Friday, October 30, 2015 0 comments

David O. McKay on Indulgence versus Spirituality

The LDS Citation Index app has conference addresses back to 1942. There are some wonderful things to find there. 

In the October 1963 conference, I found this neat bit in President David O. McKay’s talk “The True Purpose of Life”:

Aside from resisting such oppression from without, each individual carries within himself the responsibility of living nobly or ignobly. Daily every normal person is faced with the choice of submission to what Paul designated the “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19), or of reaching upward for the fruits of the Spirit, which are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal 5:22-23).

Conditions in the world today seem to indicate that to many human beings are living not very far above the animal plane. Cunning deception, thieving, lying, cruelty, brutality warring conflicts are still all too common even among Christian nations.

Charles Wagner in The Simple Life gives this impressive warning against indulgence in animal desires:

“He who lives to eat, drink, sleep, take his walk—in short, pamper himself all that he can—be it the courtier basking in the sun, the drunken laborer, the commoner serving his belly, the woman absorbed in her toilettes [makeup preparations], the profligate of low estate or high, or simply the ordinary pleasure-lover, a ‘good fellow,’ but too obedient to material needs—that man or woman is on the downward way of desire, and the descent is fatal. Those who follow it obey the same laws as a body on an inclined plane. Dupes of an illusion forever repeated, they think: ‘Just a few steps more, the last, toward the thing down there that we covet; then we will halt.’ But the velocity they gain sweeps them on, and the further they go the less able they are to resist it.

“Here is the secret of the unrest, the madness, of many of our contemporaries. Having condemned their will to the service of their appetites, they suffer the penalty. They are delivered up to violent passions which devour their flesh, crush their bones, suck their blood, and cannot be sated. This is not a lofty moral denunciation. I have been listening to what life says, and have recorded, as I heard them, some of the truths that resound in every square.

Has drunkenness, inventive as it is of new drinks, found the means of quench thirst? Not at all. It might rather be called the art of making thirst inextinguishable. Frank libertinage, does it deaden the sting of the senses? No; it envenoms it, converts natural desire into a morbid obsession and makes it the dominant passion. Let your needs rule you, pamper them—you will see them multiply like insects in the sun. The more you give them, the more they demand.  He is senseless who seeks for happiness in material properity alone . . . Our needs, in place of the servants that they should be, become a turbulent and seditious crowd, a legion of tyrants in miniature. A man enslaved to his needs may best be compared to a bear with a ring in its nose that is led around and made to dance at will. The likeness is not flattering, but you will grant that it is true.

It is only by direct action on youth that a better society can be successfully moulded. All pseudo-mysticisms—social, philosophical or political—must be replaced by the Christian ideal, the only one based on liberty and the respect of human dignity. When people have received the same education, when they obey the same moral rules an think universally, they do not easily accept the idea of fighting each other and are very near an understanding.”

A very profound thought. Indulgence of desire ultimately doesn’t do away with it, but only inflames it.  

I think we can easily forget this principle today because of the sheer mass of advertising we are subjected to, all of which is designed to convince us that we should give in to our desires, especially the ones that require buying something. This idea that all desires must be satisfied is bleeding into public discourse about sexuality as well. 

The purpose of life is the gradual perfection of humanity through Christ’s atonement. To be alive only to physical desires and not to spiritual desires or simple beauties is to deprive ourselves of many of the joys of living. Christ specifically endorsed those who seek to gratify spiritual desires: "blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost." (3 Nephi 12:6).

President McKay also said:

Spirituality is the consciousness of victory over self and of communion with the Infinite. Spirituality impels one to conquer difficulties and acquire more and more strength. To feel one’s faculties unfolding and truth expanding the soul is one of life’s sublimest experiences. Being true to self and being loyal to high ideals develops spirituality. The real test of any religion is the kind of man it makes. Being “honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men” (Article of Faith 13) are virtues which contribute to the highest acquisition of the soul. It is the “divine in man, the supreme, crowning gift that makes him king of all created things, the one final quality that makes him tower above all other animals.

