihon; the same that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
14 And the name of the third river was Hiddekel; that which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river was the Euphrates. (Moses 3:10-11, 13-14)

For the river to go out of Eden, Eden had to be on a higher elevation than everything else. This geographic state is clearly communicating to us a spiritual truth. Eden was a mountain of the Lord.

The river’s course also foreshadows the Fall of man, the exile from Eden, and the loss of unity, and being scattered in all directions to different lands.

But all of this downward and outward flow of humanity is eventually reversed, as Isaiah prophesies of the flow of people who will both come together and go up to the mountain of the Lord.
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3, emphasis added)
Image from “Hiking in Southern Japan” blog, http://demo.inktails.com/2007/11/kamiyama-the-spirit-mountain-of-tokushima/
Sunday, November 14, 2010 2 comments

All wholesome herbs God hath ordained


I’m revisiting D&C 89 and some things stuck out to me.
And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man— (D&C 89:10)
This time through I noticed the word “wholesome.” It is interesting that this verse does not say that all herbs are wholesome; it says all wholesome herbs are ordained for man. So we learn that there must be certain herbs that are NOT wholesome and do not promote mental, spiritual, and physical health.

Something else that sticks out to me is the list at the end of the verse: “for the constitution, nature, and use of man.” I ask myself why use all three of those words—constitution, nature, and use—and not just one of them. To study them better it seemed like it might be easier to think about them individually if I were to pull them apart.

For the constitution of man
For the nature of man
For the use of man

Where’s my dictionary? (Michaela rummages around in her shelves) Okay, got it.

constitution of man

Obviously in this context it is not the founding document of the United States that is meant. The dictionary says that constitution is “the physical makeup, the structure, composition, or nature of something.” So we learn (and nutritionists can show) that the chemical make-up of wholesome herbs is such that humans can consume them and be nourished, and they contain what we need. The verse shows us that God planned it that way.

nature of man

“Nature” in this context means “the basic quality or character of a person or thing, or the disposition, temperament, or natural feeling in one’s attitude.” This shows us that wholesome herbs are adapted to appeal to humanity’s taste and smell. They are calculated to be beautiful so that we want to eat them. I see this is true as I find myself most attracted to salads with lots of color and texture. I love the broad rich green leaves of spinach, the bright orange of carrots, the deep reds of tomatoes and bell peppers, the yellow of corn. I like the red outside of radishes and their bright white inside. I love the purple cabbages and the stringiness of alfalfa sprouts. I could go on all day about avocados, strawberries, pomegranates, peaches, garlic, onions, celery, and so on. (Yeah, I know, I’m naming some fruits with the vegetables, but if we’re talking about beautiful and tasty, fruits deserve to be mentioned too!)

use of man

“Use” is such a basic word, but if I’m looking at definitions, I might as well do this one too. It means “to put into action or employ, to consume, to carry out a purpose by means of something, to behave towards.” This suggests that wholesome herbs may have good uses beyond that of food. We use extracts and essences, we make perfumes, medicines, flavors and spices. We use plants as decoration, filtration, shade, erosion protection, soil renewal, and more. We even make clothes out of them.

In studying this verse, I can see God’s wisdom in providing food for us with His creations. He knows about body chemistry and plant chemistry and He knows what nourishes and what doesn’t. He wants us to learn that too, so the next verse says this:
Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving. (D&C 89:11)
Prudence means “the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason, discretion and shrewdness in the management of affairs, skill and good judgment in the use of resources, caution, circumspection.” We develop good judgment when we learn of the health benefits of wholesome herbs and fruits.

We know the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but do we know what nutrients apples have and what else we should eat to make up for what apples have less of? I don’t. It seems to me that I need to learn more of this kind of thing so that I can make my cooking and eating decisions with more prudence, rather than relying so much on mere enthusiasm.

The Lord also wants us to use wholesome herbs and fruits with thanksgiving and to appreciate them at their full value. I sense that this can be done best if we learn of their qualities and health effects. I believe that the more I learn and do these things, the more I will see good herbs and fruits as something great and I will thank Heavenly Father for them.

What herbs and fruits have you learned about that have helped you better appreciate them and use them wisely?

Image: cornucopia.jpg, http://www.cordondorcuisine.com/newirishgallery.html.
Friday, November 12, 2010 2 comments

