Thursday, September 29, 2016 0 comments

Who Hinders Us?

7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
(Galatians 5:7-8)

Here Paul talks to the Galatians to try to get them to recognize they have been diverted from the true gospel, but I think it is applicable in all cases when we find ourselves suddenly stopped in our efforts to press forward.

If we’ve been diligent and careful and obedient in the past, who is it that is trying to prevent us from continuing that path? Of course it is Satan.

Satan uses a variety of arguments to try to convince us we shouldn’t continue. If we resist one type of argument, he will switch to another type, even if it is opposite to the first type.  (For instance, once I noticed an argument of “Oh, you don’t need to do that until your husband gets home. You’ll work better when he’s around” which, when my husband came home turned into “Oh, you don’t need to do that. You want to enjoy time with your husband now that he’s home.”)  Satan doesn’t care about logical consistency; he just wants to get us to stop our good works.

If we listen to one of his arguments (which are have some kernel of lie in them), he will use that as much as possible and try to apply it to other aspects of our faithfulness to stop that too. If there are cracks in our obedience, Satan will use his arguments like a chisel to widen the crack.

And as I said before, if we resist, he will switch arguments and keep trying anything he can think of.  He will also use feelings of low energy, apathy, depression, irritation, disappointment, and so on to try to divert us and make us think that now is not the time. Those feelings lie to us.

The Lord wants us to continue our diligent obedience. Anything that tries to persuade us otherwise is not of God.

How does this help us? It is like turning on the lights in a dark room where a fight is occurring. When the lights go on, suddenly you can see who is fighting whom, and then you know which combatant needs to be hand-cuffed.   Satan would like us to think we are fighting ourselves instead of him. So recognizing the real source of those persuasions is the important first stop to learning to resist and ignore them.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016 0 comments

All Things Working Together For Our Good

Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another. (D&C 90:24)

The above sounds like one of the best recipes for optimism that I’ve ever heard of. And that promise that a things would work together for our good—doesn’t that just fil you with hope and gratitude?  To think that the universe and everything in it ultimately will bring about good things for us is comforting. Even the hard things can bring about our good if we follow the Lord’s instructions. It reminds me of that quote by Orson F. Whitney:

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”

Anyway, back to the idea of “all things working together for our good”.. It’s also a direct contradiction of a paranoid viewpoint. Some people think everything and everyone is out to get them (and that’s a pitiable mental illness), but the Lord tells us that if we search diligently, pray always, believe, and keep our covenants, then all things are working for us, even if they seem to work against us.

Sunday, September 25, 2016 0 comments

The Bishop’s Agent

22 And let the bishop search diligently to obtain an agent, and let him be a man who has got riches in store—a man of God, and of strong faith—
23 That thereby he may be enabled to discharge every debt; that the storehouse of the Lord may not be brought into disrepute before the eyes of the people. (D&C 90:22-23)

This sounds as if the command was to find a rich man who would be willing to use his personal funds to discharge the debts of the Lord’s storehouse. But there may be something else going on here.

The storehouse had to get its goods somehow. It had to buy them from somewhere, and at that time it would usually be on credit. Suppliers would want to know that they wouldn’t be defrauded by a new customer. They would look at reputation to know whether to do business or not.

If a supplier had goods ordered by “that upstart Mormon church,” about which so much antagonism and vituperation was bandied, they would feel they were taking a risk. But if the agent who set up the transaction was a rich man who was also known to have strong faith, that would be a sort of social proof that would satisfy the suppliers.  Suppliers would say to themselves, Well, [rich guy] is a part of that church, so there must be something respectable about it. [Rich guy] trusts them, so I suppose I can trust them. [Rich guy] will make sure I get paid because if I don’t, then his reputation and faith is on the line too.”

It might be easy to say that the storehouse was a bit unstable at that time, and I don’t know much about it, but what I do see in these verses is that the Lord knew people need social proof of some things, and He went about to provide it in the form of reputable people who would act in the church’s interest. The Lord also knew the church’s storehouse needed a good reputation in financial things, so He provided for that too.