Today let’s be suspicious of our indulgences and instead welcome every call to grow, learn, serve, and pray.  Try the experiment and see if you are happier at the end of the day than you were the day before.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 1 comments

How can you protect religious freedom? By defining it better.

One of the issues our church leaders are talking about these days is the importance of protecting religious freedom. 

The term "religious freedom" carries with it certain assumptions, but it is hard to define what they are exactly and articulate them all. This is actually at the root of the problem of protecting it.  We have to know what religious freedom really is in order to recognize when and where it is eroded. 

We have nebulous ideas about how it involves:
  • freedom of conscience
  • freedom of worship
  • freedom to speak religiously
  • freedom to act out our beliefs
  • freedom to share our beliefs
  • freedom to change our beliefs
  • equality under the law with other religions
But we sense that there is more to it and we're not sure what it is.

I just ran across an awesome article from the January 2013 newsletter of BYU's J. Reuben Clarke Law Society called "A Contest of Greatest Importance": Robert Smith on Religious Freedom.  In it he asks the question of how we can more precisely define what is meant by "religious freedom" and then he answers it in a very reasonable way.  I particularly like this article because there is a minimum of fear-mongering and maximum edification.

To summarize, who are the groups that must have religious freedom?
  • Individuals (and families)
  • Religious organizations, and 
  • Society at large (surprisingly) 
What are the principles underlying the religious freedom for each of these groups?  To quote Robert Smith:
1) For individuals, this is the
a. right of conscience and
b. the right to practice one’s religion.
2) For religious societies as entities, this is the
a. right to not be subject to discrimination vis-à-vis other organizations,
b. the right to internal church decision-making or autonomy, and
c. the right to retain the historic uniqueness of religious associations.
3) For society at large, this is the
a. obligation to permit and the right to hear religious voices in matters of public policy.
I learned a lot from this article, and one thing I learned that I didn't realize before is that society must have religious freedom too. That freedom comes in the form of the right to hear religious arguments be included in public discourse. There are people who think religious arguments shouldn't be included in making public policy decisions, but for full religious freedom, society has a right to hear religious arguments as well as secular ones. 

I hope you'll read and enjoy the article as I have. 

As a postscript, the J. Reben Clarke Law Society is having Religious Liberty in 30 Seconds Contest. They want submissions of paragraphs, slogans, audio/video, or visual ideas to communicate religious freedom.

Monday, October 26, 2015 0 comments

How Captain Moroni placed his armies

When the Nephites were about to be attacked by the combined Zoramite and Lamanite armies, there is this neat place that talks about Captain Moroni’s placing of his armies.  Something about it jumped out at me recently.
31 Therefore, he divided his army and brought a part over into the valley, and concealed them on the east, and on the south of the hill Riplah;
32 And the remainder he concealed in the west valley, on the west of the river Sidon, and so down into the borders of the land Manti.
33 And thus having placed his army according to his desire, he was prepared to meet them. (Alma 43:31-33, emphasis added)
That last verse there makes me think that if Captain Moroni knew how to place his armies so they could have the greatest advantage and effect against the Lamanites and Zoramites, so our Heavenly Father knows how to place His Saints where He wants so that if they are faithful they will have the greatest effect in the war against evil.

Sometimes it may seem like we are the only ones fighting where we are. And that might be the case, but there may be more of the Lord’s servants placed and concealed nearby, helping or about to help. Or we may be the equivalent of a one-man army.

I'll give you an example that I found in my journal from about eight years ago of how the Lord can place us.
Today in chemistry a guy from my chem lab sat down next to me. During lecture he noticed my wedding ring and asked me in a whisper if I was really married. Yeah. He congratulated me and asked me for how long. I told him 6 years. He thought that was awesome. He wanted to know how old I was. 28. He was amazed. A little later he pointed out to me two other people in the room who were married too. I'm not sure why he thought this was worth noting.