A type of Christ: Captain Moroni freeing the prisoners of the city of Gid

This was something that I realized in a flash yesterday, so I went back to the chapter to check and see and it seems it is true. In many respects, this story about Captain Moroni liberating the city of Gid is a very good type of Christ and how He saves us from our sins. (I just have to say at the beginning that I’m not sure how the strategy of getting the Lamanite guards drunk fits into it (if you have any ideas, please share them in the comments), but in other respects, the story closely parallels how Christ helps us.)
16 And now this was according to the design of Moroni. And Moroni had prepared his men with weapons of war; and he went to the city Gid, while the Lamanites were in a deep sleep and drunken, and cast in weapons of war unto the prisoners, insomuch that they were all armed;
17 Yea, even to their women, and all those of their children, as many as were able to use a weapon of war, when Moroni had armed all those prisoners; and all those things were done in a profound silence….
19….Moroni…did not delight in murder or bloodshed, but he delighted in the saving of his people from destruction….
20 But he had obtained his desires; for he had armed those prisoners of the Nephites who were within the wall of the city, and had given them power to gain possession of those parts which were within the walls.
21 And then he caused the men who were with him to withdraw a pace from them, and surround the armies of the Lamanites.
22 Now behold this was done in the night-time, so that when the Lamanites awoke in the morning they beheld that they were surrounded by the Nephites without, and that their prisoners were armed within.
23 And thus they saw that the Nephites had power over them; and in these circumstances they found that it was not expedient that they should fight with the Nephites; therefore their chief captains demanded their weapons of war, and they brought them forth and cast them at the feet of the Nephites, pleading for mercy.
24 Now behold, this was the desire of Moroni. He took them prisoners of war, and took possession of the city, and caused that all the prisoners should be liberated, who were Nephites; and they did join the army of Moroni, and were a great strength to his army. (Alma 55:16-17, 19-24)
Notice all the things that Captain Moroni did. He prepared his men. They prepared weapons. (Armor of God, anyone? Sword of the Spirit?) He armed the prisoners. He gave them power to gain possession of the city. He withdrew and surrounded the city. Then, when the Lamanites surrendered, he took them prisoners. He took possession of the city. And he liberated all the prisoners.

When we are prisoners of sin, Christ has a plan for freeing us. Christ prepared His weapons—the great Atonement, the armor of God, and the sword of the Spirit. He prepares His men, all the prophets and church leaders and missionaries. He gives to those of us who want to be free weapons and armor to use—again, the armor of God and the sword of the Spirit, and the Atonement—which gives us power to free ourselves. Then He withdraws a bit and surrounds us with His armies of servants, so that we know we’re not doing it alone. In these conditions, sin MUST and DOES surrender, and Christ takes sin and the devil prisoner. Then Christ takes possession of our lives and liberates us and join him and his army and add our strength to it. (What a great truth that is—when Christ takes possession of us, we are liberated!)

One extra thing I want to point out—there is a curious phrase used in this story. When the prisoners were being armed, it says that “all those things were done in a profound silence.” Why do you think it was a “profound silence” instead of just “silence”?

I looked up “profound” using my dictionary widget and it said that it meant
  • “(of a state, quality, or emotion) very great or intense”
  • “(of a person or statement) having or showing great knowledge or insight”
  • “(of a subject or thought) demanding deep study or thought”
  • “at, from, or extending to great depth; very deep.”
How does that word “profound” make a difference in the meaning of this story if we are comparing it to how Christ liberates us from sin? Please share with me what you think.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010 1 comments

Feeding our friends at midnight


5 And he [Jesus] said unto them [his disciples], Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Luke 11:5-10)
This is an interesting parable because we know that it is teaching us to pray, but the situation Jesus describes in the parable is less familiar to us than the meaning behind it. Yet there are things that can be picked out from this parable that bring it closer to something more familiar to us.

It struck me that this perfectly describes those times when friends come to us in the middle of a very dark and difficult time and they want help. It is as though they have been traveling at night and they’ve gotten to “midnight”--the darkest time of their affliction--and they just can’t go on any more. And they want answers. And we want to say something that helps them, something that nourishes their soul. They need the bread of life and while we’ve taken care of our own spiritual needs, we haven’t prepared anything specifically for them, so we’re not ready. They come so suddenly, you see.

So what do we do? We say those hurried silent prayers for help that the Lord will give us the words to say--the bread of life--for us to give to our tired friends. But unlike the friend in the parable who had already put his household to bed, who had closed his door, and who protested before giving, the Lord stands ready to give as much as we need.

Notice that each person in the parable was a friend. Even if our friend comes to us instead of going directly to the Lord, the Lord is still their friend as well as ours. In coming to us, they actually give us a chance to advocate for them to the Lord and become a type of Christ.

I think this parable is very widely applicable. It describes how we can help people in deep distress when they come to us. It describes how church leaders counsel with members. It’s the essence of successful visiting teaching and home teaching. It describes how parents can teach their children when/if their children come to them with serious questions and worries. It is the epitome of “helpmeet” in the spousal relationship (and goes both ways).

What if the words that come to us don’t seem to help them? Was it the wrong thing? The rest of the scripture seems to answer this.
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:11-13)
This affirms that if we say the words the Lord gives us, then it will be the nourishing answers that are needed, whether the hearer takes it that way or not. (This is very comforting to me because I have had many times when I knew I was saying the right thing, but it wasn’t accepted.)

Will you share an experience with me of a time when someone helped you through a hard time by sharing with you some of the “bread of life”?

Image: Bohemian diary, http://iamembracinglife.blogspot.com/2010/08/surprise-candlelight-dinner.html.