If we lived in a perfect world with completely honest people, perhaps reputation and social proof would not be needed, but since that is not the case, the Lord still works to build trust for the various institutions of His Kingdom. Each of us is an informal piece of that. Every member a missionary.

Let’s make sure we live so as to not bring the church into disrepute among the people.
Friday, September 23, 2016 0 comments

Truth as eternal in nature

24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning. (D&C 93:24-25)

I love how truth is defined here. Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” almost 2000 years ago, and this is the best definition I’ve seen. It is a principle that doesn’t change over time.

I was a bit puzzled by the corollary that anything more or less than that comes from Satan. It is easiest to see that anything less than timeless would not be universally applicable, but what falls under the head of “more”?  What could be “more” than eternal?

Eventually I realized the “more or less than this” referred to the scope of the principles rather than their time frame (although time frame has already been made a factor). It refers to under-done and over-done principles.

Under-done principles do not give the benefit of discipline that they promise. It cheats us out of true progression. Over-done principles promise greater holiness, but actually they take away freedom and opportunity for growth by narrowing our views. So they both lie about their benefits.   Satan would  prefer that we disobey, but he will also try to persuade us to under-do or over-do our obedience.

Thus, we have to seek the Spirit to know how we can best receive truth and improve our lives.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016 2 comments

New Lessons from the Genesis 39 Story of Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

The story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife is easily boiled down to the lesson of resisting temptation of immorality with immediate flight. Sometimes it is easy to think Joseph had an easy choice or that Potiphar’s wife was completely evil from beginning to end.

However, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that the story holds insight not just from examining Joseph’s perspective, but also the perspective of Potiphar’s wife.  I think that by seeing her as an ordinary woman in need of love, we can gain additional insights about vulnerabilities to temptation.   

On the surface, Mrs. Potiphar seems like she has a wandering eye. We’ve read her this way so many times. She’s forward and vocal about what she wants, and eventually she becomes physically aggressive as well, taking hold of Joseph’s clothes to the point that he has to slide out of them to escape her.   But…at the beginning, when you read the account closely, you might see that she doesn’t even notice Joseph until after some time that he is made overseer in Potiphar’s house.  It takes time for him to even appear on her radar at all.  Potiphar notices Joseph’s abilities and virtues much faster than Mrs. Potiphar does.  Joseph finds grace in Potiphar’s sight much faster than with Mrs. Potiphar.

1 And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.
2 And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
3 And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.
5 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.
6 And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.
7 ¶And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. (Genesis 39:1-7)

So what is it that draws Mrs. Potiphar’s notice?  It’s probably a combination of factors.
First, Joseph is a goodly person and well-favoured. Some commentators point out this is similar language to how Rachel, David, and Absalom were described and say this means Joseph was good-looking.  Probably he was.  Second, he must have been pretty likable, both to the other servants and to Potiphar. (A slave certainly isn’t going to want to make enemies.) Third, he was trustworthy and successful in his work.  I also think it very likely he gave everyone an impression of care and consideration as he worked with them. 

I suspect that Mrs. Potiphar noticed his care and consideration along with all his other good traits and then by imperceptible degrees began to feel that some of that was directed specifically at her.  And how could it not be? If everything in the house had been made Joseph’s responsibility, then he probably had to do things for Mrs. Potiphar as well as her husband.  He probably served her in his usual superior fashion. For some women, service is a major love language, and it may have been Mrs. Potiphar’s. Soo.. she may have reasoned that Joseph’s exemplary service was done because he loved her.   I don’t think the trouble between them erupted in a short period of time. It could have built up over months and maybe even years. 

Further, at the same time Joseph is daily demonstrating his competence and running the household in every respect, Potiphar is doing less and less around the house until he is doing nothing. Potiphar may have been focusing more on work for Pharaoh, but to Mrs. Potiphar it would appear as though her husband had turned lazy at home.  At home, Joseph showed to greater advantage than Potiphar. It would be really hard for Mrs. Potiphar to not make comparisons between Joseph and her husband.