After class he told me it was his birthday today and he was 21 years old. I congratulated him in the most excited way. He seemed to take my excitement to mean that I was fully aware of the meaning of the 21st birthday as the beginning of legal drinking ago and told me with great anticipation that he was looking forward to a 6-pack on the weekend and he was trying to be patient until then. I was a little shocked at his excitement [internally] and though I couldn't approve of it and I certainly would not condemn him, I did my best to place before him the right way. I told him that I was not a drinker and that I had never tasted alcohol ever. He was astonished and he had to question me further. Nope, no alcohol, no tobacco. Never. He wanted to know why, so I told him about the Word of Wisdom and what it said. He wanted to know what I ate and I told him as succinctly as I could how I tried to eat and how I had been blessed for it....

After this conversation he wanted to go find the chemistry tutors because he found the material very confusing, so I walked him over to the tutoring center and left him there.
 It was years later that I read back over my journal and realized that Heavenly Father had placed me in that situation and meant for me to be some sort of argument to this fellow to not to make drinking alcohol part of his lifestyle. The guy's attempt to be patient indicates that at some level he followed the rules, and I think Heavenly Father really wanted to preserve that and hoped he would make better choices if a better way was presented.  I do not know whether who I was and what I said was effective, but I am thankful Heavenly Father placed me there where I got to play that part. 

It is funny to me that I was so clueless at the time that Heavenly Father was using me that way.   Sometimes we can be a soldier for the Lord in the right place and not even know it. 
The important thing is not to give up, to keep fighting for the right, to trust in the Lord.

Saturday, October 24, 2015 0 comments

Neat principles in what Alma quotes Zenos about prayer

In this section of verses, Alma goes after the Zoramite mistaken notion that the only place they could worship was in the synagogue.

2 And Alma said unto them: Behold, ye have said that ye could not worship your God because ye are cast out of your synagogues. But behold, I say unto you, if ye suppose that ye cannot worship God, ye do greatly err, and ye ought to search the scriptures; if ye suppose that they have taught you this, ye do not understand them.
3 Do ye remember to have read what Zenos, the prophet of old, has said concerning prayer or worship?
4 For he said: Thou art merciful, O God, for thou hast heard my prayer, even when I was in the wilderness; yea, thou wast merciful when I prayed concerning those who were mine enemies, and thou didst turn them to me.
5 Yea, O God, and thou wast merciful unto me when I did cry unto thee in my field; when I did cry unto thee in my prayer, and thou didst hear me.
6 And again, O God, when I did turn to my house thou didst hear me in my prayer.
7 And when I did turn unto my closet, O Lord, and prayed unto thee, thou didst hear me.
8 Yea, thou art merciful unto thy children when they cry unto thee, to be heard of thee and not of men, and thou wilt hear them.
9 Yea, O God, thou hast been merciful unto me, and heard my cries in the midst of thy congregations.
10 Yea, and thou hast also heard me when I have been cast out and have been despised by mine enemies; yea, thou didst hear my cries, and wast angry with mine enemies, and thou didst visit them in thine anger with speedy destruction.
11 And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son. (Alma 33:2-11)

The repeated phrases of this section should stand out. (I marked them here so they become more obvious.)  Count how many times “thou art merciful” and variations are used.  Count how many times “thou didst hear me” and variations are used.  Count how many times “because of thy son” is used. This is the message that Zenos wanted to hammer into the people—“thou didst hear me and thou wast merciful because of thy Son.”

The part of Zenos which Alma quotes is interesting because it is essentially a prayer of realization as Zenos reports to the Lord what he’s learned about prayer from experience. It is interesting this prayer was written down. We usually don’t write down prayers; we usually say them. However, Zenos felt this one important enough to save for himself and others.  It is also possible that Zenos felt the only way he could teach his people about prayer was during a prayer (if they were getting hard-hearted).

Modern instances of prayers written down include temple dedicatory prayers—the Kirtland temple’s dedicatory prayer is in the Doctrine and Covenants—and a few others. When reading the first volume of the Joseph Smith Papers, I was touched to see that many times Joseph Smith recorded his prayers for the cause of Zion and for individuals in the church, even if his prayers were brief. For some years afterward I experimented with writing prayers in my journal concerning different things I recorded.

Back to the above verses.  The first thing Alma does is preface the Zenos quotation with a statement that it teaches worship can be done outside of synagogue or church.  He essentially equates prayer with worship, and this is enlightening. Communication with our Heavenly Father can be considered worship. We usually think of worship as an exalting thing that widens the distance between man and God, but prayer as communication closes that distance, bringing man to God instead of pushing him away and downward. I don’t think prayer is the only means of worship, but it is definitely one aspect.

Another thing we can notice about the Zenos section is Zenos reports his prayers have been heard and answered when offered from a variety of places—in the wilderness, in his field, in his house, in his closet, in the midst of “thy congregations,” or after having been cast out.  It is also implied that Zenos was heard even in sin, since he says the Lord turned judgments away from him. Clearly anyplace is a good place for prayer.

Something I notice is that only a few of those prayers are declared to have visible effects that involve other people, and yet Zenos says multiple times, “thou didst hear me.” A question we can ask ourselves is, “Do we feel the Lord hearing us even if we don’t yet see a change in our circumstances?”

I can testify that I have felt the Lord hear my prayers. I don’t know if I can describe it, but it is like a silent message felt in my core—“I hear you. I’m listening.”  Something feels different about the air, like someone loving, caring, and interested is there.  Like there could be invisible beings listening.  You probably have had this same experience.

Another neat thing is how this all answers the Zoramite questions. If you remember, after Alma got finished comparing the word to a seed that could be planted and nourished, part of what the Zoramites wanted to know next was HOW they should begin to exercise their faith.  The simple, short answer of Alma 33 is just three easy things: 1) pray 2) read the scriptures 3) believe Christ can save you in any predicament. 

Doesn’t that sound like the perfect way to begin building faith? I must be very slow because I never connected that together until when I started studying this chapter more closely, and I think it is SO COOL!!   If any time we feel lacking in faith or feeling unstable in the gospel, if we go back to those three basic practices – and it takes practice—we will start building our faith more.  No longer do we need to flop around helplessly, flailing in our doubts, seeking refuge in worldly things.  Just go straight to prayer, scripture study, and belief in Christ’s salvation.

Verse 8 tells us there can’t be any pretense in our prayers. “Thou art merciful unto thy children when they cry unto thee, to be heard of thee and not of men.” Heavenly Father knows us inside and out. He knows if we’re just praying for other people to admire us. He knows when we’re just making a public performance out of it solely for our own prestige. 

In Zenos’ prayer he says over and over that he did “cry” unto God.  When we are in deep distress there can certainly be tears involved, but I think he mostly means he raised his voice loudly in his prayers. It may be hard to imagine praying like this. Usually we think of prayers as being silent or quiet reverent things. Zenos shows us that Heavenly Father hears us even when we are loud.

I have personal experience with praying loudly. Usually my prayers get loud when I am frustrated. I feel most comfortable with loud prayers when I’m alone. It feels odd at first, but it has become more natural, and I know the Lord has heard me. I have complained, I have vented when my weaknesses have messed things up, I have railed against my ignorance, I have thrashed in uncertainty about what I should do, I have ranted about overwhelm and fear.  Heavenly Father has heard my cries, and I’ve felt that.