I notice that our record is pretty clear about Mrs. Potiphar’s feelings for Joseph, but it says nothing about how Joseph felt about her. We assume that he was completely indifferent to her. But…is anyone ever completely indifferent to someone they see every day, someone they serve, someone they try to please, someone whose material interests they are bound to do all they can to promote?

7 ¶And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
8 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;
9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? (Genesis 39:7-9)

If this were a simple case of sexual harassment—if she liked him and he didn’t—after his first refusal, Mrs. Potiphar could simply have lowered the boom and made Joseph’s life heck with some sort of physical punishment.   I personally wonder if Joseph did at least like her, and maybe she made that first invitation because she thought he would accept easily. Maybe she thought he felt some sort of constraint and she wanted to remove it.

Incidentally, we interpret her request “Lie with me” as a direct demand for sex, but compared to “come in unto me” it seems less direct. She may have been asking him to lie next to her, but Joseph would not even do that, probably seeing it as a gateway act to the sin.  The point is, however the way she phrased her request/demand, the intention was transparent.

It is interesting that Joseph’s refusal emphasizes 1) the trust put in him by Potiphar, 2) his status in Potiphar’s household, 3) how nothing had been kept back from him except her because she was already married, and 4) the sin it would be against God. He recognizes his privileged place and doesn’t want to ruin it.  He’s full of reasons. It’s like he was ready. Like he’d already had to start convincing himself. Like he’d already had practice talking to himself about it.

Also interesting is that he sees Mrs. Potiphar as one who has been “kept back” from him.  I have to wonder if he would say she had been “kept back” from him unless he had wanted her on some level and pondered the situation deeply.  There is something here that reminds me of the story of Adam and Eve who could eat any fruit except that which had been forbidden, while Satan tried to make the forbidden fruit seem the most attractive.  

Ultimately, Joseph’s deepest commitment was to God, and that gave him the motivation to resist.

Once Mrs. Potiphar speaks and he refuses, Joseph seems to have realized that he needed to guard himself.

And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. (Gen. 39:10)

Mrs. Potiphar was thoroughly infatuated. She couldn’t leave him alone, but indulged herself by speaking to him day by day, which would be very wearing over time for him. We don’t know whether she kept repeating the request that he lie with her or whether she merely made herself as charming as possible.
Joseph, on his part, seems to have used his status in the household to manufacture safety measures for himself. It is hard to imagine how he could get away with straight ignoring her to her face, but he had other options. It is likely he gave himself lots of things to do to keep out of her way, that he took other servants with him so he was never alone with her, and he sent messengers to her instead of talking to her himself. He was a slave, so he couldn’t just change jobs to a different household. So he had to find creative ways to isolate himself from her.

Sadly, she seems to have misunderstood.  (And I have to wonder if she had nothing meaningful to occupy her time and attention to keep her from thinking so much about him.)  It is possible she thought that the people always with him and the constant work kept him from expressing his true feelings for her.  So she set up what she thought was the perfect situation.

And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. (v11)

Hmmm. No one is there in the house except Joseph and Mrs. Potiphar for some reason. Astonishing coincidence. All the servants are off skylarking except for Joseph, who is intent on his task list.  It sounds like Mrs. Potiphar has sent everyone away.

And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. (v12)

This time she is more forceful in her invitation, grabbing onto his clothes, perhaps hoping some violent passion would get the message across that she was ready and willing.

Joseph would not have felt he needed to guard himself if he didn’t feel vulnerable, and without those precautions, he must have been suddenly afraid, maybe not of her, but of himself. So in the heat of the moment of ambush, he doesn’t say anything—he already said his say earlier.  If he was unsure of his strength to resist, touching her would be last thing he’d want to do for any reason, so grappling with her to get his clothes out of her clutches would be out of the question.   Better to forget his dignity, leave them behind, and run.

I have to wonder where he went or how long he stayed away or what he thought would happen afterward.