Another cool thing about Zenos’ prayer is it shows us different ways the Lord can help us deal with enemies when we pray. Verse 4 tells how Zenos prayed about his enemies and the Lord turned his enemies so they became friends. Verse 10 tells us that after Zenos had been cast out and despised by other enemies, the Lord was angry with his enemies and destroyed them.  (We also get another possible response from Nephi, who prayed about his brothers who were his enemies and he was directed to leave them.)   In passing, I have to note that the possibility that the Lord would punish the enemies of the righteous who are cast out and despised foreshadows how the poor Zoramites would be cast out and how the wicked Zoramites would eventually destroy themselves in battling the Nephites. 

The Zenos mentions his prayers are heard and mercy is given “because of thy Son,” which shows us that there was knowledge among the Jews during Old Testament times that there was a Father and a Son who would come. Our Old Testament only speaks of Jehovah, so Zeno’s knowledge (and also Zenock’s later in the chapter) shows us that by some means that knowledge of Father and Son had been suppressed.

In verse 11, there is something else to give us faith to pray, which I’ve touched on a little before. “for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son.”  Zenox learned he could pray for forgiveness and he would still be heard in his sinful state. This lets us know we are not stuck in some radio silence away from heaven because of our sins and weaknesses.  We can reach out. Zenos also knew when he was forgiven. He knew judgments had been turned away from him. He could feel it.  I believe we can look for that too as we pray for forgiveness.

Verse 11 gives us another truth—“thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me.”  Zenos knew Heavenly Father could hear his prayers, but he didn’t get confused about how Christ’s atonement fit into that. He knew that without the atonement, Heavenly Father would still hear prayers, but would be unable to show mercy because of our fallen state.  Prayers are mercifully answered specifically because of the atonement of Christ.  If we ever wondered why prayer has power, now we know why. Our prayers use the atonement. 

So, let’s see if we can pull together a list of principles from this prayer of Zenos.

·      God mercifully answers our prayers because of Christ.
·      We are heard when we pray for forgiveness. We will know judgments have been turned away.
·      The Father and the Son were known in the Old Testament.
·      We can pray about our enemies.
·      We can cry to the Lord. We can know He has heard us.
·      Pretentious prayer is bad, so we should pray to be heard by God.
·      Prayer is a way for us to begin to exercise our faith.
·      The Lord will hear our prayers anywhere.
·      Prayer can be written and recorded.

Today let’s try to make our prayers more meaningful and concentrate on hearing and feeling responses from the Lord.
Thursday, October 22, 2015 0 comments

Alma on unity among church members

I really like what is recorded about how Alma the elder taught about unity among the church when they still lived among King Noah’s people.

And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another. (Mosiah 18:21)

Two bits of imagery stick out to me in these verses—the idea of hearts being knit together in love and looking forward with one eye—so I want to share some things I associate with both of those.

Hearts knit together in unity and love

I think of two different things here.  I think  of how a broken bone is knit together. It is put right, and it is held there and protected from outside collisions until it is strong.  Then it can stand up to forces put on it.  I think that gradual growth together is a beautiful analogue to how unity grows gradually.

I also think of yarn that is strung out and apart and it may get easily tangled until it is knit together. Perhaps sharp things would cut it when loose, but it has more strength and flexibility when knit into a fabric.  Even if there is a cut in one place in a knit, it doesn’t fall apart.  The yarn loop connects with other loops around it in different places and draws shape and strength from those touch-points.

Looking forward with one eye

I was very young when I discovered that there was a slight difference in how things looked depending on whether I looked with my right eye or with my left. I marveled that when I held a finger in front of me and looked at it with one eye closed and then with the other, the position of my finger seemed to shift slightly.  This fascinated me and when I got bored or distracted sometimes I would play with it.  It wasn’t until I took astronomy in high school that I learned a term for this phenomenon—parallax—and that it enabled telescopes to see deeply into space and establish distances. 

When I got older than that, I realized that there can also be spiritual parallax between individuals because of difference of perspective.  We may look at the same events and see things differently.

I think “looking forward with one eye” expresses the prophet’s hope that we can come to unity by adopting the Lord’s perspective.  Remembering the plan of salvation helps us see with a more eternal perspective, so that’s part of how the Lord sees things.  We learn to see with one eye when we teach and learn correct principles and pattern our lives after them.  I think we also learn to see with one eye when we learn how principles that seem to oppose actually mesh and interplay and balance each other—prophetic authority with personal revelation, foreordination with agency, justice with mercy, self-reliance with dependence on God and interdependence with others.

Do you have an additional thoughts or associations with these phrases that you can share?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015 0 comments

Thoughts on how the armor of God protects us

I was thinking about Ephesians 6:13-18 about the armor of God recently.  You know the verses, but I’ll just quote them again.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (Ephesians 6:13-18)
Others have talked about how the particular piece of armor corresponds very nicely with its spiritual counterpart, so I want to ask this question – What do these pieces of godly armor protect us against?

I think there are particular evils they help us withstand, so I’ll list them.

Truth protects us from lies and deception that would lull us into carnal security and cause us to waste our days of probation.

Righteousness, when it is a deep part of our nature, makes wickedness ugly and gross so that we want nothing to do with it.  When we come into contact with wickedness and our reaction is “Bleah” and avoidance rather than fascination, we’ve got this bit of armor in place.

Preparation of the gospel protects us from impulsive offers to sin. Preparation fills our time with good which crowds evil out and helps us realize that sin would make our preparation for naught.  We don’t like to discover our time and effort was a waste, so it is good to avoid whatever makes it ineffective.

Faith protects us from fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  Yes, we may deal with uncertainty, but faith prevents uncertainty from crippling and paralyzing us. Faith’s factor of trust in God protects us from fear.

Salvation protects us from the damnation and burden of guilt.

The Spirit protects us with the power to disperse evil when it tries to smother our souls, and it helps us rise from the Fall.  It protects us from Satan-sent feelings of apathy, depression, discouragement, and so much more.  (Some of those feelings may be from chemical imbalances in our body, but Satan also tries to use them, and the Spirit can dissipate those feelings when we pray.)

So, in summary, the armor of God protects us from
--the natural man’s attraction to evil
--impulsive offers to sin
--fear, uncertainty, and doubt
--guilt and damnation
--smothering negative feelings from Satan

That’s a lot of stuff the armor of God protects us from!  Today let’s be alert to notice when we’re being attack by Satan and use the armor of God to quench those fiery darts.

Sunday, October 18, 2015 2 comments

David Whitmer’s problem

In D&C 30, David Whitmer is chastened for a number of faults. I think it is worth looking at them along with the context because there are some good things to learn from it that will help us today.

1 Behold, I say unto you, David, that you have feared man and have not relied on me for strength as you ought.
2 But your mind has been on the things of the earth more than on the things of me, your Maker, and the ministry whereunto you have been called; and you have not given heed unto my Spirit, and to those who were set over you, but have been persuaded by those whom I have not commanded.
3 Wherefore, you are left to inquire for yourself at my hand, and ponder upon the things which you have received. (D&C 30:1-3)

Just from reading these verses, you’d think that David Whitmer had just not been diligent in his service and got scared away from it by some kind of worldly concerns or by people trying to discourage him. However, the context was a bit different.  David Whitmer had been one of the pople who had been led away by Hiram Page and his supposed seerstone and had been one of the people instrumental in trying to persuade others of its authenticity.

In that context, it is very interesting that the Lord says David Whitmer got in that trouble because he feared men and had his mind on earthly things. You’d think his problem was the opposite—fearing God too much and having his mind too much on revelation and it caused him to look for it in the wrong place.  What this counter-intuitive diagnosis shows us is that the Lord can really see what the problem is, and that it can be the very opposite of what we would expect. (And if that is true for David Whitmer, it can be true of any of us.)