Mrs. Potiphar, for her part, starts spreading lies about Joseph and gets him in trouble. For the longest time, I thought it was very peculiar that she accuses him of rape and then Potiphar only threw him in jail. Joseph is a slave. A high status slave, yes, but still a slave. It would be more believable for him to be executed. And perhaps the Lord protected him that way.

But recently, I noticed something peculiar in Mrs. Potiphar’s story she tells about Joseph. She tells things one way to the men of her house, and another way to Potiphar.

To the men of her house she says, “See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.” (v14-15)

To Potiphar, she says, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out. (v17-18)

Notice that not only does she make Joseph the bad guy, but also Potiphar for bringing Joseph into the household. This is another indication that she’s become distanced from Potiphar over this time. Also, when she talks to the men of the household, she makes it out that Joseph has not just mocked her, but mocked them too. (She’s trying to turn the men of the house against Joseph first and Potiphar secondarily.) Then when she talks to Potiphar, she only says that Joseph mocked her.  

Another thing that is peculiar, is that Mrs. Potiphar places emphasis in a peculiar place in her accusation. There’s the rape part, but then there’s the detail that she cried and then Joseph left his clothes and fled.  It almost seems like she is making a bigger deal over the lie that he left her crying than the lie that he raped her. But why? What is going on here?

Mrs. Potiphar is accusing Joseph of being unfeeling and uncaring. “He did it to mock me,” she says to her husband. “He saw me crying and he just left.

What is going on in her head? Mrs. Potiphar, having been previously convinced that Joseph loved her, was shocked to learn by his hasty departure that he actually did not want to have sex with her. (He’d told her before, but she had believed his caring acts of service more than his verbal denial.) So, after his speedy exit, she would think back on all the things she remembered him doing for her and say to herself, Soo…that nice thing he did for me wasn’t love? This other thing wasn’t love? And that? And that? And that? (ad nauseum) and she’d ask herself, Then why did he do all that stuff at all? She’d conclude, He must have been messing with me, trying to make a fool of me for his own amusement.  (Of course, Joseph hadn’t been doing that. She had just allowed her own heart to deceive her.)

But then, she would reason, If his care for me was an act, then what about his care for anyone else in the household? Is that an act too? It made her doubt Joseph’s care for all the other servants as well.  When she told the servants, “He’s mocking us,” she meant, “He messed with me, and he’s been messing with you too.  He just pretends to love us.” Along with rape, she represents Joseph to the other servants and to Potiphar as a manipulator and a sociopath, someone who acts like they care, but doesn’t. And rapist sociopaths are dangerous, even if they are good estate managers, so Potiphar would think taking Joseph out of society (putting him in jail) would prevent him from “using” other people.

But why would she claim Joseph raped her if he didn’t? She’s been infatuated with him for so long, so why accuse him of something like that? She may have reasoned, If he doesn’t really care about me the way I do about him, then keeping him around is going to be torture. I can’t see him day after day. I can’t do this any more.  I have to get rid of him somehow.  But Joseph hadn’t done anything wrong to justify his removal, and everyone knew he was a great manager, so she couldn’t accuse him of mismanagement. Thus, she had to make up something awful enough to get him out of the way, but I can’t see her wanting to get him killed.  Yes, the false accusation was very wrong, but she probably felt she couldn’t explain the real problem to her husband, having already emotionally distanced herself from him.

Joseph may have seen the imprisonment as a welcome separation and a relief. We have no record that he fought the accusation.

So with this view of the story, it is no longer about the exceptionally virtuous man who dares to defy the power of the EVIL WOMAN.  With a sympathetic view of both Joseph and Mrs. Potiphar, assuming that both were trying to do the best they could to meet their needs and live according to their respective lights, we can learn a lot about the real vulnerabilities of men and women, about the conditions of close association that can create temptation over time, about misunderstandings and assumptions that make things worse, and even about the kind of drastic measures that might be taken to keep oneself safe.

We see that both Joseph and Mrs. Potiphar were vulnerable, and their close proximity over a long period of time put them in a pressure-cooker of temptation. 