So in what way had David Whitmer feared man and not relied on the Lord as he ought in the matter of Hiram Page?  It sounds like had begun giving credence to Hiram Page because of the growing number of people who were listening to Hiram Page’s supposed revelations.  There is an element of peer pressure here.  And it is implied that he knew there was something not right about the situation, but he was afraid to depend on the Lord and the truth’s he’d learned previously.  He didn’t want to be the one standing alone.   The thing is, if he had stood alone against Hiram Page, Heavenly Father would have helped him and he would eventually have been vindicated.

Another thing the Lord said was part of David Whitmer’s problem was that his mind was on the things of the earth more than things of God or his ministry he’d been called to. I think this is saying that he should have been focusing on doing his calling and strengthening his own ties with the Lord rather than looking for the sensational and intriguing.

I think we can identify this problem in ourselves from time to time too. Haven’t we all found ourselves looking for the new and sensational at conference, rather than the truths that are timeless and unchanging?  But so often we stray from the thoughts of our individual ministry and thoughts of our God because it requires effort on our part. We see our ministry as a demanding duty and our natural man and woman is inclined to shirk it and look for an easy way, a quick fix, which of course Satan is only too happy to give through false prophets.

The last problem pointed out is more obvious. David Whitmer had not given heed to the Spirit or those in the church set over him as leaders, and instead he’d been persuaded by those not commanded by God. (If they hadn’t been commanded by God, they were commanded by the adversary.)  It tells us that at some point David had been warned by spiritual impressions, but he’d ignored them. And he’d not heeded his leaders either. The church had to learn that commandments and revelations are given by God in an orderly fashion, through the prophet, through channels of stewardship, so that we know of their authenticity.  It was the same then, and it is the same today. It is a great safeguard to the church. It keeps us from being buffeted back and forth, led to and fro by every wind of doctrine blowing about the world through society.

So, in sum, this tells us that if we are led away by false revelation and false prophets outside the order of the church, it is because:
--we have feared men more than God
--we have not been attentive to things of God and our ministry
--we have not given heed to the Spirit or to those set over us
--we have been persuaded by those not commanded by God

It also tell us that if we encounter those teaching commandments and revelations outside of the order of the church, we can do best if we
--rely on the Lord and stand firm, even though peer pressure
--keep focused on strengthening our ties with God by keeping the simple everyday commandments and doing our callings
--listen to the Spirit and to our leaders’ counsel
--avoid persuasions by those outside the order of the church

It seems appropriate to say a little something about Mormon blogs at this juncture.  As a blogger, I am outside the order of the church, so I don’t have authority to give commandments and revelations to anyone but myself.  My interpretations of scripture are not binding on anyone.

Why then do I share the things I learn here with everyone?  It’s because I hope to be a positive influence on the world, letting my light shine, hopefully bringing glory to Heavenly Father by showing how helpful His words in the scriptures are.  But while I hope that, I think the primary beneficiary of this blog is me because of how the preparation and writing process facilitates my own gospel learning. 

Friday, October 16, 2015 0 comments

Sources of humility

When Alma preached to the Zoramites, there was a group of poor Zoramites that came, wanting to know how to worship God since they weren’t allowed in the synagogues. I like how Alma took their difficulty and showed how it worked to their spiritual advantage.

I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble. (Alma 32:12)

While we would recognize that casting someone out of a synagogue is a painful rejection, for the Zoramites it became a good thing because it humbled them.  It established their consciousness of the need for worship, and it made them ask questions about how to worship after they’d been rejected.  It brought them to humility and a desire to learn (meekness).

This caused me to realize that just like those poor Zoramites were brought to humility by some painful circumstances, we all have something in our lives that can act as a humbling agent, something that makes us feel less than.  I think these circumstances can help us learn humility and then learn greater wisdom.

Of course, Alma goes on to say that sometimes when a person is compelled to be humble they then seek repentance, but that those who humble themselves because of the word and repent and endure to the end are more blessed.  

Just think, if we could only be humbled by circumstance, then our spiritual growth would be dependent upon the number of difficult and painful experiences in our lives. 

I really like how it suggests that we can humble ourselves because of the word of God.  Everything we learn about in the gospel is an opportunity to humble ourselves and submit to the Lord.  Choosing to obey is essentially a choice to be humble.  If we can do that, then our spiritual growth can be much quicker.

So this brings us to the question – what words of God have humbled you recently?  What doctrines have brought you to a consciousness of your need for God?  You don’t have to comment if you don’t want to, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I personally have realized that I have some problems with pride, vanity, and boasting.  (Hence the series of posts I did about boasting.)
Wednesday, October 14, 2015 0 comments

Clues from Alma’s great pain and sorrow over the Zoramites

When Alma sees the Zoramite errors and wickedness, his reaction is exceptionally pained for the type of things he observes.

The Zoramites
--pray insincerely
--exult in their supposed election
--set their hearts on riches
--believe they’ve had revelation that there would be no Christ

These characteristics are really no different than what we see in society today, so why is it that he is hurt so much?

One clue we get is from the exclamations from his prayer. “O, how long, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that thy servants shall dwell here below in the flesh to behold such gross wickedness among the children of men?” (Alma 31:26) and “O Lord God, how long wilt thou suffer that such wickedness and infidelity shall be among this people?” (Alma 31:30)

We can’t say Alma observed unimportant sins; all sin is offensive to God and his servants. Yet Alma's agony is particularly acute.

The cry “O how long wilt thou suffer...” is very similar to his cry at the climax of his imprisonment in Ammonihah, a time when his suffering was greatest.  At that time, the Lord answered with a devastating earthquake that destroyed his captors and set him free.  It may be that subconsciously at least he hoped for another dramatic answer to his prayer, but we eventually see that he eventually focused his petitions on asking for help suited to his situation.

The cry “O how long wilt thou suffer…” hints that Alma was somehow re-living his suffering from Ammonihah when seeing the sin of the Zormanites and that he was dealing with a post-traumatic stress disorder trigger.  It shows us he wasn’t untouched by the horrific abuse he went through at Ammonihah, but he had to re-confront those feelings to carry out his high priest office and preaching duties.   Think how hard that would be, to have those difficult pains and fears triggered while trying to serve the Lord.

Alma knew he had troubles from it, and also in his prayer we see him praying for help with it.
…O Lord, wilt thou give me strength, that I may bear with mine infirmities. For I am infirm, and such wickedness among this people doth pain my soul.
31 O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me, because of the iniquity of this people. (Alma 31:30-31)
Even if he didn't know he was dealing with a trigger, He realized the triggering was making him infirm and was hurting and depressing him and that he’d have to suffer through it with patience if he was ever going to help the Zoramites. He was afraid that he’d suffer the same things among the Zoramites that he had in Ammonihah. He also asked for his soul to be comforted in Christ.

Realizing this gives me a whole lot more respect for Alma the Younger and what he was able to accomplish among the Zoramites. He wasn’t impervious to pains, doubts, psychological traumas, and so on. Even if he didn’t fully understand what he was going through, he persevered through it by faith in Christ and by praying for comfort, strength, and patience to bear with his afflictions.

It may also be post-traumatic stress that Paul had to deal with too, when he refers to the “thorn in the flesh”

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Paul too called it an infirmity and weakness.  And from Paul’s list of sufferings that he had gone through, we can see there was plenty of opportunity to develop some psychological trauma.

24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. . . .
30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. . . .
32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.
 (2 Corinthians 11:24-28, 30, 32-33)

There’s a lot of speculation about what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, and this is my take on it. 

So often we think the ancient prophets were impervious to the difficulties they passed through, but I think this hints that they struggled too.  And I think it gives us hope that if they overcame their infirmities by relying on Christ for comfort, patience, and strength, so too can we.