Joseph would be tempted by the way Mrs. Potiphar respected him and the way she tried to make herself so sexually available. Mrs. Potiphar would be tempted by Joseph’s good looks, competence, caring, and attention.  The happy thing is that Joseph had the integrity to keep both himself and Mrs. Potiphar from sinning. And for all the awful injustice Mrs. Potiphar perpetrated upon Joseph, it’s possible she deserves at least a small bit of credit for having the guts to effect their final separation. (If she didn’t call for some sort of change, who would? Joseph couldn’t; he was a slave. Potiphar wouldn’t; he profited from Joseph’s management.)

It is possible that the Lord allowed Joseph to be tested this way as preparation for making him Pharaoh’s right hand man. That power as second-to-Pharah would have such great privileges and opportunities to indulge any kind of appetite that it could destroy anyone who wielded it unless they were committed to living a moral life. Joseph was undeniably faithful in management, but could he keep his integrity and purity even in a position of power, even in a foreign country, even if propositioned directly? 

Yes he could. He proved it in this refiner’s fire that was not of his choosing.

Lessons from Joseph for men:
·      Your exemplary service may be mistaken by women for secret love and admiration. (Serve well anyway. You only have control over yourself, not how people interpret your actions.)
·      When inappropriate interest arises in you, remind yourself of all the reasons you have to resist.  Remember the trust others have in you, and commit that you will never let them down. Give your love of God your highest allegiance.
·      If a married woman expresses blatant interest, give a firm “No” with all your reasons.
·      Guard yourself. Keep busy and keep people around you. Don’t be alone with that woman.
·      The measures you take to guard yourself may not be appreciated or even understood by that woman. If she is not as committed to purity as you, she may come to the point of deliberately trying to defeat your safety measures. You must be prepared to run. And dignity be hanged.
·      If you can do anything to move out of her range of influence, do so.

Lessons for women from Mrs. Potiphar’s mistakes:
·      If a man periodically in your service seems to be extra helpful, don’t jump to the conclusion that means he likes/loves you. (Today media is so sexualized that to avoid the assumption is counter-cultural, but it can be done. Hang on to humility, and don’t flatter yourself.)
·      Even if you get a pretty strong like/love vibe from that man, don’t say anything to him about it or do anything that might show you notice.
·      Don’t compare that man to your husband; it’s unfair. Chances are you’ll be comparing one man’s strengths with another man’s weaknesses.
·      Don’t seek out more opportunities to be with that man. 
·      Don’t create opportunities for physical or emotional closeness with him.
·      Don’t allow yourself to be alone with him.
·      If you can do anything fair to move out of his range of influence, do so.

Universally helpful principles:
Do not betray the trust others have put in you.
Love the Lord the most.

Sunday, September 18, 2016 0 comments

Alma 60: Captain Moroni’s letter to Pahoran may be less rash than we think

Captain Moroni’s letter to Pahoran is pretty well-known in the church for its blunt language and anger in which Captain Moroni demands to know why Pahoran hasn’t sent more troops or supplies to the Nephite army’s support. We’ve heard in general conference that Pahoran’s response is a model of self-restraint in the face of Captain Moroni’s accusations.

Recently I was reading through this letter again, and it struck me that Captain Moroni’s letter is also has certain marks of self-restraint as well.  Verse 6 shows us this—“we desire to know the cause of this exceedingly great neglect; yea, we desire to know the cause of your thoughtless state.”   Captain Moroni wants to know WHY this is happening, rather than rushing in with an army right off.

Also, he asks a number of questions starting with “do you suppose” or variants.

“could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you?” (v11)

“Do ye suppose that, because so many of your brethren have been killed it is because of their wickedness?” (v12)

“we know not but what ye yourselves are seeking for authority.” (v18)

“We know not but what ye are also traitors to your country.” (v18)

“Or is it that ye have neglected us because ye are in the heart of our country and ye are surrounded by security, that ye do not cause food to be sent unto us, and also men to strengthen our armies?” (v19)

“Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?” (v21)

“Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things?” (v23)

It looks like Captain Moroni is trying to think of all the reasons why Pahoran might withhold supplies and men. I have not quoted what comes afterward, but you can look yourself and see that he shows why these are not good reasons.  By doing this, he shows that he understands the inner obstacles that leaders face when they have to resolve on strenuous action to curb evil. Again, the fact that he asks for an explanation first before charging in with the army is evidence that he is not rash.

What this teaches me is that if I have to chastise someone as part of my responsibilities, it would be a very good thing if I spend some time thinking up a list of plausible good faith reasons why they might have done or omitted to do something. This helps me to understand them better and think up ways to help them overcome their internal hang-ups (because everyone has hang-ups someplace). Then, even if I am still wrong, as Captain Moroni was, at least they will know that I did the preliminary work of trying to understand and feel the difficulty of their situation.  People want to be understood.
Friday, September 16, 2016 0 comments

Be not ashamed, but be admonished

Be not ashamed, neither confounded;
but be admonished in all your high-mindedness and pride,
for it bringeth a snare upon your souls.
(D&C 90:17)

This verse is interesting to me because it shows that while the Lord does not want us to be proud, He also doesn’t want us to go off in the weeds the other direction and be ashamed or confounded. This implies to me that being ashamed and confounded are counterfeits of humility.

I like that it says, “be admonished in all your high-mindedness and pride.” It is as though the Lord means for that rebuke to work for all time, or for us to work at humility.

Of course, I have found in my life that my pride doesn’t stay admonished for long. It takes every excuse it can to pop up again. I’ve had to learn to admonish myself, and I’m not as good at that as I could or should be.

Sometimes when I think I’m sitting pretty, I have to remind myself that Heavenly Father could change my life in an instant if He decided I needed some special difficulty.  I could be given a handicap. We could suffer financial reverses. We could have an unexpected disaster. In short, our stable life could be up-ended in a second. He might do it to humble me, or He might do it in order to stretch me in some new direction. In both instances, I would need to be prepared to accept His will. This reminds me that I am still dependent upon God.

Sometimes I have to admonish myself that God knows all the thoughts and intents of my heart. I can’t hide anything from Him. He sees through any posturing and parading and self-back-patting. He knows when my motives are selfish or when I’m gratifying my ego. So if I notice my interior life is amiss, I am just as in need of repenting as if I sinned in public.   Sometimes when I pray I find myself saying to Heavenly Father, “You see everything inside of me. Look at this obnoxious pride I have. Just look at it!” And I go on to describe the thing I happen to be extra proud of at the time. Weirdly enough, pointing it out to the Lord helps shrink it. I’m not sure why.

Also, for some reason, I find myself fantasizing about comparing myself to others and finding that I’m superior.  Which is ridiculous.  Because it is just as likely that I might be found inferior instead.  I’ve read studies that show we tend to overestimate our own performance. So consciously correcting my estimations of myself to take that into account is probably a good idea.

Another thing I use to admonish myself is to remember that everyone is the star of their own life, so to others I am just a bit player. I can co-star in my husband’s life, but not everyone is looking at me.  (I think social media tends to build that perception that everyone is looking at oneself.)

Another thing I know is that Satan loves to flatter me when I’m trying to instruct others in humility.  Any time I think I’ve got it figured out, I become vulnerable and start making mistakes.  I anticipate that after this post I will probably get hit with it, and if I don’t get into trouble with pride immediately, I will probably flatter myself that I do have this figured out and then get into trouble later. (Yes, prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.)

One question I had about the above verse was “How does high-mindedness and pride bring a snare on our souls?”

Pride causes us to act in certain ways, to scorn and feel contempt, to contend, in short, into a number of hostile attitudes that lead us to sin in our interactions with others.

It can be compared to a snare in that it lures us with comfortable feelings of superiority, and then it is hard to get out of because so often we start to feel we are justified and comforted by it. 

But I’m sure you can immediately see that if we enjoy feeling justified and comforted by our pride, then we can’t be justified and comforted by the Spirit of the Lord.

Hmmm…that last statement feels very important so I think I will repeat it.

If we enjoy feeling justified and comforted by our pride, then we can’t be justified and comforted by the Spirit of the Lord.

Will you share some of the healthy ways that you admonish yourself when you notice you are getting proud?  We all need more ammunition to shoot it down!
Wednesday, September 14, 2016 0 comments

Flee or Prepare for War

And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger; (Alma 48:15)

This faith the Nephites had about how God would bless them for keeping the commandments is interesting and applicable today. Prosperity implies peace, but the blessings during war are no less important. The Nephites believed that during war they would receive appropriate guidance about whether to flee or fight.

I started thinking about these war instructions—flee or prepare for war (fight).  Under what conditions are each of those applicable? 

Fleeing is appropriate when the opposition is too great and losses would be too severe if the home army gathered to fight.

Fighting is appropriate when the opposition can be beaten with a stiff resistance brought to bear.

And wouldn’t it be lovely to know ahead of time—prophetically—when to run or when to fight so you don’t end up fleeing when you might have won, or you don’t get slaughtered where you should have run if you’d only known?

Where have our prophets told us in effect to run?  One issue I can think of right off—tolerance.  Where have they told us to stand and resist?  Strengthening the family and standing for religious freedom. I personally feel that should give us some hope.

What other issues can you think of where the prophets told us to flee or to prepare for war?
Monday, September 12, 2016 0 comments

The Pride of Ephraim and an Economic Lesson about Trust

1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!
2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.

3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet:
4 And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.
5 ¶In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people,
6 And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate. (Isaiah 28:1-6)

Reading verses 1-4, it is pretty clear to me that Isaiah must have been disgusted with the pride of Ephraim in his day. It seems the land of Ephraim was a beautiful land with beautiful people—“glorious beauty on the head of the fat valleys”—so much so that they were drunk with it. And you get the idea that they had a problem with wine and drunkenness as well.

Isaiah warned them that the Lord could humble them with disaster—hail, storm, flood—which would throw down their pride. He also said that their glorious beauty would fade like a withering flower and like the first-ripe fruit that is eaten immediately.

The way Isaiah calls Ephraim “fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine” makes me wonder what he was seeing.  What makes a valley “fat”?  And why call Ephraim drunkards at the same time he credits them with glorious beauty? Is he calling attention to how drunkenness is unattractive, or is there something deeper going on here?    

Reading this over and over, I wondered if there was a growing problem in Ephraim’s economy that Isaiah was very concerned about and calling attention to.  It is possible that the land of Ephraim was full of vineyards for wine. 

Isaiah may have looked at all those vineyards and wondered, “Who is going to drink all that wine that they make?”  If the place is booming with grapes, then the demand has to come from somewhere to absorb the supply, otherwise some of that supply was foolishly produced.  Isaiah must have reasoned that either Ephraim was drinking it all themselves (in which case they were drunkards), or they were going to try to sell it elsewhere, which meant that the people were chasing high profits, and everyone was piling into the business.  And you can kind of see there is a problem if there is only one crop in an area. The whole place depended upon the crop of grapes. If natural disaster hits and destroyed the crop, everyone there would be affected. 

In verses 5-6, Isaiah anticipates a future day when the people would depend on the Lord instead.

5 ¶In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people,
6 And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.

Isaiah anticipated that some day, instead of pride, the people would be humble and give the Lord the glory for their success, instead of whatever cash crop made the money roll in.  He wanted the people to trust the Lord instead of their vineyards that were at the mercy of weather patterns that could be capricious and occasionally devastating.

It is instructive to see that ancient Israel seems to have had boom-and-bust periods somewhat like we do, when people would pile into a high-yielding industry.  Embedded in Isaiah’s warning to the Ephraimites is the implied principle that high-yielding industries can be destroyed and can’t be depended upon, but the Lord can be depended upon.